Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bill Gothard Legalism

Bill Gothard Legalism
Posted by Christine Pack

A couple of years ago, I innocently posted this illustration on my Facebook wall which to me at that time, illustrated what I thought was a biblical concept of submission in the home. Shortly after posting it, I began receiving information that this illustration had originated with a man named Bill Gothard, and who was a very influential figure, if not the most influential figure, in the hyper-patriarchal homeschooling movement I had just begun to research. (Note: Bill Gothard recently stepped down from the organization he founded years ago due to allegations of moral impropriety with young women working with his ministry.

Now, my having grown up in a very liberal mainline denomination sometimes means that I don't recognize legalism when I see it. That was certainly the case with this illustration. As one former Gothardite explained it, this picture is used to teach, wrongly, that God is harsh and unyielding, waiting to smite those who step out of line. From the article:
"One of the foundational truths of ATI was the 'umbrella of protection.' In a family structure, the father was the umbrella that protected his wife and children from Satan's attacks and God's judgments. If you stepped outside of that authority, you would face temptations and wrath. The umbrella came without an expiration date. As a teenager, the gradual increase of responsibility would not coincide with a gradual increase in decision-making. A young man would be eligible to step out from under the umbrella of protection only when he married. A young woman would only transfer from the father's umbrella to a husband's. This authoritarian approach forced the fear of both God and parents to become the main reason for obedience.......The ATI ministry structure was built around the same concept. Leadership within the organization provided the same protection from Satan and God. Questioning or challenging an interpretation of a verse or application of a principle was grounds for removal from the ministry." (Growing Up Gothard, my emphasis)
To be completely candid, with my non-legalistic background, I had looked at the umbrella illustration and my first thought was, oh God is so good to provide order and structure for us, and to watch over us! But once it was pointed out to me exactly how this picture is used, and that it goes further in using extrabiblical concepts to drive home its points, I did see the legalism. At that time, I was using this picture to illustrate submission to my own children, but once I grasped the problems with it, and how it could be twisted to cause fear of God rather than love for his genuine loving care and provision, I immediately stopped using it. I also sat down with my children and asked their forgiveness for using this illustration, and then used simple, straightforward Bible language and terminology to explain to them what it means for wives/children to submit. Yes, sin is serious, and should not be minimized or ignored, but I don't want my children cowering in fear of some angry God waiting to whack them any time they do something wrong. So, I no longer recommend or use this picture as an illustration for God's protection. After all, it is always the goodness of God that draws sinners, right? Yes, God is high and holy, and righteously wrathful toward unrepentant sinners. But it was love of an extraordinary, supernatural nature that compelled him to make a way for wretched sinners righteously deserving of hell to be reconciled to Himself.

In closing, I'd like to encourage any Christians who have somehow been influenced by Bill Gothard's teaching to look over the resources below. The American personality seems to love "systems" of all kinds, and with Bill Gothard's teachings, there is a massive system already in place that is very easy to plug into. Yet we must also be aware that the desire to systematize things can, and does, often lead to legalism. May we continue to return again and again to the simplicity that is found in Christ, and recognize and reject man-made systems, even those that dangle the carrot of the perfect family or perfect children or the perfect dating methodology, as Gothardism does.

 Additional Resources 

Josh Duggar's Infidelity Outed in Ashley Madison Website Hack (Sola Sisters)

A Beginner's Guide To Bill Gothard (Ron Henzel)

Growing Up Gothard (The Gospel Coalition)

A Matter of Basic Principles (an excellent expose of Gothard legalism by Don Veinot)

Battered Sheep - a review of Don Veinot's book A Matter of Basic Principles

Bill Gothard Resigns, Duggars Still Slated To Speak at IBLP 2014 Conference

Conservative Leader Bill Gothard Resigns Following Abuse Allegations (Religion News Service)

The Duggars, Bill Gothard, Vision Forum, and The Quiverful Movement (I am aware that some of the links in this article are no longer active, but this article still gives a quick thumbnail sketch of Bill Gothard, the Duggars, Vision Forum, Hyper-Patriarchy and the Quiverfull Movement, and how they are interconnected and overlap with each other)

How God Saves Us In Christ (And The Problems With Legalism) (Pastor Jeff Crippen)

Abusers in the Christian Church: The 5 Stages of Biblical Repentance (The Aquila Report)

 Midwest Christian Outreach 

From the IBLP website
A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life

Josh Duggar, Mike Huckabee and Fodder for Progressives

Is Jesus a Sinner According to Bill Gothard’s Teachings?

If Bill Gothard is Wrong, Then What’s Right?

Bill Gothard: Who Knew What and When? A Question of Accountability


Bill Gothard’s Analogous Teachings

Bill Gothard; Déjà vu All Over Again

Bill Gothard and the Continuing Sex Scandal

Bill Gothard - Truly Repentant?

Leveraging Lunacy: How Bill Gothard Rode a Wave of Evangelical Goofiness

Four part series on Bill Gothard
 - Part 1, Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud
 - Part 2, Bill Gothard's Chain of Authority
 - Part 3, Bill Gothard and the Law
 - Part 4, Bill Gothard's Mystical Approach to Medical Issues

An Evening With Bill Gothard

 Secular Articles 

When Having Kids Is A Religious Experience
 (ABC News)

Quiverfull: More Children For God's Army (Newsweek writer Kathryn Joyce)

Inside the Duggar Family's Conservative Ideology (Newsweek, Kathryn Joyce)

 Websites by Former Gothardites 

Recovering Grace

Abuse Allegations Against Bill Gothard, Founder of Institute In Basic Life Principles
 (Dr. John Cornish and Kari Underwood, co-founders of Recovering Grace)

Under Much Grace