Focus on the Family: A Sham and a Shame

Part One

by Martin & Deidre Bobgan


Sometime back we did a series of articles on the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) in which we called the AACC "A Sham and a Shame" and then demonstrated why they deserve that epithet.1 We now apply that same epithet to Focus on the Family (FOTF). We wrote extensively about FOTF during the years that Dr. James Dobson founded and headed the organization. We wrote a book titled James Dobson’s Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology2 and numerous articles, which expose FOTF’s unbiblical and unscientific support of self-esteem and psychology. Simply said, Dobson, during the entire time he headed FOFT, was guilty of what we call "psychoheresy" and its spread world-wide, which we document in our writing.

We contend that the influx of psychology and humanism into the church is one of the greatest heresies, subtle seductions, and demonic deceptions in the American church today, and Dobson has been a powerful contributor. What is that heresy, seduction, and deception? It is "bowing down" to the unproven, unscientific wisdom of men rather than having total confidence and dependency upon the miraculous power of God and His Word in matters of the soul.

We use the term psychoheresy because what we describe is a psychological heresy. It is a heresy because it is a departure from the fundamental truth of the Gospel. It is a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture for the issues of life now treated with psychological and humanistic ideas, which utilize the very wisdom of man about which God has warned His people (1 Cor. 2). Psychoheresy is this Last Days’ seductive psychological and humanistic wisdom of man that has been one of the greatest ruinations of the visible church, because it undermines the sufficiency of the Word of God, thereby opening the door to other worldly philosophies and practices.

Before demonstrating that FOTF is a sham and a shame, we say up front that FOTF is a mixed bag of biblical and unbiblical teachings. We are not ruling out the use of factual information or human knowledge that may be helpful. However, while Jim Daly, Dobson’s replacement, has a biblical grasp of the orthodox doctrines of Scripture, it is his unorthodox application of those biblical doctrines and their often notable absence that we will note in this review.

We will reveal that FOTF, like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3 is a picture and practice of the church in the Last Days. Jesus says to the Laodicean church:

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Rev. 3:15-16).

When one mixes cold and hot water together, the result is sickening lukewarm water. When one mixes biblical orthodoxy together with psychological and humanistic wisdom of men, as does FOTF, the result is a watered down, lukewarm Christianity. This lukewarm FOTF form of Christianity is popular because it appeals to a lukewarm Last Days Laodicean-like church.

In addition, FOTF is guilty of resembling aspects of 2 Timothy 3:1-7, which begins with "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves" and ends with "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." While teaching sound doctrine at times, the FOTF’s deep involvement in this psychological and humanistic wisdom of men ends up being only a lukewarm knowledge of the truth. Daly inherited the leaven of Dobson that had come to full loaf, but he should have heeded the apostle Paul’s admonition to "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened" (1 Cor. 5:7).

Enter Jim Daly

In 2005 Jim Daly succeeded Dobson and is now the main host of the Focus on the Family radio program, which reaches an estimated 220 million listeners all over the world.3 FOTF is a world-wide organization and its web site is extensive, covering its various involvements and influences. The FOTF half-hour program is "carried daily on 2,000 radio outlets in the United States."4

To examine whether Daly and FOTF are continuing Dobson’s psychoheresy and humanistic tradition, we looked at several facets of its vast world-wide ministry. While Daly is the main host of the FOTF radio program, Dr. Julie Slattery, a licensed psychologist, is a co-cost. Having Slattery on as co-host continues the pro-licensed-psychology position of Dobson, also a licensed psychologist. The use of Slattery and other psychologists continues the FOTF position of the Bible plus psychology and humanistic ideas, and at many times it ends up being just plain psychology or humanistic ideas without the Bible.

Daly also continues Dobson’s practice of referring those who call FOTF to only licensed professional counselors in one’s local area. In addition, FOTF provides those who call FOTF an opportunity to speak with a staff "licensed Christian counselor." Local pastors are never referred to callers unless the pastor is a licensed professional counselor.

To put this Daly/Slattery duo to the test, we read a number of the Daly and Daly/Slattery "Dear Abby" type of newspaper columns. Before commenting on these articles, we quote from the annual Federal 990 Form, which requires an answer to the following: "Briefly describe the organization’s mission or most significant activities" (bold added). In answer to the question the FOTF yearly 990 Form states: "FOCUS ON THE FAMILY SHARES THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST WHILE PROMOTING BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES" (upper case in original). Because that is their mission (i.e., commitment, aim, goal, purpose, objective), we looked at each activity of FOTF through the prism of their mission statement.

