Bill Gothard’s Mysticism and Umbrella of Authority Heresy
July 18, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
The following is excerpted from Don and Joy Veinot, “Bill Gothard,”, June 8, 2023,
Bill Gothard

Bill Gothard

If one does not fully understand Bill Gothard’s core foundational teaching, one won’t understand why it has had such a negative impact on his followers. His foundational teaching, which informs everything else, is his “umbrella of authority” doctrine. ...

Bill Gothard is a mystic and a religious eclectic. He eschews studying the Bible in its historical-grammatical context and instead claims he memorizes large portions of Scripture and waits for God to give him the rhemas--a purportedly inspired inerrant
meaning of the text. We can see how much power over people this would give him. A supposedly inspired meaning of a text cannot be checked by anything as mundane as making sure to read the Bible in its context. It is a sort of Bibliomancy, an occultic misuse of the scriptures to obtain their meaning by a mystical influx supposedly. Very often, the meaning he derives is not at all connected to the text in its historical-grammatical context but very conveniently seems to support Gothard’s very unbiblical ideas.

On the first night of the first basic seminar, Bill Gothard explains that authority is an “umbrella of protection.” Those who stay under their “umbrella of protection,” the dictates of their alleged “authority figure,” will be protected from temptation and life’s troubles, etc., and they will prosper. On the other hand, if they get out from under their umbrella of protection, they are in rebellion, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. To imbue this teaching with supposed biblical authority and scare people into unwarranted submission, Gothard quotes a portion of 1 Samuel 15:23, as you might guess, out of context:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (KJV)

In the context of 1 Samuel 23, Samuel is addressing King Saul for his flagrant disobedience to specific instructions he had received
from the Lord. Gothard’s tying these together creates what we might call the “authority prosperity gospel.” If you stay under your authority, you will be blessed beyond your expectations. On the other hand, if you get out from under Gothard’s imagined “umbrella of protection,” you are in rebellion, which is as bad as the sin of witchcraft. Your punishment will be personal pain, and your life will lack prosperity.

In an effort to make the umbrella teaching sound biblical to his audience, Bill uses the story of the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13:

After the centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant, it occurred to him that just as his life was structured around a “chain of responsibility,” so the kingdom in which God operates must have a similar structure of authority.”

Here is a multiple-choice quiz for our readers. Is the point of the above passage to teach:

A) that God’s kingdom is structured around a chain of responsibility/umbrella of protection? OR B) to teach Who Jesus is, that He is God and can heal long distance? ...

Another major problem with Gothard’s umbrella teaching – as borrowed from First Century Roman authoritarian practice – is his example of Jesus as a child. Gothard takes the story of the 12-year-old Jesus who remained behind when his family and their caravan left for home. (Luke 2:41-52) When his parents returned frantically looking for Him, according to Gothard, Jesus had to make the “tough decision” to get back under his parent’s umbrella of protection.

The first time we met with Gothard in his office, we verified each step of his umbrella teaching and his story of Jesus having to make this “tough decision.” We pointed out that
if Jesus had to decide to get back under his parent’s umbrella of protection, that necessarily implies He had gotten out from under it, to begin with. If Gothard’s teaching is correct, Jesus was in rebellion against His authority – and rebellion such as this is as the sin of witchcraft, according to Gothard. So, either Gothard’s teaching is wrong, OR Jesus is a sinner. After a few minutes of silence, Gothard simply stated his teaching is correct, and Jesus isn’t a sinner – but he couldn’t explain how that worked. It doesn’t work – that’s the problem, and it is a major “problem.” Pastor Don Owsley also picked up on this when he heard Bill state, “Don’t be like Jesus when he disobeyed his parents!”

In this setting, the authoritarian leader wields God as a big club to threaten any of his followers who may question or disobey his dictates. Gothardism is, like the First Century Roman culture, a Patriocentric system in which females are personal property and must obey their male authority without question. To do any less than blindly obey is to get out from under their umbrella of protection and risk God’s wrath. At the wedding of his daughter, a father transfers his authority over his daughter to his new son-in-law. The husband is now her “leader,” who she must hear and obey unquestioningly. If a father passes away, his authority over his wife and family passes from the father to the eldest son, according to Gothard. And here is another way a woman can be passed from authority to authority – If she is sent to work at IBLP “Headquarters,” the authority over her passes from her father to Gothard himself. Wow. That type of “ownership authority” is not biblical at all and can and does produce
horrendous outcomes.

