In Defense of Theophostic®

Why this Christian approach to inner healing and transformation is Biblical, workable and a good choice for many people

by Dwight A. Clough

(Update 2/12/2012)
It has now been over ten years since we had our first experience with Theophostic
® Prayer Ministry. At that time, my wife and I were in a desperate search for something to alleviate her 24/7 panic that led to suicidal desires unless controlled by medication. On September 13, 2001 she had her first half hour session. The next morning, she threw away her medication and lived panic free without it for a couple of years.

Naturally, we were excited. This was the breakthrough we needed, and we shared our excitement with anybody who would listen.  We continued our Theophostic
® journey, each of us receiving hundreds of hours of ministry, and each of us learning to facilitate the process, facilitating hundreds of hours of sessions for others, and training other facilitators as part of a network connected with Steve Freitag's CrossCounsel ministry.

Over the years we've learned to be a little more careful about how we share this ministry. Obviously, we don't recommend that anybody get rid of their medication without consulting the right health care professional. Huge breakthroughs sometimes occur in the first half hour, but, for most, this is a process that takes time. You may experience sessions where you feel like you've had an earth shattering experience with God, you may experience other sessions where it seems like nothing is really happening. Patience and persistence are needed with this, as they are needed for so many other good things in life. We've also seen that Theophostic
® is not for everyone. Some people aren't ready for it; some people need something else in this season of their lives.

Having said all of that, let me also say this: Theophostic
® has completely changed how we view life, ministry and our faith. I've shared many of these paradigm shifts in my writings over the years, and those reflections have resonated with people all over the world from Pakistan to the United Kingdom, from Australia to Colombia, and certainly all around the United States. Here are some of those paradigm shifts.

God likes you. He likes hanging out with you. This was a huge one for me. I thought God was mostly disgusted with me most of the time and He only loved me because that was part of His job description. It never occurred to me that God might actually like me. Guess what? He likes you too.

Your Father in heaven likes to have a conversation with you. I know that some Christians will hear that and run for cover. Years ago, I would have joined them. But think about it. I write books for a living, and I have four kids. Do I like it when they read my books? Yes. But my relationship with them goes way beyond the book. Same way with God. The Book is the plumb line, but it isn't the relationship.

We all walk around with two different belief systems. It's difficult to overstate the importance of this, and how much this reality completely eludes the vast majority of Christians. Example: You may know that you are forgiven, but not feel forgiven. We are told to ignore our feelings and affirm our (correct) beliefs. Nonsense. Our feelings are our beliefs, our real beliefs, our hidden-below-the-surface beliefs that drive and dominate our experience.  The disciples had some good, orthodox beliefs about Jesus before they got into the boat, out on the lake, into the storm. Then their real beliefs took over.  We're going to drown. We're dead. Jesus, sleeping in the boat, was operating on His real beliefs. I'm completely safe. Notice what it took to change the disciples' real beliefs: an experience with Jesus. This is where the church has missed the point. We keep dumping information on people and wondering why they don't change. They don't change because we're feeding the wrong belief system. It's our experiential beliefs that need to change. We need truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51). We need an experience with Jesus. And I'm not talking about falling down at the altar, frothing at the mouth, babbling something that nobody else understands. I'm talking about a quiet, life-changing encounter with the Person who loves you more than anyone else in the universe. When you "get" this, I guarantee it will change how you look at everything.

Satan's biggest tool is deception. Sin has little power when deception is removed. Why is it that someone can have a three-hour Theophostic® session and lose a ten-year porn addiction? Because the deception that was driving the addiction was removed. God does things like that. Now understand that not everybody will experience those same results in that same amount of time. But the principles are the same for everyone. Remove the deception and the problems the deception is causing will go away, or, at the very least, will suddenly become manageable. So many people are fighting a losing battle against sin when they don't need to be. Have the courage to face the hurt. Bring it to Jesus. Let the deception be removed. Find the truth that sets you free.

Many of these paradigm shifts have found their way into my writing and form some of the underpinnings of my most recent book project, The Easy Bible®.  Much more could be said, but I'll push pause here and invite you to read the following ...

(Main article ... revised and updated 7/19/2006)

Since the mid 1990s, Theophostic® has emerged as a powerful tool to bring transformation, mind renewal (Romans 12:2), and Christ's healing to emotional pain. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of Theophostic® Prayer Ministry, and despite its broad base of support among Evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics, there are still a few people who believe that Theophostic® is somehow wrong or dangerous. Critics have published ominous sounding papers on the web attempting to refute something they interpret as Theophostic®.

