Tom and guest TBC staff member Mark Dinsmore discuss some of the dangerous spiritual practices that are being utilized even within the evangelical church today.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael, we’re glad you could be here. In today’s program, Tom welcomes TBC staff member Mark Dinsmore to discuss extra-biblical movements, beliefs, and practices currently popular in Christendom. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today and next week, I’ll be talking with Mark Dinsmore, who’s on our staff here at The Berean Call. We’re going to be discussing extra-biblical movements, beliefs, and practices that have grown popular – very popular – within Christendom. And they claim to be spiritual – mostly they’re healing programs and teachings that supposedly will solve the issues of the person’s life that are inhibiting him or her from their spiritual growth.
Mark and his family are now living in the state of Washington, yet through today’s communication technology, we are in communication daily, right Mark? Mark, again, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, and I’m blessed that you’re part of our staff.
Mark: Yeah, thanks, Tom. Great to be in the studio with you, as always.
Tom: Yeah, even though it’s long distance [both chuckling]. So, Mark, I want to start off with some background regarding our subject, and I think it would be good to begin with this. Nearly all - actually, I can’t think of an exception – all of the movements that we’ll be addressing consist mainly of spiritualized psychotherapeutic concepts. I’ll repeat that. They consist mainly of spiritualized psychotherapeutic concepts. In other words, they have dressed up in psychological concepts from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and others, and have presented them as though they were biblical.
Now, in addition to that being fraudulent, it easily seduces Christians who might disdain psychological counseling but think the programs, because of the claims, not to be psychological but are okay because they’re “biblical.”
We’re going to cover things such as inner healing, Theophostic Counseling, which has been changed to Theophostic Prayer, SOZO, which is a part of, well, the movement in Redding, California - this would be Bethel Church and their involvement. They’re certainly, I would say, the headquarters of this.
But, Mark, let’s talk, first of all, about cloaking psychobabble in spiritual terms. Now, I’ll just start off with some things – maybe we can…you know, you can, and then I will just give a little understanding of what they’re about. For example: psychic determinism, regressive therapy, the idea of the subconscious, the inner child, and then healing of memories.
Now, most people would recognize those terms as being psychological. For example, I have a copy of Seduction of Christianity here, and I’m looking at some things that Dave and I wrote with regard to Freud, and the reason being because in the inner healing movement – the idea of healing of memories where there might have been trauma in somebody’s life that they’re trying to get to – they’re really based on Freud’s really discredited theory of psychic determinism. Now, here’s the quote from a psychology textbook that describes the belief that “human behavior occurs in accordance with intra-psychic causes and is actually controlled by impulses, many of which are buried in the unconscious below the level of awareness.”
Now, this is both a Freudian idea and a Jungian idea, and the whole idea is that we are controlled by things that supposedly are in our subconscious or our unconscious, and there have to be methods and techniques that get at these problems, so what those who have been spiritualizing this, trying to make it sound biblical without using those terms, they would say, “Well, you know, there’s a blockage here that’s inhibiting my growth in the Lord.” Now, they don’t know what the blockage is, but they will take us through (well, not me, not you, Mark. Hopefully not many of who I’m talking to) but for some people, they buy this, and they say “Yes, I…somehow I can’t…I’m not maturing. There’s some blockage.”
So they come up with, Well, it’s got to be hidden in your…whether they use “unconscious” or if they would throw it into the spiritual realm, they would say, “Once we find the key to this, that blockage is going to be moved and you can move on in your walk with the Lord.”
What do you think, Mark?
Mark: Well, you’re absolutely right, Tom. Unfortunately people, instead of turning to the Word of God and to biblical counsel, they get drawn into these techniques and methodologies that appeal to the flesh, to the emotion. I think there are some sincere people involved – both those who use these techniques and those who are seeking healing. Many of them are sincere believers, but they’re simply using, as you said, Jungian and psychological techniques, not biblical remedies.
