Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Bill Gothard's ATI Textbook Examined
This will not be a detailed analysis, but a highlight of some of what I determined to be the more problematic areas. The entire text has much misapplication and twisting of Scripture to make false claims seem Biblical. Verses often seem to be thrown out like so much confetti with little thought given to context.
There is also much de facto claims of extra-biblical revelation by assigning desires by God that aren't stated in Scripture. There is also the problem of Gothard's opinion being given the appearance of biblical authority. Virtually every page has something problematic.
Gothard's Wisdom Searches are advertised throughout the text as something very important to do. When we finally come to what they are, it seems, to me anyway, a very burdensome (and down-right silly) way of Scripture study. The real problem with these Searches is the extreme importance of studying Scripture in this fashion; almost like Jehovah's Witnesses pushing their Watchtower for studying Scriptures with.
Although the "Operational Definitions" are in the back of the text (pp.355-358), I will address them first because I think they really show where the problems lie with Gothard's way of thinking.
Communion: "A specific time to thoroughly examine each past word, thought, action and attitude in the light of Christ's way of life. (See 1 Corinthians 11:28)"
Comment: What about the fact that this is a time to remember what Christ accomplished on the cross? Did He not say, "Do this in remembrance of me"? The text cited says to "let a man examine himself," but the context is vs. 29 where he is examining whether he recognizes the body and blood of the Lord in the bread and cup, and if he doesn't, then he becomes unworthy of participation. Gothard’s definition has nothing to do with reality.
Faith: "Visualizing what God intends to do. (See Hebrews 11:1)"
Comment: This isn't even a dictionary definition! Faith is the act of trust or belief. Heb. 11:1 says it is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." There is nothing to do with "visualization," which is New Age teaching.
God's Will: "The ever-expanding development of our life message on how to achieve spiritual maturity. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)"
Comment: This is unscriptural nonsense. And I have no idea how the cited passage relates.
Grace: "An active force within us giving us the desire and the power to do things God's way. (See Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 12:15)"
Comment: Grace is an attitude towards someone. It is being merciful; giving someone something they do not deserve. Showing favor. It is in no way "an active force." Again, these cited verses have nothing to do with the subject stated.
Grace of God: "The desire and power to reproduce ourselves spiritually. (See Romans 12:5-6)"
Comment: More confetti verses. This definition is heresy, plain and simple. The definition has nothing whatsoever to do with the grace of God.
Grace of life: "The desire and power to reproduce ourselves physically. (See 1 Peter 3:7)"
Comment: Here Gothard has taken a phrase and has given it a definition never intended by the author. Scripture twisting!
Slander: "Telling the truth with a design to hurt. (See Proverbs 17:9)"
Comment: Gothard definitely has no understanding of the meaning of this word - slander is always a lie! The cited verse has to do with gossip, whether true or false.
The remainder of this analysis will be in page order, with as short of commentary as possible.
p.17 Gothard claims that "God warns that devastating destruction will come to any nation that allows [sodomy] to continue unchecked." There is no Scriptural basis for this claim.
pp.24-25 "Father's commandment" and "Mother's law." Gothard makes these out to be two different things, but they are the same. This is a parallelism; two ways of saying the same thing! Gothard builds a personal belief into a principle by his twisting of Scripture.
p.25 Prov. 22:7 and Rom. 13:8 are given as "proof texts" against borrowing money for a car purchase. Gothard says such borrowing "violates the many scriptures," hence it would be sin. Prov. 22:7 does not say borrowing is wrong, only that it makes one a servant to the lender. Rom. 13:8 is in the greater context of paying what is due to whoever it is due: custom, tribute, fear or honor. It does not preclude borrowing of any sort. If one takes out a loan and makes the payments on time, he is paying what is due and does not owe anyone. In both Mat. 25:27 and Lk 19:23 Jesus discusses loaning out money through the banks and earning interest. If this was a sinful practice, surely our Lord would not have used it in a positive way in a parable. Gothard may have a personal problem with borrowing, but there is no biblical basis for proscribing responsible use of credit. Gothard is then giving personal opinion biblical authority.