We read a number of FOTF articles that were in newspapers across the country. In none of these articles did we find either a direct or indirect reference to "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" or "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES." As a matter of fact, the name of Jesus is entirely absent from every one of those articles, and no mention is made of "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" or "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES." None of the biblical doctrines related to Jesus’ teachings or the Gospel itself can be found in them. No mention of sin, salvation, justification, new life in Christ, or sanctification can be found in these articles. No reference to the depravity of man, the need for redemption and the cross of Christ, or His coming again. These newspaper articles are strictly the humanistic, psychological wisdom of men (i.e., opinions) absent "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" and "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES." If one did not know that FOTF purports to be a Christian ministry, one would never conclude that from their answers to the questions posed in the newspaper articles.

At the end of each article there is, like other "Dear Abby" types of columns, an email address to "Email your question." Let’s say that this is a ruse and their rationale is to attract the reader to FOTF and then to give them "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" and "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES." However, these newspaper articles are just like many other articles on their web site which are without "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" and "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES."

This is also true of the Chinese Outreach of FOTF. In checking with Deanna Goa, who heads the Focus on the Family Chinese Outreach, we learned that any FOTF messages going into China have a potential audience of 230 million, but do not include "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" and "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES," since they would not be approved by the Chinese government. We wonder how many of the FOTF messages to 220 million people world-wide are also purged of any "GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" and "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES" messages. Absent the Gospel message, what is left is an opinionated humanistic and psychological message; so why do Christians support the spending of huge amounts of money to send such messages to the world?

FOTF Web Site Q & As

We went to the Questions and Answers (Q & As) on the FOTF web site and found the following to be the first three questions:

"I suspect that my spouse is viewing pornography. What should I do?"

"Our marriage has lost its spark. How do we get out of this rut?"

"How should I act when my spouse is overly sensitive?"

The answer to the first question contains no Bible, but is filled with the humanistic wisdom of men and suggests as a couple they "seek professional Christian counseling." The answer to the second question contains no Bible, but again includes much humanistic wisdom of men (i.e., opinions) and suggests the following: "At some point you may also want to consider the option of enlisting the help of a marriage counselor," licensed, of course. FOTF also offers to "provide you with a list of referrals to qualified professionals in your area," who are, of course, all state-licensed psychological therapists. The answer to the third question does include three Proverbs in one sentence, but the Bible is absent from the rest, and once more FOTF gives humanistic opinions and humanistic psychological wisdom of men, absent "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" and "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES," along with the usual offer to "provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in communication issues."

We also read a number of other Q & As on the FOTF web site, particularly the ones on marriage, and found a potpourri of biblical, psychological and humanistic opinions, which even at their best give recommended "Resources," "Referrals," and "Articles" that are often psychological and humanistic rather than being biblically oriented.5 There were a number that did promote "BIBLICAL FAMILY VALUES," but none that we found with "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST" in terms of the evangelistic Gospel message. Because of FOTF’s vast Q & A resources, there may have been some with a Gospel message, but we did not find them. Yet, if they follow their mission statement, these would be in abundance. The face of FOTF with Dobson was primarily psychological and humanistic and remains primarily psychological and humanistic with Daly.

Through the years we have seen the intrusion of psychology and humanism into the thinking of most Christians. As Christians think according to these psychological and humanistic ideas, they compromise what the Bible says about the nature of mankind and the source of sin and use man-made means. Instead of preaching and teaching a pure Gospel, they attempt to alleviate the symptoms of sin. They are treating the symptoms of sin rather than getting to the root. So much of what FOTF does is dealing with the symptoms of sin rather than taking people to the cross, not just to receive the love of God, but to understand the depth of their own depravity that requires the blood sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God. Unless sin is dealt with at the cross and a person receives new life, people may work to improve external conditions and people may even get along better, but they will continue in their lost condition. What we see in so much of what we have read from FOTF is that the Bible is too often absent.

When sinners are given psychological and humanistic means of help, they may misunderstand the Gospel and be further deceived into thinking they do not need a Savior. When believers incorporate the thinking of the world, they will also incorporate the world’s tactics in their families and in their ministries. FOTF has been doing this from the beginning and we see these in their distorted attempts at "evangelism" as Daly attempts to deal with the symptoms of sexual sin.

A Half-Baked Gospel

The next seven Q & A’s on the FOTF web site are about homosexuality and are as follows:

"If I suspect my teen is gay, how do I approach this?"

"How should we respond to our children befriending our gay neighbor?"

