Tag Archives: Gothard



Children learn the use of comparatives and superlatives quite young, even though they may not know them as parts of speech. Something might be big, but another might be bigger. A comparison will have to be done to discern which is biggest. Big, bigger, biggest. Adjective, comparative, superlative.

For years we participated in a group that had a slogan boldly proclaimed at conferences and in literature.

“Giving the world a ‘new’ approach to life!”

The word “new” was always in quotes, as I remember. That’s because it didn’t really mean new. It meant “better.” At least that’s what we all were to think. People even quoted the slogan incorrectly, saying “Giving the world a better approach to life.” To be fair, I think the official idea was that the approach was not new, but ancient, since it came from the Bible. But the folks in the program—and the world outside—got the message that the way of this group was better.

And it wasn’t just a slogan. It was the theme of the whole ministry. Comparisons to the way of the world or even the rest of the church were constant. Everyone else was doing life wrong. Only the ones in the group were right. Story after story was told about how the ways of others failed and caused heartache. Story after story was told about how the way of the group was successful and wonderful. Money, marital happiness, family harmony, business success, and even national superiority could be attributed to the “better” way.

Now, if you are bold enough to suggest that your way is better, you should prepare for the challenge to be accepted. In other words, if you tell someone you have a better product or way of living, the burden is on you to prove it. The word “better” begs for comparison. That means analysis, observation, scrutiny, and testing. And you should remember that you started the comparisons.

In order to sell a better mousetrap, you have to establish that the old mousetraps have failings. Then you have to show that your mousetrap does not have those failings. And the makers of the others have the right to put your product to the test to see if you really do have something better. Any failing they find will probably be loudly hailed as proof that your mousetrap isn’t really all that much better.

So that brings me back to the Duggars. While I have a great deal of sympathy for the whole situation, particularly for the girls who were victims, I really am neither surprised nor troubled by the media attention given to their recent exposure. Yes, I think it is more than I want to read about or hear about. Yes, I think some people are taking advantage of their vulnerability. Yes, I think Jesus still loves each one of them. But none of us should be surprised at this widespread discussion.

When you challenge the whole world, don’t be surprised when the whole world responds!

The Duggars, faithful to the same group with the same slogan I once participated in, were willing to hold themselves as models for a “better” way of life, and they should be willing to pay the price of inquiry and analysis by those with whom they compared themselves. Bill Gothard, the teacher himself, experienced the same phenomenon. He proclaimed a “better” way, but failed to prove the comparison under examination—even in his own life.

The church is undergoing scrutiny by the eyes of a world no longer intimidated. The flaws of “superior” spirituality are becoming more evident. We have covered our sins and have failed to remove the log from our own eye. We have excused leaders and teachers and supported systems that deny the truth of our own inadequacies.

When spirituality is centered on behavior or performance, we provide for the world and our own people nothing more than a different list of rules than they have. Our list is better, we say. Follow our guidelines and you will avoid the errors and sins that have plagued you. The only problem is that our product does not compare all that well. Our list is just another list.

The Christian faith was never about a list. It was and is about a Person. According to the mystery, the Lord God loved us so much that He took on Himself humanity in the person of Jesus. Jesus, the love of God personified, offered life to those who would come to Him. Those who will admit their need, their inadequacy and failure, can find forgiveness, life, and joy in Him.

Christians are not better people than the rest of the world. Jesus is better. Our hope is not in our good, but in His good. Our forgiveness is not based on our love, but on His love. Our success is not based on our performance, but on His performance. Christians are forgiven, righteous, and hopeful—because of Jesus alone.

What Christians offer to the world is not a better list, but a Savior. The heart of our message depends on our willingness to confess our need. The flesh in us is still pulled to everything the world struggles against. But our hope is not in us or our ways. Our hope is in Jesus.


Filed under grace, Legalism

Was it all wrong?

Okay, now we have left the legalist church/organization/teacher.  Now what?  Where do we stand?  Do we throw out everything we learned?  How do we sort out all of this?  Does it all just need to go?

I have been getting a lot of these questions lately.  Doug Phillips and Vision Forum are gone.  Bill Gothard has resigned and the future of IBLP is in question.  Churches and ministries and teachers that had all the answers suddenly don’t even have answers for themselves.  At the same time, the message of God’s love and grace are being shouted from the housetops and people are hearing that it isn’t about their performance after all.

