In a previous article I characterized the teaching of Bill Gothard in a manner that is not representative of his views. He graciously called to inform me of his position. I asked him to document his views in a letter to me. Here is Bill Gothard's letter in its entirety.
I appreciated our phone conversation a few days ago, and I am happy to clarify and expand on the points that we talked about.
When Is a Family Established?
I was pleased to learn from your recent article, “The Balanced Patriarch,” that you and your wife were able to attend a Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar in the early 1970s. That seminar was born out of the Biblical concept to turn “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). (See also Luke 1:17.)
In this seminar, we explain that a man is to leave his father and mother when he gets married and is no longer under their authority. (See Matthew 19:5.) However, many husbands are not prepared or equipped for the challenges that they are going to face in their marriage and family. Therefore, we encourage them to get as much counsel as they can from wise and Godly sources, including parents and parents-in-law, because “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Also, it is Scriptural for every man to be accountable to older, Godly men: “Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). Your question on the authority of a father is answered in a booklet titled Pavilions of Protection, which I am sending you under separate cover.
What Damages a Father’s Leadership?
Whenever a father asks for counsel regarding a rebellious son or daughter, one of my first questions is “Do you have a problem with anger?” Almost every dad says, “Yes.” In talking with groups of young people, I ask them the same question, and almost all of them acknowledge that their fathers have a problem with anger. I know of nothing that destroys the spirit of a marriage or a dad’s relationship with his children faster than anger. Many of these fathers have gone through counseling and seminars and still continue to have the problem. Recently, we have discovered a major cause of this anger.
Most men have painful memories of hurts in the past or memories of things that they did to hurt others. If they did not respond by forgiving their offenders or by asking forgiveness for their offenses, they became vulnerable to Satan’s lies, such as “You are stupid” or “You’ll never amount to anything” or “People are out to hurt you.” All these experiences and the lies that go with them are filed away in the heart and mind of that young man. In the future, when someone tells him that he has done something stupid, or he is frustrated, or he feels like a failure, all the pain and guilt of the past flares up in anger.
We have found that by helping dads transform these painful memories by applying the commands of Christ, they are able to experience victory over anger, as well as to overcome guilt, lust, bitterness, greed, fear, and envy. For more information, please visit www.LifePurposeHealth.com.
What Is a Patriarchal Family?
God has given three law systems to mankind. The first was given to one family, Adam and Eve. The second was given to Israel, the law of Moses. The third was given to all nations, the commands of Christ. All three are referred to by Jesus in Matthew 19 when He discusses divorce. This is important, because if we base our teaching on the family only on the Old Testament patriarchal model, we will run into problems with Jesus’ teaching on the family in the New Testament. Under the Mosaic law, the nation of Israel was not to have social interaction with other nations, and everything in their society was built around the family. In the New Testament, we are to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all nations, and this is to be the priority of every family member.
A true patriarchal family understands that they are the spiritual seed of Abraham and are therefore heirs of the promise God gave him, along with its responsibilities. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:7–9). We are to bless all nations by giving them the glorious Gospel of Christ, which encompasses all of His commands. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20).
What Is a Kingdom Family?
“Absolute loyalty” to the family is a key factor of an out of balance patriarchal family model. However, as He did so often with various aspects of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic law, Jesus explained a higher precedent affecting family loyalties when He was told, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee” (Matthew 12:47). Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:48–50).
This is not to take away from the need for sons and daughters to honor and obey their parents, especially in regard to standards and choice of a marriage partner, nor is it to diminish the need for parents to train up sons and daughters to be Godly ambassadors of truth. In these matters, there must be a higher loyalty to the Lord than to the family. Jesus taught this when He said: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34–37).
Why Do Teens Turn Against Standards?
Why are young people who have been trained up in a Godly home and kept from the corrupting influences of the world suddenly deciding to reject their upbringing and adopt the standards and ways of the world?
