Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute based in Charlotte, NC and host of the "Bible Answer Man" radio program. This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 4 (2007). The original article at CRI's website can be accessed by clicking here.
We live in a society in which many people are constantly searching for a quick fix to all life's problems—little known truth that once discovered will eliminate the wants, worries, and woes of life. It is therefore not surprising that The Secret,1 which claims to reveal an age-old process for attaining anything and everything one desires, is quickly gaining a frenzied following, including considerable interest and acclaim from prime-time media figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Larry King, and Amy Poehler from Saturday Night Live.
Far from the unveiling of a significant secret, The New York Times bestselling book and DVD are the masterful marketing of an all too common occult practice of creative visualization. Occult movements such as New Age, New Thought, and neo-pagan witchcraft have long held that the power to create one's own reality lies within oneself, that thoughts and words are imbued with creative power that directly and dramatically affect the real world in which we live, and that we can use creative visualization to speak, think, or even feel things into existence. These tenets of an occult worldview, a variation of which has sadly been promoted under the guise of Christianity by the heretical Word of Faith movement,2 are the essence of what is now being widely touted as The Secret. This essence is summed up by Mike Dooley, contributing author of The Secret, in three words: "Thoughts become things."3
According to The Secret, a force exists in the universe that causes thoughts about things to attract the things themselves. Thus, if we live in worry or fear that bad things will happen to us, bad things will happen to us. Conversely, if we live in faithful expectation, we will attract—actually, create—the objects of our desire. To give The Secret an appearance of scientific legitimacy, the authors speak of thinking or feeling on higher and lower frequencies and refer to the force responsible for the supposed creative attraction between thoughts and things as the Law of Attraction.4 They also appropriate, and in many cases misappropriate, the teachings of many famous historical personalities, as well as the Bible, in an attempt to validate The Secret. In reality, however, the central teachings of The Secret are unverifiable, unethical, and utterly unbiblical.
The Secret is Unverifiable The Secret teaches that there is an unspecified "time delay" 5 between our thoughts and the realities they create. Says contributing author Dr. Joe Vitale, "I don't have any rulebook that says it's going to take thirty minutes or three days or thirty days. It's more a matter of you being in alignment with the Universe itself"6—contrast this hedging of bets with Jesus' verifiable prophecy that he would rise from the dead "on the third day" (Matthew 20:19). Indeed, because the authors of The Secret teach that the length of time between thoughts or feelings and the realities they attract is not measurable, faithful adherence to The Secret is not guaranteed to produce any measurable results. Thus, the extravagant promises of The Secret can never be tested or verified. Like the mechanic who always claims to have been "just about to call" when you get tired of waiting and call to check on your car, teachers of The Secret shrewdly posit this "time delay" so that they can always say that the floodgates of the universe were just about to give way to an ocean of joy and prosperity whenever a disappointed practitioner throws in the towel.
The Secret is Unethical The Secret teaches that victims of suffering and tragedy attracted those circumstances to their own lives. When asked by Larry King whether Jessica Lunsford, a nine year old Florida girl who was brutally raped and murdered, attracted this horror to herself, Vitale responded, "We are attracting everything to ourselves and there is no exception."7 To lay such guilt on innocent victims of tragedy represents the height of adding insult to injury and should offend our most basic moral sensibilities.
Furthermore, The Secret teaches that we should visualize and "test drive" whatever makes us "feel good"8 and practice the experience of instant gratification:
Far from harmless, this teaching results in disastrous consequences. Sin not only affects the thoughts that people have, it affects their feelings as well. As a result, many in society feel good when they do wrong. Consider the pedophile who never feels more satisfaction with life than when he is sexually violating innocent children. Should he be encouraged to visualize and "test drive" the things that make him feel good? Absolutely not!
The Secret is Unbiblical The Secret teaches that everything is God and God is everything (pantheism). Writes Byrne,
Byrne goes on to say,
In sharp contrast to the The Secret's pantheism, the Bible teaches that God, who alone created the universe out of nothing, transcends creation while being immediately present to every part of creation (Genesis 1). Moreover, the Bible teaches that though we are all made in the image of God, Jesus the Messiah is the only true Incarnation of God (John 1, Colossians 1).
Furthermore, The Secret teaches that by thinking positive thoughts we attract the things that we want. It promises, "If you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, you will bring it into your life."12 The Bible, however, teaches that when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds through faith in Jesus Christ, we develop an eternal perspective in all aspects of our life and are able to discern God's will, being content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. As James reminds us, life is fleeting—"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 3:14). We must therefore learn to imitate the apostle Paul, who wrote:
The dark side of The Secret's law of attraction is that those who experience hardship and tragedy brought suffering upon themselves through negative, "low frequency" thoughts: "Nothing can come into your existence unless you summon it through persistent thought."13 Conversely, the Bible teaches that suffering may well be redemptive and is not always the result of personal sin and failure (see, e.g., John 9:3). As the apostle Paul explained, those who place their trust in Jesus Christ can
Because The Secret is unverifiable, unethical, and unbiblical, no one should be fooled by the false promises it offers. The secret to abundant living is not placing faith in our own ability to conjure up all that we desire, but rather learning to live with eternity at the forefront of our minds, storing up "treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matt. 6:20). In the end, that which corresponds to reality resides not in The Secret but in the Savior.