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I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life researching Bill Gothard, interviewing him, warning others about him, and debating him and his followers. So, when someone comes along and accuses a well-known Christian of teaching Gothard’s concepts, it tends to get my attention, especially when said Christian has been in the public eye for more than 40 years. It’s an extraordinary claim-and a sobering one-that makes me want to look into it.

Recently I learned that, two days before I published my article titled, “Hi, Megan! About those tweets from Rachael Denhollander…,” Denhollander’s husband Jacob tweeted about “Bill Gothard’s ‘Umbrella of Authority’ concept.” He was trying to use this concept to establish a direct link between Bill Gothard and John MacArthur.

Actually, he was claiming more than a “link.” He asserted that MacArthur’s teaching on “male/female relationships” is conceptually identical to Gothard’s, that he was “using” Gothard’s “concept.”

Again, this was an extraordinary claim. If there was any truth to it, I really wanted to know.

Jacob Denhollander’s Allegation

This is what he tweeted above a screenshot of a web page containing one of MacArthur’s sermons from 1986:1“Widows in the Church, Part 1,” Grace to You, November 16, 1986

Here’s John MacArthur using Bill Gothard’s “Umbrella of Authority” concept–his unique and extremely influential way of explaining male/female relationships.

The commonality is there for anyone with any familiarity, regardless of how formal it was.2https://twitter.com/JJ_Denhollander/status/1635769738654539776

Denhollander’s wording is important. He claims that when MacArthur said that a woman “is to be under the umbrella of male protection, provision, authority, and direction,” he wasn’t merely using Gothard’s “umbrella of authority” language, but his “umbrella of authority” concept.

Gothard’s preferred way of stating his concept is that “authority is like an ‘umbrella of protection,’”3Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts: Research in Principles of Life, (Oak Brook, IL, USA: Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1979; 1981), 20. I will later refer to this as the Basic Seminar textbook. Note: Gothard changed the name of his organization to Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) in the mid-1980s rather than simply calling it an “umbrella of authority.” And in 1986, MacArthur used language that is at least formally similar to Gothard’s: “umbrella of male protection, provision, authority, and direction.” But as Denhollander himself seems to note, the only thing his citation of MacArthur proves is formal similarity. His allegation of conceptual identity (not mere similarity) can’t be demonstrated from the text alone. It requires “familiarity” with the teachings of both men.

So, precisely what is Gothard’s concept-his unique and extremely influential way of explaining male/female relationships-that Denhollander alleges MacArthur “used?” I think I have some familiarity with it.

First of all, let’s get one thing clear…

Gothard’s “authority is like an ‘umbrella of protection’” concept is not simply his way of explaining male/female relationships. It’s his way of explaining everyone’s relationships: a wife’s relationship to her husband, a child’s relationships to his parents, a man’s relationship to his boss (women shouldn’t work outside the home, according to Gothard), a couple’s relationship to their pastor, a citizen’s relationship to his government, people’s relationship to God-just about every relationship outside of siblings and friends. Wives are not the only ones subject to it, nor are men exempt from it. It is all-inclusive and does not discriminate on the basis of sex.

Now, in every theological error, there is usually an element of truth. Gothard’s errors are no exception. If you’re going to explain God-established human authority in terms of an “umbrella of protection,” it makes perfect sense from a historic Protestant perspective to apply it to all of our relationships and not just one kind since historic Protestant teaching locates the source of all legitimate human authority in the fifth commandment. We see this, for instance, in the Westminster Larger Catechism of 1647:

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?

A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.4“Larger Catechism,” The Orthodox Presbyterian Church

The Christians of the Reformation and their successors poured a great deal of work into establishing the biblical basis for what the catechism says here, which is that all relationships that entail authority and submission, whether found in the family or in one of society’s hierarchies, are governed by the commandment to honor our parents. This may sound strange to most people today, but it was a common Christian understanding several generations ago. The catechism I just cited contains a lot more on this subject than the part I quoted here. You may find it helpful to consult its context.5In the Larger Catechism, the topic is covered by twelve questions and answers-Q. 122 to 133-which the Westminster Assembly backed up with 131 biblical references. For more information, see John Bower, The Larger Catechism: A Critical Text and Introduction, Principal Documents of the Westminster Assembly, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), especially pages 42-44 for the history of the proof-texts, which were published in 1648, and 93-95 for Bower’s critical text of Q. 122 to 133 with their biblical references

Evangelicals today who insist that marital and family relationships should bear no trace of submission to authority are signaling their decisive break with (and perhaps ignorance of) historic Protestantism on this issue. Most of them are probably okay with that, but all this is simply to say that on this narrow point-the existence of authority and submission in human relationships-Gothard has not broken with historic Christian theology. He is, in fact, in harmony with it. And so is MacArthur.

