A Review of Pavilions of Protection (written by Bill Gothard, Ph.D.)


By Pastor Barry Black


In the last issue of the MCOI Journal we reviewed Bill Gothard’s book, The Exceeding Great Power of God’s Grace. Due the limitations of space in a publication such as this a book review cannot be an exhaustive critique. Instead, we will highlight some of the more blatant issues. There are seven chapters in Pavilions of Protection. Even the most casual student of Bill’s teachings concerning the “principle of authority” can see that what once was an umbrella is now a pavilion…wow, it grew! But of course, that is what leaven does (Galatians 5.9). But fear not, in chapter seven, Bill returns to his umbrella analogy. Two main points are recurring themes in Pavilions of Protection. I will try to limit this review to these two major themes.

Theme 1

Whether he realizes it or not, rather than pointing to man’s sin nature (and thus man’s sinful behavior), Gothard sees everything through the “eyes” of whether or not one is “under the umbrella (or pavilion) of protection.” In his “Introduction: Consider These Points” he explains that he has written this little book because the “Biblical principle of protection under authority” is under attack. He then quotes or sort of quotes (without attribution) from our book
A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life. We say “sort of quotes” because he also changes a few words in the process. The quotes are from pages 97, 98 and 99 and appear in his book like this:

The essence of Gothard’s teaching of submission is not getting under the domination of authority, but rather getting under the protection of authority. According to Bill Gothard, authority is like an umbrella of protection and when we get out from under it, we expose ourselves to unnecessary temptations which are too strong for us to overcome….When is Gothard going to supply us with a Scriptural basis for this idea? He is not…. He is not teaching Scripture, but rather his own ideas.”

By using ellipses (the …) he avoids having to actually address or respond to the biblical material in the book that used to demonstrate his views as not biblical but only his opinion. By not giving attribution he to some degree keeps the reader in the dark as to where the quote came from and therefore the possibility that his followers might read it in context and discover he is playing fast and loose with the text. Something he does often. He then goes on to write:

With challenges like this against the clear teaching of God’s Word, a message such as the one contained in this book is mandatory.

In time past Gothard has never actually demonstrated his view through a “clear teaching of God’s Word” and he doesn’t begin with this book. He contends:

For someone to claim that there is no Biblical basis for enjoying God’s protection as long as we remain under God-ordained authority is to either overlook or reject the first lesson of the Bible.

This gives the impression that he will be supporting his view with a “
clear teaching of God’s Word” starting with “the first lesson of the Bible.”


In the introduction, and then in the summary analogy, Gothard mentions Adam and Eve in the garden. A story we have normally understood to be their fall into sin through rebellion but was actually something else. In his first mention, Gothard says this:

God created Adam and gave him jurisdiction over the entire Garden of Eden, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As long as Adam remained under the authority of God’s commands, he experienced God’s blessing, fellowship and protection.

The first question that comes to our mind is, “protected from what?” There was no sickness, nothing to break down, no concern for stuff in fact, we read in Genesis 1:31:

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Well, we have an idea of what Adam and Eve were supposedly protected from as Gothard enumerates what they are exposed to as a result of the loss of God’s protection:

God then created Eve and placed her under Adam’s protection and God’s commands. When Adam and Eve went beyond the limits of their jurisdiction, they lost God’s protection and exposed themselves and all their descendants to the destruction of Satan’s deception.

So, if they were under God protection and that protection includes being protected from “
Satan’s deception” how did Satan get past God who was protecting them and deceive Eve? This does not seem at all comforting. If while under God’s umbrella of protection, which protects from Satan’s deception, Eve was deceived and as a result got our from under God’s umbrella of protection are her and Adam any worse off than they were while under the umbrella of protection. It doesn’t seem so.

Another problem here is that saying that
they lost God’s protection (which as we have seen wasn’t very effective) is completely different from saying that Adam and Eve sentenced themselves and all mankind with sin’s penalty. But for the sake of argument, if Gothard is indeed making these equivalent or synonymous, then we seem to have a theological problem here. Redemption through Christ (eternal salvation), would be equivalent to “getting under God’s protective authority” and has nothing whatever to do with having peace with God but rather the process of realizing we need a security guard to protect us from bad things in life and getting to the place where that security guard can protect us. However, as we have seen, the God Gothard portrays is probably not our best choice if being protected from bad things in life and Satan’s deceptions is what we have in mind. But Gothard “muddies the water” even more when he states on page 32:

God is the ultimate “umbrella” over all people and nations. He governs in the affairs of nations and rules over all the universe. He sets up rulers and takes them down. He defines the parameters of His “umbrella of protection by His law systems. He gave Adam and Eve a law system composed of ten commandments. Four were given directly to Adam and six were given to Adam and Eve together. As long as Adam and Eve remained under this legal structure, they enjoyed ideal living and freedom from death and destruction. However, the moment that they stepped outside this protective “umbrella” they experienced death and destruction.

