Beware of Bill Gothard

By Bro. David Cloud

Way of Life Website


May 31, 2005 - David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143. Send e-mail: fbns@wayoflife.org


Bill Gothard has wielded vast influence among fundamentalists and independent Baptists. Not long after I was converted in 1973 I was invited to one of Gothard’s Basic Youth Conflict seminars and in 1978 I attended a Gothard minister’s conference in Tampa, Florida. His organization claims that more than two and a half million people have attended his seminars, and many more have been influenced by those who have attended and by using his materials.

Long ago we issued warnings about Gothard’s dangerous tendency to intermingle human psychology and his own thinking to a level of authority alongside the Scriptures, his dangerous ecumenism, downplaying the scriptural position of the church*, and other things, but now he has fallen even farther off the deep end. Now he is promoting charismatic-style Power of Blessing and Total Health programs.

This is not totally surprising, because as early as 1994 Gothard attended a radically ecumenical conference that featured Charismatics. This was Bill Bright’s Prayer and Fasting conference in December of that year. To understand why Gothard should not have participated in this conference, we have to know something about the man who brought it together. The late Bill Bright had one of the most radically unscriptural ecumenical philosophies and agendas of any man of his generation. As early as 1969, Bright said, “We do not attack the Roman Church. We believe God is doing a mighty work in it and will no doubt use millions of Roman Catholics to help evangelize the world” (The Post & Times Star, Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug. 30, 1969). We mightily wonder how this could be when the Roman Catholic Church preaches a false gospel. At Billy Graham’s Amsterdam '86 conference, Bright said, “There was a day when Protestants and Roman Catholics would not have much to do with one another. But today the Spirit of God is doing such a great work in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant fellowships and communions that I feel very much at home wherever Jesus Christ is honored” (Foundation, Jul.-Aug. 1986). We would ask how it is possible that Roman Catholics honor Jesus Christ when they add works and sacraments to His Gospel of Grace and exalt Mary and the Pope beyond every scriptural bound, to mention only a couple of their doctrinal abominations? In 1978 Richard Quebedeaux noted: “In Ireland, Campus Crusade is registered as a religious order ... And they work entirely within the Catholic church there with Catholics because there is nobody else to work with” (Wittenburg Door, June-July 1978). In that same decade Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade for Christ joined hands with the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and participated in Catholic Oasis youth retreats that featured devotion to Mary (“The Pope We Never Knew,” Christianity Today, April 19, 2005). Bill Bright was a signatory to Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

When Gothard’s participation in Bill Bright’s ecumenical conference was exposed by Calvary Contender, instead of admitting that he had erred in attending Gothard pretended that he was being falsely accused and persecuted and even made the claim that he is committed to biblical separation! Apparently he is so accustomed to misleading those who attend his seminars and use his materials and so puffed up with success that he thinks he can deceive everyone.

In an article published on March 27, 1997, I proposed that Gothard answer three questions if he is really a biblical separatist as he claims. First, does he warn his hearers of the various ims and ecclesiastical dangers today? Does he, for example, plainly identify New Evangelicalism and name key New Evangelical compromisers such as Billy Graham and Chuck Colson and Bill Bright so that his listeners can avoid being led astray by them? Second, I asked why do people from New Evangelical and modernistic World Council of Churches-affiliated churches (American Baptist, Association of Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist, etc.) feel comfortable with his ministry and return to his conferences? These same people would not support the ministry of a fundamental Baptist preacher who simply preaches the Bible without the added attraction of psychobabble. Third, I asked why does he attend ecumenical meetings instead of exposing and rebuking them? I believe those are important questions that get to the heart of the matter and I am still waiting for answers. Since Gothard’s teaching and practice is very public, I believe my questions to him and his replies should be equally public. This is not a private matter of offense between two brothers in Christ in one local church. It is a public matter. To apply Matthew 18:15-19 to this situation is to misuse Scripture.

It appears that Gothard has been led astray by his unscriptural associations and by his non-critical reading of Charismatic and other heretical materials, having failed to heed the warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” I don’t know fully which books or individuals Gothard has been influenced by and I doubt that he will tell me, but I do know that he did not get the following programs from Scripture.

THE POWER OF BLESSING

Gothard has written a book titled The Power of Spoken Blessings and also distributes a video titled How to Transform Attitudes with Spoken Blessings by Chris and Anne Hogan. His website claims that these materials reveal “the power of the spoken word, either as a blessing or a curse.”

