It is said by we who hold scripture to be the infallible Word of God that in any given passage there is one interpretation and many applications.
This implies that we must be very wary of anyone who teaches an interpretation that is unique or differs substantially from an orthodox interpretation of scripture. These should not be necessarily rejected outright, but they should be accepted only after careful and thorough investigation.
Bill Gothard has a problem: traditional orthodox interpretations of scripture do not agree with his own views and the feelings that he routinely confuses with conviction and truth, and so he must find his own meanings in scripture to support his many teachings. His personal charm and charisma as well as the attractiveness of his teachings to many who listen to him mean his ideas have not faced the scrutiny they ought to have. However, now with the increased awareness of his personal failings, his teachings are also finally being inspected, and those who have been blowing the whistle for so many years are at last being listened to.
Bill Gothard does not teach a slight variant that is still basically acceptable. Instead his teachings are contrary to scripture. Rather than starting with a good understanding of scripture, Gothard takes his own ideas and forces and tortures scripture to appear to support them.
Here are a few articles published recently on the Recovering Grace site that highlight just a few of the errors found throughout Gothard’s teachings, and note the repeating factor is that Gothard has preconceptions that he goes to great lengths to protect:
In America, it is popular to leave out the afterlife and focus on the present life. The idea, “Do good things and good things will happen,” has become a philosophy deeply penetrating our society. If the face of tragedy, you will often hear something like this, “It’s such a shame. They were such good people,” or “He had it coming.” Americans believe in karma more than they know.
… On the first night of the Basic Seminar, Bill makes a series of statements: “Life is hooked up in a very delicate cause and effect sequence”…“Wisdom is tracing problems to violations of God’s principles”…“You’re having a problem here, because you’re violating a principle here.” Gothard then gives a testimony of how one man’s business troubles were the consequences of his immoral lifestyle. (He didn’t prove one caused the other, he just implied.) Bill then gave another illustration of a man who was having problems with his children because he had disrespected his own parents. Once again the message rings: Bad things are happening because you must have sinned.
Character Sketches or Sketchy Characters?
In his Character Sketches series, Mr. Gothard retells many of the stories found in Scripture to illustrate some aspect of character, either good or bad.
Often, however, these sketches are better at illustrating how Mr. Gothard will twist Scripture with points that are many times theologically poisonous and logically absurd. In light of the theme on Recovering Grace this month, it should be enlightening to examine how Mr. Gothard deals with the issue of sexual abuse as found in Scripture, particularly rape. Obligingly, Mr. Gothard provides us with sketches of the two instances of rape we find in Scripture where the victim is named. Let’s see what these sketches can reveal about Mr. Gothard’s view of Scripture and women.
First of all, it’s worth noting that these sketches reveal a lack of respect for Scripture. In order to make his point, Mr. Gothard has to continually insert ideas, motivations, and thoughts into the story to make it fit his attempt to illustrate a particular character trait. Notice how this works in his retelling of the story of Dinah (found in Character Sketches, volume 1, pp 287-289, and Genesis 34).
A Tale of Two Abigails
The first Abigail is a wise and beautiful hero, an inspiration to women and men everywhere. Her quick thinking, deliberate action, and diplomatic speech saved many lives. We meet this Abigail in a delightful story told in 1 Samuel 15. Sadly, many of us raised under the Institute in Basic Life Principles and ATI’s teachings grew up hearing a misleading version of this courageous person’s story.
The other version of Abigail is an illustration of the consequences of rebellion. Unhappy with the man whom God had placed in authority over her, she took initiative and stepped out from under his authority, thereby stepping away from God’s will and her “umbrella of protection.” This unwise response to her situation seemingly achieved short-term relief but caused long-term pain, illustrating once again that God hates rebellion. This second version of Abigail’s story is an unfortunate invention appearing in IBLP’s Character Sketches.