RTP© AND PERSONAL FREEDOM
written by Rev. Dr. James A.
December 30, 2008
The purpose of this essay is to challenge its primary target
group, the fundamentalist, conservative side of Christianity.
The challenge is to give strong consideration to use RTP when
dealing with disruptive behavior because RTP is biblically
based. Those operating outside the target group can also
benefit by considering RTP as its method of choice.
I am an advocate for the Responsible Thinking Process (RTP)
based upon the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT). Ed Ford, a
devout Roman Catholic, is the founder of RTP, and Bill Powers,
a "heathen," is the founder of PCT. In case someone might
accuse me of being unkind toward Mr. Powers, I offer the
following quote made by him referring to himself in the preface
of Ford's latest book, Creating Peace Within: "It
would not do anyone any harm to try to be a little more like Ed
Ford. I say this because I am pretty much a heathen while Ed is
a person of strong and clear religious conviction -- yet I have
never, in 30 years, felt an ounce of pressure from Ed to adopt
his personal beliefs or to change what I say to accommodate
I am what many would refer to as a fundamentalist Christian. I
am an ordained Southern Baptist Pastor. I was also ordained by
the independent, non-denominational Bible Doctrine Church of
Little Rock that I personally founded in 1975 and pastored for
thirty years. Among my core beliefs, I believe that the Bible
is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I believe in
the Triune Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe in
a literal heaven and hell. I believe that Jesus Christ is the
unique Person of the universe, different from God in that He is
man, and different from man in that He is God. I believe that
the Holy Spirit supernaturally impregnated the mother of Jesus.
I believe that the mother Mary was a virgin at the time of
Jesus' birth. Having been fathered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus
did not have a genetically prepared old-sin-nature. Having no
genetically prepared old-sin-nature, Adam's original sin was
not imputed to Him at the moment of His physical birth. I
believe that Jesus Christ lived thirty-three years on planet
earth, free from personal sin. Free from all categories of sin,
He qualified to become the perfect sacrifice as the payment for
man's sins, this payment demanded by God the Father whose plan
it was that mankind had violated. I believe that Jesus Christ
is the ONLY means of salvation for anyone in any generation of
human history, beginning with Adam outside the Garden of Eden
right down to the last man who will be born into the human race
at the end of human history. I believe that without personal
faith alone in Christ alone, man is condemned to hell at the
moment of physical death and finally to an eternal lake of fire
after the Great White Throne Judgment. I believe that there is
no recovery from hell or the lake of fire after one dies
physically. I believe that these few core beliefs are the
reason why some people place me in the fundamentalist Christian
camp. If so, I believe that it is equally important to
understand that I am there by choice -- not by physical birth
or by some form of coercion.
I believe that the previous paragraph demonstrates justification
for placing me theologically within the fundamentalist Christian
camp. To further demonstrate this, I sometimes jokingly tell
people who inquire of my political and theological bent that I am
to the right of Rush Limbaugh politically and to the right of
Jerry Falwell theologically.
The question then arises: How could a fundamentalist Christian,
namely me, possibly be in league with a man who professes to be a
heathen and another who is a devout Roman Catholic? This is a
perfectly legitimate question if raised by another fundamentalist
Christian who knows that certain key fundamentalist doctrines are
contrary to Roman Catholic theology and not accepted in the
"heathen" community. It will be clearly seen by the end of this
document that the common link between Jim Brettell, Bill Powers,
and Ed Ford is the principle and practice of freedom
that is basic to human nature, basic to PCT, and basic to RTP. I
further declare that I consider both Bill Powers and Ed Ford dear
friends. We treat each other with the deepest respect as human
beings. Again, the common bond among us is the principle and
practice of personal freedom.
PCT (Perceptual Control Theory) is the foundation upon which the
RTP (Responsible Thinking Process) is built. A fundamental
principle of PCT is that personal freedom is in the very nature
of man. The importance of personal freedom as man's nature is
noted in both the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution of the United States.