p.28 Anecdote in reference to "pre-birth training" uses Luke 1:44 and 2 Tim. 3:15 as proof texts. A baby hearing a voice and then learning through it are two entirely different things. Luke just says the baby heard the voice, and it is obvious there was a spiritual connection which isn't in normal people. 1 Tim. just describes how Timothy was taught from the time he was a child, not while he was in the womb. To make more than that out of it is poor hermeneutics.
p.30 Item 8 in reference to "sensual material": "It violates God's warnings against nakedness and causes sexual obsessions (Genesis 3:10)." I will agree with the second phrase, but God never warned against nakedness. To infer that from Genesis 3:10 is poor hermeneutics.
p.59 "If you are not sure what your motivational gift is, choose any gift and begin practicing it." Nowhere in Scripture are we told to "practice" a gift. If it is a gift, we will not need to "discover" it. "Motivational gifts" are a product of Gothard's mind and are not listed as such in the Bible.
p.61-75 This section on "Discovering Your Spiritual Gift" has a lot of problems from a Scriptural standpoint, the least of which is the claim you must "discover" your gifts. The whole section is given biblical authority when it is only Gothard's idea.
p.62-63 This is supposedly dealing with the "motivational gift" of prophecy, but there is absolutely nothing Biblical about the whole chart, and the descriptions are totally unbiblical.
p.76-77 A "test" to determine one's "motivational gift." Again, if it is a gift, do we need to discover it? Gothard implies that everyone has such a gift, which is an unbiblical stance to take.
pp.83ff Helping others "discover" their "motivational gift". As with one's own, if it is a gift, how do we "help" God?
p.86 A test to determine how "financially free" you are. "Correct" answers are only Gothard's opinion but the implication is plainly that he has biblical authority.
p.87 Verses cited - Dan. 4:30,33,37 - have absolutely nothing to do with "financial freedom." Misapplication of Scripture!
p.88-111 Extreme misapplication of Scripture, extra-biblical revelation of "God's Four Purposes for Money." It would take too long to go over it all, but highlights as follows.
p.88 "A man who lacks financial control with his money usually lacks self-control in his morals." Gothard then cites Prov. 6:26; 29:3 as proof texts. To begin with, the statement is a logic fallacy of overgeneralization. Some people without financial control may very well lack self-control in morals, but it is a non sequitur to say one leads to the other. Actually, these verses make the reverse claim; a lack of moral self-control leads to a lack of financial self-control, which would be a much more logical progression. A lack of moral self-control could even include a lack of financial self-control.
p.88 "One symptom of being 'a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God' is exchanging the eternal riches of heaven for the passing enjoyments of this world." He then cites Ps. 127:3-5, which has nothing to do with the subject at hand - misapplication of Scripture!
p.88 "Being forced to borrow is always a sign of God's judgement." None of the cited verses support the claim. This is also a case of de facto claim of extra-biblical revelation.
p.98 "[Borrowing] violates Scripture" "The message of Scripture on borrowing is quite clear: Do not do it. God commands Christians to keep out of debt altogether." Proof text is Rom.13:8. This is a clear case of twisting Scripture to suit a personal agenda.
p.99 Gothard is especially against home mortgages and car loans, an opinion totally without biblical authority. His suggestion is for the family to assist with buying a home rather than taking out a mortgage. This assumes one has a family, one has a family with means, or that one has a family they are on good terms with. But what happened to "leave and cleave"? This is Gothard's teaching given biblical authority.
p.103 "MEN OF GOD WHO REFUSED TO BORROW" This page builds extra-biblical cases for all eight men, with what they "could have done". Scripture doesn't address any of this; it is only Gothard's imagination.
p.109 "LEARN TO PRAY FOR MONEY" Gothard then lays out six unbiblical principles.
p.117 As with the "Basic" textbook, Gothard here brings in unbiblical principles of God giving us a "vision" and a "death of a vision."
p.121 "SCOPE OF DEMONOLOGY" This chart is total unbiblical nonsense straight out of Gothard's imagination.
p.124 "MUSIC IS A FORM OF WORSHIP" Music can be a form of worship, but it is not required by God to be so. Although Gothard has a good understanding and teaching about problems in this area, his Scripture misapplication is not justified. Also, too much of his own opinion given biblical authority.
