The Sufficiency of Scripture over Theophostic Counseling

Theophostic Ministry continues to grow at a rapid rate nationally and is now becoming an international phenomenon. More Christians are hopping on the bandwagon to sample, experiment and learn this new approach to therapeutic counseling. Should Christians use it? Is it something for the church to adopt into its program? Let’s find out. --> The name itself -- "Theophostic,” (theos – God, and phos - light) — is the term developed by Dr. Ed Smith for a ministry approach that, he believes, God revealed to him because of not being able to successfully counsel people through their traumatic experiences.
The *Theory* of Theophostic
Theophostic operates under the premise that "all of us are emotionally wounded and need our hearts and minds healed by Jesus" (
Genuine Recovery, p. 1).

Our woundedness comes from painful past experiences — not from the experiences themselves, but from lies associated with those experiences that our memories persist in believing. Much of the sin we commit stems from such lies as well.
During the Theophostic process, Jesus Christ supposedly speaks directly to the hearts and minds of wounded people, exposing the specific lies that bind them. When this occurs, recovery is immediate and permanent, not gradual. That is, recovery is "genuine" as opposed to progressive. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" is a passage commonly associated with this ministry (John 8.36). This does not mean that the person is suddenly free from all of life’s issues, problems and concerns, but from the lies that bind them in that specific memory.

It is interesting that rather than using the Bible as the primary approach to determine the validity of Theophostic, Dr. Smith uses the pragmatic approach...

"All I know is that the people who have experienced this healing were blind (depressed, hopeless, shamed) and now they can see!"

He further states...

"I have witnessed the Spirit of God use Theophostic Ministry to accomplish this [freedom from lies and pain] hundreds of times" (Genuine Recovery, p.10).

Therefore, Dr. Smith’s argument leans more on the experiential rather than on Biblical absolutes. Results can help affirm a ministry, but should never used as merely a basis for authenticity. -->

Rather than dealing with Theophostic as a whole, I will simply touch on one particular aspect and relate it to the Bible. The aspect that I will be dealing with has to do with the origin of how Dr. Smith got the idea of a Theophostic ministry.

Dr. Smith describes how Theophostic counseling came to him after a session with "a group of ladies who were all members of our ‘Adult survivors of Sexual Abuse support group’ " (p. 30). He says...

"As I drove home that night I asked God to show me a way to quicken this process of shifting from embracing the lie to knowing the truth. I did not receive an answer that evening in the car but over the course of the next few weeks a simple yet profound principle began to emerge. It was as though a spigot had been turned on and the insight of this process began to flow through my mind.”

Dr. Smith continues...

"After I had searched long and hard for that ‘better’ method, He [God] gave me TheoPhostic so I would have no room to boast" (p. 31).

[In other words, it’s all of God and none of Smith.] Smith tells in detail and with the use of metaphors how "God was revealing this method to me" (p. 32). Elsewhere in the manual Smith refers to "God’s gift of TheoPhostic therapy" (p. 17) -->

When wondering why God would bestow on Smith such a new revelation as Theophostics, he reports...

“My wife Sharon believes the reason was a simple one. She said to me, ‘The reason He gave this process to you was because you asked.’ Could it be that simple? Did I ‘have not’ simply because I ‘ask not’? The bottom line is, I asked and He gave, and I am grateful and willing to share it with those who will listen” (p. 4).
Okay, so based on the words from Dr. Smith himself, Theophostic is a new therapy technique that God has given to him.

In light of these things, let me give the following...

What to do when something doesn’t work
Dr. Smith had clearly stated that his frustration for asking God for help came after his unsuccessful attempt to help a group of ladies from an adult sexual support group.

When you counsel someone or a group, and you seem not to be getting anywhere, there are three answers, but only TWO are possible...