Freedom and the Declaration of
The following statement appears in the United States
Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776:
"We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that
among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Freedom and the Constitution of the United States of
The Preamble to our Constitution reads:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more
perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and
secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our
Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
United States of America."
The following webpage, http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_sepp.html,
amplifies the phrase and secure the Blessings of Liberty to
ourselves and our Posterity and posts the definition of
"Hand in hand with the general welfare, the framers looked
forward to the blessings of liberty - something they had all
fought hard for just a decade before. They were very concerned
that they were creating a nation that would resemble something of
a paradise for liberty, as opposed to the tyranny of a monarchy,
where citizens could look forward to being free as opposed
to looking out for the interests of a king. And more than for
themselves, they wanted to be sure that the future generations of
Americans would enjoy the same."
Posterity: posterity n. 1. Future generations. 2. All of
a person's descendents.
A Point of Clarification: Freedom vs. Responsible
Distinguish freedom from responsible freedom.
Freedom that is not free is not freedom. Anything that infringes
upon freedom destroys freedom at the point of infringement. The
very nature of freedom necessitates the possibility that one
person exercising his own personal freedom will infringe upon the
freedom of another person. If that possibility is denied, then
freedom has been redefined and that redefined form is no longer
Freedom intrinsically carries with it the possibility that when
one person exercises his personal freedom that exercise may in
fact infringe upon the personal freedom of another person. This
is why the exercise of personal freedom ought to be
Responsible freedom takes others into consideration.
Responsible freedom respects the personal freedom
others. Responsible freedom is the exercise of one's own
personal freedom to the extent that it does not infringe upon the
freedom of another person to do the same.
I have some rhetorical questions that I believe need to be
answered honestly. They will deal with freedom and its
constituency; freedom and morality; freedom and right and wrong;
freedom and absolute truth; and freedom and religion. Let's begin
with freedom and its constituency.
Freedom and Its Constituency
Who among us understands the meaning of freedom? Who
among us desires personal freedom? Who among us
enjoys personal freedom? Who among us understands the
meaning of freedom for all? If freedom is extended to
all through our Constitution, does the word all
include all, or does it exclude some?
Freedom and Morality
What is moral and what is immoral? Under the
principle of freedom, are not the definitions of
morality and immorality relative to the
individual, group, or organization that defines the terms? Unless
a person is willing to acknowledge the existence of absolute
truth, it seems that the only immoral act would be for one person
to exercise his personal freedom in such a manner that he
disturbs the freedom of another person to do the same.
Freedom and Right and Wrong
Does freedom permit conflicting definitions or interpretations of
what is right and what is wrong? Under freedom,
who has the right to say what is right and what is
wrong? Under freedom, does the one who thinks he is
right have the right to impose his rightness on
another's perceived wrongness? Under what condition or
conditions does a person, group, or organization have the right
to impose its or their rightness upon another?
Freedom and Absolute Truth
Assume for a moment the existence of absolute truth.
Does freedom permit the denial of its existence?
Freedom and Religion
Does freedom permit the existence of different
religions? Does freedom permit the existence of
different religious beliefs? Does freedom permit
atheism as an alternative to religion? Does freedom
permit the notion that Christianity is a spiritual way of life
rather than a religious way of life?
Personal Freedom and Control of a Person
Personal freedom and being controlled by another are mutually
exclusive. If controlled, then not free. If free, then not
controlled. When one person controls another, the one in control
usurps the personal freedom of the one being controlled and the
degree of control is not the issue. Control in any degree negates
personal freedom because the integrity of personal freedom has
Personal Freedom and Environment Control
The word environment is used here to mean "any location," for
example, your home, school, library, shopping center, athletic
field, backyard, hallway, grocery store, airplane seat - you get
A person or group of persons in-charge of any environment is at
liberty to control the environment over which they have charge,
but they are not at liberty to control the people functioning
within that environment. Environment control may begin with goal
development. Goals describe the nature for which an environment
is established. They also determine what an environment is not.
