Promises, Promises

Let’s talk about promises. To narrow the field, let’s talk about the promises the producers of culture make to us regarding their shows and movies and books.

Now, I don’t mean advertising slogans (BEST OF THE YEAR), which are not promises so much as exercises in hope and hype. I mean the implicit promises of genre, or brand, or whatever label under which a work takes up residence. These promises are made (of course!) in the interest of profit; if they get us to believe, they get us to buy. But once we believe and buy, they end up bound to their brands. The power of brand is a conservative force and resists change – including from readers and writers wanting something new in Christian publishing. (Incidentally, that is a preview. We will end at Christian publishing, but we’re taking the long way around, like they did before the Federal Highway-Aid Act.)

A brand is identity in shorthand and infinitely useful in this capitalistic world of choices. When you are so unfortunate as to be driving cross-country, do you stop to eat at small, unknown restaurants in small, unknown towns, thus exploring the rich variety of our great country and supporting hard-working small-business owners?

Of course not. You might get disappointed. You might get lost. You might get salmonella. What you do is, you watch the FOOD signs and get off the interstate when you see the logo of a chain restaurant that strikes you as good or, at any rate, acceptable. I’ve seen critical social commentary of this, but it’s only good sense. The selection off the highway sign of corporate logos is a selection based on knowledge, and if you’re not thrilled about getting a mediocre hamburger from McDonald’s, you won’t really be disappointed, either. Because you knew what to expect.

To teach people what to expect is the triumph of brand, and quite profitable when the expectations are good. What follows such triumph is an effort to preserve the brand and fulfill expectations. Disney, for example, has released most of its PG-13 fare and all of its R-rated fare under its Touchstone label. The more auspicious Disney label is reserved for gentler, kinder movies, movies fit for children. This is not a moral decision or an expression of values. Disney knows that its brand is a promise of movies that, while rarely without a dose of pathos, will never be too edgy or dark. Violate that too often or too egregiously, and see how many parents will be buying theater tickets on no other grounds than “it’s Disney”.

The same principle is manifest in publishing. Del Rey isn’t going to be releasing cozy mysteries with titles like Lemon Meringue Madness, and if you’re waiting for Harlequin to publish a six-hundred page literary novel with allusions in the original French and a textured analysis of symbolic-interactionist theory, I hope you’re a patient soul. That’s not what they’re about, and their readers know it.

And what is Christian publishing about? What promises does it make? To many readers, one of its most crucial promises is that it will be clean – that they can get the story they want without the unsavory content they don’t. All such readers could doubtless find books in the secular market they would enjoy, but the finding is so much easier in the Christian market. They expect that Christian publishers will adhere to certain standards, and depend on it.

Readers who want different standards, or even exceptions to the old ones, may be asking for more than they know. New standards and too many exceptions do something dangerous. They break the brand. They break the promise.

CSFF Blog Tour: Personal Predilections

As a rule, it is easy, when one dislikes a book, to see why. Obvious, even. So it was an interesting experience to get about three-quarters through Storm Siren and try to figure out why I was just waiting for the book to change. True, the section I had been reading was less than action-packed, but I have never needed action to be interested in a book. Those chapters of Storm Siren explored the characters and their world, all in beautifully written prose, and I felt I should have enjoyed it more than I did.

What dimmed my enjoyment, I finally decided, was the romance and angst, dosed out too generously for my tastes. I never doubted the novel’s craftsmanship, even when the content made me restless for something more. This left me thinking of something I realized some time ago: There is a difference between a good book and a book I liked.

We who judge books – as reviewers or simply as readers – need the discernment, and perhaps the humility, to distinguish between honest judgment and our personal predilections. We all have our natural tastes, and it’s human to mistake our innate liking for an inherent superiority. But in fiction, as in everything, there are higher standards than our own tastes.

To know how well a book succeeds, we have to understand what it was meant to be. Once I read a historical novel about Jane Austen that was, at times, rather too slow, but I found it hard to fault the author. A novel like with that, with any fidelity to history, can involve only so much excitement. If the author had decided to write a novel in which Jane Austen was an undercover French spy during the Napoleonic Wars, and her works were actually written by Francis Bacon – well, that would have been more exciting. I might have even liked it more. But it would not have been a historical novel.

I take it for granted that many books have succeeded admirably in becoming the sort of thing I don’t like. I avoid those genres where I expect to find them. Even in the sort of books I enjoy, elements I dislike inevitably surface, and sometimes I criticize. But as time goes on, I realize more and more how subjective these things can be, and how vital the difference between subjective and objective criticism is.