There are many contributing factors. However, I believe that a foundational reason is that young people have not been trained in how to lead people to Christ and to disciple them with the commands of Christ. I have asked thousands of homeschooled young people, “How many of you have led someone to Christ?” In response, only a few hands have been raised. This is shocking! When Christian young people have no “labor and travail” over the spiritual birth and growth of others, they see no real reasons for higher standards. Disciples expect and even demand higher standards of those who are teaching them the ways of God.
It was his concern for the spiritual well-being of his disciples that motivated Paul to set aside his own personal freedoms in Christ. He declared, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (I Corinthians 8:13).
One of the ways that we have found to remedy this deficiency is by having teams of young people go on a ten-day Journey to the Heart. They learn how to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then they are shown how to lead others to Christ and to disciple them in the commands of Christ. Almost all of the 1,400 who have completed a Journey so far have had a life-changing experience.
How Do Parents Make Children Their “Idols?”
About five months ago, a distraught father asked for counsel regarding the conflicts in his family. He feared for the physical safety of his two daughters because of the anger of their mother. When the daughters were released by the father for ministry outside the home, they quickly recovered from the abusive home atmosphere and their mother had an opportunity to reevaluate her relationship with them.
A month later, the mother asked her daughters to forgive her for her anger. Then she revealed a powerful insight that has transformed her thinking. She realized she was expecting things from her daughters that only God could give her, such as approval, security, and fulfillment. When we expect things from people that only God can give us, we make them our idols, and we cannot love our idols, because this love is based on getting from them rather than giving to them.
Should Daughters Give Their Hearts to Their Dads?
When I first heard the concept of a daughter giving her heart to her dad for safekeeping until she got married, it sounded like a good idea. It was certainly far better than giving parts of her heart to different boyfriends and then having very little left for her future husband.
However, there is a major factor that this concept overlooks and, as a result, we are now seeing serious breakdowns. Several fathers have acknowledged that they do not really know what to do with their daughters’ hearts, and other daughters who have given their hearts to their fathers are deeply hurt and disillusioned when their fathers fail in their walk with God or their attitudes toward them.
We must return to the first and greatest commandment, which is to give our whole hearts to our heavenly Father. Then we are to dedicate our bodies to Him and yield our members as instruments of righteousness so that He can love others through us. It is then no longer a matter of trying to love God, parents, marriage partner, children, or others with our love, but rather it is a matter of allowing God to love them through us with His perfect love.
Should Daughters be “Keepers at Home” or Seekers of God’s Kingdom?
A family who is following Christ must make it their first priority to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Each family member should look for ways to advance God’s Kingdom by living out His commands and teaching them to others. The new emphasis on daughters being “keepers at home” is based on Titus 2. This instruction is clearly written to wives and mothers: “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4–5).
There is a great need for fathers to protect their daughters, especially from going out of the home for education or jobs that would influence them to reject what they have learned from Scripture. However, to say that this passage prohibits a father from sending out an older daughter for ministry outside the home is both unscriptural and impractical. It is creating major problems, as evidenced by the overwhelming response to your recent articles.
Some who promote this teaching state that even though the passage is written to married women, it is wise for older daughters to also learn how to be a “keeper at home.” This is fine. However, it is one thing to learn how to be a “keeper at home” and another matter to be required to be one to the exclusion of ministry outside the home. By such a requirement, they make no practical distinction between a married woman and a single adult daughter. However, Scripture makes a clear distinction between these two: “There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (I Corinthians 7:34).
God compares children to arrows in the hand of a mighty man. (See Psalm 127:4.) A mighty warrior does not keep his arrows in his house. He carefully sends them out on important missions and then retrieves them for the next assignment. This should be the pattern of incremental release so that both sons and daughters can do great exploits for God and have a passion for God’s Kingdom, which they can then instill in their sons and daughters when they do get married.
There are many more factors that should be discussed on this very important issue, but I trust that these points will be a help to parents who are courageously going against the tide of our culture and want more than anything else to raise up sons and daughters who are mighty in God’s Spirit.
Through Christ our Lord,
Bill Gothard, PhD
President, Institute in Basic Life Principles