Table of Contents

Seventeen Commitments
on the Path to Virtue


If you would like to give up a life of mediocrity or failure, or if you have been inspired by great men of the past, like Abraham and George Washington, and want to become a man whose life is approved by God, there are Seventeen Commitments you need to make. 

Vine & Fig Tree plagiarizes much of the work of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP, formerly called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts).  Bill Gothard and the IBLP has created a practical educational curriculum which cultivates Theonomic obedience. Many people have found release from bad habits and new direction for a prosperous and Godly life.

At the IBLP Seminar, spiritual maturity is pursued by encouraging the making of these Seventeen Commitments. If you will make these same commitments, you can enjoy the blessings God promises for theonomic obedience. Additional jumps to expositions of these commitments are planned, plagiarizing more of Gothard's material.

I Worship the Bible

Our age is the most secular and violent age in human history. We have thrown out the Bible, calling it "myths and legends," and we have also thrown out charity, respect for human rights, and the sanctity of human life. Call me a "bibliolator." I admit, I worship the Bible.

Billions of people on this planet claim to believe in God. Who is "God?" Only the Bible can answer that question. The Bible is God speaking to us.

Number 12 on the list of Gothard's commitments is Number One on our list:

1. Daily Bible Reading

I am committed to listening to God speak to me in the Bible ten minutes a day. Once I begin fulfilling this commitment, I find I spend more time than this. Everyone should make this commitment; a vow to spend five minutes a day listening to God's Word will revolutionize those who are not mature sons of Abraham.


The first of Gothard's seven "non-optional, universal principles" is that of "Design." The first commitment is that of "self-acceptance." That phrase may sound an alarm in those wary of Humanistic "self-esteem" concepts. But the idea behind the "Design" principle is the acceptance of God as a loving, sovereign Controller of all that comes to pass. It is the principle of Predestination. Some call it "Calvinism." 

2. God-Acceptance/Self-Acceptance

  • I am committed to believing in God as Sovereign. This doctrine helps develop the character of Christ in me.
  • God is the Potter, I am the clay.
  • Cosmopolitan and GQ would have me believe my faith in God is misplaced because I do not meet the physical standards of their air-brushed models.
  • I accept all my unchangeable "defects," and give thanks to God for the gift of life.
  • I voluntarily place myself on the Potter's Wheel, allowing Him to complete the vessel He is making with my life.

3. Assurance of Salvation

In this section of the Basic Textbook, this verse is prominent:

2 Peter 1:10 -- Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

Mr. Gothard devotes a block of Seminar time to conquering "Doubts about Salvation." He tells me that if I have doubts, I need to establish clearly in my mind what I have done. He tells the story of a doubting young person who "made a decision" and posted a sign behind the barn with the date of his decision written on it, so that whenever he had doubts, he could show Satan what he had done and when he had done it.

Note that the verse above does not command us to make "our decision" sure. It does not call upon us to document or memorialize what we have done. We are to be sure about what God has done. Assurance is based on the Promise of God.

My assurance is a by-product of the Second Commitment above: predestination. My assurances are not self-assurances, they are the assurances of a Loving, Sovereign, All-Controlling God. For an example of Biblical assurance, see The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.

I have never known a day in my life when I was not assured that God is God, that He is a loving and just God, and that I am obligated to bow before Him. This is one of the blessings of being a "covenant child." It was never necessary for me to overcome the mythology of the Old World, the lie that I am god. I have always believed that God is God and I am not. The implications of this are obvious, because God has revealed His will to us in the Bible.

For those of us who were trained by their parents or schools to believe that God is not God, we have had to "overcome" the mythology of Secular Humanist Theocracy. We also knew that God was God and we were not, but we were trained to act as though He was not and we were. Our peers believed the same way. Gothard warned us that if we would "overcome" the world, we would experience the following:

  • New Awareness of Right and Wrong
  • Hunger for God's Word
  • Desire for a Changed Life
  • Increase in Testing
  • Love for Other Christians

Experience of these things in our lives brings assurance of our Election and Justification by God.

There are two kinds of people in our society who are said to lack "self-esteem."