But if the problem with Gothard’s “umbrella of protection” is not with the fact that its view of authority is so all-encompassing, what exactly is the problem with it?

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” -Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

What does Gothard specifically mean by “authority is like an ‘umbrella of protection’” that makes it so bad? What specific theological content does he pour into his figurative umbrella that makes his use of these terms so toxic? Once you start reading his literature, the answer isn’t hard to find. In his Basic Seminar textbook, Gothard wrote:

Authority is like an “umbrella of protection,” and when we get out from under it, we expose ourselves to unnecessary temptations which are too strong for us to overcome. This is why Scripture compares rebellion to witchcraft – “Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft.” (I Samuel 15:23) Both terms have the same basic definition – subjecting ourselves to the realm and power of Satan.6Bill Gothard, ibid. Bold style added

And in supplemental materials to the Basic Seminar, Gothard reinforces his concept:

The “umbrella of protection” symbolizes the fact that as long as we are under God-given authority, nothing can happen to us that God does not design for His glory and our ultimate good. (See Romans 8:28-29). 7Institute in Basic Life Principles, How to Get Under God’s Protection: Principle of Authority, (Oak Brook, IL, USA: IBLP, 1987; 1990), 4. Bold style added

It’s difficult to imagine a more subtle and effective theft of the believer’s comfort and assurance than the one Gothard pulls off in these few words. With an utterly reckless disregard for context, he takes the unconditional promise God makes to all His children in Romans 8:28-29 that all things will work for their good and makes it conditional upon submitting to human authorities.

To be clear: Christians cannot “subject [themselves] to the realm and power of Satan.” Salvation in Christ makes this a spiritual impossibility because,

¹³ He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, ¹â´ in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

Gothard’s word “realm” and Paul’s word “domain” (ἐξουσία, exousía: “authority,” “jurisdiction”) are both functionally synonymous with each other here and functionally synonymous with Paul’s other word, “kingdom,” although Paul’s “domain” is more comprehensive in the sense that it excludes believers from being under Satan’s power in any way. This is what Paul means when he says we’ve been rescued from Satan’s kingdom and given full citizenship in Christ’s kingdom (cf. Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20). Keeping all this in mind, let’s stick with Gothard’s word, “realm,” since it’s his concept we’re discussing.

While Paul says believers have been decisively delivered from and transferred out of Satan’s realm and into Christ’s realm so Satan no longer has any claim over us, Gothard says we can transfer ourselves back into Satan’s realm at any time, not by, say, apostatizing from the Christian faith, but simply by getting “out from under” our “umbrella of protection,”8Gothard, Basic Seminar textbook, 20 by which he means things like disobeying our bosses or our parents.

While Paul says, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one,” (2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV), Gothard says if you don’t remain under your “umbrella of protection,” God will stop guarding you against Satan and allow him to rain down “destruction” upon you.9How to Get Under God’s Protection, 3, 5

While the Apostle John repeatedly assures born-again believers that we have already overcome “the evil one” (1 John 2:13-14) and that the God who indwells us is greater than Satan (4:4) who therefore “does not touch” us (5:18), and thus the primary motive for confession of sin (1:9) is to restore a close relationship with our loving Father (3:1), Gothard terrorizes Christian consciences by teaching confession is necessary to “reclaim the ground that we have given Satan the ‘legal right’ to occupy.”10IBLP, “How can I reclaim areas of my life that I surrendered to Satan?” Note: according to the Internet Archive, this page existed on the web the year before Gothard was terminated from IBLP

Even though you’d never guess it from reading the whole epistle to the Romans, according to Gothard, the promise in 8:28-29 that everything works together for the good of believers is contingent on staying under your multiple “umbrellas of protection.”