Why is this? Why have some critics become so entrenched in their opposition to this form of ministry? I believe there are several reasons.

1. I believe that most of these critics have started with the premise that Theophostic® is wrong (for whatever reason). When you start with that belief, it is enormously difficult to change that position. It is much more comfortable to interpret everything within the grid you have established, even if that grid is wrong.

2. Embracing the transformational underpinnings of Theophostic® Prayer Ministry requires a huge paradigm shift away from performance-oriented Christianity to a faith where we admit we are truly helpless apart from the empowering grace of Jesus Christ. (See John 15:5, for starters.) It took me thirty years to make that transition; it comes as no surprise that others are struggling with it.

3. It takes courage to take this journey because it forces us to stop and take a long, hard look at ourselves, at what is going on deep inside. Most of us would rather not do that. It's much easier to create arguments against the process than it is to go through the process.

4. Some critics have had a negative experience with a poorly equipped Theophostic® prayer minister. A little knowledge can be dangerous. Some people without completing the prescribed training, without establishing the right network and supervision have attempted to do something they call "Theophostic" with negative or (rarely) disastrous results.

Even if a Theophostic® prayer minister certification program became available (none currently exist), the best thing a ministry recipient can do is become as knowledgeable as possible about this process. At minimum, I recommend that a recipient check out the official Theophostic® website (, download the ministry guidelines, and read Healing Life's Hurts. Those who have viewed the basic seminar videos and/or read the revised 2005 training manual tend to move forward more quickly because they understand the process that much better.

Theophostic® advocates are so busy helping people that they often don't have time to respond to the many criticisms that are published. I hope this brief article will allow those who would like to explore Theophostic® the opportunity they need to give it the consideration it deserves.

I should say at the outset that I am not associated with Dr. Ed Smith or his ministry, and I donít pretend to speak on his behalf. I speak merely as a person who has experienced and observed the benefits of this type of prayer ministry. I encourage you to check out the official Theophostic® website

Is God allowed to do something new?
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19a

God has the right to do something new. In every generation, there are people who challenge His right to bring new insight, new discovery, new methods, new technology to the people He created. Pioneers are always criticized and often persecuted. Galileo was ordered to recant, the Wright brothers were ridiculed, Tyndale was martyred, Jesus was crucified.

If you were dying of cancer, and someone invented a cure, would you refuse it because you cannot conceive of God withholding the knowledge of a cure for thousands of years, and then revealing it suddenly in these "last days"?

Gutenberg (considered by many to be the most influential person in his millennium) revolutionized not only the church, but also the entire world with his invention of the movable type printing press. In a sense, his invention wasn't new (Ecclesiastes 1:9) -- he just recombined existing technologies and discovered a revolutionary application for them.

In the same way, the basic principles of Theophostic® are, in a way, nothing new. God speaks to His people (John 10:27 among many related passages). Satan is a liar (John 8:44). Truth sets us free (John 8:32). When the Son brings truth, there is true freedom (John 8:36). Share our struggles with and confess our sins to God (all of Psalms for starters).

The genius here, is that these truths have been recombined in a new way; a new paradigm has been realized that brings powerful and good results.

Are Christians allowed to dabble in psychology?
Some Christians are suspicious of Theophostic® because it uses some truth that psychologists have discovered. For example, it acknowledges that we are complex human beings, and our present way of experiencing life is heavily predicated on our early childhood experiences. They feel that any information that does not come from God's inspired written word, the Bible, cannot be reliable. They seem to have forgotten that God did not use Divine revelation to get names for all the animals He created. Instead, He used science. He told Adam to discover, to classify, to name. That process of science has continued now, for over 6000 years. Of course, some scientific discovery is skewed by sinful attitudes, godless philosophies and human limitation. But, if you throw it all away, you really must get rid of most of the food you eat, burn the house you live in, destroy the car you drive -- they are all the product of science.