A lack of logic in the plot, a lack of believability in the dialogue, a lack of motivation in the characters – these are objective criticisms, and come far nearer to the question of whether a book is good or bad. It’s only subjective to say that a book had too much romance; all that really means is that it had more romance than I liked. There is no objective measurement of how much is too much.

I don’t mean to discourage subjective criticism. It can be very interesting, and it’s especially useful in reviews; it helps people to determine if the book in question is something they would like. But it should be recognized for what it is, and given its proper weight. A book’s quality is not measured by how much it appeals to us personally.

In Praise of LibriVox

Some time ago my brother told me about an organization called LibriVox that offers countless audiobooks free of charge. And I did not check it out, because I have never been that crazy about audiobooks.

I do aerobics for my exercise. (Yes, we’re still on the same subject; stick with me.) The aerobics are okay, but after a while it can get very boring. For a long time I listened to music; then I tried a few podcasts. Then I had what was, for me, truly a novel thought:

Why not listen to audiobooks?

So, long after hearing about LibriVox, I finally made my way to www.booksshouldbefree.com, where I found LibriVox recordings of many books. I first listened to G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday, because it had gotten snagged in my imagination and I was thinking of it anyway.

Yes, that’s how I started my adventure into audiobooks: With a book I had already read. After poking around Chesterton’s works, I decided to see what they had under the “science fiction” heading. Since then I’ve wandered back and forth between authors I’d never heard of and authors I’d already tried. I’ve listened to some good books, and one or two that disappointed me.

All books on LibriVox and Booksshouldbefree are out of copyright, and consequently, they’re old. The most contemporary books I’ve listened to are about fifty years old; the others are one hundred or more. On these sites I’m largely outside my normal selection. I browse through authors and titles, most unfamiliar, and just choose. Often enough I end up listening to books I would not have had the time or inclination to sit down and read.

And so LibriVox has expanded my horizons. The last book I listened to was The Diary of a Nobody, written by George and Weedon Grossmith in 1888-89. The book is now so old that it has become historically interesting, and it possesses a dry humor. But if I had seen it on a library shelf, I probably wouldn’t have set aside my normal reading for it.

LibriVox audiobooks have helped me in another way. I almost never listen to these books except while I’m exercising, but it has given me a whole new motivation to exercise. “If I exercise, I’ll get another chapter or two,” I think to myself now.

So here’s a word in praise of LibriVox – good for your mind and, under the right circumstances, good for your body, too.

Four Good Reasons

I decided to go for a short blog post this week. I have other projects demanding time, not least among them preparing for the next CSFF blog tour. Appropriately, then, I am devoting this post to explaining why I enjoy the tour.

(1) Free books. Or, as the more dignified trade term goes, review copies. They are, of course, free, courtesy of the publisher by way of a marketing strategy. I assume it works for them. I know it works for me. Getting books from my favorite genre without having to pay is one of the things I enjoy most about the CSFF, and I’m not too proud to admit it.

(2) Increases traffic to my blog – and I’m not too proud to admit that, either.

(3) Discovering authors. Early this year CSFF toured a book by Bill Myers, an author I had already read; before that we toured one by Donita K. Paul, an author I had at least heard of. But most of the authors have been new to me, and I doubt I would have run into their work at my public library. Through participating in the blog tour, I have been introduced to books I enjoyed and probably would not have read otherwise. I have added new writers to my version of the list all readers keep – the Good Authors List.

(4) Reading the reviews, joining the discussion. After finishing this month’s book, The Monster in the Hollows, I found myself looking forward to the tour. I was interested in hearing what everyone else thought of it. This is another nice thing about the tour: It is an opportunity to hear others’ thoughts and offer your own in turn.

Here is a link to CSFF’s About Page, and also to the form for joining. Just if you’re interested.

Review: North! Or Be Eaten

So the Igiby family is on their way to Kimera, to join the colony of rebels hidden on the vast Ice Prairies.  The Nameless One still grasps for them, stretching long fingers across the Dark Sea. His trolls, his armies of Fangs are on the hunt for the Jewels of Anniera. If the Igibys manage to evade the forces of Gnag, plus various malcontents and hungry animals, they can then attempt the cold, cold trek to the hidden colony.

What could go wrong? More than they would even guess. Through over three hundred pages, North! Or Be Eaten details the pitfalls. Climb out of one, fall into another. It’s fun to live in a fantasy book.