Like the Charismatics, Gothard takes a few proof texts out of context as a pretext and twists them into a doctrine that is nowhere taught in God’s Word.

He even teaches parents to use the Power of Blessing in child training. No need for the often-mentioned rod of Proverbs when you have learned Gothard’s secret of blessing. His web site contains the testimony of a family who is excited because their five-year-old son is “speaking blessing” upon his two-year-old sister and a seven-year-old is “speaking blessing” upon a ten-year-old. Anytime this family has a discipline problem, they simply speak blessing on the offending child and all is well. Life is pretty easy when you have learned the secrets.

This is taking something good and proper from the Scripture and turning it into something God never intended it to be. If there was such a thing as the Power of Blessing as it is taught by Gothard and the Charismatics, this would be clearly described in Scripture. We would not be required to use our imaginations to build up an entire broad doctrine out of couple of verses that tell us to bless our enemies. To bless one’s enemies instead of cursing them is Scriptural. To go around “speaking blessing” on every difficulty in life is folly. If there were a doctrine of the Power of Blessing in Scripture, we would see it in Proverbs in relation to child discipline instead of all of the references to reproof and the rod. And we would see it in the Pentateuch, where Moses would have merely spoke blessing upon rebellious Israel instead of all of the other things we see there. And we would see it in the New Testament epistles, where Paul would have simply blessed away the many problems at Corinth instead of going to the effort of writing two lengthy letters filled with instruction and pleading and sharp reproof and warning. And we would see it in the book of Revelation, where the Lord Jesus would have simply used the Power of Blessing to correct the many errors that had entered into the seven churches of Asia Minor.

Beware, friends. Every false teacher builds his doctrine on half truths and upon Scripture taken out of context and twisted into a doctrine that does not conform to the Scripture taken as a whole. The Scripture must not be interpreted in an isolated manner with the goal of supporting a pet theory, but it must be interpreted in a careful and godly manner according to the context and by comparing Scripture with Scripture.

TOTAL HEALING

Bill Gothard has also established a Total Healing program. It is your fairly typical quack-Charismatic approach to healing: God wants you to be totally healthy; you should live a long healthy life; non-standard nutrition (“maintaining electrolyte balance and proper blood dispersion”) and a non-standard program is the key to total health; roots of bitterness must be removed and curses counteracted; traditional health care has led you astray, etc.

As early as 2002 Gothard was promoting the teaching of Henry Wright of Pleasant Valley Church, Thomaston, Georgia. Wright’s Be in Health seminar alleges to teach people how to deal with the “spiritual roots of disease” by identifying all sorts of demons and such. His web site says, “We are dedicated to the eradication and prevention of all spiritual, psychological, and biological disease. ... Pleasant Valley Research and Publishing provide materials designed to promote Wholeness in mankind.” We see nothing like this in the apostolic doctrine. It is heresy.

One distraught wife wrote to Rick Miesel of Biblical Discernment Ministries in November 2002 and explained how that her husband had attended Wright’s seminar (at the expense of his mother, who had gotten caught up in it) and he had come home “saying that sin is a demon, cancer is bitterness, diseases mostly have spiritual roots, anything less than 70 years on this planet is a curse, etc.” This man was also taught, “Beware when you get home because Satan will try and use the person closest to you to make you doubt what we have taught you.” There was no warning at the seminar to test everything by God’s Word, to “prove all things” and to hold fast only that which is good (1 Thessalonnians 5:21; Acts 17:21). To the contrary, he was taught to receive the teaching without criticism. When his wife called him and asked if he was using biblical discernment, he gave the very foolish and dangerous reply, “I will not slander these people by disagreeing with them.”

Now Gothard has developed his own Total Health program. He operates the International Institute for Health and Research in Nashville, which is a massive and expensive complex. It is advertised as “a program of the Institute in Basic Life Principles.” Therefore, Gothard has taken the millions of dollars that people have poured into his coffers by attending Basic Life Seminars and purchasing his materials and has used this wealth to establish this impressive but unscriptural Institute.

A standard four day visit at the Institute costs $1,420.

Gothard’s website features testimonies of those who have been healed through his program.

You say, “What is wrong with this, Brother Cloud?” My answer is that if the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice, a lot is wrong with it. We find nothing -- absolutely nothing -- like this in the faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

There are only three teachings about diet in the New Testament:

First, Peter was taught that the Old Testament dietary restrictions are no longer in effect for the New Testament believer (Acts 10:9-16). The truth of this was emphasized in that the vision and the command to rise, kill, and eat was repeated three times. This passage single-handedly refutes the following claims: that the Mosaic dietary restrictions are enforce in the New Testament churches, that the Mosaic dietary restrictions were for health purposes (if that were true, God would have kept them in force), that eating meat is unhealthy, that vegetarianism is a superior program, that is cruel to kill animals, etc.