Some critics label Theophostic® as "Freudian," and argue that it replaces sin and guilt with insight psychology. I say, wake up and look around. Is God really as simple as your theology? Is man really as simple as your anthropology? The human experience is incredibly complex. Yes, sin is a reality. Yes, guilt is a reality. But sin and guilt is not the sum total of who we are. In God's universe, multiple dynamics operate simultaneously in the same system. It is easy to shame people with our pat answers about their guilt. It is harder to bring the healing and delivering power of Christ into someone's life to set them completely free. Yet, I suggest to you that this is the gospel -- the good news -- the euangellion. The gospel is not just a prayer at the end of a tract that admits that I am a rotten sinner and need to be forgiven. It is much more. It encompasses the entire redemptive work of Christ.

That Theophostic® exchanges moral accountability for a victimization mentality leading to bitterness and desire for revenge simply has nothing to do with reality. The critic who suggested this obviously has had no contact with people who have been through Theophostic®. The Theophostic® process is about forgiveness. My wife was horribly abused by someone outside her core family. She has always wanted to forgive her perpetrator. But only through Theophostic® has she been able to deeply forgive and release this man. This forgiveness came about not through her own effort, but through the healing presence of Christ.

One critic suggests that Theophostic® is hedonistic apparently because it releases people from pain. He claims that sanctification, growth and maturity would involve pain and "negative emotions." I'm faced here with the thought: Do I even need to respond to this? I guess I will. If pain is so desirable, why did Jesus go around healing people?

Some critics are troubled by the thought that the Theophostic® process takes place somewhere other than in the part of our mind where we do our logical thinking. Here's a logical problem for you to solve: If everything we need can be received in our logical mind, then why were the disciples terrified while Jesus was sleeping on a cushion on the bottom of the boat. And why, after He woke up and calmed the storm, did Jesus say, "Where is your faith?"

I ask you, "Where was their faith?"

I will suggest an answer: It was in their logical mind. But it wasn't their logical mind that was terrified.

There are other parts of us, you know, and those parts of us need Jesus just as much as our logical mind needs Jesus.

What about sin, discipleship, and self-control?
One critic points to the several passages on "self-control" to establish that Christianity is not the effortless freedom that Dr. Smith describes, but rather a "struggle." But the most famous verse in the Bible on self-control shows us clearly that self control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The struggle here, then, is not to produce self-control on our own, but rather to access the deep river of God's grace.

Note that the way of the transgressor is hard, but Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Some object to the idea that some guilt and shame is false. I think this conflict arises because people are living in different worlds, dealing with different issues. The pastor who is trying to confront a person who climbs into bed with the wrong person, that pastor knows the sinner's guilt and shame are real, based on sin. But the therapist who is dealing with the woman who feels terrible shame because she was molested at age three -- the guilt here is false. It wasn't her fault, and that false guilt needs to be taken away.

Notice the pattern in the way Jesus ministered. When it came to prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors and other sinners, Jesus first set them free, then told them to "go and sin no more." But, when it came to religious leaders who thought they were better than everyone because they had enough self-power to produce their own righteousness, Jesus came at them swinging. He plowed into their hypocrisy, and stung them with His rebuke.

Many people do not understand the difference between freedom and responsibility. I am responsible not to look at porn. So when an advertisement for one of those sites appears in my email inbox, I immediately delete it. That's the responsible thing. I do that whether I am tempted to go to the site advertised or not. But freedom comes when Jesus gives me His mind and His heart toward that kind of material and it just doesn't pull on me any more.

This is why some people struggle almost every waking moment against an insatiable desire to drink alcohol. Perhaps they've been dry for years, but yet they struggle. They are responsible, but they are not yet free. When Jesus sets them free, alcohol loses its pull on them.

Galatians is a powerful book because in it we are exhorted to move beyond responsibility into freedom. Jesus wants us free.

When critics speak of lies people believe, they are often speaking of superficial lies that come about in adult experience. But Theophostic® is focused on lies that are usually implanted at a very young age, are deeply buried, and often go unrecognized. Does it really come as any surprise that the devil would look for ways to damage vulnerable young children, and take advantage of their gullibility to implant lies deep in their hearts?

2 Thessalonians 2:10, Romans 1:18 and other passages are quoted by critics to establish that those who believe Satan's lies are guilty of sin. These interpretations, in my mind, help to establish why God alone is Judge, and we are commanded not to judge others. Every human being, except Jesus and innocent children, crosses the line and sins at some point. True guilt is established. God will judge because He knows exactly where the guilt is and where it is not. A three year old child who believes a lie told to him or her by Satan is not guilty of sin. Remember, they are only children.

