TPM (Theophostic): a technique built on a lie(s)

A little while ago a person in one of my church groups said that it appeared that I was ‘anti-Theophostic’. I replied that I was anti-anything significant that takes believers away from the truth of the gospel.

I have previously documented the lofty ambitions of TPM, the organisation behind ‘Theophostic’, and the questionable need for the technique. But I am here now to record that, after carefully looking at the Scriptural basis for the core belief behind TPM (as ‘Theophostics’ has now been rebadged), I am indeed ‘anti-Theophostic’.

At the heart of TPM is the belief that what Jesus Christ did for us was an incomplete solution to our condition:

Even though I was made totally new in my spirit person when I was saved, my core beliefs remained relatively intact. The Lord’s death took my sins away having them all nailed to the cross, but it did not change too much of my lie-based belief (emphasis mine).

And here:

We died with Christ and were created anew in righteousness and holiness of the truth, but most of what we believed prior to the cross followed us out of the tomb. Of course there was a change in what we believed regarding our situation of being lost and needing a Savior, and about Jesus being the price of our redemption. Believing these truths with the heart resulted in our justification (Rom. 10:10). Nevertheless, many of our false beliefs about who we are and who God is remained the same (emphasis mine).

Just in case you didn’t get it – TPM materials intentionally contain much duplication – the Smiths describe this incomplete gospel with a graphic example:

The day you came to cross of Jesus and believed in your heart the truth of the Gospel, you were crucified with Christ and were raised up with Him so you might “walk in a new way of life” (Rom 6:1-5) as a new creation. However, on this same day while standing before the cross of Jesus you were also holding a suitcase in your hand. This suitcase contained everything that you believed. Some of its contents reflects the truth, while much of it did not.

While standing before the cross you came to believe in your heart that Jesus death was payment for all your sins. You put this truth in your suitcase along with all that you still believe. In that moment you also realized that you died with Christ and shared in His death. Three days later you are raised up as a new creation from the dead with Christ. However, you are still holding your old suitcase that is filled with most of the same lie-based beliefs that were present before the cross and resurrection and your new creation (emphasis mine).

Do the Smiths give any Scriptural support for their belief that it is the normal Christian experience for Christ’s forgiveness to have bypassed our ‘false beliefs’? No.

And it’s not because they are against using Scripture. In support of their claim that ‘TPM draws from the principles of God’s Word and seeks to apply them rightly’, they have 75 statements of what they believe, each supported by a verse or passage from the Bible.

But nothing even close to a defence of a post-salvation ‘suitcase’.

Five of these statements mention these lies that we are all meant to be harbouring. Here are the Scriptures that go with each statement:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [NIV].

There is no support for the Smiths’ claim that this unrest has its root in their ‘lie-based thinking’.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” [NIV]

There is no support for the Smiths’ claim that the disciples’ fear was due to their ‘lie-based thinking’.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen [NIV]

Paul is talking to those who need salvation, not believers. Even if the audience was relevant, the verse does not support the Smith’s equation of ‘a lie’, in the verse, with their post-salvation ‘lie-based beliefs’.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love [NIV].

This does not support the assertion for which it is given: ‘fear and other similar emotions are rooted in lies’.

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Life Through the Spirit

8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death [NIV].

Whether one believes that Paul was talking about his pre-conversion or post-conversion experience, and I am firmly on the side of the former, the passage is no support for the Smiths’ idea of some of our former self carrying over to our new life.

The truth is that the old self’s corruption included not only the sin inherited from Adam and his descendants (Exodus 34:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and your own sin (Hebrews 10:22), but also the effects of what others had done to you (Zechariah 13:6; 1 Peter 2:21-24). These sins of others also shaped you as a person, and caused the fear, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, poor self-esteem, and lack of trust that the Smiths say are rooted in ‘lie-based beliefs’.

However, contrary to what the Smiths say, and build a man-made technique on, these went, along with all the other effects of sin, when Christ died on the Cross, was buried, and rose again. See, not only did He die FOR you [Romans 5:6-8], but He died AS you [Romans 6:6-7].

He died for you. 100% of you. Not you with a suitcase full of issues that was immune from His sacrifice – you come up from the water of baptism completely cleansed from all sins.

