Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Cult of Personality
"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

Most families enter the Advanced Training Institute because the parents want to pass on a spiritual heritage to their children. Therefore, they assume that an indication of their success as parents is to see children who were raised in the program continuing in the program.

Strangely, this is not the case. Enrollment in the Advanced Training Institute is declining. Attendance at Basic Seminars (the lifeblood of IBLP) is a small fraction of what it once was. Children raised in the IBLP system have largely moved on.

The incredible popularity of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (then the Basic Youth Conflicts) in the 1970's and 80's was, in my opinion, somewhat of a cultural phenomena. Many of the couples who were attracted to the system of non-optional principles came out of the 1960's when structure, authority and truth were abandoned. In counter-distinction, IBLP offered steps of action, principles, and a pattern of how to live a good life. Set adrift by the hippy movement, early followers of IBLP found it a refreshingly practical handbook for Christian living.

The draw of a powerful personality also contributed to IBLP's growth. Bill Gothard was the man--he had answers and insights and a unique perspective on personal problems. When he designed a home education program in 1984 that promised to help children avoid the same mistakes their parents had made in their youth, who could resist? One program after another came into existence, based on some new insight Gothard espoused, or the promise of children who would have character.

There is nothing wrong with these motivations. I personally believe that Bill Gothard is of impeccable character and sincere motivation. But perhaps his major flaw is that he offers a product, rather than directing people to Christ. "Follow my principles--enroll in my programs, and your children will become mighty in spirit."

If you're buying a product, your trust in the salesman is essential, which is why the person of Bill Gothard is so important to so many Christians.

Many ATI parents are distressed to see their children move away from IBLP and ATI with no intention of keeping their own families in the program. Oddly enough, most of these children, now grown, are living godly, productive lives. They were raised in good, structured homes where the Bible was taught and Christ is supreme. And they typically do not require the strictures of a regimented "Way of Life" as their parents did. They are simply living without Bill Gothard.

"Why have you rejected everything we taught you?" ask the parents. To which the children reply, "We haven't rejected anything. You simply placed us closer to Christ than your generation, and Gothard is not necessary."

Jesus Christ is the only person who maintains relevancy throughout time. Every generation has its hero, its prophet. But they all come and go. The greatest of these men and women know that their popularity is limited, but Christ's is eternal. And the wisest of these attempt to decrease their personal influence and appeal, so that Christ's may increase.

Any man who believes that his teachings, his programs, or his influence must be preserved has become self-absorbed and has lost his call to be a messenger of Christ.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers, cheers, and more cheers.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis!

I suppose that "impeachable character and sincere motivation" could possibly go hand in hand, but I wondered if it was intentional use here?

1:14 PM  
Blogger Seabhag said...

I would have to disagree with "impeachable character" being a trait of Bill's.. I would allow that he DOES have sincere motivation. My question though is what is he motivated towards?

All in all though.. an EXCELLENT analysis. Bravo!


1:38 PM  
Blogger X-er said...

Meant "impeccable."

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous the maukin said...

thanks for the clarification... i thought the other was a little odd for a leader.

anyhow, i just want to say that when you make it your business to sell christianity, there's always the danger that your motivation may become more capitalistic the longer you continue.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Derby said...

Excellent and to the point

4:04 PM  
Blogger VDOprincess said...

Awesome post. Well said, x-er.

11:24 AM  
Blogger joy said...

Now that's some food for thought, great post.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, X-er. Amen.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous SM said...

I couldn't have said it better - that is an excellent point. Well done!

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

wow, I think I am going to send this to my dad. Its exactly what I've been wanting to say to him, but could never find the right words. Most of it is acurate. Unfortunatly for Mr. Gothard being a leader has opened himself up to bashings, when I think mostly its other people that have made wrong choices in regards to ATI.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SO true.

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anything/anyone put before God in your life could be called an idol, no?

When I consistently heard "What would Mr. Gothard say about this?" at training centers and conferences - I packed up and moved on.

-Jane Doe.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Semirrahge said...

I agree with "sincere" motivations, but I have to question his character. What kind of good character allows you to blind yourself to the truth?

But then again - no one's perfect.

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this was supposed to be satirical? Rang pretty true for me.

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Incognito said...

Hear, hear! This echoes what my thoughts have been for a while. Anyone got an idea on how we might broadcast this to all ATI/IBLP followers? I think it'd be a great help to keep perspective balanced.

Keep it up, X-er!

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly one of the disenchanted programers sent home from HQ for normal and healthy romantic developments must have brought home a copy of the contacts database. ;-)

7:21 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Great post! Very well stated.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:50 PM  
Anonymous HandsomeGuy said...

Very good post. Bravo!

Another angle I think a lot of people don't seem to understand is that ATI offers almost nothing for a family with no children in their teens. What does a year in ATI cost...$600? If you're not planning on going to Knoxville (which they are in the process of getting rid of anyway) what does ATI offer for a young couple to make it worth it?

9:50 AM  
Blogger ringoftruth said...

Very good analysis. But impeccable character goes beyond well-formed intentions.

Here's my biggest dig with the Institute: exhanging foundational, doctrinal teachings of Scripture with man-made, self-imposed standards of holiness.

In my own experience, I found the consequences of the above error damaging to my own deepening understanding of the nature of God's grace. That is, its not our ability to check off x basic commitments that makes us acceptable to is through Jesus Christ alone that we are perfectly acceptable to God, a place that we can't improve upon by works of merit.

I've heard Bill quote from Pauline teachings many times, most notably the following: "Follow me as I follow Christ."

But, did Paul not also say, "I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27)

If Bill wants to follow Paul's example, how can he stand on a fence-post when it comes to doctrine, and then go beyond Scripture to formulate behavioral ideals that ring with more Phariseeism than Christ-likeness?

What does it mean to proclaim the whole counsel of God? Well, I'd sumbit that first, we must be taught a respect for the bounds of Scripture and our responsibility to not go beyond them.


1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your post you said that each generation has their favorite prophet. Well, you are rapidly becoming mine. I'm tired of trying to figure out how to please God and cleanse my life of bad (though earned) consequences. I want you to do it for me.

Tell me what's true and i'll believe you, X-ATI guy. Better yet, how about I just espouse to your teachings now:

"I, anonymous, hereby declare that I do, as most common church going persons, generally, and apathetically assent to the teachings of X-ATI guy for the purposes of making a seemingly impossible and mysterious Christian walk more convenient and efficient."

"I, being only a lay believer who, of course, does not believe in such nonesensical spritual "hooey" doctrines as "speaking in tongues" or "communing with the Holy Spirit", realize that the Christian faith is only a matter of principles and not some "mystery of faith" or "personal relationship", and therefore, humbly acknowledge my dependence on prophets and "elightened ones" such as yourself."

"In summary, I'll do whatever the hell you want me to just as long as I don't actually have to figure it out for myself."

Thanks. I guess your Blog is now officially my new home church.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr X-ATI Guy,
You're my hero!!!!!! LOVING your site.
Calling it out for what it is, without unnecessary and brutal slander.

This is what I've been trying to say for 3+ years, since I've been out of the program

Also, loving the satire. Hilarious! :D

1:14 PM  

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