Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Legalism... Christian Poison

  In the early 90s my family was heavily involved with an organization known as ATIA.  Unfortunately, it's an extremely toxic and legalistic organization.  It certainly paved the way for my entry into the ICOC.  ATIA is a part of the IBLP group which Bill Gothard founded.  You may be more familiar with Duggars on TV who practice the lifestyle that ATIA teaches.

  Unfortunately, it's extremely patriarchal and self destructive.  In the way of the old pharisees of Jesus' time.  You don't have to take my word for it however.  If you go to this website;

  You will find stories and articles on the destruction that ATIA has wrought in other people's lives.

   I've recently had a few interchanges with a fellow named Tim.  Since I cannot directly correspond with him, this seems to be the only way to get my letter to him.  Feel free to read below.  I've written this letter out of a deep concern for some of the things Tim has said.  He too is a product of ATIA and seems intent on continuing the self destructive course.  One that I at one time was on myself.


Hi Tim,

   I don't know how long you've been in ATI, but alot of the things you say remind me of myself when I was younger and a total follower of Bill Gothard.

  I just wanted to talk to you as I see you making alot of the same mistakes I made when I was younger.  I too was bullied and felt a great deal of comfort from all the things Bill Gothard taught.  Unfortunately I didn't realize how much I was alienating other people by living this way.

  I came to these principles, standards, and way of living out of a genuine desire to please God and thinking it would make my life BETTER.  Instead, I became far more prideful and self righteous.  It made my life worse.  It also opened me up to be vulnerable to all sorts of religious nonsense.

  Matthew 23 is loaded with admonition from Jesus directed towards the religious.  Most important for the ATI man is this;

Matthew 23:23-28
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are taking tithes from the mint and the dill and the cumin, and leave the weightier matters of the law, judging and mercy and faith. Now these it was binding for you to do, and not leave those.
24 Blind guides! straining out a gnat, yet swallowing a camel!
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are cleansing the outside of the cup and the plate, yet inside they are brimming with rapacity and incontinence.
26 Blind Pharisee! Cleanse first the inside of the cup and the plate, that their outside also may be becoming clean!
27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are resembling the whitewashed sepulchers which outside, indeed, are appearing beautiful, yet inside they are crammed with the bones of the dead and all uncleanness.
28 Thus you, also, outside, indeed, are appearing to men to be just, yet inside you are distended with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

  ATI teaches you how to clean the outside of the cup but does nothing to improve the inside of it.  The miraculous thing is, if you attempt to clean the inside of a cup, the outside itself, as part of the process also becomes clean.  Unfortunately the reverse is not true.  You can easily clean the outside of a cup while leaving the inside full of dust, cobwebs and dirt.

  I remember becoming so obsessed with what sins I may be committing that I had neglected the more important things.  Love, Mercy, Peace, Joy, and all the fruits of the spirit Paul talks about.  THOSE are what clean the inside of the cup.  Not whether you've been watching Mr. Belvedere or South Park.

  I am convinced God cares very little about what you are watching on TV or listening to in your car.  He is much more concerned with what happens in your heart.

  Paul, who is our apostle has written also of this in Colossians 2:20-23

20 If, then, you died together with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as living in the world, are you subject to decrees:
21 "You should not be touching, nor yet tasting, nor yet coming into contact,"
22 (which things are all for corruption from use), in accord with the directions and teachings of men? --
23 which are (having, indeed, an expression of wisdom in a willful ritual and humility and asceticism) not of any value toward the surfeiting of the flesh.

  Bill Gothard's teachings are nothing new, even in Paul's time people were seeking to pervert the gospel of Grace by adding rules and regulations to it so that the great FREEDOM Christ has given us has been removed.

  Paul writes in Galatians 5:1

1 For freedom Christ frees us! Stand firm, then, and be not again enthralled with the yoke of slavery.

  Isn't that exciting?  In fact, if you read through all of Paul's letters and epistles his declaration of the grace of Christ continuously burst through them.  Yet he also warns, if you live by the law you fall out of grace (Galatians 5:4)

  Stop worrying about what "standard" you need to live by and simply learn to embrace life and live freely in Christ.  Christ himself will guide your conscience and your actions.

  If you continue to heap a burden of guilt on your conscience from all this legalism, you will ruin it(1 Tim 4:2 and Titus 1:15-16)  and eventually become a very, unhappy and unfulfilled person.  And God himself will have to judge you and fix you on the day of resurrection.

  I'm saying all this to spare you from great regret which will happen at some point when you realize how vain and futile this legalism is.  It is nothing more than the worship of one's own holiness, a great and terrible idol.  And a heavy weight to bear. :(

Travis Penner

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