North! Or Be Eaten is the second book in the Wingfeather Saga. The silliness is lessened here, but it by no means disappears. Andrew Peterson continues to prove, along with Jonathan Rogers, that fantasy can be very funny. Yet the book has a more serious tone than its predecessor. The dangers are more frequent, and often of a darker nature.

This is one of the ways in which North! Or Be Eaten broadens and deepens the saga. Another is one of simple geography. On the Edge* takes place almost entirely within the Glipwood Township and the land surrounding it. North! Or Be Eaten leaves Glipwood behind, traveling to the mighty, dangerous falls, the Strand with its outlaws, Dugtown, Kimera, the Ice Prairies, the Fork Factory, the Sea.

The characters, too, are deepened. This book focuses more narrowly on Janner than the other did, cementing his status as the lead character. But other characters are developed even more than he. Podo – who had a great deal of color in On the Edge and not much complexity – gains some. The Fangs, surprisingly, progress from decent, cookie-cutter hobgoblins to something more terrible and more tragic.

And if you like Peet the Sock Man – and if you don’t, I wonder about you – you have even more reason to be happy. Peet’s role is, unfortunately, smaller in this book, but it is gold.

North! Or Be Eaten is a worthy continuation, a sequel that not only lengthens the story but deepens it. On the Edge was a good book; this one is even better. Exciting and at times intense, with humor and high emotion, it’s a happy experience for the fantasy reader. At least it was for this one.


* The full title is On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, but this takes too long to type. Also, it makes writing reviews harder. By the time I put in that title, the sentence I’m trying to write is already too long.

The third book in the Wingfeather Saga, Monster in the Hollows, will be toured later this month by the CSFF. Now for the links: North! Or Be Eaten on Amazon – and look, it’s a bargain price, $5.60; and Andrew Peterson’s website. He is also a songwriter, interestingly enough.

Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Far away, on the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, lies the land of Skree.  It is filled with quiet, gentle folk, which made it easy pickings for Gnag the Nameless. Now the country is infested by the Fangs of Dang. They’re stupid and lazy, but make up for it with their indefatigable brutality.

A wild forest sprawls over the land, spilling dangerous animals from its eaves. The Skreeans keep a good distance, but one man is rumored to live near the forest. Most people believe it, too. You’d have to be crazy, but he is. What else can you say about a man who wears knitted stockings on his hands, chants gibberish, and picks fights with street signs?

Despite this abundant opportunity for excitement, Janner Igiby is bored. He has spent all twelve of his years in a quiet little cottage outside a quiet little town. He yearns for adventure, for the wide world. But he should be more careful about his wishes. They’re about to come true.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness was once toured by CSFF, and after joining I saw it mentioned. And I felt definite disinterest. “The dark sea of darkness” is bad writing. If even the title needs a content editor, I don’t have high hopes for the book.

Then I won its sequel in a book drawing. If I get a free fantasy novel, I’m going to have to try it. And if it happens to be a sequel, I’m going to have to read the first book first. So, with small expectations, I began On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

On the first page I had a revelation. There Peterson wrote this line: “That evil was a nameless evil, an evil whose name was Gnag the Nameless.” And I realized something. The title is, of course, bad, but it is bad in the way this sentence is – on purpose, and a good one.

Humor is abundant in this novel, particularly humor of an absurd flavor. The absurdity runs deep, runs through Peterson’s whole invented world. It is displayed on store front signs – THE ONLY INN – and in the most ancient legends, which often revolve around the First People, Dwayne and Gladys. The villains make their subjects fill out forms to use garden hoes; the Chief Advisor to the High King begins his journal with the warning: “Read this without my permission and I will pound your nose.”

Yet the sea-dragons have a real and mysterious majesty, old legends are powerfully true, and the Jewels of Anniera are a matter of deathly importance – and you may take that adjective to its most literal meaning. Andrew Peterson both parodies the tried-and-true devices of fantasy and uses them seriously. In the same way, over-the-top humor coexists with danger and sadness, and comically bad writing gives way to skillful story-telling.

I would like to insert two caveats here: One, the book is YA and its main character is a twelve-year-old. This is not criticism, just something readers should know beforehand. Second – and this is criticism – the book contains instances of gross humor.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a unique story – a romp through a world of pandemic quirkiness that eventually pushes past all the absurdity to adventure and beauty and tragedy. Worth the price of admission.

Review: Ice

Suppose you went to the moon, and suppose you found somebody already there. Frozen, so no matter how many questions you ask, he’s never going to answer.