I think the relevant verses here are: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. And, mercy triumphs over judgment. All of us were vulnerable, fragile, gullible children at one point.

However, what seems to happen as a result of Theophostic® is this: When these childhood lies are exposed and deliverance comes from Christ, persons receiving ministry suddenly realize areas where they have sinned and go and make them right. For example, a wife may be delivered from lies surrounding childhood abuse, and then realize that she needs to apologize to her husband for some of her behavior in the marriage.

In my own experience with Theophostic®, I am ready and willing to confess and repent of whatever sins I may have committed. I don't go to Theophostic® as a way of escaping responsibility for my sins. I go to Theophostic® because I want Jesus to have 100% of my heart, including everything that is deeply buried inside me.

One critic objects that the demolition of strongholds mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 could have nothing to do with Theophostic® because our weapons are truth, salvation, faith, righteousness, and prayer. But look at Theophostic®. It is about replacing lies with truth. It is about salvation - i.e., Jesus saving, delivering, rescuing, healing, fixing the things we cannot fix on our own. It is about the righteousness of Christ. And the process is prayer, nothing more or less than good old fashioned prayer. The only difference is, we expect, believe and receive answers to those prayers. God really does show up and He really does deliver people.

Critics haggle with Dr. Smith on his trichotomistic (spirit, soul and body) view of man. Although I could respond to their objections point by point, I think it boils down to this: Dr. Smith is trying to explain what he sees happening, and is using orthodox Protestant theology to do so. Even if his theology is inaccurate (and I don't think it is), that doesn't invalidate the process. It only invalidates part of Dr. Smith's explanation of why the Theophostic® process works.

One critic says that Dr. Smith takes John 8:36 out of context when he uses it to discuss the freedom that Christ brings through Theophostic®. The freedom here, the critic argues, is freedom from sin, not from painful memories. But this is a very superficial analysis. John 8:36 is a summary statement characterizing much of Christ's ministry. This good news of freedom is expanded in passages such as Isaiah 61:1-3. Jesus sets us free from our slavery to sin, and also from all the effects of sin in our lives. I don't think anyone could dispute that Christ's freedom comes to us in steps, one supernatural deliverance at a time. Let's not box Jesus in and tell Him that He must free us only from our sin, He may not free us from our pain.

Is God allowed to be pragmatic?
Critics object that this process is so experiential -- it originated from an experience, rather than from a scholarly review of the Scriptures; it relies on a real live meeting with Jesus, rather than on recitation of Bible memory verses; it is validated by people truly being set free from bondage, rather than by proof texts.

When Jesus shows up, He always faces these criticisms. "Where did this man get his teaching, having never studied (in our club)?" "With power and authority He cast out evil spirits ... he spoke as one having authority, not as the scribes and the Pharisees." I say, "Let God be God." When God shows up, things change. New paradigms are introduced. Authority to make changes in the real world, miraculous changes far beyond our ability to produce or duplicate, is present whenever God appears.

Some Christians are so afraid of the supernatural that they forget something: God is supernatural.

Critics are concerned because they find no Bible verses telling us to "embrace the emotion, and return to the source and origin of the lie." There are also no Bible verses telling us to print tracts, teach Sunday School, open coffee houses, start a bus ministry, or do any of thousands of activities we do as Christians. Yet we do these things and God shows up and blesses them.

If Theophostic® is as revolutionary as it claims to be, why did God wait until the 1990s to unveil it as part of His plan? Ultimately, I don't know. But I do know that almost every tool the church uses to make disciples, from the printing press to airplanes, came into use after thousands of years of waiting. And I know that God has always been a healing God, and that He wasn't prevented from healing anybody in the past just because Dr. Ed Smith wasn't on the scene, any more than He is prevented from healing anyone in the present because Dr. Ed Smith has critics. He does what He wants to do. And, just perhaps, He wants to do something new in these last days that will give His church a greater impact on a lost world.

Critics claim that Theophostic® is extra-Biblical or anti-Biblical. But I have yet to see the proof that it contradicts Scripture. Sometimes it forces us to look at the same Scripture in a new way, but that is not a bad thing. Jesus and the apostles often pointed out new applications for Scriptures that had previously been seen from a different perspective. For example, Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 to introduce the then radical concept of the Trinity. Throughout church history, certain passages of scripture have "come alive" at different times as God begins doing something new in the church.

