Monday, April 16, 2007

"The Secret" Versus The Bible

I was talking with some friends about how New Age concepts and lingo are now woven into pop culture. People use words like "finding inner peace," "having a personal mantra," "the power within," "higher self," "positive/negative energy," and "karma" all the time. I suspect many Christians have read or are reading New Age/metaphysical material and don't even know it. As a Christian with a New Age past, I'm hypersensitive to spotting New Age references. My friends asked me, "How can you tell if something contains New Age ideas?"

Honestly, it can be pretty difficult. In 1995, I was desperately seeking a way to have a relationship with God. I came across a copy of The Celestine Prophecy on the clearance shelf at my college bookstore. I'd vaguely remembered hearing this book had deep spiritual insights, so I bought it. And when I began to read it, I couldn't put it down. This is the answer to all my questions! This will fix all my problems, I believed. At some point, the book became too incredible to sound credible. So I flipped to the front cover. I was devastated to find out it was a work of fiction. I immediately stopped reading the book, then threw it in the dumpster because I didn't want anyone else to be deceived as I'd been. (This makes me smile now--I wasn't a Christian at the time, and if I hadn't noticed it was fiction, I would have read it cover to cover. I believe God stopped me from putting my faith in that book!)

Though I was raised in a Christian home, I never would have guessed The Celestine Prophecy had a New Age bent. That's largely because I didn't know what "New Age" meant. I had no previous exposure to it, no frame of reference for such concepts. Additionally, I didn't know Scripture well enough to compare the Bible with New Age ideas.

These days, publications with ideas like The Celestine Prophesy are marketed not as fiction, but as serious theories that any educated person should consider. Scary stuff! The latest piece of "soft" New Age material I've encountered is The Secret, a DVD and book that's based on the Law of Attraction (check out my entry, "
Is the Real 'Secret' that Some People Are Better Than Others?" for an explaination of the Law of Attraction). By "soft," I mean it isn't blatantly New Age, and I can understand why Christians are unknowingly buying it. Here are some common identifiers of New Age material:

  • New Age publications are often marketed as "self-help," "spirituality," or "philosophy."

  • Take note of any "experts" who are quoted. In The Secret, these include a Feng Shui consultant, a visionary, a metaphysician, and several philosophers. The first three have straightforward titles, so it's that last group--the philosophers--that makes me raise an eyebrow. Titles can be intentionally vague. A label like "philosopher"--or "teacher," "counselor," or "minister"--can be used to make someone sound intellectual and reputable. Go beyond their title and research their school, organization, or religious affiliation.

  • New Age concepts often begin with a logical, common activity, such as adopting a positive attitude or setting goals for yourself. These everyday ideas are then infused with power (such as The Secret's assertion your thoughts control and cause what happens in the physical world). The New Age idea is: You can control your life and everything around you.

  • New Agers believe there are god-like powers within humans that can be unlocked through meditation and other practices. God's role is either minimized or overlooked. New Agers are told to have inward gratitude, rather than thanking God. Thoughts and meditation are usually internal rather than directed to God as a conversation with him. If God (or a higher power) is mentioned in New Age thought, God is seen as something man should control or possess.

  • New Agers often position themselves as being more tolerant than Christians with their idea "all paths lead to God." In truth, they don't view all paths as the same distance: Some people move faster toward their New Age goals of self-actualization, enlightenment or nirvana--thus, some paths must be superior. Though a primary concept in New Age thought is to make perfection available to everyone, there is a definite spiritual hierarchy (consider how Buddhist monks are viewed). In Eastern and New Age thought, some folks are considered spiritually far superior, largely because they meditate more often or "try harder" to reach their spiritual goals. In fact, much of the criticism about The Secret has come from New Agers who think the program doesn't go far enough--that attaining such power takes a lot more effort.

  • New Age statements can sound almost exactly like verses from the Bible. Similarly, the New Age ideas that "we are all gods" and there's a "power within" can sound a lot like the way Christians describe the Holy Spirit.

Here are some quotes from The Secret (DVD version) from several sources in the film. Compare them with these Bible verses (if Bible version isn't listed, it's NIV).

Secret Quote: "The power within you is greater than the power that's in the world."

