"A Response to the Christian Research Instituteís
Evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry"

by Martin Bobgan


The following are excerpts from a lengthy paper posted on Psychoheresy Awareness Ministriesí web site:  www.psychoheresy-aware.org/Bobgan-Miller.pdf

INTRODUCTION

In 1999, after listening to the available tapes and reading the materials of what was then called "TheoPhostic Counseling," we published our book TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy?1 Since that time Dr. Ed Smith, the contriver of this Christianized psychotherapeutic counseling approach, changed the name to "Theophostic Prayer Ministry" (TPM) and changed a number of his earlier teachings, which he originally claimed he had received from God.

Just recently we printed from the Christian Research Instituteís (CRI) web site their position paper titled "An Evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry," written by Elliot Miller, Editor-in-Chief, CRI Publications. 2

Miller begins his "Evaluation" by saying: "Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) is perhaps the fastest-growing approach to inner healing or healing of memories in evangelical churches today."3 TPM is a highly successful, for-profit, commercial enterprise. Smith makes numerous claims that require but lack scientific support. While Miller is critical of many of Smithís claims, he either ignores or supports others that are crucial, but not backed by scientific research. Although Miller rightly exposes many of Smithís bogus claims, he fails to ask Smith even the most elementary questions about some of his momentous assertions and, as a bottom line, leaves the door open for Christians to become involved in TPM.

In spite of all the criticisms Miller has of TPM, he begins his "Synopsis" by saying, "After an exhaustive evaluation, CRI detects nothing unbiblical about the core theory and practice of Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM)."4 Even though Miller gives enough reasons to warn believes about becoming involved in TPM, he leaves the door open with encouragements along the way, such as the following: "It seems possible, though far from proven, that virtually everyone might be able to benefit from TPM in some area of his or her life."5

As I prepared to respond to Millerís evaluation of TPM, I contacted a number of psychologists and professors of psychology, whose specialties would be helpful to me. One of the individuals I contacted is Dr. Tana Dineen, who has over 30 years of experience in the field of psychology as a licensed psychologist; is the author of Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People; is a frequent columnist; and serves as a consultant for many lawyers, agencies, and government bodies on issues related to psychology. From her professional background, she says:

TPM should be recognized for what it is: a business enterprise. While masquerading as a religious experience, it makes false promises of miraculous psychological cures. Pretending to be based on some radically new, profoundly innovative combination of Christian teaching and psychological science, itís theories and practices are a travesty of both. On examination, what TPM sells is clearly nothing more than a concoction made up of the thoroughly discredited psychotherapeutic fad involving recovered memories, the unsubstantiated pseudo-Freudian beliefs about the roots of emotional pain popularized by Alice Miller, and an outdated "New Age" craze of seeking answers from "spirit guides."

JUNK SCIENCE

Junk science results when conclusions are drawn using low-quality data such as testimonials, anecdotes, and case reports rather than from randomized, controlled clinical experiments.6

Junk science aptly describes Smithís TPM approach, and proof for TPM is built on junk science. The claims of success for TPM are based on "testimonials, anecdotes, and case reports" and are grossly lacking scientific support through "randomized, controlled clinical experiments." Smithís use of junk science to support TPM and Millerís occasional acceptance and recommendation of it are tragic.

A foundational theory of TPM is described by Miller with reference to an article by E. James Wilder, followed by comments by Miller. Miller says:

Drawing on current brain theory,* Smith argues that such primal traumatic experiences with their false interpretations are registered in the right side of our brains, while our ability to understand data intellectually and objectively is the function of the left side of our brains.** He believes this explains why he was having no success convincing adult survivors of sexual abuse that they were no longer in danger: in order for them to be delivered from the emotional power of those lies they would need to learn the truth experientially, in a manner similar to how the lies were implanted in their brains.7

In the two footnotes for this paragraph Miller says:

*See James Wilder, "Current Brain Theory and Basic Theophostic Ministry," Journal of the International Association for Theophostic Ministry 1 (2003): 15-19.

**Wilderís development of this hypothesis (in ibid.) is far more complex than my use of the common right brain/left brain distinction might suggest. It is speculative and may not be accurate in fine detail, but it does seem plausible that the basic premise is correct: a different part of the human brain registers knowledge learned through experience than which registers knowledge learned through education.

In response to someoneís criticism of Smith for failing "to provide evidentiary data to substantiate these ideas about the neurophysiology of memory,"8 Miller refers to Wilderís article for proof. I attempted to find TPMís journal through all interlibrary loan means and learned that this journal is not available through any of the libraries throughout America. It is an in-house promo piece for TPM. This article on a scientific subject by Wilder in an in-house, self-promoting, non-peer reviewed (by qualified experts), unavailable-in-libraries journal would not be regarded as reliable in the scientific community. Failing to recognize this serious problem and compounding his error by adding his own amateur comments about it, Miller reveals another major drawback in his evaluation.