Little wonder that Jinger Duggar Vuolo, who grew up on this teaching, writes:

Gothard didn’t teach me to be in awe of who God is and what He’s done, especially through Jesus Christ. Instead, he taught me to focus primarily on God’s punishment. I learned to fear what God could do to me. While the Bible affirms that authority has a place in our lives, Gothard turned obedience into a matter of terror. If I misstepped in any way, I was removed from all protection, and Satan would have full access. “As long as you are under God-given authority, nothing can happen to you that God does not design for your ultimate good,” Gothard said. This implied that if I stepped out from under the umbrella-knowingly or unknowingly-anything that happened would not be for my ultimate good.11Jinger Duggar Vuolo with Corey Williams, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, (Nashville, TN, USA: W Publishing/Thomas Nelson, 2023), 65

For reasons I’ll soon explain, Gothard did more than imply the possibility of stepping out from under the umbrella unknowingly and losing God’s protection. That idea is foundational to his system.12Someone might defend Gothard by noting that Paul talks about “delivering” certain people to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20), but by that Paul did not mean he was transferring them into Satan’s “realm,” “domain,” or “kingdom.” He used the same language found in the Greek Old Testament of his day (the Septuagint) when God said, in Job 2:6, “Behold, he is in your hand,” or (Greek translation), “Behold, I deliver him to you.” This is the same man of whom we are told at the beginning of the book that he “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1 ESV). God certainly wasn’t handing him over to be ruled over by Satan, and whatever power God gave him was explicitly limited. And while the men Paul delivered to Satan weren’t blameless and upright like Job, he made it clear that his purpose was disciplinary and remedial, that their spirits “may be saved in the day of the Lord” and “they may learn not to blaspheme,” which is pretty much the opposite of “subjecting” them to Satan’s realm

Meanwhile, if someone’s going to say MacArthur used Gothard’s concept, that person must also show that MacArthur taught that God’s promise in Romans 8:28-29 is contingent on submission to authority and failure to submit subjects believers to “the realm and power of Satan,” because that is Gothard’s concept. It is precisely what he means by “umbrella of protection.”

Has this been shown? I haven’t seen it.

But wait, there’s more.

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.” -Groucho Marx

Within the first two-and-a-half minutes of the first session of Gothard’s Basic Seminar, he explains the urgent reasons why people need his “non-optional principles of life.”13Gothard describes his seven principles this way in his Advanced Seminar Textbook, (Oak Brook, IL, USA: Institute in Basic Life Principles, 1986), 6. Also see, “Giving A ‘New’ Approach To Life: Basic Seminar,” The Institute In Basic Life Principles, brochure, n.d

Wisdom is tracing problems to the violation of God’s principles. Life is hooked up in a very delicate cause-and-effect sequence. In fact, we’re gonna see this week that the causes and effects are in unrelated areas. Here’s a man who wonders why he’s having business problems, financial problems. He doesn’t know that God has a clear relationship between his moral life and his business life. Now there are other relations, too, that would affect business, but that’s just one. Here’s a person who wonders why his children are reacting. He doesn’t know that God has a very clear relationship between his honoring of his parents and the response of his children to him. And in more and more ways, God has a very clear cause-and-effect sequence.14Bill Gothard, Basic Seminar, Session 1, “How to Trace Problems to Root Causes,” [1:15-2:19]

So, one of the first things Gothard does in his Basic Seminar, a full 45 minutes before he begins discussing his seven “non-optional principles of life,” is introduce his audience to his most basic principle of all, the principle he identifies with wisdom itself: a mechanistic worldview in which bad things happen to us because God created “a very delicate cause-and-effect sequence,” and without Gothard’s principles we can’t see where the trip-wires to the booby-traps are because “the causes and effects are in unrelated areas.”

Were you forced to file for bankruptcy in 2021? It wasn’t simply because of Covid, after all. It’s your fault. Real “wisdom” means you need to trace it back to a violation of one of “God’s principles.”

Are your kids talking back to you? Well, that’s your fault, too. Unbeknownst to you, you triggered the divine cause-and-effect karma when you sassed at your own parents decades ago.

And these are just the milder examples of this fundamental principle of Gothard’s system. Are you or your wife having difficulties in childbirth? Back in the 1990s, a writer for his Advanced Training Institute of America warned followers that owning Cabbage Patch dolls or troll dolls might be to blame:

At one birth, the mom had been in labor for two or three days with no signs of problems for the mother or baby but no progress. This was baby number five. The Lord prompted me to ask them about any items in their home through which Satan could gain entrance to interfere. There was a Cabbage Patch doll in their home. They threw it outside and agreed to burn it when they could get a fire going. Within two hours, this mom had a beautiful son.