p.145 Item 3 and proscriptions in regard to family size has poor hermeneutics in claims of Scriptural support.
p.150-151 Much psychobabble and mysticism dwelling on the meaning of peoples' names.
p.160 "Note: The violation of any phase [of Gothard's SEVEN PHASES OF A GODLY COURTSHIP] will hinder fulfillment and communication in a marriage." This is a very threatening statement, implying God's judgement for failure to follow a Gothard teaching!
p.171ff "GOD'S HIDDEN DESIGN" is abstinence! Supposedly, "God designed periods of physical abstinence for the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health of the couple." There is no Scriptural justification for this claim, and as such it becomes a de facto claim of extra-biblical revelation. Gothard then refers to O.T. Levitical laws in reference to the menstrual cycle and the period after the birth of children. Gothard states that God gave these instructions "to the nation Israel so that they could be healthier, wealthier, and wiser than any other nation." This is another de facto claim of extra-biblical revelation. Gothard spends approximately 25 pages on this subject! As usual, much of his Scriptural "proofs" are out of context.
p.172 All Scriptural references Gothard cites in relation to the marital relationship have nothing to do with it. The references are all specifically addressing homosexuality. Misapplication of Scripture.
p.174-175 Gothard uses Scriptural gymnastics to put Old Testament ceremonial law into Christian life. He then defines "legalism" on p.175 in an attempt to head off any attack on his hermeneutics. What he doesn't give as a definition of legalism is "building a fence of extra-biblical laws around those laws plainly given; that is, adding what God did not." He is guilty of this kind of legalism.
p.177 Now Gothard sticks his nose into the marital bedroom. Not only must one abstain during the monthly cycle, but then for seven days after. He claims the man will then have "stronger seed" as a benefit of waiting, and he will be compatible with the wife's ovulation. He gives no medical evidence for this claim, and he assumes all women have the same length cycle, including the time of ovulation. He is also very close to the Catholic idea of no sexual relations unless one is open to conception. Gothard cites the Levitical law to say one must abstain for 40 days after the birth of a boy and 80 days after the birth of a girl. He then goes into the claim that abstinence builds self-control of sex, which then leads to "creative power", citing John 7:38! This is extremely poor hermeneutics! This is all from a man who was never married, and yet presumes to twist Scripture to give biblical authority to his own agenda.
p.178-179 Anecdotes are given to "prove" the benefits of abstinence. One couple cited counted days simulating the monthly cycle - after her hysterectomy! Again, there is no Scriptural basis for these injunctions.
p.180 "Couples who are observing proper abstinence are having children who are stronger and healthier than they expected. Doctors have expressed surprise and delight as Apgar tests show the highest possible scores in newborn healthiness." Gothard then claims one doctor said the fact that they wait to hit the fertile ovum prevents its deterioration. An anecdote then shows an infertile couple suddenly conceiving after 14 days of abstinence because "they came together when his seed was strongest." Aside from the fact that there is no empirical evidence given to support this contention, it is interesting how the claim was written. It is obvious that Gothard is implying that abstinence leads to "stronger and healthier" children in his effort to get compliance with his "principles," but read the claim again. The couples "are having children who are stronger and healthier than they expected." (my emphasis) All Gothard has to do is say the couples expected children different than what they got, whether they practiced abstinence or not. The quote from the doctor is the same; it just says doctors "expressed surprise and delight as Apgar tests show...", but the quote doesn't say the scores were a result of the abstinence. This is definitely a credibility problem.
p.181 Here Gothard begins a proscription against birth control. Preaching against harmful methods is proper, but his Scriptural basis isn't.
p.192 A comparison is made between Onan (Gen. 38:9) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) to demonstrate the wrong of birth control. Misapplication of Scripture and Scripture Twisting! He then claims that the "grace of life" (1 Pet. 3:7) is as defined above, and that birth control hinders this "grace."
p.195 Steps a "barren" couple can take to have children:
1. "Fully dedicate to the Lord your desire to have children."
2. "Make sure that the music in your home follows Biblical principles." This is pure mysticism.
3. "Follow the guidelines of Biblical abstinence." It is not biblical - it is Gothard's way.