Does Jesus really speak to His people? What about the Bible?
God speaks to His people (John 10:27 among many related passages). This doesn't invalidate the Bible or relegate it to second place. Sometimes when Jesus speaks in a Theophostic® session, He actually gives a Bible verse. This has happened to me more than once -- I've been given portions of 1 Kings 19:11, Psalm 16:11, Hebrews 13:5 in Theophostic® sessions. I had memorized these passages, but Jesus knew exactly what I needed and brought the precise Scripture that would set me free. At other times, He has needed to say things to me that aren't Bible verses. For example, He once described someone in my life as "a broken man trying to be whole." As a result of that word, I immediately experienced a much deeper compassion and respect for this person.

I believe there is a place for memorizing Scriptures and meditating on them. I believe in positive confession - that is, remembering and reciting the promises of God. Dr. Smith's point is this: There are some issues that require a precise word from Jesus to the precise place in our soul where the lie is stored and the pain is generated. Quoting verses, even relevant verse, doesn't get the right word to the right place to make the difference. God needs to step in and do what only He can do.

Richard Wurmbrand who spent 14 years in prison for his faith, was asked what Bible verses sustained him through all the torture and cruelty he experienced. His answer? There are no Bible verses that can bring you through that kind of experience. Only God can sustain you.

Jesus warned the religious leaders of His day that although they were proficient at searching the Scriptures, they had missed the God of those Scriptures, and, as a result, had missed eternal life. As Christians we must take care that we worship God, not the Bible. God saves us, the Bible doesn't. God uses His word, but God does the saving, the healing, the washing, the forgiving.

What about the flaky people who are doing Theophostic®?
There is an effort on the part of at least one critic to pin on Theophostic® a guilt-by-association charge, because he experienced dominant women using authority they had gained in their Theophostic® ministry role to emasculate the men in the church. He had a bad experience in his church with someone who claimed to be a Theophostic® minister. Now he condemns all Theophostic®. This is like finding a rotten apple and concluding that all apples are rotten.

Yes, there are people claiming to do Theophostic® who are not well enough themselves to be attempting to do prayer ministry with others. Some claim to do Theophostic®, but don't understand the principles and are really doing something else, something that can cause damage. If Theophostic® is really of God, and I think it is, it should come as no surprise that the devil will attempt to damage and discredit it wherever he can.

Aren't we supposed to forget the past?
Many critics rip Philippians 3:13 out of context and claim that we should never return to painful childhood experiences because we are to "forget the past." In context here, however, Paul is talking about forgetting past accomplishments made in the flesh.

Hurting people don't want to dwell on past hurts. They would like nothing better than to forget the past. The problem is: the past won't forget them. Once they are able to return to the past with Jesus and resolve what is disrupting the present, the past fades, and these same people who were hurting so badly are set free to live full and productive lives in the present.

The passage in 1 Corinthians 13:11 about putting away childish things, again doesn't apply. The verse is merely a way of illustrating that there are stages in the plan of God, just as there are stages in a person's life.

What about the demonic?
One critic objected to the supposedly Theophostic® notion that Christians can be inhabited by demons. But Theophostic® doesn't say that Christians may be demon possessed. Rather it acknowledges that even God-loving Christians can be afflicted by demons, and these fallen angels, as a rule, inhabit the lies deeply buried inside us. Paul complained of a messenger from Satan sent to torment him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Also the issue of demonization and dealing with demons is a secondary issue in the teaching of Theophostic Prayer Ministry and many people are reporting great success who hold differing views in this area.

Isn't Theophostic® just about Ed Smith's need to be successful?
Dr. Ed Smith came upon the Theophostic® approach when he cried out to God in his frustration over not being able to bring anything more than "tolerable" recovery to survivors of incest. You can look at this in two different ways: You can say, here's a guy with a midlife crisis who needed something to prove to himself that he was successful, so he fabricated this process which just happens to be wildly successful. (That claim reminds me of Aaron's statement to Moses, "I threw the gold into the fire and out jumped this calf!") Or you can say that we never really accomplish anything in life until we come to the end of ourselves and our own resources and rely on God to do what we cannot do.

You have to decide for yourself.

Some also criticize Dr. Smith for not being responsive enough to their criticisms. The truth is, the training materials have gone through extensive revision and improvement over the last five years as a response to the criticism. Ed Smith acknowledges in many places that he has appreciated the criticism and has made many changes as a result of such.