In the home of another born-again Christian couple, there was a similar situation, only with a rebellious daughter and lots of trolls in addition. This mom was not dilating well. Again, the Lord burdened me to approach this couple about what they had in their home that might allow demonic influence. I had seen one troll doll in their bathroom. They agreed to get rid of any they had – the dad collected a grocery bag full! Out went the trolls. This family had their first successful home birth that morning after having attempted one years before.15Carol Storm (Council Bluffs, IA), “How The Exit Of Trolls And Dolls Was Followed By The Entrance Of Babies,” Basic Care Newsletter/ATIA Newsletter (January 1996), 3. Cited in Don Veinot, Joy Veinot, and Ron Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, (Springfield, MO, USA: 21st Century Press, 2002), 289

You can’t make this stuff up. Nor can you keep it under wraps for very long.

Accounts like this are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Gothard’s literature informs followers that bitterness causes bone marrow cancer.16IBYC, Wisdom Booklet 17 — Preliminary Edition (1987; Printed in USA, IBLP, rev. 1988), 719 A member of one of his boards related to us how Gothard once told a building inspector that his son’s cancer was the result of sin in his life.17Veinot, Veinot, and Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, 242-243 And Gothard is on record endorsing an author who claimed “that women develop breast cancer because they hate their mothers.”18Ibid., 290-291

It turns out that Gothard’s “non-optional principles of life” aren’t just amazing life hacks. Violations carry potentially lethal consequences. It’s not hard to understand why a child looking at God through Gothard’s eyes-a child, like Jinger Duggar Vuolo, once was-would find Him terrifying. As the subtitle of her book indicates, it’s left her spending lots of time disentangling her faith from fear.

And make no mistake: when Gothard refers to the “umbrella of protection,” the idea-and hence the fear-of triggering a fatal effect from some unforeseen cause is an inherent part of his concept. The idea that one may inadvertently “get out from under” Gothard’s “umbrella” and yet still face penalties for it cannot be disentangled from his “umbrella of protection” concept. According to him, not only is life “hooked up in a very delicate cause-and-effect sequence,” but all his other principles are hooked up to his understanding of how cause-and-effect works. Just try to challenge him on that and see where it gets you. I speak from personal experience. .”19Veinot, Veinot, and Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, 72-90

But the question now before us is this: what does John MacArthur have to do with this toxic theological waste dump?

“An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” -Marcello Truzzi (1935-2003)

Jacob Denollander claims that the “commonality” between MacArthur and Gothard with respect to the “concept” represented by the phrase “umbrella of protection” when each of them use it “is there for anyone with any familiarity.” Uh, OK. Since I began researching Bill Gothard’s teachings about a quarter-century ago in conjunction with the book I co-authored with Don and Joy Veinot, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, it may not be a stretch to suggest that I have some familiarity with his concepts.

But as I indicated in my previous article, I don’t know John MacArthur nearly so well. I’m not one of his fans. Although I’ve followed some of the controversies he’s been involved in over the years, I haven’t always been on the same side he was, and our theological views are just different enough that he hasn’t been a major input for me. I’m pretty sure I’ve read way more of his associate Phil Johnson’s online writings than I have MacArthur’s.

But to suddenly hear that he’s a Gothardite?! That he teaches one of Gothard’s most poisonous concepts? I mean, it wouldn’t be the end of my world if it turned out to be true, but based on what I know, that kind of thing would be pretty hard to keep under the radar for half a century.

Where would one begin to look for confirming evidence? And why isn’t Denhollander providing any, since it’s pretty obvious he knows how to do a basic search of the Grace to You website? To anyone truly familiar with Gothardism, proof shouldn’t be much harder to find than one of the only two instances (that I came up with) where MacArthur used the phrase “umbrella of protection”…back in the ’80s.

Dick Cheney provided more evidence of WMD in Iraq, and we know how that turned out. As Clara Peller asked on the old Wendy’s commercial, also from the ’80s, “Where’s the beef?”

What the evidence shows

A search on “Gothard” at gty.org didn’t turn up much, but what it did turn up is pretty significant, and it wouldn’t give the impression either MacArthur or his organization hold Gothard’s concepts in high esteem. At the 2005 Shepherd’s Conference, Phil Johnson decried “The Flaws of a Fad-Driven Church,” compared Bruce Wilkinson’s then-fashionable The Prayer of Jabez to medieval superstition, and said, “The medieval church had Leo X and Machiavelli. We’ve got Bill Gothard and Gary Ezzo.”20Phil Johnson,  “The Flaws of a Fad-Driven Church, Part 1” (gty.org), 2005 Not exactly an endorsement of Gothard’s concepts. I assume MacArthur is aware of Johnson’s comments.