Rather than take Smithís, Wilderís, or Millerís word for it, I sought academic help. The above statement and footnotes were sent to two Harvard University professors and a University of Houston professor. Their responses follow:

"Sounds like bunk to me. Fighting this stuff is like fighting Hydra."

Dr. Richard J. McNally, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University.
 

"I agree with Rich [Dr. McNally]. This sounds like nonsense and I know of no evidence to support the Ďtheory.í"

Dr. Daniel Schacter, William R. Kenon Jr. Professor of Psychology, Harvard University.


"Current neuroscience has shown that memories are stored all over the brain, rather than in a specific hemisphere. There is strong professional agreement, based on the preponderance of empirical studies, that most people who were sexually abused remember all or part of what happened to them."

Dr. Susan P. Robbins, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Houston.

So, Smithís foundational theory, supported by Wilder and Miller, is "bunk" and "nonsense" according to two Harvard University professors and is contrary to "current neuroscience" according to a University of Houston professor.

One of Dr. McNallyís interests is the study of memory in people reporting histories of childhood sexual abuse. Dr. Schacter is an expert in the area of brain, mind, and memory. Dr. Robbinsí areas of specialization include recovered memories and false allegations of sexual abuse. It is understandable that these three professors do not have the time to examine TPM. However, I know enough about their academic work to conclude that they would be as critical of TPM as I am.

MILLERíS EVALUATION OF TPM

Miller briefly sums up the CRI evaluation of TPM as follows: "CRI finds nothing inconsistent with Scripture in TPMís core theory and practice" (bold added). Miller also contends that TPM fits a biblical world view.9

In describing "The Basic Theophostic Theory and Method," Miller says, "One of the elements that make TPM a radically new approach to healing emotional pain is the central place practitioners seek to give the Spirit of Christ in the sessions."10

Miller asks, "Does TPM illegitimately presume that Christ is willing to cooperate with the process?"11 Miller says:

If Jesus is cooperating with the process, then the apparent successes of TPM become readily explainable and many of the concerns raised by critics become groundless. If, on the other hand, there is no basis for assuming Jesus would respond to their requests then at best TPM is getting some positive results because participants, while mistakenly believing that it is Jesus who is revealing truth to them, are nonetheless facing truth about their past experiences and thus finding some release from the false beliefs that caused them pain (bold added).12

This is a serious biblical issue, which Miller has glossed over! If the "Jesus" of TPM is not the Jesus of the Bible, that should be the end of TPM! Nothing more need be said. If the "Jesus" of TPM is not the Jesus of the Bible, then how will the participants in this deception find the truth by believing a lie? And if the participant does find "truth," from whence did it come and what may be the consequences of following this sham? If the one conjured up is not Jesus, then it could be a spirit guide and the consequences may not become obvious until later. As a result of our extensive research, we conclude: The JESUS of TPM is NOT the JESUS of the BIBLE. Smith is guilty of psychoheresy and Miller is guilty of leaving the door open to this heretical use of Jesus.

Miller apparently sees nothing wrong and something potentially positive about the participants "mistakenly believing that it is Jesus who is revealing truth to them." If we rely on testimonials absent scientific support as in TPM, every inner healing we have examined, including those that are tainted by the occult, would qualify with their "positive results." Where is the question that inner healing researchers should ask, "If itís not Jesus, who is it?" In addition, why lend support to an inner healing approach in which a questionable "Jesus" is involved, such as TPM, even if there seem to be positive results? A question for Miller: Have you ever evaluated an inner healing approach that did not have, according to the practitioner, positive results?

CONCLUSION

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Tim. 4:3,4).

I have shown in this paper that Miller totally misrepresents our work; ignores Smithís claim for God being the direct source of TPM; finesses the fact that TPM is not new information, as Smith claims, but merely an eclectic combination of psychotherapies practiced by him for years, plus inner healing; fails to recognize the junk science involved in TPM; overlooks the damaging effects of Smithís practice of recovered memory therapy and visualization; gives his personal impressions and opinions on important issues without the necessary support where needed; disregards a number of the outrageous and unsubstantiated claims made by Smith; does not condemn Smith enough for his extreme misuse of Scripture; and finally undermines his own many warnings about TPM by leaving the door open for Christians to pursue it.

TPM is thoroughly unbiblical and lacks scientific support for its claims and practices. Smith admits that he could not find any biblical evidence for what he does.13 And, the research to date on TPM does not justify its use. Many have been deceived by TPM, and Miller will have to accept some of the responsibility for TPMís continued and expanding popularity and the number of victims it leaves in its wake, because he leaves the door open to its use, in spite of the warnings he gives.