I cannot and do not speak for Dr. Smith. But I do come back to the famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt, "It is not the critic who counts ... The credit belongs to the man in the arena." While I understand concern over mavericks that take off without heeding authority and without accepting any accountability, we must also recognize that without pioneers such as the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther and others, the church wouldn't be what it is today.

Is Theophostic® a cure-all? Is it for everybody?
Of course not. It's just another tool. It has its place, just like Bible memorization has its place. Neil Anderson's Freedom in Christ material is good and can integrate well with Theophostic®. Confession of sin is important, and Theophostic® is no substitute for admitting our guilt before God. Theophostic® is a powerful tool that can benefit many people; but it might not be right for you. Who am I to say what you need at this point in your spiritual journey? That is for God to decide; and He will give you insight into that as you seek Him in prayer, in the Word, and in counsel with godly, mature Christians. Bringing healing to people who have been deeply wounded, even with Theophostic®, can be a tedious process. That's why I hope and pray for new discoveries and new paradigms that will make Theophostic® obsolete in some cases. There are so many needy people, that I hope and pray for something even more miraculous to come along. Maybe God will allow that. But, in the meanwhile, I'm sticking to Theophostic®.

One person complains that the Theophostic® model relies on case studies of sexual abuse almost exclusively, and therefore cannot be applied to the general population. That's an interesting objection. Anyone who has struggled with the aftermath of this type of abuse understands its devastating effects. Therefore, the testimonies here are dramatic, because the wound is so deep. When Jesus opened the eyes of a man born blind, the testimony was stunning. But that didn't limit Him to only working with blind people, any more than Jesus now delivering survivors of this kind of abuse limits Him to only working with that population. Dr. Ed Smith, naturally, is going to speak from his experience; and much of his experience centered around working with incest survivors. As more and more people practice Theophostic®, more testimonies will filter in from others, and the literature will be more balanced. In my own case, I have no memory of ever being abused in this way, yet Theophostic® has been an enormously beneficial part of my spiritual journey.

There's plenty of mud, but does it stick?
Some critics want to attach nasty names to Theophostic® -- names like Gnosticism, heresy, occultism and sorcery. This is sad, but it is nothing new. Throughout history godly men and women have been labeled heretics and worse. Particularly in the centuries before and after the Reformation, vicious persecution came from fellow churchmen, who woke up to the reality of what they had done only after the blood of thousands of martyrs was shed. Jesus also faced name calling and character assassination. "It is by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that he casts out demons," his religious critics sneered. But Jesus cautioned His critics to take care. "All sins and blasphemies can be forgiven," He said, "but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit." He said this because His critics were attributing His work to the enemy.

Even Gamaliel prevailed in the Sanhedrin with a voice of reason. "If it is from God," he said, "you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

None of us wants to embrace heresy or practice sorcery. And none of us wishes to blaspheme. Some or all of us may be mistaken on some points, but let us use gentleness, restraint and wisdom in dealing with one another when we disagree. The name of God is at stake.

I have to skip over the criticisms of so-called professionals who obviously haven't even read with any care the basic information available about this process. When people refer to Theophostic® as "guided imagery," as "reprogramming the conscience" with self-effort, as "victimization," as "sanctification by works" it is clear to me that they are reacting to something they haven't studied and don't understand.

False memories?
At the forefront of the current controversy over Theophostic® is the so called "false memory" debate. Critics of Theophostic® label it as just another regression therapy where therapists implant false memories of trauma and abuse in the minds of their clients. Critics warn of the danger of this because innocent people may be prosecuted for crimes they didn't commit. This is an important objection that needs to be looked at carefully.

Can memories be lost and later recovered?
Sure. That people sometimes blot out traumatic events is so well documented that I hardly need to prove it here. Survivors of car accidents, for example, often can't remember much of what happened, even if they are conscious at the time of the event. In the much publicized case of Elizabeth Smart, a breakthrough occurred when her younger sister recovered a lost memory concerning the identity of the kidnapper.

Can false memories be implanted?
Sure they can. People who are highly skilled at committing crimes against children sometimes deliberately implant false memories to throw the healing process off track and keep their own identities from being discovered. And, yes, therapists and ministers can implant false memories. There may be people claiming to practice Theophostic® who are implanting false memories, but, if there are, they are ignoring the safeguards that have been put in place by Dr. Ed Smith.