As our Lord said, ’It is finished!’ [John 19:28-30]. Let’s get…Back to The Gospel.

 

But it works

I was telling them about the result of my investigation of a prayer technique for when you are feeling bad. I had misgivings. This touched a nerve in a couple of them: their response was effectively ‘It worked for me, so I won’t hear anything against it.’

This logic didn’t seem right. And it didn’t feel right by the Bible.

A bit of research (Galatians 6:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21) confirmed both things.

Judging a process based on the result is faulty thinking. It’s called ‘outcome bias’. A good result this time doesn’t automatically mean a good result the next time.

What about the Bible?

First up, the result may have been God. Even if the method was wrong. God’s mercy at work (for instance, Eldad and Medad in Numbers 11:24-30), and perhaps the desperate woman in Mark 5:25-34).

But maybe it wasn’t God. It could have been Satan (for instance Matthew 24:242 Thessalonians 2:9). Or it may have just been the power of suggestion. Either way we’ve not become more like Christ.

Second, the only way to guarantee a God-honouring result is to play by His rules.

Let’s get…Back to The Gospel.

 

TPM (ex-Theophostic): you feel bad but is TPM the solution?

Who doesn’t feel bad at times – sometimes for extended periods.

Good news then: the purveyors of Transformational Prayer Ministry (TPM) say they’ve got the solution. The introduction to TPM on the website says that TPM is for people[1] who feel bad and want those feelings to go away[2]:

No wonder then that the TPM organisation has such lofty ambitions for TPM.

But not everything that is available, or even popular, is right for you. So, let’s examine TPM, using Scripture as our standard.

To be fair to TPM, we should look at it in the way that the authors suggest: purpose and principles before process[3]. And use their material, The Essentials of TPM.[4]

Let’s start with its purpose[5].

The purpose of TPM is to provide a frame of reference that views life’s difficulties from a heavenly perspective, so we might intentionally and purposefully cooperate with what God is doing as He refines our faith, renews our minds and transforms our lives [page 172].

How do we access this ‘divine vantage point’[6]? By being ‘positioned’ through the TPM process[7]:

The only way that we can have God’s truth and perspective is by having God persuade us of it. The good news is; this is exactly what He wants to do! However, we need to be in the proper position to receive it. What we will learn in TPM will help us move to the place where God can shine His light of truth into our hearts [page 19].

This process achieves ‘the ultimate goal of TPM’:

The ultimate goal of TPM is that the person might know the truth within his or her heart, resulting in the effortless and maintenance-free expression of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives [page 18].

This is not via additional knowledge but by ‘transformation’:

Transformation is accomplished through an inner work that is brought about by God. The Scriptures point out,

“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

We are being transformed by God, not by our own efforts. This transformation is the purpose and goal of TPM. Transformation is the outcome of the work that God is doing within every believer [pages 20-21].

The purpose of TPM is therefore to provide ‘both a frame of reference and a process by which we can co-operate with God in this refining [transforming] process’ [page 22].

The result of this co-operation with God is that it ‘expedites what He is trying to accomplish’ [page 37].

Having seen the purpose of TPM, let’s now turn to Scripture.

TPM was a recent invention of man. How did Christians survive before it was invented?

Feeling bad? Scripture says that we should be controlled by the Holy Spirit (e.g., Ephesians 5:15-18; 1 Peter 5:6-11), not by our emotions. Speak to God, cry out even. See the Psalms. Talk to other believers (e.g., Galatians 6:1-10). (Yes, from these things you may end up with a specialist helper, but even there Scripture can be the guide.)

To build up my insulation from feeling bad, I would continue with the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:1-2): increase my knowledge of God by reading and studying His Word, pray, and spend time with other Christians who also want to ‘grow in the Lord’ (2 Peter 3:18).

And Scripture’s answer to accelerating this transformation (Hebrews 10:14), TPM’s ‘expediting’? Do more of the above.