"Why did God create homosexuality?"

"How should we respond to the school pushing ‘gay’ curriculum?"

"Why don’t Christians care about homosexuals and their families?"

"What should we do about our son who says he’s a ‘gay Christian’?"

"Can you explain and defend your ministry’s perspective on homosexuality and same-sex marriage? (Bold in original for each question.)

In the seven answers to the above questions with serious biblical consequences four lack any Bible verses and there is a repetitious encouragement to "provide you with a local counselor referral [state-licensed, of course] from our carefully screened data base" or to call FOTF directly to speak with a licensed professional counselor. FOTF even says, "We can’t overemphasize the importance of enlisting the help of a professional counselor." In none of these answers is there a quote from the Bible regarding homosexuality.6

As we reveal Daly’s theology about and fellowship with homosexual activists, keep in mind the following verses: Lev. 18:22; 20:13 and Romans 1:21-32, which shows the progression of sin from not honoring God to "dishonor[ing] their own bodies between themselves" (sexual sin in general) to the point where:

God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. (Romans 1:26-27.)

Our children used to play a game called "Where’s Waldo?" Waldo is a character whose picture is hidden in the art work amid many distractions, and the one who finds Waldo first wins. We looked throughout the FOTF web site. In addition to the above Q & As, we looked at others, read articles, listened to many broadcasts, and have not yet found an exegetical explanation of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality from Romans 1:21-32 or Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 and its application to practicing homosexuals. Why should it be easier to find a well-hidden Waldo than expository teaching on homosexuality that should be easily apparent in responses from a ministry that claims to be Christian, is so well-endowed, and reaches so many people world-wide?

In contrast to God’s clear condemnation of homosexuality, the FOTF answer to the second question above includes the following statements:

Perhaps the best place to begin is to be reminded of this important biblical truth: lesbians are no greater sinners than anybody else. Why mention this? Because the challenges you’re facing with these neighbors are in many ways no different than those confronting you in connection with any other family on the block.

Take the lead by inviting the lesbian couple and their kids over for dinner. Prepare a hot meal and deliver it to their front door. Look for changes to chat with them over the garden fence and help them out in practical ways. (Bold added.)

In answer to the third question above, FOTF says:

Please don’t misunderstand. In arguing this way, we’re not suggesting that homosexuals are somehow "sicker" or more "diseased" and "defective" than anyone else. Far from it. What we are trying to say is that there’s an important sense in which we’re all "abnormal"—some in one way, some in another. (Bold added.)

The FOTF answer to the fifth question above is:

It doesn’t matter who you are and what you’ve done, or how you feel about your sexual identity. God loves you unconditionally. He wants you to know His love in a deep and personal way. This is the Christian message in a nutshell. (Italics in original.)

In the answers to questions two and three above, replace the words lesbians, lesbian, and homosexuals one at a time with the words bisexual and transgender and read them again and you will get the full impact of what FOTF is saying. Note that FOTF refers to what they call an "important biblical truth: lesbians are no greater sinners than anybody else" and "we’re not suggesting that homosexuals are somehow ‘sicker’ or more ‘diseased’ and ‘defective’ than anyone else." In another place Daly warns "evangelicals to be ‘careful to not create a "super sin" out of homosexuality.’"7 This reveals that Daly and those at FOTF must be biblically ignorant of the fact that while all sin is an offense against God, there are some sins worse than others.8

Ron Merryman, in his article "Sexual Sins & the Culture," says, "All sin is evil, pernicious, and destructive but some sins are more so than others." He quotes 1 Corinthians 6:18-20:

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Merryman then concludes: "Fornication involves the complete personality (mind, soul, and spirit) and in turn damages the same. This passage dramatically illustrates that some sins are more destructive than others."9

This one unbiblical belief that one sin is no worse than any other underlies much of Daly’s unbiblical teaching and probably influences his view of how to work with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) and other activist groups. We will discuss more in Part Two about Daly’s fellowship with both LGBT and abortion activists.10

When used in this context, these answers are seriously half-baked and therefore a half-baked Gospel, which disregards the eternal punishment of those homosexuals who continue to sin and to reject God. What love is this when Daly fellowships with homosexuals who are in grievous sin and yet does not warn them of their eternal consequences? God loves us but we must believe the Gospel (condition) and receive new life (condition) for personal benefit, which should then result in walking according to the new life in Christ. Otherwise the homosexual could just go on sinning with the idea that "grace may abound," but as the apostle Paul said, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2.)

