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

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What readers are saying:

This book truly surprised me! I knew that Gothard’s exegesis was wooden, that he was trying to introduce a Romanist view of divorce into the Bible-believing churches and that he had sundry other strange views. But, bad as those things are, what I read on the pages you hold in your hand goes far beyond them. Unless you are one of the few who are on the “inside” of the movement, I suspect that you too will be astounded and dismayed exactly as I was. This is a must read for all thinking believers who wish to protect their churches.

—Dr. Jay Adams
Author of Competent to Counsel
Professor of Practical Theology
Westminster Theological Seminary
Philadelphia, PA

The Veinots and Henzel have taken on an important task in responding to Bill Gothard. A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life is a much-needed book that should be read by virtually all evangelical pastors — and all supporters of Bill Gothard. Their book is provocative, well-researched, easy to read and understand. Through it all they are fair and demonstrate a genuine concern for the state of the 21st century Church. I recommend A Matter of Basic Principles to anyone who has attended a Gothard seminar, is considering attending one, or just wants to know more about the ministry of Bill Gothard.

—Dr. Robert B. Stewart
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
New Orleans, LA

The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (now known as the IBLP) began in 1964 under the leadership of Bill Gothard and enjoyed unprecedented expansion during the ’70s. As board members we recognized that God was at work in this ministry.

In May 1980 we were shocked to learn of gross immorality that had prevailed for years among the staff under Bill’s supervision as president. Bill failed to share this information with the board nor did he seek their counsel. By the end of that year it became apparent that Bill continued his authoritarian style of leadership, dismissing those on the board as well as staff who disagreed with him. Consequently I found it necessary to resign.

As early as 1973 questions were raised about IBYC/IBLP by various individuals such as Dr. Ronald B. Allen, Dr. Earl Radmacher, Wilfred Bockelman and others. In the pages of this volume — which everyone who is involved with IBYC/IBLP should seriously evaluate — the reader will find that repeated attempts have been made to dialogue with Bill Gothard about his lack of submission to authority, his lack of accountability, and his failure to apply biblical principles to his own life. Bill’s teaching on legalism, law, and grace deserves careful examination. The authors are to be commended for their concern in publishing this helpful volume.

—Dr. Samuel J. Schultz.
Professor Emeritus of Old Testament
Wheaton College
Wheaton, IL

Early in the 1970’s, I attended my first of four or five Basic Youth Conf licts seminars. Later, with men from the church where I was, I attended the Advanced Seminar in Los Angeles and later several of the Ministers’ One-Day Conferences. There were areas of concern each time I attended, but they did not seem to be a major issue and I did not want to cause division in the work of God.

It did concern me that Bill Gothard’s entire approach was based on stories and experience more than the Word of God. This was presented to him numerous times by others. In recent years, however, I have cautioned others about the cultic tendencies that I have observed.

This volume is a well-documented and carefully studied evaluation of, and warning concerning, Bill Gothard and the IBLP. Therefore, because of its findings, it needs to be read by every person who has ever attended the seminars. My prayer is for all those in Christian leadership to walk in truth.

—Dr. Elwood H. Chipchase, President
Calvary Bible College & Theological Seminary
Belton, MO

This book is needed in many of our Evangelical Christian churches because

  1. It’s a challenge to churches and Christians to test those teachers that are in our churches and the Christian community. This doesn’t only apply to Bill Gothard and his Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), but to many other ministries.
  2. It’s balanced by going into the positive ends like giving a history of the problems that Christians were facing in their Christian living and in their own faith, how IBLP came into existence, and what attracted Christians to IBLP.
  3. It’s a demonstration on how the principles of a Berean are to be carried out in testing what Bill Gothard teaches. When you read about the problems relating to Bill Gothard, the problems are logically expressed by properly applying the Scriptures and using Gothard’s own IBLP teachings. In addition cases are documented which make us question the foundation of IBLP.
  4. The book starts off by challenging us as Christians and concludes in the same way. It’s not just about questioning a false teacher; it’s about waking us up. Does it take tragedies like Jonestown, Waco, and events related to doomsday cults to wake us up?

—Dr. Jerry Buckner
Adjunct Professor at Golden GateTheological Seminary
Host of Contending for the Faith on KFAX AM
Pastor of Tiburon Christian Fellowship
Tiburon, CA

The authors of this carefully documented book have not written an angry polemic against Bill Gothard and his ministry. Instead, they have carefully laid out the scriptural reasons for grave concern over the teachings and methods of this man and his organization. This book serves not only to reveal what is being taught at IBLP, but issues a clear warning to all Christians about the dangers of scriptural distortion, however subtle.

