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Theophostic: God’s Light or Satan’s Lie?
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Theophostic: God’s Light or Satan’s Lie?
'Lookout' (formerly CCG Ministries), Chairman, and senior pastor of the Thornlie Church of Christ, Rob Furlong, has carefully examined and evaluated one of the ’latest’ Christian counselling ’fads’ sweeping through a number of churches (across various denominations). Several people were interested in introducing Theophostic counselling at Rob’s church, and so his evaluation, from a Biblical perspective, was more than just a theoretical interest. His report raises serious issues for Christian leaders considering this approach for their church:
Is real change possible?
Why am I always struggling with the same sin/s?
How can I ever forgive that person?
Who is responsible for the mess I have made of my life?
Most Pastors and Christian workers will tell you that these questions, in one form or another, have been put to them in their ministry by people struggling with problems in life. Dr. Ed M. Smith, a trained Christian counsellor in the U.S. claims to have unlocked the door that answers these questions with a ministry he has founded called, ’Theophostic’.
What is Theophostic?
This is best understood by reading what Theophostic says about itself. The following is taken from the official Theophostic website:
’Welcome to the web site of Theophostic Ministries!
Our Christian Counseling Ministry has achieved a dynamic breakthrough with thousands around the world reporting incredible results.
Thousands of Pastors, Professional Counselors, and Lay Counselors world-wide have found our training program to be highly effective with:
Sexual Abuse Issues
Substance Abuse and other addictive behaviors
Post traumatic stress syndrome
Grief and Loss
Dissociative Disorders (DID)
Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA)
All lie-based issues’
’Theo (God) Phostic (light) is a Divinely powerful and thoroughly biblical approach to counselling Ministry. Theophostic Ministry is not a spin-off of any other traditional approach to counselling. It should not be confused with any other accelerated form of therapy. It is based on the words of Jesus who said, “when the son of Man sets you free, you shall be free indeed!” (Jn. 8:36)
Theophostic Ministry believes a person’s present emotional pain comes from the misinterpretations (lies) embedded in their memories and not from the memories themselves. For example, an incest victim feels shame not because she was molested but because she may believe it was her fault (the lie).
Theophostic Ministry recognises that we can only “act as far as we can think”. Our behaviour is limited to the data stored in the mind. Therefore, in order to act differently we must be “renewed in our minds.” This renewal must go beyond the cognitive passing of information from counsellor to counselled as seen in most Christian counselling. Only the Spirit of the Living Lord Jesus can set us free of the lies we experientially believe.
Theophostic principles understand present behaviour to be drawn from “experiential knowledge” (that which we have actually experienced) and not from logical truth (data believed as truth but never realised through experience). Theophostic Ministry is about renewing the mind at the experiential level of consciousness.
Theophostic Ministry recognises that every emotional pain in the present has an origin, source and beginning. It believes that emotional pain is rooted in this original historical faulty thinking. Therefore, unless the person is able to return to the original memory event where the lie was first embedded, true release of the emotional pain in the present will not occur.
The key to Theophostic Ministry’s effectiveness is its ability to quickly uncover and identify such early embedded lies and lead the wounded person to the place where he is able to receive a direct word from the Spirit of Christ.
Theophostic Ministry recognises that counsel based on logic and reason will not result in true release of the pain one carries from historical woundedness. Cognitive approaches require the individual to exert continuous self-effort toward freedom with little or no lasting results. Theophostic Ministry requires the person to feel, identify the original lie and receive truth from God.
Theophostic ministry recognises the futility of trying to talk a person out of their false belief and talking them into a new belief system and acknowledges that apart from a direct word from the Spirit of Christ, nothing significant will ever happen.
Theophostic Ministry acknowledges that Jesus is the only one who can truly release the wounded from their emotional/mental bondage. Theophostic (God’s Light) is all about the Lord Jesus.’ 1
In light of the preceding quoted comments, let’s compare Theophostic with the Bible.
The ’Parking Space’ illustration:
Dr. Smith describes a situation that we have most likely all experienced: you are at a Shopping Centre, about to park your car, when someone else sneaks in and steals your spot. In response, you explode into violent anger. Ed Smith clearly states that your anger is not the result of what has just happened — you are, in fact, reacting to a lie you believed in the memory of a past event.2
Lies, lies and damned lies!
Let me explain in a little more detail what I mean here. According to Smith, the problems that we experience in life are the result of a lie that we have believed at the time of some traumatic event back in our past. In short, we experience emotional pain in the present because of the lie we believed at the time of the trauma in the past.
Smith asserts that the trauma itself is not the issue. The real problem is the lie that Satan plants in your head at the time of the trauma. What this amounts to is, that for an incest or gang rape victim, their problem is not really the actual event, it is the lie planted in their minds at the time of the event. Eg. ’You’re worthless’ or ’you deserve this.’ While I understand that people who are victims of these types of traumas are not magically ’healed’ by simply re-visiting the event, I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that Ed Smith minimises the trauma by unduly emphasising and exalting the lie.