Going back in time, we see that MacArthur hasn’t been shy about expressing disagreement with Gothard’s core teachings over the years. In a 2004 sermon, he directly contradicted advice Gothard gave in his seminars in which he told his followers to confess to others when they’ve harbored secret bitterness against them, a sin most pastors would agree is between the individual and God and should be confessed to Him alone.21“People have come to me, especially when they used to go to Bill Gothard’s seminars, and Bill Gothard would tell these people, ‘You go if you have bitterness against anybody and tell them how you felt and ask their forgiveness.’  Well, I had people I thought loved me come to me and say, ‘You know, I don’t really like you at all, and I’ve held this in my heart.’ And I would say to that, ‘That is not helpful. I liked you better before you told me that.’” “Forgive Us Our Sins,” Part 4, Grace to You, January 18, 2004

In 1987, during a Q & A session at his church, a man asked MacArthur whether his former pastor was correct to advise young adults that they must obey their parents’ directives concerning career decisions. He also inquired about a friend whose parents objected to his desire to marry even though he and his intended “were both growing believers, so there’s no biblical reason why they shouldn’t have been married.” All this is part of Gothard’s “umbrella of protection” concept.

MacArthur sensed there was more to the story and replied, “I would say that your friend who’s been talking to you has probably been to a Bill Gothard seminar because that sounds very familiar.” The man replied, “Exactly.” So, MacArthur again contradicted Gothard’s “non-optional principles of life,” saying he believed it’s “very clear in Scripture that there may come a time when a child who has reached the point of making an adult decision has to go directly against the will of their parents.”22Bible Questions and Answers, Part 34,” Grace to You, January 4, 1987

But I came across something that seemed especially relevant in another Q&A session at MacArthur’s church way back in 1980 when he cracked a little joke that begs for our attention:

PEGGY:   Hi. My name’s Peggy. And I’ll try to make this as short as possible. I was looking for this one Scripture, and it’s either a certain Scripture or some scriptural support to say a wife who takes herself from under the authority of her husband. And I remember reading that — is it she opens herself up more to satanic attack, or to be more deceived or something like that. Do you know what I’m talking about?

JOHN:   Hmm.  Hmm? Bill Gothard 5:8. Is that what it is?…23“Bible Questions and Answers, Part 11,” Grace to You, September 24, 1980

What’s particularly remarkable about this exchange is the way MacArthur pokes fun at Gothard on the very topic of Denhollander’s tweet at a time when Gothard was still at the zenith of his popularity in evangelicalism. One hardly expects this from someone devoted to teaching Gothard’s concepts, particularly this one. Loyalty is, after all, an important part of Gothard’s character curriculum.24“Loyalty,” Institute in Basic Life Principles

And although MacArthur mentioned Scriptures on wives submitting to husbands in 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5, he couldn’t come up with a Scripture that would support Gothard’s teaching on satanic attacks. But after asking another member in his congregation, he conceded that 1 Corinthians 7:5 teaches that married couples should “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that [they] may devote [themselves] to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt [them] because of [their] lack of self-control,” (NASB). But since this is addressed to both spouses, it’s not the same as saying the wife is under the husband’s “umbrella,” and Paul’s reference to temptation from Satan is a far cry from Gothard’s threats about “subjecting ourselves to the realm and power of Satan.”

There’s no comparison between what Gothard teaches and what MacArthur teaches here.25Someone responding to Jacob Denhollander’s tweet argued that the way MacArthur handled a church discipline case at Grace Community Church in 2002 is evidence that he subscribes to Gothard’s “umbrella of protection” concept. This anonymous person based her case on a Julie Roys article that quoted someone who alleged that MacArthur made a statement while the case was in process, which she, in turn, construed as betraying subscription to Gothard’s concept. After examining this evidence, such as it is, I found it way too thin to include in the main body of this article and only include it in this note so no one can say I missed it. Those who choose to pursue it are free to follow the links I’ve provided here

MacArthur on Romans 8:28-29

Now, it occurred to me as I began researching the question of whether MacArthur used Gothard’s “umbrella of protection” concept that the first place I should check out was what he said about the key biblical text Gothard cites in connection with it: Romans 8:28-29. I figured this is what someone “with any familiarity” of Gothard’s teachings would do.