  • First, the counselor himself is the problem. He may be using the Scriptures in a wrong manner, or there may be sin in his life blocking the blessings of God, or his skills are questionable, or he is tired, etc. -->
  • Second, the counselee is the problem. He or she may not be applying the Biblical principles correctly. Remember also this. Behind every sin lurks either IDOLATRY (a wrong concept of God) or UNBELIEF (a lack of faith in God and His Word). Some counselees do not get help because they are the problem.
  • Third, the Bible is the problem. Now we know that this isn’t possible. Therefore, while counseling someone, if it appears that neither you or the counselee is getting anywhere, ONLY the first two suggestions are possible – the third one is not.
Well, if this is true, then why do we need to look for ANOTHER SOURCE to use in our counseling? To do so would be as if we’re saying, “The Bible is not sufficient. I’ve done my job and the counselee has done her job, but still there are no breakthroughs. Therefore, *the problem* must be the Bible. What I need is another source to use in my counseling.”

Now no Christian would go so far as to suggest that the Bible should be taken completely out of the picture. Rather, deceptively, what will be suggested is that the Bible be left in the picture but add to it a *supplement* -- one such as a psychological technique known as Theophostics.
I am of the conviction that such a thing is not from God. Here's why I say that...

Is the Bible Sufficient?

The first place we need to begin is to ask ourselves. “Do we believe the Bible to be sufficient?” You say, “Sufficient in what?”

Sufficient to Save or Deliver – Listen carefully. NO ONE becomes a Christian apart from the Scriptures. God uses His Word to lead people to Christ by whom they become delivered and saved.
Note three facts in the verses alongside. First, Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures gave him the wisdom that led to his salvation. Second, the same Scriptures were inspired by God. Third, the same Scriptures are also profitable for training in righteousness.

In other words, if the Bible is enough to be God’s wisdom to SAVE you, wouldn’t it also be enough to be God’s wisdom to TRAIN you in righteousness AFTER salvation?

Why would we want to add a supplement?
  You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Tim. 3.14-17.
What is able to save your soul? The implanted Word of God.

Since God's Word is able to deliver you from sin, is it not able to also keep you delivered from sin and to train you in righteousness?
  Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
Jam 1.21
How does one GROW in respect to salvation? By the pure milk of God's Word.   Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. 1 Pet. 2.2
How are people sanctified (set apart unto truth)? By God’s Word.   Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth.
John 17.17
Again, I have to ask: Do Christians really believe the Bible is sufficient to give them the wisdom that leads to salvation, and then to train them in righteousness subsequent to salvation? If so, then why are we using extra-Biblical matters such as Theophostics and other psychological techniques for our holiness?

A Necessary Change in Focus
One major problem I see is that many Christians are being taught that the goal of the Christian life is to be FREE FROM PAIN rather than to BE LIKE JESUS. This is sad, but true.
You want to know one particular way this is done? Some churches have almost every imaginable support group possible. There are support groups for all the various forms of abuses, all the various forms of anger management, all the various forms of eating disorders, all the various forms of emotional pain from having grown up in a home of trouble makers, alcoholics and drug addicts. There are even support groups for people who have been abused by legalistic churches. Support groups for all the various forms of co-dependency. [One day there might even be a support group for those who are support group junkies!]

We’re told in the Bible to be like Jesus -- which sometimes may mean that we have to live with our pain.

When Paul was given the “thorn in his flesh” what did he do? He prayed three times, right? Then what?

The verses quoted alongside show us that God said [in effect].

“No, I am not going to remove the pain of the thorn from your life. Rather I want you to have it so you can experience MY STRENGTH through your weakness and suffering.” -->
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me -- to keep me from exalting myself!

Concerning this
I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.

God said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness."

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor 12.2-10

Now, let’s take Paul and magically transport him forward in time, into the year 2003 A.D. Then let's have Paul sit down for a modern day Theophostic counseling session...

