Apologetics Index
Institute in Basic Life Principles

Aberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Institute in Basic Life Principles

Bill Gothard


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Founded and directed by controversial teacher, Bill Gothard. Teaches extreme legalism. Currently infiltrates schools with its "Character First!" curriculum.

The publishers of Apologetics Index consider Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles to be cult-like in both a theological and sociological sense.

Theologically, we consider it to be a cult of Christianity.

Gothard's "house" has so many flaws, so many questions, so many aberrational leanings, so many structural weaknesses and a foundation that is not New Testament. Its occupants may not be very safe and should move to safer quarters.

The Charter School of Excellence, which receives some $800,000 in state tax dollars annually, has more ties to religion than its being inside a church building. Character First! is published by Character Training Institute (CTI) in Oklahoma City, which itself is an offshoot of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP). The Chicago-based IBLP is the brainchild of a 64-year-old evangelical Christian guru named Bill Gothard, who boasts some 2.5 million "alumni" of his Bible-based seminars, and he promises to give the world a "new approach to life." The Character First! curriculum is directly based on Gothard's teachings — but with overt references to God and Christianity edited out.

Gothard has been accused by fellow Christians of everything from misinterpreting the Bible to ignoring spousal abuse to being a borderline cult leader. (...)

Gothard doesn't focus on the Ten Commandments — he teaches his seven "universal, nonoptional Principles of Life," and he extends those principles to what food to eat and what clothes to wear. Breaking any of Gothard's principles leads to the highway to Hell, quite literally. (...)

Now Florida is slated to become Gothard country.

State Rep. Tracy Stafford and Sen. Howard Forman, both Democrats from Broward County, have introduced bills that would force every public elementary school in the state to teach Character First! — which is mentioned by name in the bills — or, as the bill vaguely puts it, a program "similar" to it. (...)

When asked about Bill Gothard, both Stafford and Forman are stumped. Neither did his homework on the curriculum — they've never heard of Gothard and weren't aware that the man behind Character First! is an evangelical minister. When told about Gothard's emphasis on the "chain of command," Stafford immediately recognizes the danger in such teachings. "I can see how that could lead to a continuation of child abuse," he says.

Howard Forman now says he doesn't believe Character First! should be put in Florida's public schools. "I never heard of Gothard, and I think his ideas sound kind of screwy," Forman says. "I don't support the kind of character training where people sing songs about discipline. I don't support religious extremists of any kind." (...)

A number of ministers and theologians have found defects in Gothard's teachings. Christian scholar and psychologist James Alsdurf wrote a book in the late '80s about domestic violence among churchgoers and came to a conclusion: Bill Gothard's teachings can lead to a continuation of domestic violence. (...)

Dr. Darrell Bock, a professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, says he's uncomfortable with Gothard stressing authority and hierarchy without tempering it with "Christ-like" qualities. (...)

Baptist pastor G. Richard Fisher wrote in a published article called "The Cultic Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings" that Gothard has a habit of "legislating, directing, and regulating just about every phase of life."
Little Soldiers in the Culture Wars - Evangelical radical Bill Gothard's Character First! Curriculum teaches students in Fort Lauderdale to obey his will, New Times Broward-Palm Beach, Feb. 18, 1999

The New Times Broward-Palm Beach also published a follow-up to that item:

It looks like Hamilton Forman, Broward County's chief political potentate, was right: His bill requiring that every elementary school student in Florida be taught ''character education'' will likely be passed into law by the state legislature. But the multimillionaire was wrong about one thing: His favorite character-training curriculum, Character First!, won't be the model program. Character First! was stripped from the bill after a New Times article revealed that it was designed by authoritarian Christian minister Bill Gothard and includes obedience drills -- complete with group salutes and ''hup, two, threes'' -- demanding that children ''follow orders instantly.''

Gothard, known to be a media recluse, has refused to speak with New Times, but his teachings can be found in seminars held around the world. He espouses ''universal, non-optional'' principles and a ''chain of command,'' which holds that authority figures represent God, and therefore wives must obey husbands, workers their employers, and citizens their politicians. He boasts of 2.5 million ''alumni,'' who are given rules on everything -- what clothes to wear, what music to listen to, how to manage money.