—Ingrid J. Schlueter
Producer and Co-Host
Crosstalk Radio Talk Show
Milwaukee, WI

I have followed the teachings of the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts (now IBLP) from its inception over 35 years ago. From the beginning I have been deeply concerned about the misuse and distortion of the teachings of God’s Word in their interpretation and application. I have had numerous occasions to voice my concerns in person and by telephone to Bill Gothard, his father, and other of his siblings. I have listened to the complaints of such scriptural abuse from many former administrators and staff of the Institute. I believe that Don and Joy Veinot and Ron Henzel of Midwest Christian Outreach have done the Christian public a tremendous service in their careful analysis and consequent warnings about the teachings that are promulgated by IBLP. The terrible hurt to so many staff and others that became public in the early ’80s need never have happened if there had been the humility to be corrected by numerous pastors and teachers. My prayer is that God will be pleased to use this work to bring the correction that is needed to bring the IBLP teachings into compliance with the Apostle Paul’s admonition of 2 Timothy 2:15.

—Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D.
Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology and
President Emeritus of Western Seminary
Portland, OR

Sometimes a book is described as “a page-turner,” or “something I simply could not put down.” But I found in my reading of this book that I put it down often. I found I could only read a chapter or two at a time; more would be too much. Feelings of incredulit y, sorrow, even tears, and at times anger — such were responses that impeded a fast or leisurely reading of this book. William Gothard has many followers. His organization claims that more than two-and-one-half million people have taken part in one or more of his seminars over a period of more than three decades. This is an amazing statistic! Countless people have made decisions for Christ, have found ways of renewal in their marriages, and have been strengthened in their families through the principles they have learned in week-long seminars, pastors’ conferences, home-school curricula, and a wide variety of published materials coming from the Gothard organization. Well respected pastors across the nation have encouraged congregations to attend seminars en masse, even by arranging for chartered busses and group discounts. Massive funds have been raised to build retreat centers to further the work of Bill Gothard.

Bill Gothard! He is a living Christian institution!

So why, one would well ask, why would anyone wish to write a book (much less read a book) that brings a critical eye on such a successful ministry, or on such a revered figure as Bill Gothard?

Pastor after pastor has told me over the years something along this line:

Well, sure, there are some problems here and there in Gothard’s use of Scripture, in his confusion of his own personal, even quirky, ideas with those that are taught in the Word of God, and in the curious dogmatism with which he presents his idiosyncratic views. But, with all the supporters he has, he must be doing something right.

Finally, here is a book-length treatment of the Bill Gothard ministry that I can hold out to such pastors and other devoted Christian persons and say, “Oh really? Read this book and see if you still believe that the issues are only some problems here and there.”

In A Matter of Basic Principles, the authors have sifted through an amazing amount of material, have sorted through many issues, and have presented a powerful indictment of many serious errors in Gothard’s teaching, the alarming level of hypocrisy in his personal behavior, and his decades-long resistance to consider correction and improvement of biblical understanding by people who once really wished to be a help to him. The book is marked by grace, logic, wit, and common sense. It is also focused on Scripture sans twisting.

At one point in this book the authors evaluate Gothard’s peculiar teaching on the subject of courtship in this manner:

We find Gothard’s courtship teaching to be unbiblical, unfair, unreasonable, unworkable, and ultimately unwise. Other than these few considerations, we have no major problem with it.

After reading this book, it is likely that you will conclude this is a proper summary not only of Gothard’s views on courtship, but on a great deal of his entire ministry.

The authors have not just dealt with ideas; they have interacted with people. It is in the records of damaged lives that this book is so difficult to read as a “page turner.” When a person presents distortions of Scripture as though these ideas are the true teaching of Scripture, it is not just that the person has erred. This is not just a “goof.” These errors impact people’s lives; sometimes the results are horrendous. It is for these reasons that the Apostle Paul spoke so strongly against false teachers in the first century. Paul had occasion even to speak directly against Peter when Peter moved slightly from grace. Bill Gothard has not moved slightly; this book demonstrates that he misunderstands grace as much as he confuses the function biblical dietary laws had in ancient Israel with principles for “good eating” among Christians today.

One more note: The writers score strongly in their many witty analogies from film, fiction, television, and other elements of popular culture. This makes a solid book more enjoyable for the teachable person to read. My suspicion is that when Mr. Gothard reads this book, not only will he continue to resist its intended correction in his personal life and public ministry; he is also rarely to “get” the wonderful jokes in these allusions, as they come from a world (the world in which real people live) in which he has had so very little experience.

—Dr. Ronald B. Allen
Professor of Biblical Exposition
Dallas Theological Seminary
Dallas, TX

One response to “A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life ”

  1. Kelsey says:

    Hello,

    I recently bought your book about Bill Gothard on Amazon. I am not a follower of Gothard, but my finance’s family is deeply-rooted into this cult, hook-line-and sinker. Luckily, my fiance was able to escape about two years ago, but as I’m sure you are well aware of…that doesn’t mean life was easy for him. It’s been a battle with his family, their friends, and all the lies he was raised with.

    It makes me sick to see the things Gothardites do to their children. Thank you for your ministry. I bought your book so I could be up-to-date and well versed in the ATI “lingo” and know all of the deep rooted issues. Recoveringgrace.org has helped with that a lot, too.

    Thank you, once again, for your ministry. May God bless you as you bless others!

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