Is “The Secret” Compatible with Biblical Christianity?

By: ATRI Staff Correspondent; ©2007
You can hardly miss the buzz. Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Larry King, Montel Williams have all had programs focused on The Secret in recent weeks. What is the Secret, and why should Christians beware of it?

The Secret

You can hardly miss the buzz. Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Larry King, Montel Williams…. It would be difficult to name a recent talk show that has not explored some topic related to The Secret. Even WebMD weighed in with an article entitled “The Secret: Is it the Real Deal?”[1]

The Secret is the name of a book and a DVD released by Australian author Rhonda Byrne. According to Ms. Byrne, back in 2004, when her life was falling apart, her daughter gave her a copy of The Science of Getting Rich, a book written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles. She says,

Something inside of me had me turn the pages one by one, and I can still remember my tears hitting the pages as I was reading it,… It gave me a glimpse of The Secret. It was like a flame inside of my heart. And with every day since, it’s just become a raging fire of wanting to share all of this with the world.[2]

What is this Secret? The book reveals:

The Secret is the law of attraction!
Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind. It’s what you’re thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you.[3]

The idea is that “like attracts like,”[4] so if you want something, you simply have to think about it – in the right way, of course – and you will get it. “You get to fill the blackboard of your life with whatever you want.”[5]

The principle explains that we create our own circumstances by the choices we make in life. And the choices we make are fueled by our thoughts—which means our thoughts are the most powerful things we have here on earth.[6]

The experts who appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show were quick to point out that the same principle applies to the bad things in your life. If you “think about” poverty, sickness, violence, failure, and so on, you are attracting those things into your life, causing them to happen. For example:

The law of attraction means that everything that happens to you—good or bad—you attract to yourself. Lisa [Nichols] describes it as if you’re placing an order. “If you were at a restaurant and you ordered something, you fully expect it to come served that way. That’s how the universe is. You’re putting out orders—consciously and unconsciously,” Lisa says. “So if you say, ‘I’ll never have a great relationship,’ you just placed an order.”[7]

Wattles’ book explains:

To look upon the appearance of disease will produce the form of disease in your own mind, and ultimately in your body, unless you hold the thought of the truth, which is that there is no disease; it is only an appearance, and the reality is health.
To look upon the appearances of poverty will produce corresponding forms in your own mind, unless you hold to the truth that there is no poverty; there is only abundance.[8]

But once you have decided what you want, and once you are thinking about it in the right way, metaphysician Dr. Joe Vitale explains what happens: “And the universe will start to rearrange itself to make it happen for you…. If you turn it over to the universe you will be surprised and dazzled by what is delivered to you. This is where magic and miracles happen.[9]

The Science of Getting Rich

As we have already documented, Rhonda Byrne says that she was introduced to The Secret through the book The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles. In the Preface Wattles explains that the book is a “practical manual… for the men and women whose most pressing need is for money; who wish to get rich first and philosophize afterward.”[10]

In the first paragraph of chapter 1 Wattles states: “Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich.” He goes on,

…to be really rich does not mean to be satisfied or contented with a little. No man ought to be satisfied with a little if he is capable of using and enjoying more. The purpose of Nature is the advancement and unfoldment of life; and every man should have all that can contribute to the power, elegance, beauty, and richness of life; to be content with less is sinful.[11] As Wattles outlines his formula for getting rich he includes the following three affirmations, or what he calls creed statements, which the reader must hold to with unwavering faith:
There is a thinking stuff from which all things are made, and which, in its original state, permeates, penetrates, and fills the interspaces of the universe.
A thought, in this substance, Produces the thing that is imaged by the thought.
Man can form things in his thoughts, and, by impressing his thought upon formless substance, can cause the thing he thinks about to be created.[12]

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that his ideas must seem very strange, and possibly even unsettling to some readers, Wattles explains what must be done to give these “truths” a chance to become firmly entrenched in your mind:

Read these creed statements over and over again; fix every word upon your memory, and mediate upon them until you firmly believe what they say. If a doubt comes to you, cast it aside as a sin. Do not listen to arguments against this idea; do not go to churches or lectures where a contrary concept of things is taught or preached. Do not read magazines or books which teach a different idea; if you get mixed up in your faith, all your efforts will be in vain.[13]

Wattles, who is certainly well acquainted with the Bible, often quoted Scripture in his book. Notably absent, however, are several passages which speak directly to the desire to accumulate wealth. For example:

