A Sampling of Counterfeit “Miracles” in Modern Culture – Part 1


My goal in the present chapter is to touch on just a few of the very diverse counterfeit miracles that sprinkle the religious landscape today. What follows below should be understood as a small representative sampling from a very broad pool of counterfeit miracles. Even this small sampling points to the need for great discernment in dealing with claims of the miraculous. Deception is everywhere!

A Course in Miracles

I begin with A Course in Miracles, an occultic bestseller in New Age circles. This 1,200-page spiritual-psychological tome was written in the 1960s by now-deceased Jewish psychologist Helen Schucman. By a process labeled “automatic handwriting” (in which a spirit entity guides one’s hand), Schucman wrote this hefty three-volume set—a 622-page textbook, a 478-page workbook, and a short manual. Schucman was fully convinced that the source of the words was Jesus himself.

Since its first publication in 1976, A Course in Miracles has sold over a million copies and has spawned over 1,000 study groups in the United States and abroad.[1] I visited the Bodhi Tree bookstore in Hollywood (unquestionably one of the largest New Age bookstores in the United States), and the folks there told me this “course” is one of their hottest items ever.

Here are some of the first words dictated to Schucman: “This is a course in miracles. It is a required course…. Miracles are everyone’s right… miracles to heal the sick and raise the dead because you made sickness and death yourself, and can therefore abolish both…. That is a course in mind training.”[2] One is led to believe that by taking this course, anyone can create miracles. But the primary miracle this course speaks of relates to the restructuring or reprogramming of one’s mind.[3]

The textbook communicates many strange ideas. The “Son of God” was allegedly created by God in a state of “wakefulness.” Later, however, the Son fell asleep and had a dream of being separate from God. In the dream, the Son denied he was created by God, asserting instead that he created himself. This usurping of God’s role as Creator marked the beginning of ego, and led the Son to conceive of himself as being separate from God.

God then created and commissioned the Holy Spirit to awaken the Son. But the Son wrongly interpreted the coming of the Holy Spirit as judgment from God because the Son thought he was guilty of usurping God’s role as Creator.

The Son’s ego then fragmented into myriads of egos with physical bodies (that is, human beings), each believing themselves separate from each other and from God. Humanity’s basic problem, then, is its belief in being separate from God. The solution to the problem is a rediscovery of one’s Christhood. The Course sets out to help people attain this.[4]

As we rediscover our Christhood, a miracle begins to happen. We begin to realize that sin is just an illusion, and that in reality we are all perfectly innocent beings (1:375, 377-78). We also begin to realize that death is just an illusion. In fact, the Jesus of the Course tells us, “There is no death, but there is a belief in death” (1:46). This metaphysical Jesus says, “death is the central dream from which all illusions stem” (3:63).

We are not sinners in need of redemption, we are assured. Indeed, the Jesus of the Course explains that it is “a terrible misperception that God Himself [judged] His own Son on behalf of salvation…. It is so essential that all such thinking be dispelled that we must be sure that nothing of this kind remains in your mind. I was not ‘punished’ because you were bad” (1:32-33, 87). “Do not make the pathetic error of ‘clinging to the old rugged cross’…. This is not the gospel I… intended to offer you” (1:47). “Salvation is nothing more than right-mindedness,” a perception that “you are one with God” (1:11,53; 2:125).

Of course, this New Age “course” embraces age-old lies from Satan—you can be like God, and surely you will not die (Genesis 3:4,5). A Christian analysis of the Course puts it this way:

Clearly, if A Course in Miracles is right, Jesus is the most misunderstood figure in history. History for two thousand years has had it wrong. The church never even got off on the right foot. And the long promised Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, which was to guide the church through history, has not even managed to get through to Christians about their misguided understandings. They have uniformly, all of them, believed in a counterfeit gospel for two thousand years. And Christ’s messianic act of sacrifice on the cross, that central historical fact of Christianity, was wasted blood and pain…. For there was no actual sin to atone for, and our separation from God was just an illusion all along—that is, if you believe Helen Schucman.[5]

As one would expect, there are no genuine miracles associated with this course. It is a satanic delusion and involves nothing but occultism. Those who put their hopes in the miracles promised by this course will only end up in spiritual deception and occultic bondage.