Tom: Yeah. The inner healing movement – we talked before we started recording about, wow, this goes back at least three decades. Dave and I discussed quite a bit of this in The Seduction of Christianity, which was released in 1985, but this stuff had been in the works before then, and certainly you can’t talk about inner healing without talking about the woman who was really the most influential in this, and that would be Agnes Sanford. She was the founder of the the School of Pastoral Care, where she trained and influenced a host of inner healers. Now, some of our younger people may not know these people, but I would think for the most part our audience would, and that would be individuals like John Wimber, who was a leader within the Vineyard movement; Richard Foster, who wrote Celebration of Discipline - his book was promoted among evangelical Christians as the…I think it was the most popular - not the most popular, but I think it was “the most influential book” of the 1970s. There was John and Paula Sandford…. Now, Mark, aren’t they still part of the Elijah List? Or tell me about them.
Mark: Well, their ministry is the Elijah House, and just for the listeners, they did associate and work directly with Agnes Sanford, but they’re no relation.
Tom: Right, there’s an S-A-N-D in their name and Agnes Sanford is “Sanford.” So, there’s no…
Tom: ...confusion there.
Mark: And there’s further confusion, because Agnes Sanford’s son was also John, and he was, interestingly, a Jungian analyst.
Tom: Yeah…so, we can see that there is...no matter how they say this isn’t psychological, you know, this is steeped in Jungian and Freudian psychology. But there is also Francis MacNutt, who is a former Catholic priest, who is one of the big-name inner healers. And as a former Catholic priest, one of the techniques…I’m kind of getting ahead of myself, but they use all kinds of techniques: visualization, for example, and Francis MacNutt - they would try to visualize Jesus, or attempt to visualize Jesus, or say they were visualizing Jesus – but for Francis MacNutt, with his Catholic background, he said, “Well, you can also visualize Mary,” and these things are all, in their view, efficacious.
Then there was Ruth Carter Stapleton, who was the sister of our former president Jimmy Carter, and then David Seamands out of Antioch College in Kentucky, who was one of the…among the more conservative evangelicals. He would be a huge promoter of the whole inner healing movement.
Now, Dave, when he was talking about Agnes Sanford, here’s a quote from Occult Invasion, which has a great deal to say about what we’ll be talking about today and next week. Dave writes, “For Sanford [this is Agnes Sanford], anything was acceptable that enabled one to tap into what she called this flow of energy, this high-voltage of God’s creativity, claiming that we are part of God. Sanford also called God ‘Primal Energy’ and called Jesus ‘that most profound Psychiatrist.’”
So, Agnes Sanford, again, with her influence not just through her school but all the people that she influenced, this is religious science, folks. This is mind science. This is basically homogenized Hinduism – the idea that God is in everything. We’ve talked about that in other programs that panentheism is that God is within everyone, and pantheism is God is everything and everything is God. So, a huge problem there.
Now, Mark, one of the things that she taught – one of the techniques…and you will see, as we’re going through all of these different programs, theophostic, or SOZO, which we’ll mention a little bit later, they’re all involved with methodologies and techniques and practices – almost all are occultic. Right, Mark?
Mark: Absolutely. Yeah, as you indicated, you and Dave wrote about this over 30 years ago, but it never went away.
Mark: Agnes taught that everything is a matter of thought vibrations and that we can be made sick by these, and we can heal ourselves and others by projecting positive vibrations. She even taught that we could forgive the sins of others and turn them into Christians in this way. And, unfortunately, this is…this belief, as bizarre as it seems, is still being implemented within the healing prayer movement and the New Apostolic Reformation movement.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, Mark, I want to underscore something that you just said. And maybe some of our listeners are picking up on it. Somebody says, “Well, wait a minute! What Mark just had to say, that sounds like word-faith…that sounds like positive confession…that sounds like positive mental attitude.” They’re all related, aren’t they, Mark?
Mark: Absolutely! It’s science of mind.
Mark: It appears that Sanford was heavily influenced…let’s see, she was born back—just before the turn of the century, the 1900s, that is. She died in 1982, but her most famous work was The Healing Light, first published in 1947. So she was heavily influenced by the spiritualism movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Tom: Yeah. Now, I have a quote…well, this is related to somebody who claims that Agnes Sanford had a huge influence on his life, and I’m talking about Richard Foster. People today may know him from his organization called Renovaré, which is totally into the mystical, totally into the contemplative. By “contemplative,” I’m not using the normal definition of the word. When we think about “contemplate,” we’re thinking about thinking, actually, and not just thinking but wrestling with ideas. It’s kind of like the difference between Eastern mystical meditation, which is clearing out the mind to allow other ideas, thoughts, or entities to come into the mind, or it’s, as the Bible says, it’s “wrestling through,” thinking these things through. That’s biblical meditation. That’s biblical contemplation.