Matthew 6:19 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
1 Timothy 6:7-10 – For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

New Thought

Wattles has been identified with a group known as New Thought.[14] This group has as its purpose to “awaken people to their divine nature.”[15] Teachings include the idea that God is Universal Law, “personified” impersonal energy; that man is one essence with God; and that heaven and hell are mental or physical conditions on earth.[16]

Oprah guest and “Secret” promoter Michael Beckwith, founder and pastor of the Agape International Spiritual Center describes his theology as being in the “New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality.”[17] Russ Wise suggests he is the “most troubling” of the Secret teachers “because he represents a pseudo-‘Christianity.’ He has the greatest ability to be used to deceive those whom God has touched by His Gospel.”[18]

This concern is well illustrated by Beckwith’s response to a question on The Oprah Winfrey Show. When an audience member asked a question about heaven and hell, Beckwith responded,

Jesus the Christ said the kingdom of heaven is within. He didn’t say it was out there somewhere—[he said] within. And so is it possible to consider that the kingdom of hell is within as well?…
The kingdom of God is actually in us, and what comes out of your mouth, what you think about, how you express—you’re either participating in the realm of ever-expanding good or you’re cutting yourself off from the realm.[19]

James Swan of Alpha and Omega Ministries explains the problem with one part of Beckwith’s answer.

Notice the context of the Biblical phrase kingdom of God was completely devoid from the answer. In Luke 17, the Pharisees wanted to know when the Kingdom would come. When would God’s people see their prophesied theocratic leader? Certainly Jesus didn’t believe God’s kingdom was within these religious leaders. He considered them religious hypocrites. In Romans 14:17, Paul states, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves God this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” Jesus is actually rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, pointing out that the kingdom is an inner righteousness, not an outward righteousness of eating and drinking, rules and regulations. We are given Christ’s righteousness in justification. The Holy Spirit performs his work of sanctification, making our works pleasing to God. The answer given by the Oprah show does more than misquote a Bible verse. It denies the Gospel.[20]

The Gospel, as any careful reader will discern, is not the only biblical doctrine or claim that is denied. In his review of The Secret, Donald Whitney says, “It is no exaggeration to say that this book implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) denies virtually every major doctrine in the Bible.”[21]

The New Thought influence in The Secret is troubling for another reason. One of the tenets of New Thought groups is the idea that man is one essence with God. Ms Byrne says,

You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet.[22]

This is important, because it explains why The Secret is “guaranteed” to work for you. It explains why the Universe will (must?) “rearrange itself” to meet your demands.[23] Dr. Vitale says, “Your job is to declare what you would like to have from the catalogue of the universe.”[24]

Is it really that simple? Does the Bible teach that we can merely “Ask, believe, receive?”[25] John Ankerberg and John Weldon addressed this idea in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (now out of print). They explain:

New Thought groups will often quote Jesus, and just as often distort Him. For example, when Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive,” they reinterpret this to mean that we are to demand or command God (Cosmic Law) to bring our divine heritage into manifestation. Ask (demand) of the One Mind (which is your real nature, thus a requesting among equals) and you shall receive abundance.
Here, New Thought ignores the meaning of biblical words and their context. The asking was to be done “in My [Jesus’] name” (John 16:25), which involves a recognition of all Jesus is, including His sovereignty and possible choice not to grant our wishes. “This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
New Thought also ignores the Greek definition of the word “ask.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament points out that the common word for “to ask” (as in prayer: John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-26, etc.) is aiteo. It is distinguished from erotao, which suggests that “the petitioner is on a footing of equality or familiarity with the person whom he requests”; for example, a king requesting another king in some matter. By contrast, the meaning of aiteo “more frequently suggests the attitude of a suppliant, the petition of one who is lesser in position than he to whom the petition is made; e.g., in the case of men asking something from God, Matthew 7:7” [W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 79].  Jesus never used aiteo when making requests to the Father, which indicates His deity. But when speaking of people requesting things of the Father, He used the word aiteo, indicating their creaturehood. In addition, biblically, Satan is the only one who makes demands of God (Job 1:11; Matt. 4:3, 6; Lk. 22:31).[26]

Who is your God?

One final point is important here. Rhonda Byrne concludes her book with this statement:

The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret.[27]

In essence what The Secret gives you is the opportunity to make your own god – one made in your image; one who responds to your every want and desire, regardless of the effect on anyone around you; the opportunity to be god yourself. This is the very same offer the Serpent made to Eve in the Garden of Eden. The consequences of her acceptance should be sufficient warning to us all.