Contrary to what Miller has concluded, we contend that TPM is biblically and scientifically rotten to the core. The "core theory and practice" of TPM involve psychotherapeutic theories and practices, which include recovered memories, visualization, and, at times, hypnosis. The conjuring up of a Jesus figure to answer prayers and give truth in the manner practiced in TPM is absent in Scripture and is centered on the sins of others and the accompanying "wounds" inflicted by others. This is just the opposite of what is seen in Scripture. The wounds received rather than the wounds inflicted on others is the message of therapism and not the Bible. TPM majors in hurts received rather than sins committed. TPM is not in Scripture. It is a product of our psychotherapeutic age in which there is a centering on self and playing the victim. The fact that Miller would leave the door open to TPM and yet consider that the "Jesus" of TPM may not be the Jesus of the Bible is biblically appalling!

Miller refers to Smith as being a "man of integrity."14 Smith has been in error biblically and scientifically for some time and has changed his verbiage and shifted his stance, often without biblically repenting of his errors and never, to my knowledge, asking forgiveness from the hapless victims of his Frankenstinian creation. As we have demonstrated in our book on Theophostics, as well as in this paper, TPM is not only psychobiblical; it is psychoheretical. In spite of what Smith has changed, what still remains of his current practices described in our book on Theophostics should condemn its very use.

Our research leads us to question Millerís judgment. Any fair reading of our book should lead one to condemn Smithís Theophostic concoction. Smith has transmogrified the truth of God to support his psychobiblical miasma that centers on false images of Jesus constructed through memory drifting, regressive therapy, and occult-like visualization that can occur through the use of his process. Moreover, Miller and CRI, an organization many trust, have left the door open for others to practice or participate in this charade from which Smith has greatly prospered financially. Smith looks more like a business entrepreneur who has a product to sell, redesigns it to make it salable, and denies what he has said and done to dodge criticism.

Our conclusion is that a fair theological and scientific evaluation should lead one to conclude that TPM should be banned for believers. Miller provides sufficient reasons in his paper to support our conclusion and yet he backs away from it. In spite of Millerís warnings, Christians will be sucked into the vortex of Smithís grandiose claims, cures, and cases absent any divine revelation or academic proof. Miller has failed the thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of victims of TPM past, present, and future! Christians need to heed Paulís urging: "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14).

As I thought about the seeming contradiction between Millerís critical remarks about TPM and his leaving the door open to its "core theory and practice," I thought about the critique we did on CRIís position on psychology. CRI supports an integrationist position on psychological counseling theories and therapies. TPM is a prime example of integration and perfectly fits what we call "psychoheresy." Miller would be open to a psychobiblical approach and is apparently attracted both to the psychological components of TPM and to what he sees as a reasonable biblical theology in its "core theory and practice."

While Miller went to great lengths to make sure Smith was not misrepresented, he totally misrepresented our psychoheresy position. It is contradictory and questionable why Miller, who spent so much time and effort to check out Smith, would not spend one minute to check out his comments about our work, even after personally hearing me describe it in detail. Furthermore, Millerís refusal to consider what we have to say, misrepresenting what we believe and teach, and evidently entirely avoiding reading our material on Theophostics or meeting with us makes one wonder. In addition, Miller refers to our book on CRI as a "booklet."15 Yet, there are books on the CRI web site far shorter than ours that are not labeled as "booklets." As an editor, Miller should know the difference between a book and a booklet. A simple dictionary definition will clarify it for him. The demeaning reference to our book as a booklet, along with his gross misrepresentation of our work, raises a question as to whether Miller has an inexplicable anti-Bobgan agenda that inevitably puts us in the worst possible light in order to discredit our criticisms of TPM and CRI.

NOTES

1 Martin & Deidre Bobgan. TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1999.

2 Elliot Miller, "An Evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry," Christian Research Institute, http://www.equip.org/free/PST001.pdf.

3 Ibid., p. 4.

4 Ibid., p. 1.

5 Ibid., p. 20.

6 Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 31-32.

7 Miller, op. cit., p. 5.

8 Ibid., p. 29.

9 Ibid. p. 6.

10 Ibid., p. 4.

11 Ibid., p. 10.

12 Ibid., pp. 10, 11.

13 Ed Smith. Beyond Tolerable Recovery: Moving beyond a tolerable existence to genuine restoration and inner healing. Campbellsville, KY: Family Care Publishing, 1996, p. 111.

14 Miller, op. cit., p. 27.

15 Ibid., p. 7.

(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, September-October, Vol. 13, No. 5)


Article Topics | Titles | Top

PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries
4137 Primavera Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93110
www.pamweb.org