1 John 4:4b, (NIV): "... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

1 John 4:1-4 (CEV): "Dear friends, don't believe everyone who claims to have the Spirit of God. Test them all to find out if they really do come from God. Many false prophets have already gone out into the world, and you can know which ones come from God. His Spirit says that Jesus Christ had a truly human body. But when someone doesn't say this about Jesus, you know that person has a spirit that doesn't come from God and is the enemy of Christ. You knew that this enemy was coming into the world and now is already here. Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God's Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world."
(emphasis mine--it is God's Spirit in us, not some generic "power," and we do not control the Holy Spirit)

Secret Quote: "There is no blackboard in the sky on which God has written your purpose, your mission in life. ... Your purpose is what you say it is. Your mission is the mission you give yourself."

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT): "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (emphasis mine)

Psalm 139:3-4: "You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."

Jeremiah 29:11:
" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "

Deuteronomy 13:4-5 (CEV): "You must be completely faithful to the LORD. Worship and obey only the LORD and do this with fear and trembling, because he rescued you from slavery in Egypt. If a prophet tells you to disobey the LORD your God and to stop worshiping him, then that prophet is evil and must be put to death.

Secret Quote: "Your life will be what you create it as, and no one will stand in judgment of it, now or ever."

Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "

Matthew 25:31-34, 41: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (31-34) ... "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' " (41)

Secret Quote: "You have God potential and power."
Secret Quote: "You are eternal life. You are source energy. You are God manifested in human form."

1 John 5:20 (CEV): "We know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come and has shown us the true God. And because of Jesus, we now belong to the true God who gives eternal life."

Exodus 20:1-7: "And God spoke all these words: 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.' " (emphasis mine)

John 14:6: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' "

John 3:36 (CEV): [John the Baptist speaking] "Everyone who has faith in the Son has eternal life. But no one who rejects him will ever share in that life, and God will be angry with them forever."

Secret Quote: "It's not your job to change the world or the people around you. It's your job to go with the flow of the universe and to celebrate it inside of the world that exists."

Matthew 28:19-20: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Acts 1:6-8: "So when they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' "

Daniel 12:3 (CEV): "Everyone who has been wise will shine as bright as the sky above, and everyone who has led others to please God will shine like the stars."

Hebrews 11:1-2, 29-30, 32-34(CEV): "Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God." (1-2) ... "Because of their faith, the people walked through the Red Sea on dry land. But when the Egyptians tried to do it, they were drowned. God's people had faith, and when they had walked around the city of Jericho for seven days, its walls fell down." (29-30) ... "What else can I say? There isn't enough time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Their faith helped them conquer kingdoms, and because they did right, God made promises to them. They closed the jaws of lions and put out raging fires and escaped from the swords of their enemies. Although they were weak, they were given the strength and power to chase foreign armies away." (32-34)

Matthew 5:14-16 (CEV): "You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven."

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much! That was excellent and helpful. I have a friend who is a new Christian, and he was impressed by the Secret movie. I knew it was in direct opposition of the Bible, but I haven't seen it, read the book, or watched TV shows about it.

Thanks to you, I know enough about it now to intelligently discuss it with my friend. :-)

Unfortunately, the Bible verses you quoted (with your emphasis) are not visible here, but the references are sufficient. :-)

God bless you thoroughly!

Holly said...

I'm glad this was helpful to you. Thanks so much for letting me know about the unreadable verses--my blog site used to have different colors, and there was some text that wasn't showing up because I didn't catch it when I transitioned to the new palette. All fixed!

If you haven't read it yet, you might want to check out my post, "Is the Real 'Secret' that Some People Are Better Than Others?".

I'm praying for good conversations between you and your friend right now!

Guto said...

I praise God for your post!!!

It was just exactly part of what I was searching for!!! I've just watched a documentary about this "Secret" and was really worried about what it said, ther was no real God, exactly like you said in your post...

Thank you so much!!!

Praying for you

Anonymous said...

I'm a strong christian but I tend to struggle with believeing in the law of attraction. An example for instance,I have skydived b 4 and 1 day I thought it would be cool to go again & by the end of the day,I was skydiving. Now, I had the idea and thought more and more about it and is it because I thought about it and I attracted it or how would that refer that god gave that to me? I want to live for god but some of the secret has to be some what true or is it of the devil? The part that does bother me is the blackboard comment because that is untrue. Look foward to hear from you

Holly said...

Hi Anonymous Christian Skydiver!

Please check out my latest post (http://h-n-t.blogspot.com/2008/08/its-no-secret-we-dont-always-know-what.html), where I've responded to your Q. I created a full post because I think your question is deep and important; hope my thoughts will be helpful as you pray and think this through.