Second, we are taught that in the New Testament dispensation diet is entirely a matter of personal liberty (Romans 14:1-6) and we are not to judge others in such matters (Romans 14:13).

Third, we have a warning about those who teach against eating meat (1 Timothy 4:1-6) and we are told that to require a vegetarian diet is a doctrine of devils.

To go beyond the Bible’s clear teaching in this matter and to create dietary programs that purport to have a Scriptural basis and to have divine approval and universal properties is heresy.

The Gothard total health plan errs at its foundation when it makes the claim or implies that God’s will for His people is total health. A mere glance at the Bible exposes the error of this doctrine. Paul had a sickness that God refused to remove
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Paul’s conclusion to this matter was the opposite of those who claim God’s will is total health, for he said: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). The word “infirmities” is the Greek word “astheneia,” which is elsewhere translated “disease” (Acts 28:9), “sickness” (John 11:4), and “weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Timothy was physically weak and often sick (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul was required to leave his co-worker Trophimus behind in Miletum because he was sick and God did not heal him (2 Timothy 4:20).

Another problem with the Gothard type total health program is that it is based on half truths. Of course it is important to eat in a healthy manner, but a healthy diet is not rocket science; further, the best nutrition does not guarantee total health. All weakness and sickness and trouble in this life ultimately stems from the fall. It goes back to our sin. We live in a world that groans under a curse and even we ourselves that are born again groan under that curse (Romans 8:22-23) and we live in a body of death (Romans 7:24). The New Testament faith does not teach us to expect total health and total deliverance in this present world; it teaches us to live by hope, and hope that is seen is not hope. Consider the following important passage in ">Romans 8:18-25:

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that THE WHOLE CREATION GROANETH AND TRAVAILETH IN PAIN TOGETHER UNTIL NOW.
23 AND NOT ONLY THEY, BUT OURSELVES ALSO, WHICH HAVE THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, EVEN WE OURSELVES GROAN WITHIN OURSELVES, WAITING FOR THE ADOPTION, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it
.

The Gothard total health plan, like his Power of Blessing program, is built upon half truths and Scriptures taken out of context. It is true that proper nutrition and certain alternative care plans can heal certain problems that standard health care is unable to heal, but that does not mean that nutrition and alternative health care can heal all problems, and it does not mean that there is such a thing as a guarantee of total health, and it does not mean that we should look askance at standard health care in the way that alternative care people typically do.

The Gothard total health plan is simply a deception. It promises total heath but it cannot deliver such a thing. Gothard publishes the testimonies of those that are helped through his Institute, just like the Charismatics do of those who are healed in their conferences, but like the Charismatics Gothard does NOT publish the testimonies of those who are disappointed, of those who receive temporary relief but who later find that they still have problems that the Gothard plan does not erase.

These bogus total health programs that falsely purport to be based on Scripture never admit their own failures. The failures (and, if the truth were known, they far outweigh the successes) are always the fault of the individual, never of the program (or the faith healer, as the case may be).

Shame on Bill Gothard for leading people astray when they are troubled and in ill health. Shame on him for spending his wealth on a program that has no authority in the Scriptures.

Gothard has always been something of an enigma, an alleged separatist who draws the most ecumenical of crowds, an alleged fundamentalist who acts like a New Evangelical, a single man who is looked upon as a marriage and child-training guru, a conservative in dress and music who attracts many from the contemporary circles, a seeming Biblicist who is mixed up in many types of psychobabble. Now we can add that he is a non-charismatic who adopts charismatic programs.

[* I have met and heard of many people who are devoted to Gothard’s materials but who do not have a proper understanding of and commitment to the New Testament church. On a recent preaching trip, for example, I met two Gothard families in one church who attended only the Sunday morning services and then neglected the house of God during the rest of the services of the Bible conference to attend to “family obligations.” These families need to pay more attention to the New Testament Scriptures than to Bill Gothard, and a good place to start would be 1 Timothy 3:15 and Hebrews 10:25; Hebrews 13:7, 17.]

For more information about Bill Gothard’s ministry see the New Evangelical section of the Apostasy Database at the Way of Life web site -- http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/fbns-index/nevafbns.htm.

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