But in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, which I mentioned earlier…well, the subtitle is The Path to Spiritual Growth. But the path, according to Foster, is no the evangelical idea of the Word of God, of studying the Word of God, of meditating in the sense of thinking through and wrestling with these issues that God has presented in His Word. No, it is a clearing of the mind, it is an experiential…it’s not objectively based on the Word of God, but it’s based on an individual’s experiences.
So, anyway, here’s a quote from that book: “Imagination opens the door to faith. If we can ‘see’ in our mind’s eye a marriage whole or a sick person well, it is only a short step to believing that it will be so.” And that’s on page 36 of Celebration of Discipline.
Now, the big problem with that is that it’s, as I said, it moves us into the experiential. It is religious science. It is mind science. Another way to look at it is, well, it’s kind of like a placebo. If I can get my thinking right, then it’s going to follow that these things will take place. Well, another way to say it is in the view of those who teach and promote this, it is creating reality with your mind. And that is occultism.
Mark: Yeah, exactly right, Tom. And you would think that after 30 years of you and Dave and others speaking out about this in the church that these teachings would be fallen out of popularity. But, in fact, they’re on the rise. What happens is they spawn new disciples and they change names, so now we have the identical teachings of the New Age movement now embraced within evangelicalism under many different names.
Tom: Right. Now, Mark, as we said, the influences of Agnes Sanford…but then she had influences in her life. Certainly she influenced lots of people, but her pastor was a man named Morton Kelsey. We addressed some of the teachings of Morton Kelsey in The Seduction of Christianity. But here’s a man who studied at the Jung Institute, Carl Gustav Jung’s institute near Zurich, Switzerland. And as you mentioned earlier, Agnes Sanford’s son John was a Jungian analyst. So, no matter how you cut it, you can’t say that what she was teaching and others that we’re going to talk about because they have applied her ideas, the concepts, the methodologies and techniques—you mentioned this just a bit ago—these things have wide influence. You’d think, well, it’d go away, but no! They’re increasing because of the people that they’ve influenced and then the people that they’ve influenced, and it goes on and on and on, although this is the spiritualizing…well, it’s not even the spiritualizing of the Scriptures, it’s imposing psychological occultic idea on the Bible, and people who are not Bereans, who are not checking these things out, are buying into it, many because they’ve got a problem they want to solve, or they think this is a straighter path or a silver bullet to dealing with issues in their life, which it’s not.
Now, Mark, let’s just talk about visualization, because that was a major part…a major occult technique that she used, and many others are using.
Mark: Visualization is an interesting phenomenon in many ways. But it seems to me there is a direct correlation to what we were warned of in Matthew:24:26, where Jesus said, “If they say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth; behold he is in the secret chambers, believe it not.” And when people visualize Jesus, they are actually opening themselves to a demonic impersonation of Christ. And many folks who are using these techniques are indeed encountering other spirits through this in the inner chamber of their mind, of their imagination.
Tom: Yeah. Now, you’re a designer. You’re actually a terrific designer. You know, I have a Bachelors’ Degree in Fine Arts, and so on, in design, and so on. And when I’m getting ready to do something, I get a picture of it in my mind first. How about you? Do you…
Mark: Well, absolutely.
Tom: Okay, so what…we’re not condemning that. There’s a normal use of visualization. For example, an architect or…I was also a screenwriter, and if I’m writing a scene, I’m trying to picture the scene in my mind. Now, that’s normal visualization, that some people can and some people can’t. But nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s where the problem is – and we’ve sort of been hinting at this. When you create in your own mind a picture of something, and then you believe it is a person like Jesus, in this case, you’re creating an image that now becomes a reality. This is creating reality in your own mind, which is occultism. To give you another simple example, for those who play golf. You can actually go through a visual…visualizing your swing, you know, checking…it’s like a rehearsal in your mind of what you’re going to do when you step up to hit the ball. Nothing wrong with that. But as soon as you step up and then hit the ball, and now you visualize the ball going through the air and supposedly landing on the green and into the cup, you have no control over that. That is something that is part and parcel of the occult.