Best,
Holly

tobi said...

i think you have misjusged this book, and have cherry picked points that bring it into conflict with the bible. yet, i can do the same thing WITH the bible which i know to be the book of life.

this is a problem with us as christians today, who try and ignore things like this. i think it turns people away rather than draw them toward us.

the laws of attraction are simply how we live our life. the laws of attraction can be attributed to our faith. if you waver in your faith then the situations around you pick up on those 'frequencies' and we falter. faith is being in TUNE with God. an idle mind, will be consumed by destruction, a bitter heart will consume us in anger, the list goes on and on, you cannot say that this is not described all over the bible.
i am still in the process of reading the book and so far, i find nothing out of synch, albeit agreed that some of these statements are made by people who do not beleive in Jesus as the christ or at all. it still doesnt mean that if an axe murderer told you .."if you are lazy, you will not succeed" its a lie and 'ungodly'.

Holly said...

Tobi, I would encourage you to finish the book, open to the possibility that this belief system is contrary to God's Word.

The quotes listed in this blog post are directly from "The Secret" DVD--I didn't alter or paraphrase them. Consider this statement from "The Secret": "You are God manifested in human form." This is untrue. We are not God--we are creations of God. This is a highly disrespectful statement; it's made about the Ultimate Authority. I do not put myself on par with God's ultimate authority.

Like much New Age material, "The Secret" contains some beneficial ideas, such as having a positive outlook on life. But, to use your example, even if an axe murderer is the hardest working guy on the block, it doesn't mean that what he does is morally or spiritually right. Any statements he makes, regardless of how good or true they might be, do not make him a moral authority: Underneath it all, he's still an ax murderer.

Hiram BolaƱos Cacho R said...

Dear Holly. First. Excuse my english. I am not native american, sorry.
Next. I think Yo will have first to study or read all the material regarding "The Secret" original sources (not only the DVD which is a simplified speech for the "normal" public) before you can tell that it is opossed or not opossed to the Bible or in what degree it is. How about like if we look for instance the points of agreement instead of the "new age" filtrations, complots and points against it? What about the ecumenism? To some extent this massive knowledge of the Law of Atraction (which is the main source and quite different from the New Age stuff) is moving and changing people for good. It is not used for mind control or damage the other people, is for your own good exclusevely. I could give you not one, but hundreds of testimonies from american and far lattitudes, including myself, that The Law of Atraction works and is being working. And it will even if you dont want it, because God is Good and is the one that is acting in behalf of what you are asking for. Yesterday I have 4 manifestations of the LOA, and I realized them because I asked for them to happen. If I ask God for a miracle or something good I am not playing God and I am not breaking any Gods law. Consider please the power of Faith. I dont considered myself a nonchristian because of using this power of faith. "Ask and It shall be given". I.e. If you deep read Mathew you know what I mean. I think The Bible has this learnings in its origins. The question is, why they were omitted or altered (on the translation or someone interests perhaps?) later. Or why you go on the phrases and not on the full context? To find the truth you should read, if you havent done so, the Dead Sea Rolls originals, which are the oldest first source material on The Bible known. And even here, you will find that even the translation could change the sense of the full sacred word. I like your blog. I hope you post my comment. Best regards.

Holly said...

Hiram, I've responded to your thoughts here: More Questions on 'The Secret'

Anonymous said...

i agree with some of the things you are saying and i can see how these ideas in movies like the secret can confuse some people, i beleive in the bible and beleive what most "christains" practice today is a watered down version of the true religon, its not about rituals its about knowing your creator and if you know your creator then you should not be worried about being fooled by anyone! i worry about the people who bounce from person to person to find the answer if you tell them that jesus agrees with the secret they go for it, if you tell them its from the devil they run from it, the problem with religon now days is people dont think for them selves, so they become sheep or slaves following the next person with a religous sales pitch, the secret says we have god like power, the bible says we are created in gods image, lastly about the mind control over other people its this simple, if you have a positive outlook you will carry your self different and people will treat you different, the oppsite sex will find you more attractive, youll do better at work, yes we should thank god for all we have every moment of every day, now use the best gift we have free will to be positive, loving and successful

Anonymous said...

I totally love that there are thinking Christians out there! We should think better, learn deeper, seek the Truth - which is found in the BIble- and encourage one another to not just be absorbed in this "nothingness" that is covering the land (remember The Never Ending Story"?!). Anyway, I'm getting off track because I need to work in the morning and am up later...