A person who spends the entire day watching television and never accomplishes anything, is never of any service to anyone, and never asks how he can serve the Living God, can complain about his or her "self-esteem." Pop-psychologists blame his inactivity on his "lack of positive self-image." But this couch potato has no "positive self-image" because he is not a positive self; he has an accurate self image because he is a waste of human life. He can say he "made a decision for Christ," and have a sign behind the barn with a date on it. He can even have "assurance of salvation," but as the Westminster Confession notes, it is a false assurance. All the so-called "successful" people also seem to lack "self-esteem." They diligently work 10 hours a day in a landmine factory, and maybe devote their Saturdays to "community service," but their lives are empty. They go to church on Sunday and are told that if they "believe," they will go to heaven. They say they are "saved," but they lack true assurance.

James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! {14} What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? {15} If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, {16} and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

An invigorating assurance of faith comes with Godly habits of action and obedience. These habits are the result of the commitments below.

4. Eight Callings

2 Peter 1:1-10 {2} Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
{3} as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
{4} by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
{5} But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
{6} to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
{7} to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
{8} For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
{9} For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
{10} Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;
{11} for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Faith Overcome Declare Allegiance
Virtue Discern Good and Evil Separation/Resistance
Knowledge Dedication Grows out of Character
Self-Control Service Limiting our Freedom
Perseverance Endurance Suffering
Godliness Humility
Brotherly Kindness Insight Alert to others who hurt
Love Reproduce maturity in others

I am committed to pursue diligently these "eight callings." Not only does this diligent pursuit provide assurance of an entrance into the Kingdom, but the by-products of these callings make me truly human.


I have placed the commitments below under the title "Recovery" because of the parallel between the steps recommended by Gothard and the "12 Steps" of the various "Anonymous" groups.

There is a dispute as to whether A.A.'s alcoholism treatment programs are effective. Those who run them claim high rates of remission:

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves."
-- The Big Blue Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 58

Can it be proven that the "12 Steps" work? There may be a problem with the question. A.A. may be saying that those who work the steps are healed, while the contrary research shows that people who are merely enrolled in a program -- for example, as a result of a DUI conviction -- but don't necessarily "work the steps" -- do not experience higher rates of remission than those who receive no treatment. And, of course, if they don't "work the steps," they have not received any "treatment." Sitting through an A.A. meeting is not the same thing as pursuing the "12 Steps."

Others say there is no evidence that treatment increases the chances of remission over those who receive no treatment at all. There are many people who are told by family and friends that they should seek help for their drinking or drug problem who reply that they have tried everything and "nothing seems to work."

G.K. Chesterton once said that disbelief in Christianity comes not from the fact that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but the fact that it has never been tried. It may be more likely that the individual who says "A.A.'s 12 Steps didn't help" never really worked through the steps.

The following questions should be asked in order to more accurately determine whether one has carried out the "12 steps":

1. Did you admit that you are powerless over your sin -- that your life had become unmanageable?

2. Did you come to believe that a Power greater than yourself could restore you to sanity?

3. Did you make a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understood Him?

4. Did you make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself?

5. Did you admit to God, to yourself, and to another human being the exact nature of your wrongs?

6. Did you become entirely ready to have God remove all your defects of character?

7. Did you humbly ask Him to remove your shortcomings?

8. Did you make a list of all persons you had harmed, and did you become willing to make amends to them all?

9. Did you in fact make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others?

10. Do you continue to take personal inventory and when you are wrong promptly admit it?

11. Do you seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God as you understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for you and the power to carry that out?

12. Have you had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, and are you trying to carry this message to others who need to stop sinning, and to practice these principles in all your affairs?

When these questions are answered in the affirmative, the interviewee may be placed in the category of those who have completed the A.A. program, to be compared with those who have received no treatment.

The qualification in the 3rd and 11th steps ("as you understood Him") is vague. In some cases it is healthy. A person may be told that God is like his abusive father, and may for this reason reject "God." A person may be taught that God approves of hypocritical liturgies and top-down ecclesiocentric bureaucracies, and may for this reason reject "God." Romans 1 teaches that all men know God. They need to act on the promptings of their conscience.

But everyone these days has "my own understanding of God." We need to listen to God's understanding of Himself, as He has communicated this to us in the Bible.

5. Clear Conscience

The process of admitting our wrongs and righting those wrongs seems to be at the heart of Gothard's Basic Seminar and the "12 Steps" of A.A.