The previous is excerpted from Don and Joy Veinot, “Bill Gothard,”, June 8, 2023.


God has given authority to parents, pastors, government rulers, and others, and it is not to be taken lightly.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1).

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).

“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of
their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7).

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that
is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

At the same time, authority in this present world is not to be followed blindly and unquestionably. It is to be followed so long as it does not contradict the highest authority, which is God’s Word. Human authority is always to be tested by God’s Word.

The Bereans are commended as “noble” because they carefully examined Paul’s preaching by the Scripture instead of blindly following a man (Acts 17:11).

God’s people are instructed to “prove all things” (1 Th. 5:21).

Every sermon is to be judged by those who hear it (1 Co. 14:29).

Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Co. 11:1). Paul could demand that others follow him because he was following Christ and was faithfully preaching the doctrine given to him by Christ. He warned the churches of Galatia that if even he himself were to preach any other gospel, they were to reject him (Ga. 1:8).

The wife is to submit to the husband “as it is fit in the Lord” (Col. 3:18). If the husband demands that the wife disobey God’s Word, that certainly would be not fit in the Lord. He is her head, but he is not her God. The same is true for parents. They do not have the authority to demand that their children disobey God.

This is true in regard to pastoral authority.

Consider Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24. The word for “rule” is hegeomai, meaning “to lead the way, to be chief, to preside, govern” (Mounce). It is translated “governor” (2 times, Mt. 2:6; Ac. 7:10) and “chief” (4 times, Lu. 22:26; Ac. 14:12; 15:22, 23). Pastors have real authority but it is not a lordly authority after a worldly sense; it is a shepherd’s authority. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Pe. 5:3). We see this in Hebrews 13:17, where the ruler’s role is described in terms of watching for souls. See also Mr. 10:42-45; 1 Co. 3:5-9; 2 Co. 1:24; 3 Jo. 1:9-10. The pastor’s job is in the spiritual sphere. In contrast, some pastors have attempted to lord it over every aspect of people’s lives, interfering with their every decision, wanting the people to be dependent on them, forbidding the people to do things that are not forbidden in Scripture, and putting obligations upon them that go beyond the bounds of Scripture.

The word in Hebrews 13:17 translated “obey” (
peitho) is not the normal Greek word for obey (which is nupakouo, Eph. 6:1, 5; Col. 3:20, 22; 2 Th. 3:14; Heb. 5:9; 11:8; 1 Pe. 3:6). Peitho is translated “persuade” 22 times. The meaning is “to be persuadable.” It reminds us of the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Ac. 17:11). They were ready and eager to obey Paul if they could see that he was teaching according to Scripture. To obey the church leaders properly is a “readiness” kind of obedience. Compare Titus 3:1, “to be ready to every good work.” It is to be ready to obey, eager to obey, cheerful to obey. The Corinthians had this mindset in regard to giving (“a ready mind,” 2 Co. 8:19; 9:2). It is the mindset of submission to God and His Word which makes one eager to obey those He puts over me, so long as they are faithful to God’s Word. It is the opposite of being stubborn and resistant to the man’s teaching and leading. It is the opposite of being a hearer but not a doer. The peitho mindset is the one that brings spiritual growth and blessing. It is the mindset that produces a godly, unified, fruitful church. Peitho is also translated “trust” nine times (2 Co. 1:9; 10:7; Php. 2:24; 3:4; Heb. 2:13; 13:18), so it has the idea of submitting in a trusting way. But the trust is not in man; it is in God. When I obey them that have the rule over me, I am trusting God to lead them and give them wisdom. I am trusting the God who has ordained that the churches be led by certain men who have authority to be rulers. “Thus, this is not blind obedience to which our teacher refers, but obedience after thoughtful consideration that results in persuasion--all the stronger base for obedience. Those of us who demand obedience without reason, although that is necessary at times of childhood or emergency, are likely to get chameleon Christians who change orientation every time some golden-mouthed authoritarian happens along” (The Preacher’s Commentary).

In Hebrews 13:7, we see that “
the word of God” is the standard. As long as the leaders are speaking the Word of God and leading according to the Word of God, they are to be obeyed. “They are not to make laws of their own, but to interpret the laws of God; nor is their interpretation to be immediately received without examination, but the people must search the scriptures, and so far as the instructions of their minister are according to that rule they ought to receive them” (Matthew Henry).

When Peter and the apostles were commanded by the religious leaders to stop preaching in Jesus’ name, they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

God is always the highest authority, and His Word is always the highest standard.

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