WHAT? One would look in vain through Genesis 1-3 to find “a law system of ten commandments.” Rather what we find in Scripture is Adam and Eve fell into sin when Eve was deceived by Satan and partook of the fruit, and then gave the fruit to her husband and he ate (Genesis 3.1-6). That was the one thing that God told Adam not to do, and if he did, he would die (Genesis 2.16, 17). Thus all of mankind was plunged into sin and the penalty of sin which according to Romans 6.23:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

As a result death passed upon all men, Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned

Theme 2

Gothard equates all human authority (parents, government, etc.) with the authority and protection of God and makes the broad assumption that all authority is biblical and must be followed. In the Introduction, he writes:

Who has the final authority over decisions that are made in the home: parents or teens? To a large degree parents have surrendered their God-given responsibilities to the wills of their sons and daughters. The results are disastrous: wrong friends, drugs, promiscuity, depression, and suicide.

Gothard’s either/or thinking is evident here. Either they have someone who makes all of their decision for them or they are doomed to “wrong friends, drugs, promiscuity, depression and suicide.” In truth, the “disastrous results” he lists are ultimately the result of the sin nature, and do not simply stem from the problem of who will be “the final authority over decisions that are made.” If what Gothard is saying about protection is true than we would have to conclude that those spoke of in Hebrews 11 were not heroes of the faith but rather were individuals who had gotten out from under the protection of authority and suffered the consequences of not being under authority. In truth, all of us suffer the consequences of living in a fallen world. Sin ravages us all and will continue to do so until all is delivered up in to the Father’s hands.


In Chapter Four, Gothard continues this second theme:

Just as a Roman soldier had to get under the protection of his shield, so we must consciously place our minds, wills, and emotions under the authority of God’s Word and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Those who reject the authority of their parents and other God-given leaders are usually those who have placed their minds, wills, and emotions above God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. They are soon plagued with doubts about the authority of Scripture and the reality of God. The more they seek answers, the more confused they become.

So, what he is saying here is that human authority is in some way equal to the authority of Scripture and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Now if human authority is equal to the authority of Scripture and the direction of the Holy Spirit and is our protective shield then one cannot really know the will of God directly from the Scripture or the Holy Spirit but only through them as the human authority reveals it to us. In addition, Gothard adds this concept to the definition of faith itself and claiming the Scriptures, in fact, that Jesus defines it this way:

One aspect of faith is the confidence that God is able to work through a structure of authority in order to accomplish His will. This kind of faith was illustrated by the wisdom and discernment of the centurion who came to Jesus for the healing of his servant. He told Jesus to just speak the word, because he was unworthy for Jesus to come into his home. He knew that a command from Jesus would be effective, because he stated: “I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke7:8).

The response of Jesus is significant: He marvelled and said to the crowd, “…I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Luke 7:9).

Jesus was not teaching a “future Gothard non-optional principle of authority” here. He was simply stating that the centurion demonstrated great faith by believing that Jesus was able to heal the servant without even going to the house. In other words, Jesus was able to heal the servant “long distance”. This was a miracle which Jesus did for the express purpose of revealing Himself as the Son of God, not to show how “God is able to work through a structure of authority in order to accomplish His will.” Bill Gothard’s “principle of authority” as seen in his idea of “the umbrella” or “pavilions”; is rightly identified by Ron Henzel, Senior Researcher for Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. as the “error of anachronistic (chronologically misplaced) reasoning. This happens when someone projects contemporary culture into their interpretation and application of scripture. This happens all too often. It is a “bait and switch” approach (also called “the biblical hook” approach) in which a person can wrongly interpret and misapply God’s word, whether purposely or inadvertently. Bill Gothard has done this consistently in his down through the years and his book Pavilions of Protection is certainly no exception.


Barry D. Black is Pastor of Anchor Bible Church HYPERLINK "http://www.joybaptist.org/" www.anchorbible.org
Barry’s e-mail address is: HYPERLINK "mailto:barry@anchorbible.org" barry@anchorbible.org
L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr.










Bill Gothard, PH.D.; Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 5
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 5&6
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 6
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 6
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 6, italics added for emphasis
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 32, italics added for emphasis
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 5
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 17
Bill Gothard, PH.D.;
Pavilions of Protection, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Oak Brook, IL, 2006, 18, italics added for emphasis
Don Veinot, Joy Veinot & Ron Henzel,
A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, MCOI, Lombard, IL., 2003, 97


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