Creating Miracles Through “Empowerment”

How would you like to have the power to attain everything you ever wished for in life? How would you like to create your own miracles? You can, according to David Gershon and Gail Straub. In their blockbuster New Age book, Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life as You Want It, Gershon and Straub tell us that “empowerment” is the key, for this will give you the miraculous ability to create your own reality by the power of your mind. What “manifests” in your life will directly result from the thoughts you affirm—either on a conscious or unconscious level.

Gershon and Straub’s central idea is that empowerment “will free you from boundaries that have limited you in the past and show you your power to shape your own destiny. On this journey, you will learn the art of creating your life as you want it.”[6]

Gershon and Straub explain their theory this way:

Of all the knowledge pertaining to the evolution of the human condition that has come to light in this extraordinary time in which we live, none is more promising than this idea: We make and shape our character and the conditions of our life by what we think. What you think and believe will manifest in your life. By becoming adept at intelligently directing your thoughts, you can become adept at creating the life that you want. You can take charge of your destiny.[7]

Gershon and Straub note that “we can’t avoid creating our reality; each time we think a thought, we are creating it. Every belief we hold is shaping what we experience in our life.”[8] In view of this, “if we accept the basic premise that our thoughts create our reality, it means that we need to take responsibility for creating all of our reality—the parts we like and the parts we don’t like.”[9]

Gershon and Straub offer us a game plan for achieving empowerment that focuses on effectively using affirmations (positive self-talk) and visualizations (mental pictures of what you want to create). This is the way to bring about miraculous changes in one’s life. By using these affirmations and visualizations, Gershon and Straub assure us we will attract the worldly “nutrients” needed to have our “mental seed” grow to “fruition.”[10]

This New Age team also provides a list of “limiting beliefs” and accompanying “turnarounds.” By affirming the turnarounds, we are told, we can dispose of unhealthy beliefs that limit us. Here are a few examples:

Limiting Belief: God is a male figure with a lot of power who will punish me if I don’t do the right thing.

Turnaround: I create God as a loving, kind, playful, wise, powerful friend. We play together, co-creating the universe.[11]

Limiting Belief: Spirituality means giving over control of my life to some higher power that’s outside of me.

Turnaround: God’s will is my own highest consciousness in this moment.[12]

Limiting Belief: To be spiritual, I must follow a code of conduct laid out by a religion/guru/writer of a spiritual book.

Turnaround: My spirituality grows out of my own self-knowledge. I trust it and found my actions upon it.[13]

Limiting Belief: The world is full of corrupt people who are leading it down a road of destruction.

Turnaround: I take responsibility to create the world as a beautiful and sacred place filled with beings committed to their own and the planet’s evolution.[14]

By using positive affirmations such as these—combined with visualization—our thoughts can allegedly change the reality around us. By using our minds, we have true power. By using our minds, we can make miraculous changes in our lives.

There are many ways I could critique this idea of creating one’s reality by the power of the mind. Here, I simply want to focus attention on one of the profound moral implications of this teaching.

As noted earlier, Gershon and Straub say that if we accept the basic premise that our thoughts create our reality, it means that we need to take responsibility for creating all of our reality—the parts we like and the parts we don’t like.[15] The point I want to make in response to this is that if man creates his own reality, then he cannot legitimately condemn individuals who inflict evil upon others.

For example, one must conclude that the millions of Jews who were executed under Hitler’s regime created their own reality. Hence, Hitler’s actions cannot be condemned as ethically wrong, since Hitler was only part of a reality that the Jews themselves created. Similarly, one cannot condemn the terrorists who flew into the Twin Towers in New York City because the people in those buildings created their own reality. The moral implications of this theory show its ultimate absurdity.

I must also point out that Gershon and Straub’s mind-over-matter techniques are blatantly occultic and non-Christian. Like other New Agers, they deny wholesale that human beings (including their imaginations) are fallen (Genesis 6:5). Thus, they are blinded to the reality that they are using faulty equipment that can lead them astray. How much better it is to trust in the sure promises of a loving (and truly miraculous) God for provisions in life rather than having to depend on one’s visualizing prowess (see Matthew 6:30).

The Omnipotence of Man

Shirley MacLaine once said, “You are unlimited. You just don’t realize it.”[16] British New Ager George Trevelyan said that each human being is “an eternal droplet of the Divine Ocean, and that potentially it can evolve into a being who can be a co-creator with God.”[17] The New Age gospel by Levi Dowling—The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ—affirms that Jesus himself taught that human beings have unlimited potential and can create their own miracles.