So, before I searched out his references to Gothard, I went straight for his sermons on those verses. Did MacArthur, like Gothard, see them as containing promises contingent on remaining under authority as an “umbrella of protection?” Quite the contrary. Here’s what he said nearly 25 years ago:

No statement made to a believer could contribute more hope, more happiness, more freedom and more joy in the heart than that statement, because what it says is that no matter what pain, no matter what problems, no matter what failures, no matter what difficulties, no matter what disasters, no matter what sins, no matter what suffering, no matter what temptation, all things work together for good.26John MacArthur, “The Extent of the Believer’s Security (gty.org),” sermon on Romans 8:28, December 14, 1997

MacArthur is emphatic: not even our failures or sins will keep all things from working in our lives for God’s glory and our ultimate good.

Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t see even the vaguest resemblance between what MacArthur meant in 1986 by “umbrella of protection” and how Gothard has consistently expounded his own concept behind that phrase since at least around 1970. I don’t see how any reasonable person would.

Literally Gothard

In 2017, musician and YouTuber Rusty Cage released his song, “Everyone I Don’t Like is Literally Hitler.” It starts out:

Everyone I don’t like is literally Hitler Literally Hitler, literally Hitler Everyone I don’t like is literally Hitler Let’s have a look and see

And it proceeds to list examples, many of which are still current on social media six years later.

It seems that a notable difference between 2017 and 2023 is that in recent weeks and months, many evangelicals have changed these lyrics to “Everyone I don’t like is literally Gothard.” He’s become the new standard of evil for Christians eager to stomp out spiritual abuse in the church, a cause for which I have great sympathy, but I question whether Gothard deserves the honor.

The Denhollanders aren’t the only ones singing this new tune. In Baptist News Global’s “Friday Roundup,”27Baptist News Global, “Friday Roundup: From the Editor,” by Executive Editor and Publisher Mark Wingfield. The tweet linking to the article announced, “FRIDAY ROUNDUP: It’s all about hierarchy.” Mark Wingfield expressed his unhappiness over how the new pastor at Saddleback Church in California, Andy Wood, recently explained his church’s view on women in ministry:

“Saddleback allows women to be ordained and even to preach…but they all do so under the ‘authority’ of an all-male board of elders.…

“This reeks of Bill Gothard-style theology that teaches women fall under the protection of men who are directly responsible to God.”

Usually, when people say a thing “reeks” of something, they’re suggesting it’s literally that thing or possesses one of its identifying qualities. The example phrase Merriam-Webster gives, “a neighborhood that reeks of poverty,” suggests the neighborhood literally is poor.

So now, according to Wingfield, even if your church ordains women and allows them to preach-something I’d bet uninflated dollars (if I could find them) that Gothard opposes (I know MacArthur does!)-if they do that in the context of male headship in the church, they’re literally Gothard.

What’s in the water these people are drinking? Aren’t they the ones who love to talk about “nuance?”

If you can’t even see obvious distinctions where they exist, maybe you shouldn’t chide others for missing the subtler ones. With apologies to Shakespeare,28“The better part of valour is discretion…” -Falstaff, in Henry IV, Part 1, Scene 4, line 122. the better part of nuance is knowing what you’re talking about. It should also be the primary part of everything we say about others.Ω