But the answers have to come from somewhere, and they do. C. S. Lewis once said that it is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. It is also shocking to find something where we are sure there had never been anything.

NASA planned twenty lunar flights, but after Apollo 17 it canceled the remaining missions. Now, in Ice, Shane Johnson writes an alternate history of the space program, telling the story of Apollo 19. In February 1975 two astronauts, Gary Lucas and Charlie Shepherd, land near the lunar south pole. Forced to venture deep inside one of its canyons, they find, well, ice. It’s quite a surprise to men who hoped, at the most, to find some rocks worth analyzing. But it’s just a small jolt to get their heart rate up in preparation for the real shocks.

Ice reminds me greatly of Oxygen and The Fifth Man. Like that duology, it starts with real technology and what America could have chosen to do with it. Although the story is fiction, it reproduces NASA technology, procedures and jargon – I assume faithfully, but how would I know? I only know that, at some point, my eyes start to glaze over.

Not that the deficiency is in the book. In a novel about Apollo 20, you need realism about NASA and its space flights – even if Apollo 20 never took off. The author did not, in my judgment, go overboard with it. It’s just that, when a part becomes heavy in unrecognizable acronyms and science-textbook words, you tend to speed-read a bit. At least I do.

The style of Ice tended toward the omniscient, and there were moments that came off somewhat stiffly. But even with those, I found the book well-written to the point of achieving real beauty. Johnson shows his skill in story-telling in many ways. He manages to create passages with a sense of heartbreak and even of horror without being unduly explicit.

The story itself was unique. It had more science than most sci-fi – and also, in the end, more fantasy, too. Ice is freshly imagined and vividly portrayed; I‘ve never read another sci-fi novel quite like it. It may not be one of the most exciting novels I’ve ever read, but it is one of the most satisfying. I give it a wholehearted recommendation.

Interview with Don Veinot, Part II

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.

Interview with Don Veinot, Part I

Ronald Allen once called Bill Gothard “a living Christian institution”. Some would find this a bit of an overstatement. Some would ask, “If he’s a living Christian institution, how come I never heard of him?”

But others would understand what Dr. Allen means. Bill Gothard’s organization has existed, under some name, for fifty years. The number of people who have attended at least one of his seminars is estimated to be well over two million. Gothard’s programs have been supported – and sometimes actually mandated – by government officials in Russia, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, and Arkansas. And this is only a partial list.

But it hasn’t been all praise for Bill Gothard. He has his share of critics, among them the Midwest Christian Outreach, an organization dedicated to countering cults and false teachings within the church. The founders of MCO, Don and Joy Veinot, together with Ron Henzel, wrote A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life. It reflects a deep knowledge of Christianity and its history; its tone and arguments are very reasoned. After reviewing the book earlier this year, I decided to seek an interview with Don Veinot. He graciously agreed, and I am posting it here. As Gothard continues to influence Christians across America, it is important that the church be knowledgeable and discerning about his teachings. I hope this helps.

[Note: This interview will be posted in two parts. Tomorrow I will add the second half. You can buy, or just look into, A Matter of Basic Principles on the MCO’s website or on Amazon.]


Q: First, can you tell us a little about your ministry and your work?

A: I was an atheist growing up, adopting the beliefs of my father. My wife, Joy, grew up in a Christian home and accepted the Lord when she was 12. As is often the case, she was not walking closely with the Lord in her teenage years when we met and we dated and married. After we had our son, she regained interest, recommitted her life to Christ and persuaded me to do some research as to the claims and validity of Christianity. I moved from atheism to agnosticism since I couldn’t honestly claim that God does not exist. I have no way to prove that. As I came to realize that God exists I moved from agnosticism to a sort of theism and then concluded that the Bible is fundamentally reliable and the resurrection is true. I accepted Christ in my early 20s.

A few years later my wife met and became friends with some Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our church didn’t seem to have answers other than “stay away,” so we began doing research on our own. Not only did we discover what they believed and their history of false teaching but we learned to understand and defend fundamental Christian doctrine. Sadly, this kind of training is not common in the church as most churches seem to assume that since one attends and even signs a doctrinal statement they actually understand what they are agreeing to uphold. Most often they don’t.