I just wanted to add that when others mention the "Law" of Attraction, ask them if Jews "attracted" Adolph and WWII. Couldn't they think more positively and not have suffered? And what about people that are raped in Africa, or those that suffer? Are we just "untrained" about this law? Do you see where I am going with this?

Anonymous said...

And in terms of the last post, this is EXACTLY the time when you should be concerned about being fooled...
You have no idea. Trust me. I am getting my degree in online marketing and if you even knew half of what we are learning, you would start pouring over every scripture you can find. I am not being negative: its reality. Remember in Revelation is mentions that no one will be able to buy or sell (or function, pretty much) without the mark of the beast? That is NOT some hypothetical ramblings of an old guy that was doped up under some tree or in some cave. It's all happening. Now! Fill your lamps!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I think it is cool that you were searching for God in the "new age" before uniting with Christ. I have had that same experience. Most of my life I have been drawn to the spiritual, abstract, and many different religions, philosophies, and metaphysical teachings. I know that my intentions and spiritual hunger in all of these instances were coming from a good place, but it was dangerous, not to mention misinformed. Now that I am learning and growing with God and His word, I am so relieved that I saved the time and energy by getting straight to the direct source! I think there are a lot of interesting and curious young ladies out there like us who are searching in curious places. I am going to look out for them on my path and speak to them when I see them. Thank you for representing us!

Anonymous said...

HI, interestingly i have read the secret in my library and just borrowed it again.
I agree with you that somethings it says are not in alliance to the biblebut overall, after reading the book and trying it out, i found that it seemed to work. I wanted to get closer to God and this actually built my faith and i started reading the bible more from the faith it gave me to pursue what i really wanted in life rather than being controlled by fear.
Also the bible says "ask and you shall be given" and so i thoughtin a way asking the universe for what we want was similiar to praying to God, the creater just in words that aare easier to understand.
So just understand that it did do some good in my life and made me closer to God, but like you I didnt want to read something that was plain wrong but it seems not entirely bad?
take care and thanks for your interesting and informing article :)
God bless :)

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with Holy here, most Christians tend to be quite rigid, and stick to whatever seems to give them most security, so as long as this feels good and safe it's alright. But out there there are many many people who are even not Christians and if you read in the Secret website the synopsis behind the movie was made with extracts and reasearch from many religions, to apply to people to vast spectrum. To the person who was asking about Hitler and WW2, and Africa.... same question to you?? What did this people do to deserve this punishment or wrath of God who loves everybody? And why them?? Why do Africans continue to suffer in present day?? What did they do? Is God being selective who to punish and who to bless? Some things are dificut to explain,and sometimes we can only stand by and observe, or take whatever litle action we can, because we are too small and insignificant to answer that big questions or to know their purpose. Or perhaps you know the answer.... or perhaps some limited pastor can break things down to black and white as they normally do... and have answers for everything 'because God has whispered it in their ear'. Right, whoever wants to belive in that is their own right. Finding your true happiness in who you are and what you do is where your bliss is...

Anonymous said...

I read the secret and found it missing the fundamental center of this whole thought process which is God and the Bible. I have a very similar belief, but it is centered around both. If you read Emmet Fox or Florence Scovel Shinn for instance, you can see where the writers of the secret must have gotten their ideas, possibly anyhow. Only maybe either because of personal beliefs or simply due to marketing, they left out the necessary correlation to the Bible. God is my supply and the spoken word, releases that supply. That is my belief anyway, and it works for me and my life. God Bless and thank you for your article, I really enjoyed it and appreciated your research/information, it was more than insightful.

Anonymous said...

Your insight view is usefule for our team. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The main points of the secret or the law of attraction are: "As a man thinketh, so is he" and " Ask and ye shall receive". Let us not be so quick to toss the baby with the bath water

Vanessa Bessa said...

It's so funny. Although I'm a strong Christian, I fell into the trap of "the secret." I thought since that had bible verse in the book that no harm would come from reading it. So I watch the movie and I was impressed, I thought that I was going to be a millionaire by envisioning the world around me. I made a 60 day contract to the Universe where I was suppose to do things and be productive towards the secret to see if it really work. In my plans since I love the Lord, I wanted to have bible study. I notice that I was never able to have bible study and do the things on my "secret list" in the same day. Not even finishing on the bible, I got tired of it and put it down for a while. Which is shocking because, I sleep with the bible and read it first thing in the morning. Always, normally. You open my eyes, "You can't serve two Gods" I treated the secret as if it was more precious than the bible. Now that I am aware of it. I am going back to the old me and staying away from new age teaching. Thank God for you.