A further problem also presents itself: how does one know when they have the right memory event? Fortunately, if you believe Ed Smith, he has answers for this also.
He claims that some people are healed by Theophostic but later return because they still feel ’yuk’. What you must do then is identify the type of lie you are dealing with. It could be a metamorphic lie (a lie that has been dealt with but has tricked you into thinking it’s still true!) or a cluster lie (different lies like feelings of shame or fear or loneliness but all linked to the same past event). There are memory linked lies, guardian lies, splinter lies, osmatic lies and even thematic lies! For a system that promotes itself on the premise that it’s ’effectiveness is [in] its ability to quickly uncover and identify such early embedded lies…’, it becomes extremely complicated and rapidly so!!
Whatever happened to personal choice, responsibility and accountability for our actions? If your response is the result of a lie tied to a past memory event how do you know when you have the right event? And where do you stop? When you arrive at one memory event, who is to say you should not go back to yet another before that…and another…ad infinitum? Surely we cannot write everything off as the result of lies believed because of past memories. I know many people are dysfunctional but we must be careful to not merely assign all sinful responses to the realm of ’lies and past memories’.
Moreover, this type of teaching is similar to a theology that floats around some Churches whereby it is demons, not lies, which are responsible for everything. Thus we have demons of lust, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, etc. In both scenarios, whether it is demons or lies that are blamed, personal accountability and responsibility are largely and often completely, ignored.
The sin issue:
It is in the area of Ed Smith’s teaching on sin that major concerns are raised. Initially Smith starts out well:
’When I use the word sin, I am referring to any behaviour we engage in as a result of choices we make which are less than God’s ideal desire for our lives.’ 3
But then he quickly gets off track:
’These choices are not always from an evil or immoral motive but often from vain attempts to relieve ourselves of our pain.’ 4
In fact, he even goes so far as to say that he has reached the point in his thinking where he believes ’that sin is a by-product of faulty thinking.’ 5
Whatever you might think of Theophostic, you cannot make a statement like this line up with the Biblical definition of sin. Rom. 3:23 (which Smith also quotes) is unambiguous when it says that ’all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ To fall short of God’s glory is not the ’by-product of faulty thinking.’ It is the result of our wilful rejection of the commandments of God. Furthermore, the Bible sees sin as something that is deeply ingrained into us. Jesus Himself said, ’That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulterers…’ (Mark 7:20 & 21; see also vv. 22 & 23, emphasis mine).
Smith’s understanding of sin is so fundamentally flawed that even he acknowledges the radical nature of what he is teaching. As he addresses his audience on Video Tape 2 of the training series for Theophostic, Smith announces, ’Some of you will struggle theologically with this…’ He then states, ’The first step in the sin process is not sin…it is deception. We sin because we are deceived.’
James, the brother of Jesus, sees it quite differently. He says that we are tempted because we are ’carried away and enticed’ by our own lust. Lust conceives and gives birth to sin and the result is death (see James 1:14-15). The Biblical picture is the antithesis of Smith’s teaching. For Smith, sin is the ’by-product of faulty thinking.’ The Bible says sin is the deliberate rejection (by us) of the righteous standards of a Holy God. I could go on, but I trust you are getting the picture.
What is sin? Paul acknowledges that Christians still sin but he also forthrightly demonstrates that the Christian has died to sin and sin is no longer our master. We are therefore to consider ourselves dead to sin and in response, offer ourselves back to God for Him to work in us and through us His righteousness (cf. Rom. 6:1-14). In fact, speaking of his own struggle with sin, Paul clearly states that his failure is the result of ’sin living in me...’ (Rom. 7:20) and not the believing of a lie resulting from the memory of a past event.
’Works Based Salvation’
Ed Smith constantly stresses that any emphasis on us working at the Christian life constitutes a works based salvation. You are left with a strong impression that there is nothing we should do; otherwise it becomes ’works based salvation.’
But what of:
(i) ’...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…’ (Phil. 2:12)? Paul goes on to say that God is also at work in us (v.13) i.e. in the Christian life we are to ’work out what God has worked in.’
(ii) the constant exhortations in Scripture to ’put on the new man’ because we have put off the old man? (cf. Rom. 6:6-14; Eph. 4:17-32 & Col. 3:1-17. NB especially the translation in the NASB). When you read these passages it is very clear that we are responsible for co-operating with God in the task of maturity and spiritual growth in our Christian lives. See also: 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Heb. 4:14; 6:9-11 & 2 Pet. 1:5-8
Theophostic is extremely pragmatic:
Ed Smith clearly infers the rightness of Theophostic when he states, ’It works!’ Pragmatism is that attitude that attributes value to something because it has a good or positive effect upon people. So saying, Theophostic is good and right because, ’it works’, on and with people. I have also had this stated to me on a number of occasions. My response is simply, ’Buddhism works for many people too but that doesn’t make it right.’