Indeed, the Jesus of this book tells us: “Because I have the power to do these things is nothing strange. All men may gain the power to do these things…. So man is God on earth, and he who honors God must honor man.”[18] Dowling also cites Jesus as saying: “I came to show the possibilities of man; what I have done all men may do, and what I am all men shall be.”[19] And again, “What I can do all men can do. Go preach the gospel of the omnipotence of man.”[20]

Of course, man is not an omnipotent god who can create his own miracles. Such an assertion is as ridiculous as it is comical. If it were true (hypothetically) that human beings were omnipotent gods, then one would expect them to display qualities similar to those known to be true of God. However, when one compares the attributes of humankind with those of God, we find more than ample testimony for the truth of Paul’s statement in Romans 3:23 that human beings “fall short of the glory of God.” Consider the following:

  • God is all-knowing (Isaiah 40:13-14), but man is limited in knowledge (Job 38:4);
  • God is all-powerful (Revelation 19:6), but man is weak (Hebrews 4:15);
  • God is everywhere-present (Psalm 139:7-12), but man is confined to a single space at a time (John 1:50);
  • God is holy (1 John 1:5), but even man’s “righteous” deeds are as filthy garments before God (Isaiah 64:6);
  • God is eternal (Psalm 90:2), but man was created at a point in time (Genesis 1:1, 26-27);
  • God is truth (John 14:6), but man’s heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9);
  • God is characterized by justice (Acts 17:31), but man is lawless (1 John 3:4; see also Romans 3:23);
  • God is love (Ephesians 2:4-5), but man is plagued with many vices like jealousy and strife (1 Corinthians 3:3).

If man is a god, one could never tell it by his attributes!

Human ignorance of alleged divinity also proves that human beings are not God. If human beings are essentially God, and if God is an infinite and changeless being, then how is it possible for a human being (if he or she is a manifestation of divinity) to go through a changing process of enlightenment by which he or she discovers divinity? “The fact that a man ‘comes to realize’ he is God proves that he is not God. If he were God, he would never have passed from a state of unenlightenment to a state of enlightenment as to who he is.”[21] To put it another way, “God cannot bud. He cannot blossom. God has always been in full bloom. God is and always has been God.”[22]

So, I say again: human beings are not omnipotent gods of miracles. This is delusional thinking at its worst.

Go Deeper

  1. Ron Rhodes and Paul Carden, “What’s New in the Headlines,” Christian Research Newsletter, March/April 1992, p. 3.

  2. Douglas Connelly, Miracles: What the Bible Says (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p. 14.

  3. Connelly, p. 13.

  4. See Dean C. Halverson, “A Course in Miracles: Seeing Yourself as Sinless,” SCP Journal 7, 1 (1987):18-27.

  5. Tal Brooke, “The Cosmic Christ of Channeled Revelation,” in The Conspiracy to Silence the Son of God (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), pp. 97-112.

  6. David Gershon and Gail Straub, Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life as You Want It (New York, NY: Delta, 1989), p. 5.

  7. Gershon and Straub, p. 21.

  8. Gershon and Straub, p. 35.

  9. Gershon and Straub, p. 36.

  10. Gershon and Straub, p. 36.

  11. Gershon and Straub, p. 200.

  12. Gershon and Straub, p. 199.

  13. Gershon and Straub, p. 199.

  14. Gershon and Straub, p. 200.

  15. Gershon and Straub, p. 36.

  16. Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (New York, NY: Bantam, 1985), p. 133.

  17. George Trevelyan, Operation Redemption (Walpole, NH: Stillpoint Publishing, 1981), p. 83.

  18. Levi Dowling, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ (London: L.N. Fowler & Co., 1947), p. 126.

  19. Dowling, p. 15.

  20. Dowling, p. 263.

  21. Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Christianity Under Attack (Dallas, TX: Quest Publications, 1985), p. 43.

  22. Norman L. Geisler and Jeff Amano, The Infiltration of the New Age (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989), p. 20.

Dr. Ron Rhodes received his Th.M. and Th.D. degrees in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating with honors. He is currently the president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, an apologetics organization located in Texas.

The author of more than 60 books, with millions of books in print, Dr. Rhodes is a keynote speaker at conferences across the United States and Canada. As time permits, he also teaches at a number of seminaries, including Dallas Theological Seminary and Veritas Evangelical Seminary. He has been a guest on many national and regional radio and television programs, including the John Ankerberg Show. He and his wife, Kerri, reside in Texas.

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