What kind of safeguards are in place to prevent false memories from being implanted during Theophostic®?
Facilitators are carefully instructed never to suggest memory content ("Oh, do you think you may have been sexually abused?"), always to reflect back just what the person reports without adding any shade of interpretation to it. Facilitators are also instructed not to comment on the validity of recovered memory content. These and related safeguards are repeatedly emphasized in training materials. Recent refinements in the Theophostic® process make it even more unlikely that false memories will be implanted.

How much validity do we place on recovered memory content?
We understand that memory recreates the past with whatever interpretations were present at the time. This is why the testimony of various eyewitnesses of the same event will differ somewhat. (This incidentally, is the legal reality that prompted Frank Morison to write his powerful book, Who Moved the Stone?) We also understand that memories usually emerge slowly, in fragments, some of which may later be revised. So Theophostic® facilitators are warned to be extraordinarily cautious about trusting the validity of recovered memory content. Our goal is not to determine the accuracy of each recovered memory, but rather to bring a person to the peace that Christ offers.

What is the purpose of recovering traumatic memories?
Some people think that we in the Theophostic® community are on a witch hunt -- that we want to recover memories of abuse so we can confront, prosecute or even gain revenge on perpetrators. Anybody who has experienced real Theophostic® should know that this "revenge" concept is totally ridiculous. The goal of Theophostic® is to bring a person to Jesus so that Jesus can bring peace and calm. In case you haven't heard, Jesus isn't into turning His followers into revenge seekers (Romans 12:19). One of the evidences of the validity of Theophostic® is that survivors typically forgive perpetrators from their hearts, and are forever set free from any fear and hate that the abuse may have created. This happens not by denying or suppressing any righteous anger associated with the event, but rather by acknowleding it and correctly processing it. Whether and how survivors choose to take steps against a perpetrator to prevent him or her from harming others is up to the survivor, within, of course, the context of any laws governing how that information is to be handled.

Some people say that we are retraumatizing people by taking them back to traumatic memories. Again, when Theophostic® is correctly practiced, that is not the case. First of all, no one visits a memory unless they choose to. No one is pressured to make that choice. Furthermore, people who have studied the effect of trauma on the brain report that repressed traumas continue to torture people with psychosomatic symptoms, addictions, compulsions and/or panic -- until the traumatic memories are revisited and resolved. Once they are resolved, they lose their power over the survivor. It's no wonder that people often report after a Theophostic® session that they feel "a thousand pounds lighter." The tremendous psychological weight of that buried trauma has been removed by Jesus, never to trouble the survivor again.

Who are the people claiming that recovered memories are false?
I suspect the false memory community (and watch the web for me to be misquoted on this) consists of a mixture of the following:

(a) sincere people who believe the false memory message or are troubled by the idea of recovered traumatic memories

(b) people who commit crimes against children who don't want to be discovered

(c) survivors of childhood trauma and abuse who desperately hope their worst nightmares aren't true or who have been bullied into supporting this position

(d) therapists who need to make a lot of noise to cover their own failure to help survivors of childhood trauma

(e) innocent people who have been accused of crimes and/or abuse due to false memories being implanted by therapists or ministers using non-Theophostic or improperly applied Theophostic® techniques.

If you are interested in pursuing Theophostic®, you should ask a prospective facilitator what safeguards that person uses to avoid implanting memories. If they don't have an answer that satisfies you, find someone else.

For additional information on recovered memories, repressed memories and safeguards in this process see

I have little interest in armchair theology. I wouldn't bother responding to the criticisms of Theophostic®, if I did not believe that this is a powerful, God-given tool that deserves a serious consideration.

I believe that many who criticize Theophostic® are sincerely interested in defending Biblical Christianity and all that it represents. I think constructive inquiry, examination and dialogue is possible and desirable. We must each remember that no one of us has exclusive right to all of the truth. That right belongs to God. Our individual inadequacies should keep each of us humble enough to seek God and to learn from one another.

What we can learn from the Theophostic® controversy (added 5/27/2006)

I have to confess that when I wrote the first version of this article four years ago, I was personally torn up inside about what I perceived as the unjust criticism of Theophostic® prayer ministry. Since that time, the Lord has done a lot of work in me and has brought me to a place of much greater peace about the differences that exist. Though I continue to believe much as I did four years ago, I approach this controversy with a different heart, and I wanted to share that with you.