Anonymous said...

Hi,I am a 17 year old girl and I was looking for notes on the secret for my bible study group at school and I came across this blog and I found that this was a very interesting discussion.

The thing about us Christians is that we are so quick to judge without fully understanding what it is we are judging. Which is what the bible also condemns, judgment. Remember: you will be judged by the same level in which you judged others.
Moving on, "The Secret" is basically a book based on Positive Thinking, "what a man thinketh, he will be".. This does NOT at all contradict with the bible, "The Secret" is about faith, and believing that what you want to happen, will happen if you have faith. If you believe that you will have a mercedes benz when you are done with University, and you manifest on it, then it will happen, whether it be in 2 years or in 10 years, and "The Secret" in that is the belief. And this is the same as prayer, you pray to God for your mercedes, and you believe in your heart that our God is going to give it to you, he will, whether it be in 2 years or 10 and if he feels as though it isn't the right thing for you, he will not give it to you, because he only wants what is best for you, just like a parent wants what is best for their child. Which He is to us. A Parent. God is not mean. And again "The Secret" in that is faith and belief. It is all the same really, and it works hand-in-hand. I will admit that there are some things the writer could have written better, and did not think through when writing them e.g. The quote about the black-board was very off. BUT that does not mean that the book is completely contradicting all things in the bible as Holly seems to think it does.

And those who are saying that the book was missing God; may I remind you that the person who wrote this book wrote it as a way of helping the people of the world as a WHOLE understand that positive thinking gets one far. Not just us christians.
So it was for every religion to be able to take the secret and try to incorporate it to their beliefs. I am fully christian, and I have learnt not to judge other peoples beliefs. But to try in every way possible to HELP them see that Jesus Christ is our only saviour.

I use the secret in my life, but that does not mean I do not have time for my God, I am nothing without my God. But God wants people who believe in the power of prayer, he wants patience. And that is what the secret teaches as well, belief and patience. "Good things come to those who wait."

Holly said...

Dear Anonymous 17-year-old,

I'd like you to consider this question: "What does the Bible say about judgment?" It says many things, and Christians need to carefully consider all that is instructed on the matter.

You said, "The Bible condemns judgment." But consider a couple passages: Matthew 18:15-17,
1 Corinthians 5. In the first, Jesus is giving instruction about how to respond when another believer sins against us--and the final part of that process is to remove them from the church. In the second, Paul is telling the Corinthians to remove a man from the church because he is committing sexual sin.

I'd also encourage you to think about the meaning in the Bible of the terms "judgment" and "discernment."

Regarding the idea of judgment, for example, Christians don't have the authority to decide whether another person gets to go to heaven. Yet we are to hold other Christians accountable. Paul says in the 1 Corinthians passage: "It certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning."

Regarding the idea of discernment, Christians are supposed to think very carefully about the information they are being told. We need to "judge" whether something is true or false.

John says in 1 John 4:1-3:
"Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here."

Everything contains a grain of truth. Discernment is about figuring out, with the Holy Spirit's help, whether getting to that little bit of truth is worth the risk.

In the blog post, I compared some quotes from The Secret with what the Bible says. Some of the core concepts in The Secret directly contract what the Bible says. This should concern you. I hope you will read through this section of the post again.

As someone who personally got deeply involved in New Age thinking, I know from experience that the teachings of The Secret lead to a spiritually dangerous place. The amount truth in The Secret is like a $100 bill that's been placed inside a barrel of hypodermic needles, some of which are infected. You might be tempted to reach in to grab that $100, especially if it looks like you can see it near the top of the barrel. Problem is, you will get hurt by reaching in there, and you may even get infected--perhaps with something that will take away your life. Is that $100 really worth it?

Again, I really hope you will re-read those quotes from The Secret and compare them with Scripture.

Blessings,
Holly

Anonymous said...

thank you. i was so tempted to buy into the secret and philosophies like it. it is so alluring, especially when so many tout its efficacy. however, your post was filled with scriptures that reminded me of the truth of God's word. i don't need a secret when he makes things plain in the scripture.thank so much.