  • Paul- “I'm having a lot of pain. I think it might be the result of a spiritual problem. Pride, probably. I asked God to take it away, but nothing. What should I do?”
  • Counselor- “Well, what have you done about it?”
  • Paul- “I’ve prayed three times.”
  • Counselor- “And. . .?”
  • Paul- “And what? That’s about all. I just simply brought it before the Lord and asked Him to take it away.”
  • Counselor- “And you still have it, right?”
  • Paul- Yeah man, but God did speak to my heart and told me something. . .” -->
  • Counselor- (Interrupts) “Paul, I commend you for praying, but have you ever considered Theophostic counseling?”
  • Paul- “Theo Fawcett? Say, isn't his sister Farah Fawcett -- that blond-haired Hollywood actress?
  • Counselor- “No, not her!” (thinking. “Boy, this man really does need help!”). “Paul, I’m talking about Theophostic. It is a counseling approach designed to take you back in your memory so that Jesus can help you to think differently about the bad things that happened to you.”
  • Paul- “Well, will this approach help me to become more like Jesus?”
  • Counselor- “What do you mean?”
  • Paul- “Will it help me to become like Jesus in His suffering? Because we’re told that Jesus, although He was a Son, still had to learn obedience by the things He suffered (Heb. 5.8). Perhaps my greatest need before God is to learn obedience. And if you take away my thorn, then my chances of learning obedience and becoming more like Christ might not be possible.”
  • Counselor- “Ah, well. . .uh. . .I never thought of it like that before.” (embarrassed and starting to turn red) -->
  • Paul- “Also, I remember what God inspired me to tell the wonderful saints at Philippi. I said to them, “that I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Eph. 3.10) My greatest ambition in life is to become just like Jesus. Even if it means that I suffer for a while, thus making me weak so that I can learn to depend completely on His sufficient grace for my life.”
  • Counselor- “Uh. . .well, okay. Paul, you know what your problem is? You’re too narrow-minded and Biblical. I was going to ask you to stay after the service and a group of trained Theophostic counselors would pray over you, but since you. . .
  • Paul- (Interrupts) “Please, don’t be angry. I’m sure that your theocrostic. . ."
  • Counselor- (Interrupts) “THEOPHOSTIC!”-->
  • Paul- “Whatever. . .I just want to be like Jesus and I’m sure you mean well. But when I was praying, Jesus did tell me that His grace was sufficient for me and that I should glory in my weakness. Because when I am weak, then I am strong in Jesus because I’m learning how to depend on Him daily for strength and wisdom. And you know what, as an educated man -- in case you didn’t know, I was trained under the great Gamaliel (Acts 22.3) -- I know a little about what the world has to offer."
  • Counselor- "What makes you so sure that you know about this world?"
  • Paul- "Because I was... 'Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ’ (Phil. 3.5-7). "So I know a little about what it is to trust in things other than Jesus. But if I am going to be like Jesus, then I want to depend on the Father in the same way that Jesus did. So I think I’ll choose to live with my pain until God decides otherwise.” -->
  • Counselor- “Paul, if all Christians thought like you did, we would not have a ministry.”
  • Paul- “Oh, I’m sorry. What is the name of your ministry?”
  • Counselor- “It’s . . . ah, never mind.”
  • Paul- “Oh, okay. But don’t worry. Although I’m leaving with my pain and weakness, I feel really good about coming tonight and talking to you. Oh, and one more thing.”
  • Counselor- “Yes”
  • Paul- “Do you have a picture of Farah Fawcett? I heard that she is really a knock out!”
  • Counselor- (Thinking, “God, please don’t bring any more Christians like Paul into this church.”)
So remember, the goal of Christian counseling is not to help people to get rid of their pain, but to help them to become more like Jesus. Sometimes, this means that a Christian must live with his or her pain and weakness in order to strive earnestly to learn more obedience.

For many of us, it is through our weaknesses that the power of God is more fully displayed -- to ourselves, and to the people around us.
So we need to STOP coming up with new and novel ways of counseling – as if the Word of God needs our help!

All Paul did was to pray! Imagine that. HE JUST PRAYED! There were no 12 steps. No counseling sessions. No Theophostics. No gimmick. Just total dependency on God. When we profess to offer the saints more than that, we are doing them a disservice.

Some folks might say, "But Rich, reading God’s Word, praying and obeying are all too simple. Science and scholars have come up with some very useful and sophisticated techniques and tools. Why shouldn’t we use them?"

