Theophostic Counseling/Theophostic Prayer Ministry.A method of (supposedly) Christian counseling developed by Dr Ed Smith of Kentucky, USA. From the Greek theo "God" and phos "light or illumination." Used in the Beyond Tolerable Recovery training course. The emphasis is on genuine recovery rather than just "tolerable" recovery, which might be gradual, involve relapses, etc, and is based on the idea that many of our problems are (supposedly) caused by lie-based thinking, that episodes in our past that have led to present problems – not unlike the engrams of Scientology. (For example being told "you're fat" as a young child leading to bulimia much later in life. As soon as the person recalls the possibly deeply repressed memory of being told the lie and recognises they were not fat and they don't need to believe that lie any more, they can allegedly be instantly freed from bulimia.)
Theophostic Counseling is far from controversy-free. For example, there are well-supported claims that when misused the Theophostic techniques can lead to recovered memory syndrome and other serious problems. The techniques themselves appear very easy to misuse and this seems to have been recognised by Ed Smith, who significantly revised his course material to specifically try to avoid some of the biggest problem areas, such as guided imagery and directed visualisation. Sadly, this rewrite does not prevent practitioners from ignoring Dr Smith's directions and continuing to misuse the techniques, and has not addressed theological problems inherent in the teachings. Incidently Ed Smith doesn't care if recovered memories are true, instead focusing on the pain those memories cause. This is a serious concern in itself.
Also, the Theophostic Counseling techniques do not appear to be biblically sound. For example, looking at things at a simple level, Jesus told us to pray to the Father (not to himself, Jesus), and also that the Holy Spirit would be our Counselor (again, not himself, Jesus). In Theophostic theology the concept of a sinful nature apparently doesn't exist and personal accountability for sin is deminished (since sinful deeds are ultimately caused by bad things happening to people in the past), while salvation (healing) comes from within – a highly New Age concept. Dr Gary Almy, MD, highlights some of the strongly New Age theology with quotes from Ed Smith:
... sanctification "is not a process of becoming more like Jesus because we are already as much like Jesus as we will ever be," but is "a revealing of what already is" ...
Ed Smith has also taught that Christians can be possessed/inhabited by demons (not just oppressed by them), and associates truth subjectively with what works and what feels right, instead of objectively with what reflects reality. Dr Gary Almy quoting Ed Smith again:
He is not concerned with and openly devalues "logic" as getting in the way of the search for insight into the unconscious and makes such statements as: "I do not ask how true it logically may be, but rather how true does it feel"; "You do not want them to reason out the truth/lie or use their logic" ...
However, the Bible places a high importance on the active use of our mind (quotes from NIV):
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Emphasis added.)
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
1 Timoth 1:4-7
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work — which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 6:20-21
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
Theophostic teachings adds to the teachings of the Bible, which is deemed insufficient for God to heal through. The Bible again:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (Emphasis added.)
It also appears Theophostic theology leads to a distortion of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and a certain spiritual blindness, as those heavily involved with it are just concerned with (the power of) seeing results, not with whether the methods are godly.
The Lying Spirits web site raises the question Where does scripture say the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce, on demand, an encounter with a spirit Jesus for the purpose of illuminating past memories? Meanwhile, Anton Hein of Apologetics Index calls it Inner Healing repackaged: Not surprisingly, inner healing is a New Age concept used in one way or another in many different New Age and Eastern religions. The NZ Cult List asks: If the techniques are godly why does God honour the New Age with their successful use therein? If the techniques are not godly why are Christians using them? If the techniques are occuring naturally rather than spiritually how can Christians using them bring glory to God through their use when the source of healing is falsely credited?
Theophostic Counseling is rated Danger for its non-biblical, extra-biblical, and very strongly New Age teachings. For those interested in conducting more research into Theophostic Counseling, more information may be found in these places:
We recognise that Theophostic Counseling has apparently helped many people but we recommend that people do NOT engage in Theophostic ministry (small m) – either receiving or practicing – until they have read either the Lying Spirits ebook (PDF, 2.1MB) or one of the two evaluation PDFs linked to above, and Dan Edelen's article.
There may be a link between Theophostic Ministry and spiritual apathy, and we'd like to look into this further. To make a submission about this please see the Contact page.