PCT, RTP© AND PERSONAL FREEDOM
written by Rev. Dr. James A. Brettell
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 them.”
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 Independence
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 Happiness.”
Freedom and the Constitution of the United States of America
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 posterity.
“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 Freedom
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.
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.
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 been violated.
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 the
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
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 Procedures
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 environment’s goals.
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 your goal.
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 joy!
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 demonstration.
Here’s the point. No person takes away your personal freedom. If you lose it, it’s only because you permitted it to be lost.
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 Independence:
“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
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 questions?
· 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?
· 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 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
· 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
· 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
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