Daly repeatedly refers to God’s unconditional love outside the context of the rest of the Bible in his speaking, teaching, and writing, as one of his reasons to fellowship with LGBT and other activist groups, which is another one of his major flaws. In one of his daily broadcasts Daly tells a story of fellowshipping with a homosexual activist, where he says to the man, "I know that God loves you as much as he loves me,"11 but he neglected to say more than that. What a perfect place to at least begin to fulfill the FOTF mission to present "THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST"! However, nothing was said about that in Daly’s story and is also absent in many of his similar stories that we have heard and read. Daly’s half-baked Gospel message is as bad as only referring to such verses as "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) without presenting the full Gospel. That would be another half-baked Gospel message just as seriously in error as Daly’s half-baked version.

In support of practicing God’s unconditional love with homosexual activists without the rest of the Gospel, Daly quotes Titus 3:9, which says: "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." Daly uses this verse to teach against argumentation and for conversation with the LGBT activist groups, but Daly’s error is again in promoting a half-baked message. First, no mature believer we know evangelizes by arguing. Note that Daly avoids the rest of the passage, which is found in the next two verses:

A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (Titus 3:10-11.)

Many homosexuals claim to be Christians. In none of Daly’s reported conversations have we seen an attempt to find out if a homosexual claims to be a believer and in none of his reported conversations have we seen one "admonition," let alone a second "admonition," as the apostle Paul would recommend. While believers, because of God’s love, are called to evangelize the lost, whether or not they are homosexuals, Paul warned believers "not to keep company" with those who claim to be believers but who continue in fornication, which, according to the Bible, would include the sexual activities of homosexuals. (See 1 Corinthians 5 and Romans 1:18-32.) Daly is possibly in violation of these verses as he keeps company with these LGBT activists.

Daly also quotes 2 Timothy 2:23-26:

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

The above passages support loving kindness to one another and indeed to all, but there needs to be wisdom in what God would have us say and do in particular situations. Indeed, we are to treat all people with the love of God, but remember that God’s love includes both mercy and truth. Therefore if a believer is to have intentional meaningful dialogue with LGBTs who continue to adamantly live in sin and promote a sinful lifestyle by being an activist for it, there must be much more than saying, "I know that God loves you as much as He loves me." This is a half-baked teaching on the part of Daly. There must be prayer that the Holy Spirit would use the truth of Scripture to convict the sinner and the Gospel message needs to be given so that people might be saved and glorify God. If the message is refused, the believer is not called to be argumentative, but to be "gentle unto all men." Besides Paul’s admonition against strife, such would be a waste of time and effort.

Those we know who minister individually to homosexuals and others do not "get involved in foolish arguments"; neither do they give them half the message as Daly does, which may inadvertently affirm them in their self-condemning lifestyle. As followers of Jesus Christ, we may speak forth the truth of God and give reasons for our faith in Christ and our concern about any unbeliever’s lost condition while being "gentle to all men," but Daly’s approach is to not confront these activists with the biblical truth of their lost condition. At the same time, we support those who struggle with homosexual temptations and keep themselves pure in the Lord.

[In Part Two we will continue to present Jim Daly’s fellowshipping with homosexual activist groups and reveal that he has done likewise with Planned Parenthood. In contrast to Daly’s expressed views, we will present quotes from two of Dr. John MacArthur’s messages that conflict with Daly’s position on homosexuality and abortion.]

(Endnotes)

1 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, "American Association of Christian Counselors: A Sham and a Shame," parts 1, 2, 3, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2, 3.

2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. James Dobson’s Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1998.

3 Electra Draper, "Focus on Family asks abortion-rights advocates to help make abortion less common," http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17367578.

4 http://www.focusonthefamily.com/about_us/broadcasts.aspx.

5 When we use the word psychology we are referring to the field of clinical psychology with its theories and therapies, which prepares individuals to become licensed therapists or to become educators of this counseling mentality.

6 When we refer to homosexuality or homosexuals in this paper we are referring to those who are active unless we say otherwise.

7 "Jim Daly Aims to Broaden Focus on the Family Beyond Anti-Gay Marriage, Anti-Abortion Record," http://huffingtonpost.com.

8 Go to an internet search mechanism and type in "Are some sins worse than others?" and read some of the results.

9 Ron Merryman, "Sexual Sins & the Culture."

10 "Fellowship" is "friendly relationship." Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary. New York: Gramercy Books, 1996, p. 707.

11 Jim Daily, "Refocusing Our Lives," Focus on the Family, 10/15/12, hppt://www.focusonthefamily.com.

(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, January-February 2013, Vol. 21, No. 1)


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