Every environment generally has established goals, whether
written or unwritten, and goals by their very nature place limits
on the personal freedom of those functioning within that
environment. For example, while I am free to drive my car on the
highway, the goals of a grocery store do not permit me to drive
my car up and down its aisles. While I may be free to market my
garden vegetables at the Farmer's Market, the goals of the local
high school do not permit me to set up a market in its hallways.
The very nature of goals limits personal freedom.
Personal Freedom, Rules and Operational
Rules and operating procedures designate the boundaries of
personal freedom within an environment. They support the
integrity of an environment and move that environment in the
direction of goal achievement. They set forth the boundaries
within which personal freedom is free to function. When personal
freedom violates a rule or operational procedure within an
environment, it disrupts maintenance of or advance toward the
Freedom and Christians Who Have Been Influenced by
R.B. Thieme, Jr.
Christians who have been influenced by R.B. Thieme, Jr., hold
that Truth comes in three categories: 1) the Four Divine
Institutions associated with the Laws of Divine Establishment; 2)
the Gospel; and 3) the Royal Family Honor Code. The Four Divine
Institutions are relevant to both believer and unbeliever. The
Gospel is relevant only to the unbeliever; and the Royal Family
Honor Code is relevant only to believers.
Again, the Four Divine Institutions are for both believer and
unbeliever and consist of 1) Freedom; 2) Marriage; 3 Family; and
4) Nationalism (patriotism). This indicates that those Christians
who have been influenced by R.B. Thieme, Jr., and hold to the
Doctrine of the Four Divine Institutions, should responsibly
consider their answers to every rhetorical question asked above
because of Divine Institution #1.
Note that the first of the Four Divine Institutions is
freedom. Hhhmmm? Freedom? Is freedom only for a few, or
is freedom for all? Hhhmmm? Freedom? Is it possible for
a method that deals with disruptive behavior to exist that is
consistent with the first of four divine institutions, namely,
freedom? Is it possible that Bill Powers and Ed Ford as members
of the human race could possibly develop a method of dealing with
disruptive behavior that would benefit both the disruptor and the
disrupted? Hhhmmm? Freedom? For all? And if for
all, why do so many Christians who have been influenced
by R.B. Thieme, Jr., even question a method of dealing with
disruptive behavior that is consistent with personal freedom?
There are three possible reasons: 1) they believe that one person
can control another person; 2) they still believe that
punishment changes behavior; 3) they may not see the connection
between punishment and control.
Personal Freedom and Responsibility
Freedom implies personal freedom with the capacity to do as one
pleases -- but not without consequence. This is irresponsible
freedom. Responsible freedom is the function of personal freedom
to achieve one's own goal without denying another person the
freedom to successfully achieve his own personal goal without
disruption. The responsible side of freedom takes into
consideration the freedom of another person to achieve his own
goals without disruption.
When two or more people are gathered together, they may have
different goals. These goals may be expressed as their differing
wants. Freedom permits differing wants; however, responsible
freedom does not permit the pursuit of one's goal/want in such a
manner that the pursuit of that goal violates the freedom of
another person to pursue and achieve his own goal. Perhaps an
example or two will help.
Assume that a classroom teacher is free to teach and classroom
students are free to learn. Suppose that a boy student wants (has
a goal) to gain the attention of a female classmate with whom he
is enamored. He begins with a "Psst!" that draws the attention of
several classmates away from the teacher's teaching. He has just
violated the freedom of the teacher to teach and the freedom of
his fellow classmates to learn. All three can achieve their goals
if the boy student will simply wait until after class to contact
the young lady.
Assume that parents have a goal of eight hours sleep each night
and the teenage son has an adjoining bedroom. If the son plays
his TV too loud in the middle of the night, interrupting his
parent's sleep, he has used his freedom to play his TV, but has
violated his parent's freedom to achieve their needed sleep. Both
can achieve their goals if the son will simply lower the volume
on his TV.
