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).
There are two major unbiblical problems with the Christian Research Institute (CRI). One is leaving the door open to psychotherapy, and the other is leaving the door open to Dr. Ed Smith’s Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). When it comes to problems of living, CRI has an insufficiency-of-Scripture view, which is why they leave the door open to psychotherapy.1 Our book CRI Guilty of Psychoheresy? which is available as a free ebook on our web site, enumerates the biblical and scientific errors in CRI’s open door to psychotherapy.2 While CRI leaves the door open to psychotherapy because of their insufficient view of Scripture, they leave the door open to TPM because of their deficient use of Scripture. In both open doors, psychotherapy and TPM, science is ignored, rationalized, or explained away.
It may appear that CRI’s open door to psychotherapy and open door to TPM are separate errors on their part. However, the two errors are intimately connected. It is because CRI leaves the door open to psychotherapy that they leave the door open to TPM. As we prove in our book about TPM, it is a combination of the elements of the worldly psychotherapies, known and practiced by Smith, plus inner healing. In our book on TPM we say: “As a result of our analysis we conclude that TheoPhostic counseling came out of the evil cauldron of the perverted wisdom of men rather than from the mind of God.”3
Elliot Miller, CRI’s editor-in-chief, gives CRI’s official position on TPM in his CRI web site article.4 My response to Miller’s article is found on our web site.5 One should carefully read both before concluding. In addition, one should read our free ebook TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy?6The two articles, Miller’s and mine, and our book on TPM will provide adequate grounds for the intelligent reader to accept or reject the claims of TPM and Miller’s open door to its use.
After confronting the many errors involved in Miller’s article I conclude that TPM is not a divine revelation, as originally claimed by Smith, but is a man-made system that is guilty of psychoheresy. With a corrupted view of Scripture and a falsified use of science, TPM is probably one of the most influential and dangerous combinations of psychotherapy and inner healing.
The recent issue of CRI’s Journal contains Part One of a two-part series on TPM. Part One is actually taken from Miller’s longer article on the CRI web site, cited earlier. There are slight, but important, variations between CRI’s Journal article and the CRI web site article. According to CRI:
Theophostic Prayer ministry (TPM), founded by Ed M. Smith in 1996, is an approach to “mind renewal,” or the healing of emotional pain. TPM is perhaps the fastest-growing method of inner healing or healing of memories in evangelical churches today. After an exhaustive evaluation, the Christian Research Institute (CRI) detects nothing unbiblical about the core theory and practice of TPM.7 (Bold added.)
In Part One of his Journal article, Miller makes the point that “there are possible degrees of error in the Christian church.”8 The question arises as to how serious are the errors of TPM. In my web site response to Miller’s web site article, I establish that both Smith and Miller are guilty of serious unbiblical and scientific errors and I give examples of them.
Miller is in serious error for many reasons, first of which is that he leaves the door open to TPM and also, in spite of his criticisms of it, encourages its use. In this article I will give one of many biblical errors on the part of Miller, which has to do with his cavalier attitude about the use of Jesus in the “recovered memory” journeys of TPM clients; and following that I will give one of Miller’s justifications for his many scientific errors.
Miller Errs Regarding TPM’s Use of Jesus
One of Miller’s many serious errors comes in his response to the following question that he asks: “Does TPM illegitimately presume that Christ is willing to cooperate with the process?” As part of his explanation, 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.9
Brief excerpts from my web site response to Miller follow:
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.10
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!11
Apparently Miller did not realize what a great biblical error he had committed until I called it to his attention. While his gross error is still in his web site article, it was deleted from his CRI Journal article.
Miller’s Recovered Memories Error
One of the many errors of TPM and of Miller’s support of it is the contention by them that TPM’s theory and method are supported by “current brain theory.”12 The supposed basis for the “current brain theory” supporting TPM is E. James Wilder’s article “Current Brain Theory and Basic Theophostic Ministry.”13
The paragraph, explaining how TPM’s use of Wilder’s “current brain theory” idea along with Miller’s support for it, was sent to three memory researchers: two distinguished Harvard professors and one professor at the University of Houston. I report on this in more detail in my web site article.14 Based on their examination of Wilder’s alleged “current brain theory,” which is foundational to TPM and which is espoused by Smith and supported by Miller, the two Harvard professors call it “bunk” and “nonsense.” And, according to the University of Houston professor, it is contrary to “current neuroscience.”
Miller’s current response to the three professors’ criticisms of Wilder’s “current brain theory” idea, to Smith’s use of it, and to his own support for it is that “this had nothing to do with my citation of Wilder! My topic was beliefs that are derived experientially, not recovered memories.”15 And yet, Miller refers to the TPM “method of inner healing” as “healing of memories.”16
I accuse TPM of being a man-made system riddled with error and leading to “a plethora of false memories.” The core theory and practice of TPM are fertile ground for developing false memories and they are likely to occur in large numbers, especially through “beliefs that are derived experientially.” Miller fails to understand that “beliefs that are derived experientially” through TPM and false memories are inseparable, which is reason enough to avoid them. No matter what precautions are attempted and implemented in TPM, the result of “beliefs that are derived experientially” will include false or distorted memories. Smith’s TPM system methodologically generates false memories. Therefore false memories are an integral and significant part of the TPM package and occur because of TPM’s core theory and practice. There is no way to avoid them.
Miller explains the TPM system by saying:
Smith’s interpretation of what is happening in such sessions is that in the same experiential manner in which the lie was first believed, Jesus now replaces it with His truth. He enters into the recipient’s memory so that she can reexperience the event with Him in the midst of it, giving her a true perspective of what happened [Smith says]: “Jesus brings present-tense experience into a past-tense experience creating a new experience.”17 (Bold added.)