Now, to show you how even more dangerous it is, occult visualization, all of those who promote and teach these things, particularly those who recognize shamanic, that is, shamanism, witch doctoring, medicine men, all of these things, Indian rituals, they visualize their “power animal.” They visualize entities – I interviewed some years ago a Yanomamo shaman, and this is how he would commune with the spirit entities out there – by visualizing them. And they would manifest themselves.
So, this is dangerous, and this is the doorway to the occult. Now, for some of you who may have been former Catholics or who are Catholics today, this technique was used by Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and through Jesuit initiation, visualization was a strong part of that. That’s historical. But they are creating an imagery that’s not real, but it may become a reality because of the demonic influence, the demonic participation in something like this. So this is really a strong problem, a very dangerous problem for Christians to get into.
Now, on the other hand…well, it’s not on the other hand…along the same vein, how are you going to visualize Jesus? I mean, who knows what Jesus looked like? That’s why I have a real problem with supposed images of Jesus. Who was there? Who painted His picture? Who took His photograph? It never happened! So, you are basically like a sorcerer or somebody with an incantation bringing a spirit entity to you, and this spirit entity may claim to be Jesus.
You know, we have the same thing…a while back I interviewed Warren Smith, and we talked about his book Another Jesus Calling. Now this is contact with entities – I don’t care who they claim to be, they are not the biblical Jesus, and it’s a huge problem.
Mark: Well, you’re right, Tom, it’s identical in many ways to…a lot of these methodologies are all similar in that they involve the emptying of the mind, which is the direct opposite of what God’s Word commands us—to take every thought captive; not to let ourselves go.
Tom: Now, Mark, I do want to talk about Theophostic Counseling, now called Theophostic Prayer, but we only have about 3 ½ minutes left. So we’re going to pick up with that, the Lord willing, we’ll pick up with that in our next session, which will be next week.
But let’s just go over the idea of Theophostic Counseling. Now, this would be a spiritualized, as we’ve been saying, psychotherapeutic program among Christians that [is] shrouded in religious terms. Would you agree with that?
Mark: Right. If you break down “theophostic,” it means “theo,” or “theos,” God, “phostic,” light. So you have this term coined by counseling psychologist Ed Smith that means “God-light.” And the idea is that through the techniques that he employed that you could actually commune with and receive direct revelation from this “light,” which he believed came from God.
Tom: Now, again – we’re going to talk about these in more detail, but how about “SOZO,” which is a part of the Bethel Church/Bill Johnson, his regime?
Mark: Right. The SOZO program was developed at Bethel Church Redding, pastored by Bill Johnson, who is associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, and the teachings there started in a small counseling department in the church, just as many churches do, but the roots of it go all the way back, Tom, to Randy Clark, of the “Laughing Revival” fame, and he actually imported the initial healing prayer methodologies from Argentina, and then they took root there at Bethel Church Redding, and it literally exploded across the country and around the world.
Tom: Now, Mark, why is this popular? Why is this…how is this gaining ground, as we…more than alluded to, we just said straight out, this is a problem in the church? Why?
Mark: (short laugh) Tom that’s the million-dollar question. I think it stems from believers feeling frustrated in their inability to overcome, or to attain to the maturity that they believe they should have. And many are still apparently in bondage to former addictions, their former life - things that they wish to break free from. As you and Dave addressed with The Bondage Breaker with Neal Anderson, so there’s an overlap in this that people still yearn to be made into the person God has created them to be.
Tom: Yeah, and we’d also have to say that they’re just not into the Word of God. Some of these things, yes, they’re very subtle, they’re very slick, yet somebody who is looking to the Word of God should be able to see through this. But you know, it’s like anybody, when you’ve got a problem or it seems to be overwhelming to you, then you’re looking for a silver bullet, you’re looking for a quick way out: “Well, just give me some kind of a technique, and that’ll break my bondage,” and so on. But no, it’s part of the fraud of these movements, and, sadly, they’re moving true Christians – true born-again Christians – away from the Scriptures. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That’s our deal, but it takes growing, maturity…
Tom: …in your walk with the Lord.
Mark, we’re out of time for this session, but the Lord willing, we’ll pick this up next week and hopefully our listeners have been edified.
Mark: Amen, Tom, thank you! Looking forward to it!
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at P.O. Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638. Or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could tune in and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.