4. "Call for the elders of the church."
The reason given for the last item is: "Many couples are experiencing conception after recognizing that the inability to have a child is a physical infirmity and thus, following the guidelines given in James 5:14-16." This is silly, and no evidence is given to support the claim.
p.195 "Large families are a foundation of human happiness." This may be Gothard's philosophy, one of which he never tried, but it is certainly not biblical.
p.207 "If you are married, this material is vital to experiencing the happiness and the fruitfulness which God planned for your marriage." If this is so vital, why have most people never read it? Is this extra-biblical revelation that Gothard has been provided to ensure that we all get it? Isn't this a threatening statement; your marriage will most likely fail if you fail to follow this material? What follows in this section on "HOW TO BUILD THE SPIRIT OF A MARRIAGE" is all hypothesis on Gothard's part since he has no experience in the matter, and it is based on many anecdotes and psycho-babble.
p.211 "Most men are very fragile when it comes to being the spiritual leader of their families. One criticism or sarcastic remark can cause a husband to give up his God-given spiritual responsibilities." There is no evidence given to support this contention and is pure imagination on Gothard's part.
p.219 Gothard implies that secretaries are inherently dangerous to a marriage. This of course is nonsense. The husband should be able to control himself no matter what the secretary does. Gothard says, "Make sure that your wife meets, interviews, and approves of the secretary before you hire her." This is pure blather. How many wives know enough about the business for which a secretary is hired in order to be able to determine if she qualifies? The wife's only concern would be her appearance and if she thought her husband would be interested in her inappropriately. The secretary could be happily married and extremely qualified for the job, but if she happens to look like a model, the wife may be jealous immediately and say "no dice."
p.235 Here we finally learn what these important Wisdom Searches are. Gothard makes these appear to be mandatory with phrases such as "essential for my life" and "necessary for my wife" and even "vital for my children." This is very cultish. It also appears to often be an inappropriate way to study the scriptures due to misapplication of the verses.
p.237 After giving several anecdotes to demonstrate the importance of Wisdom Searches, you "purpose now to make God's Word the number one priority of your daily schedule." But, lest you think that just means you will study the Scriptures daily in any fashion you choose, on the very next line you are to ask, "Once I am committed to having Wisdom Searches, what is the next step?" [bold emphasis added]. This sounds like a Jehovah's Witness getting you locked in on Watchtower study material.
p.239 Gothardite schedule. "...if a choice must be made, it is better to start the day without physical food than without spiritual food." This could be downright unhealthy for a diabetic. Gothard implies that breakfast can be only 1/2 hour, and after Wisdom Searches. He now dictates what breakfast should be!
p.241 A television "preferably not even in the home." He implies this is the Biblical standard, without even addressing the fact that the TV is merely a tool and that how it is used is what makes it a wrong influence. Gothard's strict schedule adherence, with its requirement to be unbroken, is almost like Jehovah's Witness in tenor; the implication is that Wisdom Searches are the Biblical study method.
pp.276ff This section tells us how we are to dress. Some of the information about modesty is very good, but too much emphasis is placed on appearances; e.g., "Wear special accents near your face." Then he says, "Men should note that facial hair tends to obscure the countenance." This is overgeneralization and implies that Godliness is a clean-shaven face. The whole purpose of this section is to keep peoples' focus only on the face, as if the rest of the person is too horrid to look at, or maybe too tempting for Gothard?
p.279 "Cosmetics should be used to enhance your facial appearance..." This is mere vanity.
1. Deut. 22:5 is used to say that girls/women can't wear trousers - always dresses. What Gothard obviously doesn't understand is that clothing styles change with culture. Slacks or jeans can be made specifically for women (the subject of modesty with this attire is not germane here). Does Gothard object to Scottish men wearing the kilt? After all, it is a skirt and that is a "woman's garment." Context, context, context!