© 2023, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

End Notes

End Notes
1 “Widows in the Church, Part 1,” Grace to You, November 16, 1986
2 https://twitter.com/JJ_Denhollander/status/1635769738654539776
3 Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts: Research in Principles of Life, (Oak Brook, IL, USA: Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1979; 1981), 20. I will later refer to this as the Basic Seminar textbook. Note: Gothard changed the name of his organization to Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) in the mid-1980s
4 “Larger Catechism,” The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
5 In the Larger Catechism, the topic is covered by twelve questions and answers-Q. 122 to 133-which the Westminster Assembly backed up with 131 biblical references. For more information, see John Bower, The Larger Catechism: A Critical Text and Introduction, Principal Documents of the Westminster Assembly, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), especially pages 42-44 for the history of the proof-texts, which were published in 1648, and 93-95 for Bower’s critical text of Q. 122 to 133 with their biblical references
6 Bill Gothard, ibid. Bold style added
7 Institute in Basic Life Principles, How to Get Under God’s Protection: Principle of Authority, (Oak Brook, IL, USA: IBLP, 1987; 1990), 4. Bold style added
8 Gothard, Basic Seminar textbook, 20
9 How to Get Under God’s Protection, 3, 5
10 IBLP, “How can I reclaim areas of my life that I surrendered to Satan?” Note: according to the Internet Archive, this page existed on the web the year before Gothard was terminated from IBLP
11 Jinger Duggar Vuolo with Corey Williams, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, (Nashville, TN, USA: W Publishing/Thomas Nelson, 2023), 65
12 Someone might defend Gothard by noting that Paul talks about “delivering” certain people to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20), but by that Paul did not mean he was transferring them into Satan’s “realm,” “domain,” or “kingdom.” He used the same language found in the Greek Old Testament of his day (the Septuagint) when God said, in Job 2:6, “Behold, he is in your hand,” or (Greek translation), “Behold, I deliver him to you.” This is the same man of whom we are told at the beginning of the book that he “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1 ESV). God certainly wasn’t handing him over to be ruled over by Satan, and whatever power God gave him was explicitly limited. And while the men Paul delivered to Satan weren’t blameless and upright like Job, he made it clear that his purpose was disciplinary and remedial, that their spirits “may be saved in the day of the Lord” and “they may learn not to blaspheme,” which is pretty much the opposite of “subjecting” them to Satan’s realm
13 Gothard describes his seven principles this way in his Advanced Seminar Textbook, (Oak Brook, IL, USA: Institute in Basic Life Principles, 1986), 6. Also see, “Giving A ‘New’ Approach To Life: Basic Seminar,” The Institute In Basic Life Principles, brochure, n.d
14 Bill Gothard, Basic Seminar, Session 1, “How to Trace Problems to Root Causes,” [1:15-2:19]
15 Carol Storm (Council Bluffs, IA), “How The Exit Of Trolls And Dolls Was Followed By The Entrance Of Babies,” Basic Care Newsletter/ATIA Newsletter (January 1996), 3. Cited in Don Veinot, Joy Veinot, and Ron Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, (Springfield, MO, USA: 21st Century Press, 2002), 289
16 IBYC, Wisdom Booklet 17 — Preliminary Edition (1987; Printed in USA, IBLP, rev. 1988), 719
17 Veinot, Veinot, and Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, 242-243
18 Ibid., 290-291
19 Veinot, Veinot, and Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles, 72-90
20 Phil Johnson,  “The Flaws of a Fad-Driven Church, Part 1” (gty.org), 2005
21 “People have come to me, especially when they used to go to Bill Gothard’s seminars, and Bill Gothard would tell these people, ‘You go if you have bitterness against anybody and tell them how you felt and ask their forgiveness.’  Well, I had people I thought loved me come to me and say, ‘You know, I don’t really like you at all, and I’ve held this in my heart.’ And I would say to that, ‘That is not helpful. I liked you better before you told me that.’” “Forgive Us Our Sins,” Part 4, Grace to You, January 18, 2004
22 Bible Questions and Answers, Part 34,” Grace to You, January 4, 1987
23 “Bible Questions and Answers, Part 11,” Grace to You, September 24, 1980
24 “Loyalty,” Institute in Basic Life Principles
25 Someone responding to Jacob Denhollander’s tweet argued that the way MacArthur handled a church discipline case at Grace Community Church in 2002 is evidence that he subscribes to Gothard’s “umbrella of protection” concept. This anonymous person based her case on a Julie Roys article that quoted someone who alleged that MacArthur made a statement while the case was in process, which she, in turn, construed as betraying subscription to Gothard’s concept. After examining this evidence, such as it is, I found it way too thin to include in the main body of this article and only include it in this note so no one can say I missed it. Those who choose to pursue it are free to follow the links I’ve provided here
26 John MacArthur, “The Extent of the Believer’s Security (gty.org),” sermon on Romans 8:28, December 14, 1997
27 Baptist News Global, “Friday Roundup: From the Editor,” by Executive Editor and Publisher Mark Wingfield. The tweet linking to the article announced, “FRIDAY ROUNDUP: It’s all about hierarchy.”
28 “The better part of valour is discretion…” -Falstaff, in Henry IV, Part 1, Scene 4, line 122.
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