Question: "Who is Bill Gothard and what is the Institute in Basic Life Principles?"
Answer: Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) are well known in conservative Christian circles. Beginning in the 1960s, Gothard became a leader in the Fundamentalist movement, which was a reaction to the rise of liberalism in America. Gothardís publications are seen by many as a bulwark of conservative Bible teaching. Through the 1960s and 1970s, his Basic Youth Conflicts seminars attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees. Current estimates project around 2.5 million attendees to date.
There is much good teaching in the Institute in Basic Life Principles and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Many Christians have been built up in their faith and trained how to live the Christian life by applying Godís Word to the life decisions they make. More about Bill Gothard and IBLP can be found at http://www.billgothard.com and http://www.iblp.org.
The most frequent complaint against the Institute in Basic Life Principles, though, is in regards to Gothardís authoritarian control over the ministry. Gothard's views and opinions are rarely questioned and virtually never opposed. There are accusations that the IBLP Board of Directors is nothing more than a rubber stamp on Gothardís decisions and that he is never held accountable for his actions.
His stance on biblical separation has become stricter as the years have passed, and his interpretation of Scripture, well documented by such organizations as the Midwest Christian Outreach and Personal Freedom Outreach, is often at odds with proper hermeneutical principles. His extremely conservative views on clothing, homeschooling, and other issues of Christian conduct are sometimes presented in a very legalistic manner, with any disagreement viewed as a sign of spiritual immaturity and rebellion against God.
As a result, some have labeled Bill Gothard's ministry a cult. However, even if Gothardís teachings tend toward legalism, the IBLP is not a cult, as its presentation of the essentials of the Christian faith is solidly biblical and orthodox.
Bill Gothard is definitely fundamentally conservative, sometimes to the point of legalism. His authoritarian leadership style is at odds with a scriptural view of the Body of Christ (1 Peter 5:3), and some of his interpretations need more exegesis of Scripture and less reading into the text something which does not exist.
As with any teaching, it is our responsibility to examine Gothard's teachings and the IBLP in light of what the Scriptures actually say (Acts 17:10–12).
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