In fact, Smith is at pains to drive home the point that because Theophostic works, it must logically be right.
’God has given me these principles.’ 6
’I don’t know how all Theophostic works…but I know it works.’ 7
This is the essence of pragmatism and it both plagues and ails the contemporary Church. We no longer assess things by whether or not they reflect Biblical truth but simply by the criterion of ’Does it work?’ It is to our shame that we have become so un-discerning in our Lord’s Church.
Attitude to the Word of God:
I am of the opinion that Theophostic undermines the integrity and authority of the Word of God. Ed Smith draws a sharp distinction between cognitive truth and experiential truth. He states very strongly that no amount of cognitive truth/learning will ever bring about change for people — this must happen at the experiential level when, as Theophostic puts it, God’s ’light’ shines in upon a person. Basically Smith is saying that you need the experiential first before the cognitive will work.
Rom. 12:1 & 2?
Paul clearly says that we are transformed (metamorphosed) by ’the renewing of’ our minds (v. 2).
This is the mind (cognitive) bringing about change (experientially).
John’s letter is all about knowing ’the truth’ (cognitive again) in order to live as Christians. This he plainly says vv. 9 & 10. In all honesty, if I took Ed Smith literally, I should never preach again, after all, what is the point of preaching the truth of God to bring about life change when it can all be done through an experience of God’s light shining into my life? The danger of this method is that my experience now interprets the truth or otherwise of God’s Word instead of the Word of God interpreting my experience.
’It’s not counselling!’
Because of cases of mismanagement in the U.S. there are now stern penalties placed upon counsellors, as well as restrictions (In some, not all), U.S. States. This particularly applies to lay counsellors and Pastors. Smith stated quite clearly in his lecture that, ’Theophostic is not counselling…you could legitimately stand up in a court of law and say you were not counselling because it is Jesus who does all the work.’ Quite frankly, I find this to be misleading, dangerous and naÃ¯ve. (Besides, their own website repeatedly refers to Theophostic as ’counselling’.)
Smith also states that he no longer does any marriage counselling. In fact, there is no such thing as people with marital problems…it is simply two dysfunctional people crashing against each other! (I would like to know what the difference is). He also declares that it is wrong to tell people to ’work at’ their marriage because this amounts to ’works based salvation.
1 Pet. 3:1-7?
Aren’t we being told to work at our marriages?
’Theophostic goes back to the Early Church.’
i.e. ’This is not new…it has been around for 2000 years.’
If this is true, then why has Theophostic only surfaced in the past few years? Are we to seriously believe that this method has been/was ignored by: the instigators of the Reformation (Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Zwingli); the leaders of great spiritual revivals (Wesley, Edwards and in modern times, Graham)?
A Final Thought:
Two years ago a lady in my Church approached me seeking my signature and endorsement to enable her to undergo Theophostic training. I politely refused on the grounds that the Elders of our Church were to have a presentation put to them regarding the merits, etc. of Theophostic. I explained to her that it ’would be most unwise for me to endorse her until we, as Elders, had reached a decision about Theophostic.’ 8
To cut a long story short, the lady concerned undertook the training without my endorsement. She was advised by those running the course to submit her application anyway and they would ’pray about it.’ Obviously she was accepted. However, no one from Theophostic has ever contacted me to seek my opinion, despite the fact that they clearly state that they require the signature of the Pastor and two elders before a person can undergo training. Quite frankly, this type of attitude lacks any integrity as far as I am concerned and raises a huge question mark in my mind.
Ed Smith has stated, ’Many believe that if we would just repent our sin, confess it to God, and choose to apply appropriate truth, we can walk in victory.’ 9 I want to say that that is one thing that I can agree with Ed Smith about. It sounds like a better plan to me rather than embracing the web that is called ’Theophostic’.
1. www. theophostic.com
2. Theophostic Ministry Basic Training Seminar; set of video tapes; Session One: “Introduction”
3. Beyond Tolerable Recovery. Ed M. Smith, p. 218
4. ibid, p. 218
5. ibid, p. 219
6. Video Tape 2, Theophostic Ministry Basic Training Seminar.
8. It should be noted that earlier that same year we had endorsed two men in our Church to undergo Theophostic training on the strict proviso that this did not automatically guarantee its introduction into our Church. Theophostic was new to us and we wanted time to look at it more closely and to examine it in the light of Scripture.
Thornlie Church of Christ
(From TACL Vol 24 #3 Aug/Sep 2003)