As promised, here is the second half of the interview with Don Veinot, one of the authors of A Matter of Basic Principles. Links, as well as an introduction, can be found with the first half. ATI stands for Advanced Training Institute, a Gothard organization that provides curriculum, conferences, training, etc.
Q: Another important subject you bring up is how Bill Gothard interprets the Bible. What are your views on that?
A: He is really quite subjective on this issue. Gothard does little study of the historical/grammatical context of Scripture but instead seems to land on an idea he likes and then goes in search of Bible passages that might sound like they support his contention. He writes that historical/grammatical study is fairly fruitless since two teachers could engage in this and come to different conclusions. Instead, he claims to pray over large sections of Scripture for the proper interpretation. So, in essence, he is claiming the inspired understanding of the inspired word of God. Therefore, one cannot disagree because they are not disagreeing with Gothard but with God Himself. It doesn’t seem to cross his mind that if someone else prays over large sections of Scripture and comes to personal interpretation they also claim are from God that he hasn’t solved the problem but only expanded out to any and all who engage in feeling-oriented interpretations of God’s word.
Q: Some people say that Gothard advocates circumcision only for medical reasons, and his website says that it is “not required of believers for salvation” or for “the sanctification of the believer”. Does this satisfy your criticism that he is legalistic on the issue?
A: It doesn’t for a few reasons. First, his original booklet claimed that this issue is so strongly commanded and reinforced in Scripture that there is no question what decision a Christian parent will make. With this wording, to decide against circumcision as a parent is to violate God’s commandment which is reinforced in Scripture. He has never publicly retracted this and so either is still holding to it and adding that it is not necessary for salvation or is concealing his false teaching. Both are a problem. Second, at our August 20, 2002 meeting, he stated that circumcision will prevent cervical cancer in the infant boy’s future wife, and if we know the right thing to do and don’t do it then for us it is sin. Again, circumcision was a moral issue for Gothard, not simply a medical one. I am not particularly interested in the medical question but think each parent needs to look at and decide that issue. Third, although he writes now that it is not a salvation issue he misrepresents Paul’s writing in Galatians on this. The Galatians were saved as can be seen by Paul’s question, “Did you receive the spirit by the works of the law or the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish, having begun in the spirit will you now be perfected in the flesh?” Like Gothard, the false teachers were claiming that circumcision was morally required. It was part of sanctification and a way of meriting God’s favor. He would fare better if he publicly repented of his false teachings, pointed out where he is changing them and the apologetics community would work with him in his work in other areas.
Q: It’s been eight years since A Matter of Basic Principles was published. Has anything about Gothard or the ATI changed since then?
A: As far as I can tell, any changes are largely cosmetic. There is no real accountability for Bill and little if any honest repentance on his part.
Q: In your book, you write about families and individuals who have been damaged by ATI teachings. Can you give us an example and explain why it is a direct, logical consequence of Gothard’s teaching?
A: As you know, we provide several examples in the book but, I have recently been contacted by a counselor who has a female client in Gothardism and can’t quite get at the core issue. The woman is 45, high school educated, no college allowed by her father. She has never held a job but is still living at home because she is under her father’s authority and has not been allowed to court or be married. I wish I could say this is the only such call but it is not. His patriocentric teachings can have long lasting and detrimental effects on his followers and their children. At some point children should be encouraged to have an individual relationship with God directly instead of through their parent. There is the obvious fear that children will make mistakes. They will. But, God uses us in spite of our mistakes and grows us into a greater dependency on Him through those mistakes.
Q: Do you believe the God portrayed in ATI literature is consistent with the God revealed to us in Scripture?
A: The short answer is no. The long answer is too long:D
Q: I have read in more than one place that Gothard has a mechanistic approach to life, that he believes doing the right things guarantees success. It reminds me a little of the “health and wealth Gospel”. What similarity, or lack thereof, do you see between the ideas?
A: They are very similar and I think the basis stems from an anthropocentric (man centered) theology rather than a Christocentric (Christ centered) theology. If we start with the premise that the Bible is about us and what we can get from or deserve to get from God, we will fall into any number of heresies including those which emanate from the Word Faith camp and Gothard. If we begin with a Christocentric view of Scripture we quickly realize that although God cares for us and provides as He sees fit that does not guarantee a life free from suffering. The heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 are great examples of this principle. As the writer lays out the persecutions and suffering they underwent what may be a moment of sheer emotion when he penned the words, “men of who the world is not worthy.” We are not guaranteed financial prosperity, physical health or protection from life’s ills if we are under some mythical “umbrella of protection.” That is magical thinking, not anything approaching a biblical understanding of God or His interactions with and provisions for mankind.
Q: You obviously disagree with a great deal of what Bill Gothard teaches. What danger do you think his ideas pose and why?
A: His teachings at their core take the focus off of God and put it on other humans. It takes accountability away from those in positions of authority and gives them the ability to abuse those they are supposed to be serving. In reality, those of us in high positions of authority are more highly accountable to a larger number of people. We live in glass houses and everyone around us has Windex. This should be fear inspiring to public teachers but too many have no fear of God and little respect for His word. In my opinion, Bill Gothard and the leaders who use his material fall into this category.