In both cases just cited, the function of one person's freedom
violated the personal freedom of another. They demonstrated
irresponsible freedom that could have been avoided if in the
first case the young boy had simply waited until after class to
contact the young lady, and in the second case, the son had just
turned down his TV's volume.
The concept of freedom becomes distorted under two conditions: 1)
I am free, but you are not, and 2) You are free, but I am not.
Freedom doesn't mean "Do it my way," nor does it mean "do it your
way." Freedom means "you do it your way, and I'll do it my way
just as long as your way does not disrupt my freedom to achieve
my goal and my freedom does not disrupt your freedom to achieve
PCT and Personal Freedom
On June 21, 2007, I made a phone call to my friend, Bill Powers.
Bill is the founder of PCT (the Perceptual Control Theory). I had
a PCT question, and I thought I had the answer. My question: How
does personal freedom relate to PCT? My answer: Personal freedom
is the right of every human being. Since I didn't want
to misrepresent PCT, I thought it best to go to the man who could
best evaluate my answer. Although I thought it was right, I was
uncomfortable enough that I wanted to talk to Bill about it.
I gave him my question and my answer, and he responded in his
normal manner - kindly and with deep respect. He commented that
my use of the word "right" should be reconsidered.
I did exactly what he recommended. I reconsidered my answer
because I thrive on subtle distinctions that make better sense of
what I think and believe. He told me that freedom in not man's
right. Man doesn't have the right to be free.
He is free because freedom is the very nature of man. If freedom
was man's right, this implies that his right
was granted by someone and that that right, if granted, could be
taken away at some later date.
Bill Powers made his point very clear to me by distinguishing
right from nature. He told me that his body
displaces air. He then told me that he doesn't have the
right to displace air. His body displaces air because
it's the very nature of his body to do so. His point:
Man doesn't have a right to personal freedom. He
is free because it's his very nature to be free. When
that sunk in - and it didn't take long - I wanted to shout for
Someone might say, "Well, I know of occasions when someone took
away another person's personal freedom." My response is, "No. No
one takes away another person's personal freedom - unless, of
course, they killed him." If personal freedom is lost it's lost
because the person losing it has permitted it to be
lost." This principle is evidenced in a very simple
Ed Ford, in an RTP Conference, asked for a volunteer. He then
asked the volunteer to raise his hand, elbow bent, and palm
facing Ed. Ed then took the palm of his own hand and placed it
against the volunteer's palm. Ed then pushed his own palm forward
causing the volunteer's hand to move backward. Ed then asked the
question regarding the volunteer's hand being displaced from its
original position and moving backward. His question: "Who was in
control when the hand was moved backward?" The audience generally
answered that Ed was in control. They perceived that Ed was in
control, thinking that Ed had forced the volunteer's hand
backward. Not so! The volunteer was in control all the time. He
permitted his hand to be pushed backward. The second
time this demonstration was carried out, the volunteer got the
picture and resisted Ed's push, further demonstrating that the
volunteer was in control in both the first and second
Here's the point. No person takes away your personal freedom. If
you lose it, it's only because you permitted it to be
RTP and Personal Freedom
RTP is based upon PCT, and since PCT holds that personal freedom
is the very nature of man, every principle of RTP must be
consistent with personal freedom if it is to maintain the
integrity of its base. A close scrutiny of RTP demonstrates that
personal freedom is at its very heart. In fact, Ed Ford dedicates
an entire page in his book, Discipline for Home and
School, to the following statement from the Declaration of
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness."
The rest of the page is blank. Should I believe that Ford was
just looking for idle words to fill a blank page, or should I
believe that he thinks that Liberty (personal freedom) is the
very nature of man?
In his book Discipline for Home and School Fundamentals,
p. 1, Ford makes the following comment:
"Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), the theoretical framework that
supports RTP . . ."
If PCT is the theoretical framework of RTP, and PCT states that
personal freedom is the nature of man, RTP must be consistent
with its theoretical framework, otherwise it would be detached
from its framework and non-supportive of personal freedom -
implying control by other than self.