But we were immersed in the performance doctrines.  We learned them throughout our lives.  We judged others and ourselves by them.  We grieved when we couldn’t measure up and wondered about those who didn’t even seem to try.  We worked so hard to do well and sacrificed to go to the conferences, seminars and the right churches.  If we can’t trust the ones who spoke to us in the name of the Lord, who can we trust?

Besides, it all came out of the Bible, didn’t it?  We understand that it didn’t seem to work for the teachers, but shouldn’t it still work for us?  Or is it all bad?

Was it all wrong?  No.  But it was all touched by the error.  It’s a little like baking cookies and putting in soy sauce instead of vanilla.  The rest of the recipe is just right, but the mistake affects the whole batch.  The strange taste can be found in every bite.  The only way to move forward is to put together a new batch.

Yet, when you begin to bake the new batch of cookies, you find that most of the ingredients and proportions are just the same as before.  The sugar was fine.  The flour was good.  The amount of butter, salt, and baking powder was just right.  So much was right.  If you can remember what the error was, you should be able to avoid it in the future.

Obviously, baking cookies does not compare with building a way of thinking about life and relationships and spirituality.  But the error of legalism is usually confined to a few toxic teachings that affect the applications and effectiveness of the perspective.  In fact, a simple wrong substitute might have caused the whole problem.

Many of us were brought up in an atmosphere of fear and shame.  Sometimes it came from our parents.  Sometimes it came from school or the community.  Sometimes it was just the lie in our own hearts.  We learned that condemnation was normal and deserved, even if we didn’t like it and tried to reject it.  We learned little about real love, because whatever love we experienced was bound up by conditions and expectations.

What little we learn of the fundamental lie and the evil one who promotes it is that it stems from fear and pride, an unwillingness to rest in the provision and love of God.  If I were to risk simplifying the lie, I would suggest: “I can and I should do it myself.”  That lie has been cultivated into our humanity for all of history and is an integral part of our world.  It should not surprise us when we see it everywhere, nor when we learn that we have been affected by it.  Our parents lived in it as did their parents.  The world’s thinking and most of the thinking of the church has been affected by it.  The lie is everywhere.  From Eve to the Antichrist, the lie has permeated our world.

So it also should not surprise us that we would naturally gravitate toward teachers and churches where the lie was just under the surface.  We hate the lie.  We hate feeling insecure and inadequate.  Yet, those feelings are so familiar.  It is difficult for us to accept teaching and influence that doesn’t have something of those feelings for us.  But we don’t want it on the surface, at least not at first.  We want to hear about love and acceptance, but we subconsciously look for performance and shame.

But that was the lie.  Now we have discovered the truth!  The lie was substituted for love.  Shame and performance are not part of the good news.  God loves us and sent His Son to be our hope.  He has provided all that we need “for life and godliness.”  What the Father has done for us in Jesus is enough.  We are not condemned and no longer need to live in fear, shame, and inadequacy.  Jesus is our hope, our righteousness, our life.  The truth has set us free.

And now what?  Now we go back to the building blocks of our faith and learn again.  This time we will be watching more carefully.  This time we know that the soy sauce smells and tastes different from the vanilla.  We know that the lie will damage everything, so we will avoid it by prayer and wisdom.  We will see that the Lord has invited us into a relationship because He loves us and He will give us all that we need for that relationship to be a lasting reality in our lives.  We will remember His love for us and how it defines everything of our faith and lives.

Yes, it will be tempting to stay away from the faith altogether.  My heart grieves for those who have tasted the recipe that included the lie.  Now that they have spit out the vile thing they don’t want to taste anything that looks like it.  We understand and sympathize.  We have some of the same feelings.  We will be much more sensitive to the taste in the future.

Much like we would if we were baking the new batch of cookies, we will remind ourselves of the former error.  We will be telling ourselves to avoid the lie.  We will speak words of affirmation and truth along the way.  We will tell ourselves and others about the love of God, the forgiveness of sin, the freedom of our relationship with Jesus, and the assurance of His faithfulness.

And if we smell the lie again, even in something we have accepted, we will search for it and get rid of it.  We will denounce it over and over until it no longer affects our thinking.  Then we will rest in the knowledge that the Lord has been with us and has guided us into the truth we need to experience His love and the joy of our salvation.

All that needs to go is the lie.

I would love to read your comments!


Filed under Freedom, grace, Legalism, Relationship