The Duggar family, made famous in the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” is conservative and Christian. But many of their beliefs are far more modest than those practiced by most Christians. For instance, we all remember oldest son Josh and his wife Anna, as well as daughter Jill and now-husband Derick Dillard, saving their first kiss for their wedding day. When daughter Jessa was courting, we read about 30-second “side hugs” only, Jessa and now-husband Ben Seewald’s texts needing to pass through their parents first, and the couple “recommending sermons to one another.” Which denomination promotes practices like these?
What Religion are the Duggars?
Although the Duggars’ lifestyle is quite conservative, their reality show rarely mentions their specific religious beliefs. They’ve been described as “Independent Baptists,” although they hold church services in their own home rather than attending an outside church.
IBLP and Bill Gothard
They don’t mention it directly on their show, but the Duggars are deeply involved with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), founded by Bill Gothard. The family attends the Institute’s Advanced Training Institute annually in Big Sandy, Texas, and excerpts from this conference have been shown on “19 Kids and Counting.” Various of the children have also attended ATI’s “Journey to the Heart” seminars. The purpose of these 10-day seminars is to “study 18 heart conditions described in the Bible, both good and bad. The purpose of this is to help each person identify blind spots or secret sins that are keeping them from completely surrendering to God and experiencing His love, grace, and victory. ”
IBLP is not a religion or a denomination itself, but it puts forth several teachings written by Gothard. The Institute has published home schooling materials that the Duggars use. IBLP was founded to introduce people to Jesus, and to help them find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture and expounded upon by Gothard. According to Gothard, these principles are universal, and there are consequences for violating them. One example is the suffering principle, which suggests that people should allow the hurts from offenders to reveal “blind spots” in their own lives. Genuine joy supposedly results when we forgive our offenders.
Bill Gothard resigned in 2014 amid allegations of sexual harassment. David Waller, who is married to Anna Duggar’s sister, Priscilla (and who has been featured on “19 Kids” as well), works in leadership of the organization.
A major principle in IBLP is authority, and this comes heavily into play when a couple is “courting” (courting is the IBLP version of dating). Courtship involves a single man and woman, and both sets of their parents (“All of our family is involved in this relationship,” says mom Michelle Duggar). The girl in a courtship is under the authority of her father, who needs to approve of her courtship partner. This squares with what dad Jim Bob Duggar has said of Jessa’s husband, Ben: “He’s the first one she has shown interest in that has a spiritual focus and legitimate calling about ministry work. When a guy is pursing your daughter, you want to check him out and see if there are any red flags.” Jessa and Ben’s wedding will be a major focus of the new season of “19 Kids and Counting,” which begins February 17.
This authority principle may also be a factor in the Duggar’s reluctance to allow their children to attend schools, including college, away from home — although reports state that 20-year-old Joseph Duggar recently enrolled at Crown Bible College in Tennessee. He would be the first Duggar to go to school away from home.
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