The Rhetorical Questions, Their Answers, and Their
Importance to RTP?
Regarding RTP, how important are the answers to the following
Who among us understands the meaning of
Who among us desires personal freedom?
Who among us enjoys personal freedom?
Who among us understands the meaning of freedom
If freedom is extended to all through our
Constitution, does the word all include all?
If freedom is extended to all through our
Constitution, does the word all exclude some?
Under the principle of freedom, what is
moral and what is immoral?
Under the principle of freedom, are the
definitions of morality and immorality relative
to the individual, group, or organization that defines the terms?
Does freedom permit conflicting definitions or
interpretations of what is right and what is
Under freedom, who has the right to say what is
right and what is wrong?
Under freedom, does the one who thinks he is
right have the right to impose his rightness on
another's perceived wrongness?
Under what condition or conditions does a person,
group, or organization have the right to impose its or their
rightness upon another?
Assuming the existence of absolute truth,
does freedom permit the denial of its existence?
Does freedom permit the existence of different
religions, and does it permit the existence of
different religious beliefs?
Does freedom permit atheism as an
alternative to religion?
Again, I am an advocate for the Responsible Thinking Process
(RTP) based upon the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT). I am a
fundamentalist Christian. Ed Ford is a devout Roman Catholic and
founder of RTP. Bill Powers is a "heathen" and the founder of
PCT. I am linked to Powers and PCT and Ford and RTP because the
three of us hold and value the principle and practice of
freedom as the basic nature of man. I am deeply interested
and committed to dealing with disruptive behavior in every
environment in which I am the authority figure. I reject
punishment and reward as methods of dealing
with disruptive behavior because neither of these two methods is
consistent with the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God
that guides my life. Both punishment and reward are control
factors that violate the very nature of man who is designed by
God for self-control.
Bill Powers makes the following significant comments about
punishment and rewards in his book, Making Sense of
Behavior, Chapter 8:
"The idea of reward and punishment stems from a
misunderstanding of human nature and a desire to control
people." (p. 109)
"The reason that psychologists thought reward works this way was
that everyone thought it works this way. Reward and punishment
were not inventions of psychology: They were part of folk wisdom
handed down through the ages." (p. 110)
"Reward and punishment have always been thought of as means by
which one person can control the behavior of another . . . If it
weren't for the need or desire to control others, the ideas of
reward and punishment would probably never have arisen." (p. 110)
Regarding reward, when a person is given the reward you offered
him because he produced your desired outcome, you may believe
with the rest of the world that you made him do it. Not so. He
did what he did because he wanted to do it. It just so happened
that what he did coincides with what you wanted him to do.
God help us to abandon both punishment and reward as methods of
trying to change behavior!
Again, it is the biblical principle and practice of
freedom that links me as a fundamentalist Christian to
Powers and PCT and Ford and RTP.
Before closing, I want to address those of us who are considered
fundamentalist Christians, and among them those who have also
been influenced by the terminology of R.B. Thieme, Jr. How can we
possibly ignore PCT and RTP simply because they were developed by
two men who are -- not of us? Shall we also cast away our
doctrine of salvation by grace through faith because it was
brought to us by the Roman Catholic, Martin Luther? God forbid!
The challenge to all of us is to take a long look at RTP based
upon PCT as the desired method of dealing with disruptive
behavior because RTP as a method of dealing with disruptive
behavior is based upon the principle and practice of personal
freedom that has its source in God the Father.
One final point of clarification: I have never indicated that
those in positions of authority are wrong if they use a method
other than RTP to deal with disruptive behavior. Remember the
principle and practice of personal freedom? Hopefully I
practice what I preach. I promote RTP because I believe in it.
Others have the freedom to use whatever method they choose. I
choose RTP based upon PCT - because they are based upon the
establishment principle of FREEDOM.
Websites of Interest
Ed Ford: www.responsiblethinking.com
Bill Powers: www.brainstorm-media.com/users/powers_w/
Jim Brettell: www.brettell.org