2. "Based on the covenant of marriage, the following balance is required [note the requirement] to achieve true fulfillment. Spiritual Emphasis - 60%. Psychological Emphasis - 30%. Physical Emphasis - 10%." And this just after telling us how important our physical appearance is!!!! Anyway, there is no evidence of data to support this contention, but making it a requirement can cause much bondage as people try to count their numbers.
p.284 Three pages dealing with pornography. Good advice for the most part. Then he cites the story of Onan (Gen. 38:9) to prove that masturbation and "spilling seed" in a marriage situation are both wrong. This is a gross misapplication of Scripture. He then cites Lev. 15:16 in reference to ceremonial "uncleanness" of seminal discharge (be it masturbation or nocturnal emission) and cross references it to New Testament verses on "uncleanness" to demonstrate that the "spilling of seed" is condemned. Although sexual self-gratification can be demonstrated as wrong from other Scriptures, Gothard's choices are out of context and a misapplication of Scripture.
p.287-295 Gothard spends these 8 pages discussing homosexuality. In this section he attempts to prove that "sodomy" is "God's term" and that we are wrong to use any other, citing 1 Cor. 2:13 as his justification. This is poor hermeneutics.
p.297 "As long as you are under God-given authority, nothing can happen to you that God does not design for your ultimate good... Getting out from under the protection of the Scriptural direction of parents, church, employers, or government allows Satan to bring destruction." Gothard cites 1 Cor. 11:1-3 and Ps. 91:4 as containing "Scriptural terms for 'umbrella of protection" but no such thing can be found. "Umbrella of protection" is not a Biblical concept, but only Gothard's concept. Submitting to someone's authority is not the same as being under their protection!
p.297 "Should a Christian take part in a demonstration? Reject gangs, demonstrations, mob action - Exodus 23:2." While I can agree that gangs and mob action violate Exodus 23:2, demonstrations may not always do so. What if it is a group of Christians exercising lawful and Constitutional rights of demonstrations against abortion or pornography, for example? There is no Scriptural basis to eliminate Christians from participating in demonstrations in general.
p.311 "Feeding on demand produces a demanding child." There is no evidence given to support this contention, which is made by a man who never had children. Feeding an infant on demand is the proper method for raising a healthy baby! Gothard's claim is a non sequitur logic fallacy.
p.312 More of the erroneous teaching and poor hermeneutics in relation to "father's commandments" and "mother's laws."
p.314 "God states that health is primarily achieved by knowing and obeying the principles of His Word." Gothard then cites Mat. 4:4 as "proof." This is poor hermeneutics.
p.337 "Bind Satan before attempting discipline - Mark 3:27." More poor hermeneutics. I never bound Satan and I was able to discipline quite well. I would venture that no other Christian binds Satan prior to discipline unless they have taken Gothard's course. (Of course there is the issue of Christians not binding Satan anyway!)
p.343 "GOD'S PRESUPPOSITIONS FOR SUCCESSFUL EDUCATION" Does Gothard have extra-biblical revelation to make this claim?
p.345 "The most destructive force in school is peer dependence..." This is subjective, but I would think proper training at home would prevent peer dependence at school. I think most Christians would think the "most destructive force in school" would be the curriculum content - what is being taught!
p.345 "God wants the priorities of every family built around daily engrafting of Scripture..." Here we have more extra-biblical revelation.
p.346 "Parents who teach sons and daughters at home must be accountable to a local church (Christian School and government)." I'm not sure what the parenthetical comment means, but there is no biblical justification for this claim. We were certainly not accountable to any "church."
p.350 "When children are taught together, boys are programmed for failure." Again, no evidence to support this claim. In fact, I have read in many places in the past that the opposite is true; it's the girls who suffer! But with proper teaching, neither will have a problem due to gender.
As you can see, there are many problems with the teaching in this textbook, which makes it something no one should recommend. Gothard's dwelling on sexual relations within marriage and outside of marriage, pornography and homosexuality, makes me wonder about his feelings in regard to sex in general. It appears that he sees sex as dirty or sinful, and even in marriage it should be limited to procreation as a necessary evil. Is it right to teach against pre-marital and extra-marital sex? Of course. Is it right to teach against pornography and homosexuality? Of course. But do we need to dwell on these subjects as is done in this text? Absolutely not.
Gothard has no experience in marriage and as such has no qualifications to tell anyone about sexual abstinence. His theories are not only unproven, but they can be proven to be wrong, anecdotes notwithstanding.