It takes humility to admit our wrongs and to go back to those we have wronged and ask forgiveness. We don't truly worship God unless we worship the predestinating God of the Bible, and we don't worship this God if we engage in liturgical hocus-pocus instead of going to our neighbor and righting our wrongs (Matthew 5:23-24).

Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, {24} leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Gothard's material provides more practical steps to obeying this command than the "12 Step" literature.

6. Forgiveness

When we pray "the Lord's Prayer," we ask God to forgive us in the same way "we forgive our debtors." If we do not forgive those who wrong us, we are asking God not to forgive us. There can be no doubt that this interpretation of the Lord's Prayer is correct: Jesus immediately clarifies the matter:

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. {15} But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I am also committed to forgiving those who wrong my friends. I will not "take up offenses."

I invest in the lives of those who wrong me, to make my forgiveness concrete, for

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


At first glance, it would appear that the Vine & Fig Tree view of the State is the complete antithesis of Gothard's. Gothard appears to believe that God affirmatively commands human beings to form political structures. We believe the State is evil, and that the primary task of Christians in the 21st century is to abolish the State.

7. Submission to Powers

Yet The Bible requires us to be committed to the same "submission" to the State that Gothard counsels. In fact, Gothard seems to condone the American Revolution, whereas I abhor violent revolution, if only because revolution gives birth to militarist socialism (the State).

8. Transforming Irritations

When some person or circumstance irritates me, I am committed to seizing this opportunity to correct past offenses and build Christ-like character.

9. Yielding Rights

I am committed to Stewardship, not ownership. I do not get angry when my "rights" are violated.

10. Four Essential Attitudes

I am committed to manifesting the following attitudes:

A Reverent Spirit
Giving honor despite obnoxious personality
A Grateful Spirit
Giving God my Expectations; seeing His gifts at every turn
A Servant's Spirit
Determining to make my authorities successful
A Quiet Spirit
Overcoming fear and worry


11. Obedience to God's Spirit

I am committed to Theonomy: to placing every area of life under God's Law and Control

I am committed to Theonomic Obedience: Instant obedience to promptings of Conscience.

I am committed to the concept of Scripture as God's Law-Word: every Word in Scripture is Law for me.

12. Cleansing My Life

Gothard claims that pagan art can be used by Satan as a channel of evil. Little Buddha statues must be taken out of the house and burned. I believe Satan has been bound. I don't have any pagan art in my home anyway.

If we are to take seriously the concept of "cleansing our home" of abominable things, we might well start with some things that are prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Ironically, though the Bible calls these things "abominable" and explicitly commands us not to carry any of them around with us, I have not yet met a single alumni of the Basic Seminar who does not continue to carry around these abominable objects.

Find out more

13. Scripture Meditation

I desire to obtain God's Success by saturating my mind with His Word, and hiding it in my heart, meditating day and night.

14. Conquering Habits

  • I died with Christ
  • I have engrafted Romans 6 and 8
  • I know how a dead man responds to temptation
  • I am accountable to another to maintain daily victory
  • I have gained "lost ground" and torn down strongholds


15. Standards in Courtship

I want God's best for courtship, engagement, and marriage.

The father of the girl will decide whom his daughter should date and marry.

I will not discuss marriage until both sets of parents approve.

The one I marry will have eight basic qualities:
  1. Re-born by Word
  2. Sovereignty of God
  3. Non-violent submission
  4. Clear conscience
  5. Stewardship
  6. Moral freedom
  7. Purpose in life
  8. Financial freedom

16. Honoring Marriage

Marriage is an unbreakable covenant, not a conditional contract.

a. I will date only a (growing) Christian.

b. I will build my courtship around God's purposes for my life

c. I will guard against defrauding in my friendships.

d. My spouse and I must be in harmony with our own families as far as is Scripturally possible

e. I will wait for God's timing for my marriage as indicated by our financial ability, purpose in life, and our parents' whole-hearted consent.

f. I give to God my rights to dating and marriage and will concentrate on single service until He brings the one of His choosing into my life. Every year that I am single, I will thank Him, because I know that I can be more dedicated to my work when single, than I could when married.

17. Growing in Love

I give all my affection to God, dedicate myself as a channel of His love to those He wants to love through me, and purpose to learn how God wants to love others through me.

I will be kind and loving in all that I do.

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