Let’s get…Back to The Gospel

 

 

  1. TPM is for Christians:
  2. The early training that he developed (which he then called “Theophostic Prayer Ministry”) focused primarily upon training ministers, counselors, and lay people in how to help those viewed as the emotionally wounded. Unfortunately, because of this early perspective, TPM came to be viewed by many as a “recovery” ministry for those who could not manage their emotional pain in healthy ways. Because of this limited view, much of the Body of Christ did not consider TPM for themselves since they did not put themselves in the “emotionally wounded” category. It would be over a decade before Ed Smith would come to realize that TPM was not about pain management or “healing the past” (or healing anything for that matter), but rather about faith refinement, mind renewal, and genuine transformation available for all’ [The Essentials, 8].
  3. The ‘Three P’s of TPM’ [The Essentials…page 7]
  4. Ed Smith & Joshua Smith, Second Edition, New Creation Publishing, Simpsonville, 2019, downloaded from Welcome to TPM – Transformation Prayer Ministry, 4.12.2020.
  5. If you are already convinced that TPM is something that you should use, please still read on: the authors say that if you don’t understand the purpose of TPM, you ‘will not likely see any need for more once [your] pain reaches a tolerable level’ [page 10]. And that, they say, would mean that you would miss out on the benefits of making it part of your lifestyle [page 11].
  6. The Purpose answers the question, “Why should we learn and apply TPM?” It provides a frame of reference or, more accurately, a divine vantage point from which to view life’s difficulties. When we are able to understand our difficulties from God’s perspective, we can then more intentionally participate in His purpose, which is to refine our faith, renew our minds, and transform our beliefs and, subsequently, our behavior’ [The Essentials…, 168-169].
  7. The TPM Process (what happens in a ministry session) has a specific purpose and intent: to connect with negative emotion, identify lie-based thinking, and receive the Lord’s perspective that results in transformation’ [The Essentials…, page 56].

 

Transformational Prayer Ministry (TPM) wants to redesign how we do church

Ed Smith, the inventor of Theophostic Prayer[1], thinks that everybody, in every ‘church’ in the world, needs his invention[2]. Never mind what kind of prayer it is, can any invention of man warrant such a claim?

Ignoring the fact that the Bible gives us what we should do in order to grow and honour our Lord, Ed wants TPM added to the spiritual disciplines described in the Word. And not as something that can be chosen by a ‘church’ member if they feel like it, but as something much more invasive: first, he says that TPM should be so ingrained in the nature and way of operating of their ‘church’ that it will be impossible for them to avoid; second, he says that TPM should be the default way for all of us believers to interpret our ‘daily life experiences’.

And all of this is from something that didn’t exist until 1995.

Here it is in the words of Ed and his son:

Our long term vision for TPM is to equip churches worldwide to incorporate the basic concepts and principles of Transformation Prayer Ministry into the “DNA” and culture of the Church, so that members may learn to naturally and spontaneously apply TPM to their lives as a spiritual discipline. By knowing and embracing TPM they will be able to willfully and intentionally cooperate with what God is doing in refining their faith/belief, as they submit themselves under “the mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5:6) and thereby “be trained” by His discipline that will produce the “peaceful fruits of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11)[3]

You can read more of their ‘…Vision for the Worldwide Church’ in their training manual, The Essentials of TPM.

Now this wouldn’t matter if they were the aspirations of somebody unknown, for a product that is unknown, but this is not the case with Ed Smith and Theophostic. A quick look on the internet shows that its being used all over the place. [Edit: link added 8,03.2021].  For instance, it’s been in the assembly I attend for many a year, and I have every reason to believe that it is still available[4]. And when it is spoken of around me, it is only to tell of its good results, and to recommend it as a solution to things in the past causing present troubles.

I don’t know what you think, but for me, let’s get…Back to The Gospel.

 

 

  1. Recently it rebadged itself and freshened up the approach, but the basic tenets remain. It’s now called ‘Transformation Prayer Ministry’ or ‘TPM’.
  2. The Essentials of TPM, Ed M. Smith and Joshua A. Smith Second Edition 2019, page 313, downloaded 5 March 2021 from https://www.transformationprayer.org/tpmstudyguide/.
  3. The Essentials of TPM, page 313.
  4. From the Safe Ministries Policy and Procedures document on the website 5 March 2021.