Many of Gothard's controversial teachings are not included in Character First! Overt references to God and Christianity, for example, are absent. But his patented authoritarianism remains, and all the lessons involve drills and repeating ''I will,'' such as, ''I will not exaggerate to make things seem different than what they are'' and ''I will always be cheerful.''
The Culture War Continues New Times Broward-Palm Beach, Apr. 15, 1999


Christian An Evening With Bill Gothard by Midwest Christian Outreach: "On December 4, I997, three members of Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. (Ron Henzel, Marty Butz, and Don Veinot) met with seminar minister Bill Gothard at his offices of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) in Oak Brook, IL. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Gothard’s concerns about an article entitled ''Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud'' which had appeared in the September/October 1997 issue of Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.'s Journal and also to discuss Gothard’s concerns about a radio broadcast that Veinot was conducting in Chicago about Gothard and IBLP."
Christian Basic and Advanced Concerns Regarding Bill Gothard's Teachings (Critical Reflections on Bill Gothard's Advanced Seminar) (Contra) by Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.
Christian The Basic Life Principles of Bill Gothard - Benevolent Ministry of Bondage Making? (CONTRA) Examines Bill Gothard's response to mounting criticism of his teachings. By Personal Freedom Outreach, which has done much research on Gothard.
Christian Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud by Don Veinot and Ron Henzel, of Midwest Christian Outreach. Part 2. See also, An Evening With Bill Gothard
Christian Bill Gothard's Mystical Approach To Medical Issues By Midwest Christian Outreach
Christian Gothard and the Law by Midwest Christian Outreach
Christian Music in the Bible and Music on the Radio: A Biblical Theology of Music Applied to the Contemporary Music Styles Debate paper presented by Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., at the 1998 Evangelical Theological Society Meeting in Orlando, FL. Includes refutation of Bill Gothard's teachings again music.
Christian My Personal Experiences With Bill Gothard (Contra) A testimony.
Christian A Study in Evolving Fadism — The Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard’s Teachings (CONTRA) PFO article reporting on the heavy legalims of Gothard's teachings.


Christian A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard & the Christian Life by Don Veinot, Ron Henzel, and Joy Veinot. Reviewed by Rich Poll. Highly recommended.
A Matter of Basic Principles repeatedly accuses Gothard of not living by his own teachings on authority and truthfulness. At great length, the book describes meetings and correspondence in which Gothard promises to investigate a matter, or pursue arbitration, but then fails to follow through.

An important issue to consider regarding Gothard's influence is that it is directed to the core leadership of our nation's conservative Christian churches. Gothard has largely succeeded in reaching that audience. While many have winked at Gothard's teachings on authority, what's more alarming is how readily his supporters accept his interpretation of Scripture.

Here we have what amounts to a contemporary textbook on the error of reading something foreign into a text (eisegesis) as opposed to extracting the author's meaning from the text (exegesis). Though many movement leaders fall into this trap, it's alarming how consistently Gothard reads texts through an authoritarian lens.

A Matter of Basic Principles deserves a hearing. What the reader discovers is sad news for the body of Christ. Those unfamiliar with Gothard may find the reading tedious. Those who have experienced abusive spiritual authority in any context will be more inclined to find this book refreshing for its thoroughness.
Source: Exegeting Bill Gothard by Rich Poll, Christianity Today, Mar. 5, 2003

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Christian Gothard Discussion "A discussion of the theology and materials produced by Bill Gothard through his homeschool curriculum, offered through the Advanced Training Institute (ATI),and his seminars, offered through the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and other connected ministries Character First etc. This list is open to those that use the curriculum, those interested in the curriculum and those concerned about problems with the curriculum. This is not a support group. This is a discussion group that discusses the issues, passionately, with integrity. "

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See Also


Christian Bill Gothard & The Institute in Basic Life Principles (CONTRA) A collection of articles on the REST Ministries site.
Aberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Institute in Basic Life Principles Bill Gothard's official site
Christian Midwest Christian Outreach (Contra) Direct link to resources on Bill Gothard.

This Apologetics Index entry is maintained by Anton Hein