Have you forgotten what Paul told the Corinthians?

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1 Cor. 1.25-29).

Stop going after worldly scholarship to grow a Christian. You want to take care of Christians Christ’s way? Then consider what Jesus did -

“so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with THE WORD” (Eph. 5.26).

The problem is not that God's Word has been tried and has failed, but that it hasn't been followed completely.

  • We need to take every thought captive to obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10.5).
  • We must examine ourselves and judge wrong attitudes, thoughts, and motives by God's truth (2 Cor 13.5; 1 Cor 11.28-31; 1 John 1.5-10).
  • We are to seek God with all our hearts and not lean on our own or the world's understanding (Psalm 63; Prov 3.5-7; Isa 55.6-11).
  • We are to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, not the things the world seeks (Matt 6.19-33).

No one who has done this can say, "It didn't work!" -->

Adding and Subtracting
God’s Word provides the following warnings...

  • “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book” (Rev. 22.17)
  • “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4.2)
  • “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deut. 12.32)
  • “Do not add to His words, or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (Prov. 30.6).

Very serious stuff here. Why doesn’t God want to us to be messing with His Word? Because it is COMPLETE! The liberals take away from it and the ultra-conservatives add to it – leave the Word alone and just focus on obeying it!

Did you know that once you became a born-again believer, God who came into your heart in the Person of Christ gave you all the ingredients you need to MAKE IT in this world and to make it WELL?

“seeing that His divine power has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1.3).

What more can be added to that? -->

We often hear about how people only use a very small percentage of their brains. What is it? Two percent? Three? Five at the most?

I think it is also similar in the spiritual realm. We only use a very SMALL percentage of all that God has granted to us in Christ Jesus. And yet we go looking for more, as if to suggest what we have been given isn’t enough; and some of us are willing to dish out our hard-earned money for more.

Do you remember listening to J. Vernon McGee on the radio many years ago? Remember the name of his radio program? “Through the Bible With J. Vernon McGee.” Remember how long it took him to preach from Genesis to Revelation? FIVE YEARS! Every day his radio broadcast was on, teaching about a portion of the Bible. It didn’t get completed until five years down the road.

Have you wrestled with God “through the Bible” over your issues and pain? Have you prayed and didn’t get the answers you wanted? Then be of good cheer, you’re not alone on the bumpy road of life. You're not supposed to be...

  • You’re to be just like Paul who said. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11.1)
  • You’re to be just like God – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph. 5.1) -->
  • You’re to be just like scores of other saints who depend on the Word and suffer hardship – “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess 1.6)
  • You’re to be like your brethren who likewise suffered – “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews.” (1 Thes 2.14)

What company to be in! I would say that it is better to be part of this crowd, whose goal is to be like Jesus, than to be part of the other crowd, whose goal is to be free from pain.

One final thing. Paul taught in Romans 8, three sufferings. Note that they are in ascending order:

  • Starting from the bottom (#3) – Creation groans
  • Next, in the middle (#2) – We Christians groan
  • Finally, at the top (#1) – The Holy Spirit groans
  • #3- And we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Rom 8.22
  • #2- And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, awaiting adoption, the redemption of our body. Rom 8.23
  • #1- Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Rom 8.26
Now folks, listen. If creation has to groan (being beneath us), and if the Holy Spirit has to groan (being above us, and inside us), what gives us the right to think we must do all we can to escape from pain and groaning in our lives?

What makes us think that we need to try every program or psychological technique to find relief from “repressed memories” or, otherwise, the pain of serving Christ will be just too much to handle?

Pain is a vital part of who you are in Christ! -->
Read Romans 8 again. The only way pain will go away -- TOTALLY go away-- is when your final redemption takes place (Rom 8.23).

So let’s read our Bibles, pray, obey God, fellowship with other believers and serve the Lord until He comes. In the end, you’ll be more like Christ and less like Freud. How so? You’ll be thinking less of yourself and more of others.

Is not this the fundamental reason why we suffer? Amen


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