As we began learning about and witnessing to her friends we started helping others and the ministry just sort of grew out of that experience. We began getting calls about other groups, issues and questions. This included questions about groups, teachers and teachings in the church as well as cults and other religious movements. Bill Gothard was one of those we received a lot of requests about since we were geographically close to his headquarters. We didn’t want to deal with these issues but as we prayed about it I think God impressed me that if we didn’t have the integrity to address false teaching within the church we didn’t have the right to address false teaching outside of the church. In 1995 we formed Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. to provide answers, teaching and assistance to those inside and outside the church on issues of essential Christianity, cultural apologetics, cults and false religions. Since we are home missionaries, all of us are bi-vocational and address false teachers in the church, raising support is a very difficult task but we have tried to not let finances get in the way of ministry.

Q: If I had to choose just one chapter of your book for anyone to read, it would be the chapter on grace. Can you explain what, exactly, Gothard teaches about grace?>

In a nut shell he holds a view similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Roman Catholic Church. As an old time commercial might have said, “Grace is given the old fashioned way, you earn it.” Like the JWs, Gothard is pretty clear that God gives grace to those who merit it, as is seen in his 2000 document “Definition of Grace.” He writes, “In the Old Testament, certain individuals ‘found grace’ in the eyes of the Lord” and “those who found grace possessed qualities that merited God’s favor.” Grace by definition means “unmerited favor.” So, if God gives “unmerited favor” to those who merit it, isn’t it actually merited favor? But that is absurd. That is also what the JWs teach when they write that they are to go out to give the message of God’s undeserved kindness to deserving ones.

Gothard, like Rome, views grace as a sort of substance. You get some, perform good works and get more, “Those in the New Testament are to act upon the grace that is given to them so that more grace can be received.” Bill Gothard also defines grace as “the desire and the power God gives us to do his will-joyfully.” Unfortunately, this does not come anywhere near the meaning of the ancient Greek word charis, either in secular or biblical usage.

Some time after our book came out, we met with Bill for about 6 weeks in what we might call, “Mondays with Bill.” We demonstrated all of this to him and his response was interesting and disheartening when he said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Roman Catholics aren’t wrong on everything.” Even though that is true it doesn’t mean they are right on this. I did notice that in more recent years he has modified his written material on this to at least appear more orthodox on this but even that is dishonest. In our book, on page 86, one of the questions we asked of Bill was:

If a Christian leader changes a significant teaching which was shown to be unbiblical, should he not make a public retraction before his followers?

In our August 20, 2002 meeting with Bill (which we mentioned in our 2nd edition on page 338), his ministry leaders, Dr. Norman Geisler and Modern Reformation Magazine, Bill Gothard agreed that this was necessary. There is an obvious change in his teaching since that time and he has never publicly retracted or repented of his previous false teaching. This demonstrates that he is a false teacher and dishonest as well.

Q: Gothard departs from evangelical Protestants’ traditional understanding of grace, yet it is mainly evangelical Protestants that he appeals to. What do you think accounts for that?

A: I think there are several things that may account for this. First, since there is so little discernment within the church and a general lack of teaching on essentials, many do not really know what grace is. Second, of those who do know, since Gothard is accepted in the church as a good teacher, they often don’t listen to his definition but instead when they hear “grace” automatically define it biblically. I have found that when I point out his definition in his own writings and teaching they are horrified. It is really a matter of listening to what a teacher is teaching carefully and applying the definitions they provide to weigh it out and accept or reject it on the basis of their claims.

Insolent Ignorance

Last Saturday I rented a Denise Austen DVD from the library, and today I finally did its second workout: Yoga Sculpt. Basically you spend thirty minutes doing yoga exercises, only with a five-pound weight in each hand. This is why I need to post today. Tomorrow I might not be able to move my arms.

Independence Day is coming up, and my current reading is appropriate to it. Normally, when I read nonfiction it centers around modern events and people. Sometimes, however, I delve farther back. Right now I’m reading The Life of James Otis of Massachusetts, by William Tudor. James Otis is one of the most influential, least regarded leaders of the American Revolution. For example, when I mentioned his name you probably did not know who he was.

I’m just starting to learn. The biography I got from the library was published in 1823. It’s fascinating to read something written that long ago, to know how a man of that time thought and wrote. I’m only on Chapter Three, but already the author has paused twice to explain puritan customs to his readers. (He did not capitalize “puritan”.) Tudor and his audience were so much closer to the puritans than we are – yet even to them it was history.

In the Preface I found this comment: “When a well known foreign journal in all the triumph of insolent ignorance, asked, ‘Who Patrick Henry was?’ we only smiled at its impertinence.”

This is beautiful, and I’ll be remembering it for a long time – the triumph of insolent ignorance: Who is Patrick Henry?