Re-experiencing past events, and in most cases early past events, must include the use of memory. Miller’s claim that “beliefs derived experientially” in TPM are not “recovered memories” is erroneous to say the least. Reading TPM material and listening to Smith’s tapes would reveal the obvious and debunk Miller’s claim. In TPM the experience(s) arise out of long past, early life memories. It is transparent that one cannot access early life experiences without the use of one’s memory.
As one uses one’s memory to access those early life experiences that allegedly contain lies, one is subject to how memory works. The three professors who are memory experts are correct in condemning Wilder’s “current brain theory” and Miller’s support for it; they would be equally condemning of Miller’s claim that what Smith calls “beliefs that are derived experientially” do not involve “recovered memories.”
Mark Pendergrast has written a book titled Victims of Memory, which is recommended by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor and expert in the academic discipline of memory. After reading an article about TPM in Christianity Today, Pendergrast wrote to them saying:
I wrote to Ed Smith to ask his opinion about recovered memories of sexual abuse. His reply was extremely alarming: “I would encourage you to order from us the book, The Truth About The False Memory Syndrome, by James Friesen. This book is helpful. I really do not concern myself with what is factual in a memory. I focus on the emotional pain that is present and look for the belief that is producing it….” Smith’s cavalier lack of concern about whether memories of abuse are true or not is shocking. Your readers need to be warned about this man and his theories—not encouraged to seek his help. At a time when recovered memory therapy has been completely discredited, it is amazing to me that Smith is once again practicing it now, in the 21st century. It is particularly distressing that he is doing so in the name of religion, telling people that Jesus is the one who is revealing the “truth” to them.18
The main conclusion the three professors would have Smith, Wilder, and Miller understand is that, scientifically speaking, Wilder’s theory, Smith’s use of it, and Millers support for it are fallacious!
Miller distinguishes between TPM’s core theory and practice, which he supports, and the problematic aspects of TPM, which he labels “peripheral.” However, TPM is one seamless garment. The core and the peripheral theory and practice are seamlessly connected. While the peripheral issues can be discussed separately from the core theory and practice, they cannot be separated from them. If CRI would retroactively use their core/peripheral dichotomous approach with other individuals and ministries of which they have been critical, they would have much repenting to do.
CRI’s insufficiency-of-Scripture position with respect to psychotherapy has led them to a deficient use of Scripture, which results in leaving the door open to TPM. We affirm and CRI denies that the Word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of the saints are sufficient to deal with all the issues dealt with through talk therapy and TPM. By leaving the door open to psychotherapy and TPM, CRI is denying the Scriptures, relying on junk science, and thus utterly subverting the faith.
I believe I have made a solid biblical and scientific case against TPM and say, “Contrary to what Miller has concluded, we contend that TPM is biblically and scientifically rotten to the core.”19 I use the word “core” because the core theory and practice that CRI supports does not meet the biblical and scientific standards any more than other theories and practices used by others who believe their systems are not inconsistent with Scripture or science and with whom CRI would disagree. “Our conclusion is that a fair theological and scientific evaluation should lead one to conclude that TPM should be banned for believers.”20
1 Bob and Gretchen Passantino, “Psychology & the Church,” Four Part Series, Christian Research Journal, Winter 1995, Spring 1995, Summer 1995.
2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. CRI Guilty of Psychoheresy? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1998, www.psychoheresy-aware.org/bksonline.html.
3 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1999, p. 11; www.psychoheresy-aware.org/bksonline.html.
4 Elliot Miller, “An Evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry,” Christian Research Institute, http://www.equip.org/free/PST001.pdf.
5 Martin Bobgan, “A Response to the Christian Research Institute’s Evaluation of Theophositc Prayer Ministry, October 21, 2005, https://www.pamweb.org/images/Bobgan%2010-21-05%20Response%20to%20Miller.pdf.
6 Bobgan, op. cit., TheoPhostic Counseling; www.psychoheresy-aware.org/bksonline.html
7 Elliot Miller, “Theophostic Prayer Ministry: Christian Prayer, Occult Visualization, or Secular Psychotherapy? Christian Research Journal, Part One, Vol. 29, No. 2 p. 15.
8 Ibid., p. 17.
9 Ibid., pp. 11, 12.
10 Bobgan, op. cit., “A Response…,” https://www.pamweb.org/images/Bobgan%2010-21-05%20Response%20to%20Miller.pdf., p. 36.
11 Ibid., p. 43.
12 Miller, “Theophostic Prayer Ministry,” op. cit., p. 14.
13 E. James Wilder, “Current Brain Theory and Basic Theophostic Ministry,” Journal of the International Association for Theophostic Ministry,” Vol. 1, 2003, pp. 15-19.
14 Bobgan, op. cit., “A Response…,” , pp. 11, 12.
15 Elliot Miller, email to Martin Bobgan, October 6, 2005, p. 1.
16 Elliot Miller, “Theophostic Prayer Ministry,” Part One, p. 15.
17 Ibid, p. 16.
18 Mark Pendergrast, letter to Christianity Today, reprinted in PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 10 No. 2, p. 4.
19 Bobgan, op. cit., “A Response…,” https://www.pamweb.org/images/Bobgan%2010-21-05%20Response%20to%20Miller.pdf., p. 43.
20 Ibid., p. 44.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, July-August 2006, Vol. 14 No. 1