I'm thankful for the controversy surrounding Theophostic®, for it provides so many opportunities for us to grow in so many ways.

For those of us in the Theophostic® community, the criticism of Theophostic® has been a wonderful opportunity for us to sharpen our thinking, improve our communication, and deal with our own "stuff." It has kept us from getting sloppy in our theology and in our practice. It has reminded us to network with one another and learn from one another. For that, I offer a big "thank you" to our critics.

Has the criticism kept some people from getting the healing and transformation that they could have received? No doubt it has. But let's look at this from a larger perspective. The controversy has helped slow the growth of this wonderful move of God to a manageable rate. Those of us who train others in prayer ministry understand how much time and effort it takes to become proficient with Theophostic® prayer ministry. Explosive growth would create countless infrastructure challenges. Now is the time to train and get the training we need to handle the huge influx that is coming.

As we approach these issues, let us begin by checking our hearts. Is there a reason inside that we need one conclusion to be right and the other to be wrong? What would happen to our world if we were wrong? Are we willing to be honest with ourselves about all of this and hold these things up to the Lord?

If we aren't willing to be honest with ourselves and with God, then we can get scripture to say pretty much anything we want it to say.

In 2 Peter 1, the Bible says to add to our faith virtue and to virtue knowledge. Many people forget these steps and become theologically muscular, but spiritually destitute. In Revelation 3, Jesus counsels such people to buy from Him ointment or salve to put in their eyes so that they can see.

We want and need wisdom to know God's mind and heart on these things. Let's remember, according to James 3, that the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, modest, benevolent, full of mercy and of good fruits, not judgmental, sincere. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace unto those that make peace.

So how do we deal with conflict? Matthew 18 details the steps we should take when we believe someone is doing wrong. Before we name names in public, do we go to that person in private? If not, why not? If so, what was the outcome of that attempt at reconciliation and resolution?

And, for those of us who feel we have been unfairly characterized -- is that tapping into something? Is our internal response appropriate? Does it radiate the presence of Christ and the fullness of God's Spirit? Jesus assures us that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

If the peace of Christ is not reigning in our hearts, then this controversy is an opportunity for us to reach out to Jesus and find in Him what we lack, for the Scripture says, apart from Him we can do nothing.

Most importantly, issues come and go, but people are forever. Where is our heart for the people that are embroiled in this controversy? I pray for my critics because someday we all stand before God. God places tremendous worth on each person including those who criticize me and the things I believe. Put another way, Jesus didn't die for junk. God is not stupid. He did not throw away the blood of His Son. For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. If I love Jesus, then I must love the brother or sister who disagrees with me.

What is the biggest obstacle for the church to overcome in embracing Theophostic®?

In my view, it is letting go of performance-based, try-harder, I-can-do-it-myself Christianity. The idea that we really are helpless apart from Christ (John 15:5), is such a paradigm shift for most Christians that I have devoted much of my writing ministry to helping people understand and celebrate this reality.

If you're looking for someone to do Theophostic® prayer ministry with you, you might begin here, or you may wish to call a few pastors in your area. I've had good experience with Steve Freitag of CrossCounsel, who does both ministry and training for people all over the USA and beyond. If you would like to know more about our own Theophostic® journey, check out my book, The Gift of Transformation. Or check out The Easy Bible

Dwight A. Clough

Dwight Clough Ministries Inc., and Dwight Clough appreciate and give positive testimony to the benefits of Theophostic® Prayer Ministries, but we are not in any way endorsed by, officially connected to, or affiliated with Dr. Ed Smith or any entity, corporation or aspect of Theophostic® Prayer Ministries. In addition, Theophostic® is a trademark of Alathia Ministries, Inc., of Campbellsville, Kentucky and Dr. Ed Smith, its founder and developer of, who is the only one who has the right to define it. Any other types of ministry mentioned or promoted on this site are not a part of what we understand Dr. Smith to define as Theophostic® Prayer Ministry and are not offered as a substitute for the Basic and Advanced Theophostic® Prayer Ministry Training provided by Dr. Smith. For further information about Theophostic® Prayer Ministry, its developer Ed Smith, D.Min., or to order training materials, please visit or call 270-465-3757.

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