The alternative is to place your trust in the God who is revealed in the Bible. The God who is wise and good and who cannot be manipulated to fulfill selfish desires; the God who arranged the universe by His command. The God revealed in these verses:

For by Him [God] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16)
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Conclusion

Russ Wise gives an important warning in his article, “The Secret: Creating One’s Reality,” and it will serve to conclude this article. He says,

The discerning Christian must… be well-informed of the underlying falsity of such views – to judge rightly using the scripture as his guiding Light. Our adversary is not asleep at the switch. He is looking for those whom he may devour by his cunning deception. The challenge for the Christian is to remain true to the scripture and faithful to the end. Our life’s purpose is to glorify our Father. Jesus clarified this Truth by saying, By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. Then Jesus added, And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent. I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gave me to do; and now, Father glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.
We have seen… that the purpose of the Christian life is to glorify God – not one’s self. It is not about garnering the wealth of the world, or to live in perfect health. Our true motivation in all that we do is to honor our Creator and to point others to the mercies and goodness of a loving Father.[28]

Notes

  1. http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-is-it-the-real-deal?ecd=wnl_lbt_032107.
  2. The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Discovering the Secret,” February 8, 2007, http://www.oprah.com/spiritself/
    slide/20070208/ss_20070208_284_101.jhtml.
  3. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2006), p. 4.
  4. The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Discovering the Secret,” February 8, 2007, http://www.oprah.com/spiritself/
    slide/20070208/ss_20070208_284_102.jhtml
  5. Byrne, The Secret, p. 184.
  6. The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Discovering the Secret,” February 8, 2007, http://www.oprah.com/spiritself/
    slide/20070208/ss_20070208_284_102.jhtml.
  7. The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Discovering the Secret,” February 8, 2007, http://www.oprah.com/spiritself/
    slide/20070208/ss_20070208_284_104.jhtml.
  8. Wallace D. Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich (pdf available online at
    www.UniverseOfPower.com), p. 12.
  9. http://www.the-secret-dvd.net/law_of_attraction.html
  10. Wattles, Preface.
  11. Wattles, p. 1, emphasis added.
  12. Wattles, p. 13.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Please see our The Facts on Minds Sciences for a discussion of the beliefs of this group.
  15. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (Eugene, OR: Harvest
    House, 1999), p. 341.
  16. Ibid., p. 342.
  17. http://www.agapelive.com/index.php?anchor=about
  18. Russ Wise, “The Secret: Creating One’s Reality,” Christian Information Ministries, p. 2, http://
    www.christianinformation.org/article.asp?artID=109.
  19. The Oprah Winfrey Show, “The Secret is Out,” February 16, 2007, http://www.oprah.com/spiritself/
    slide/20070216/ss_20070216_284_101.jhtml
  20. http://www.aomin.org/index.php?itemid=1810
  21. Donald S. Whitney, “A Review of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne,” http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/
    secret.html
  22. Byrne, The Secret, p. 164.
  23. “And the universe will start to rearrange itself to make it happen for you ..….If you turn it over to the
    universe you will be surprised and dazzled by what is delivered to you. This is where magic and miracles
    happen”. – Joe Vitale in The Secret.
  24. http://www.the-secret-dvd.net/rhonda_byrne_the_secret.htm
  25. http://www2.oprah.com/spiritself/slide/20070208/ss_20070208_284_116.jhtml.
  26. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, “New Thought – Part 5,” http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/new-age/
    NA1104W1.htm
  27. Byrne, The Secret, p. 183.
  28. Russ Wise, “The Secret: Creating One’s Reality” Christian Information Ministries, http://
    www.christianinformation.org/article.asp?artID=109

2 Comments

  1. J. Rogers on July 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    so, i guess God wants us to be broke and sick according to Russ Wise…what a bunch of crap…this is not what the Bible says…look up Mark 9:23 which Jesus said himself…Mark 9:23King James Version (KJV)

    23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

    We are made in God’s image, so why would not be able to create with our minds…? hmm think about that !

    • Paul on October 29, 2017 at 11:30 am

      I totally agree with Rogers. God has created everything in abundance. And it is true that whatever we think wether its good or bad will become a reality.
      It is also important to mention that those people aren’t Christian, hence their understanding is from their own perspective. The law of attraction is even more powerful if you are Christian.

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