After last week’s article was posted, I received an email that chided me a bit for being too broad with my “anti-new-age” paintbrush. The reader was concerned that in my attempts to discount the new-age teachings of The Secret, I had overlooked that Scripture itself places a huge emphasis on thinking and meditation. “Quite correct,” I responded to my new cyber friend, “you’re just a week ahead of me.” It was my intention to give this topic its own article, because it is so very important for Christians to be able to understand and discern in this area. The very thing that makes The Secret so attractive (and dangerous) to so many people is its usage of biblical terms and ideas, like meditation and prayer, but in ways that are actually antithetical to the Bible.
I have maintained elsewhere, that when Scripture speaks of being “spiritual,” it doesn’t mean to be in a deep state of “other-worldly” bliss where nothing from this world of pain and struggle can disturb. The Bible sets before us the two examples of the first Adam and the second Adam. The first Adam was fleshly, the second heavenly. The purpose and goal of the second was to redeem the first. The “spiritual” Adam (Christ) was a “life-giving spirit” that conquered the death brought about by the disobedience of the “fleshly” Adam. The obedience of the spiritual Adam redeemed the disobedience of the physical Adam. And so it is with us. We are both physical and spiritual beings. We are sinful in our physical bodies, but holy in our spiritual (if we are truly in Christ). The goal of the Christian life, i.e. sanctification, comes about and progresses by the gradual overcoming of the fleshly nature by the spiritual nature in each one of us (read Romans 7). It is instructive that the great “spiritual” chapter of the Bible, Romans 8, directly follows Paul’s description of this seemingly futile battle between the “old” and “new” natures.
Being spiritual then is not being unconcerned with the flesh and the physical things of the world. Quite the opposite, in fact. Being spiritual, according to the Bible, is thinking God’s thoughts after Him; taking captive the sinful ways of the “old” nature and redeeming them in light of the “new” nature. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12: 1-2). We are told here quite clearly by the Apostle Paul that presenting your body as a sacrifice is your spiritual duty. Paul further clarifies this in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor. 9: 24-27).
This passage not only flatly contradicts the Gnostic and Platonic ideas of the physical world being a distraction and a hindrance to “spiritual growth,” it is the very arena to showcase such growth. Jesus informs us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The earth is to progressively conform to the pattern of heaven, where the Father’s will is done perfectly. The spiritual example of heaven is complete and perfect, but the physical earth still requires much molding and shaping. And just as the earth itself still requires much work, so do each of us.
We belong to a new order of things, a new age altogether, a new humanity in Christ. But the new life has to be lived out within the context of the old. The new lifestyle of the Kingdom is to be expressed in a context in which it is opposed by the world, the flesh, and the Devil… Not only that, we have to fight a battle within as well! We carry into the new Kingdom some of the habits and ways of thinking of the old kingdom.
Incremental, gradual change is the model, not instantaneous, overnight change. Jesus spent three years with His disciples yet many rough edges and evidences of the “old” natures still remained. Physical change comes through spiritual change and spiritual change comes through “renewing our minds” with the pages of Scripture, which reveals to us the “mind of Christ.” “[T]he natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:14-16).
Now, with that quick overview of the spiritual/mental life that we are to exemplify as Christians out of the way, it should be clear that our thoughts are intimately tied to our actions. In fact, the action is the fruit, the thought is the root. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). The intriguing part about The Secret is that they get this part right. Positive thinking will of course yield better results than negative thinking. Any athlete can attest to this. The problem arises when the individual becomes the standard. Material rewards become the main motivator for positive thinking. In fact, the book even uses Aladdin and the Magic Lamp as an illustrative example of this principle:
The Genie is the law of attraction, and is always present and always listening to everything you think, speak, and act. The Genie assumes that everything you think about, you want! That everything you speak about, you want! That everything you act upon is what you want! You are the Master of the Universe and the Genie is there to serve you. The Genie never questions your commands. You think it, and the Genie immediately begins to leverage the Universe, through people, circumstances, and events, to fulfill your wish.
In other words, according to Byrne, you are God. The Universe is at your beck and call. The Secret taps into the biblical truth that thoughts precede action, but comes to a radically different conclusion. Scripture indeed admonishes us to meditate on the “law of God,” and to think God’s thoughts after Him, but it is always with the end result that we are changed to God’s likeness, not the other way around. Byrne’s “secret” is beginning to sound remarkably similar to the words whispered in the Garden: “You shall be as Gods…”
. Sinclair B. Ferguson, Kingdom Life in a Fallen World (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1986), 23.
. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 46.