As we’ve discovered in recent weeks, The Secret is neither anything new or even particularly novel. As the “ancient” look of the book and DVD seem to indicate, the teachings of The Secret are actually as old as man himself. In fact, as long as man has been in rebellion against his Creator, he has searched high and low to find the “secret” of life and success and “happiness.” Satan’s tempt to Adam and Eve “to be as Gods” is still as influential now as it was then, both inside and outside the “church.” So, before declaring this series as one for the record books, I wanted to give this dead horse one last flogging.
The similarities between the teachings of The Secret and modern pop-Christianity are hard to ignore. Rhonda Byrne may not look like Joel Osteen, but she sure sounds a lot like him. On the surface, their man-centered gospel of self-help purports to conform to the teachings and tenor of Scripture, but, in reality, teaches the antithesis. Man is the problem, not the solution. Only by realizing that our selfish, inward focus is the root cause of all our misery can we ever approach and understand that the exact opposite, i.e. selfLESSness is the answer to the meaning of life, not more of the same. Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, and a host of other modern best-selling religious authors are also peddling “the secret” of a materialistic man-centered universe with a man-centered resolution. The contempt for the Son of God and His gospel of redemption is as unpopular today as it was 2000 years ago. We still have “no king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:15), “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19).
God’s economy is 180 degrees out of phase with man’s. Byrne pits the New Testament against itself by citing the second most used out of context (a runner up to “do not judge”) passage in the Bible. “The creative process used in The Secret, which was taken from the New Testament in the Bible, is an easy guideline for you to create what you want in three simple steps. Step 1: Ask…Step 2: Believe…Step 3: Receive.” While it is true that the NT lays out this three step process in Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24, it never states that it is an “easy guideline for you to create what you want.” Jesus’ actual words were: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Mt. 21:21-22). The parallel account in Mark gives us even more of Jesus’ words on this occasion: “Jesus answered saying to them, Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mk. 11:22-24). Without going into a study of what biblical prayer actually is, we need to understand right away that Jesus is not teaching a “get rich quick” formula here.
It is significant that Byrne equates prayer with asking for what you want. This reveals that her impression of God is simply the genie in the lamp, the cosmic granter of wishes. Praying then for Byrne is simply petitioning “God” for the desires of our hearts. But this is completely antithetical to Jesus’ teaching throughout the NT. Prayer is not to inform God of our thoughts, it is meant to conform our thoughts to His. Prayer is not for God’s benefit—it is for ours.
Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Mt. 6:31-33).
This misunderstanding of prayer has led to all sorts of false teaching, both from within and without the church. The “riches of Christ” prove to be of little value to those whom are seeking an earthly kingdom. This is why the teachings of The Secret are leading many Christians astray; they aren’t much different than the teachings of modern “Christian” bestsellers. Osteen and Meyer may use more Bible verses than Byrne in their books, but the result is the same. The entire focus of the Bible is God, not man. Man has sought throughout his entire existence to bring God down to his level and The Secret is simply another link in this chain of rebellion. The rich young ruler went away sad because he encountered the one thing that his money couldn’t buy; his earthly kingdom meant more to him than “seeking first” the heavenly kingdom. Byrne, Osteen, Meyer and others are correct about one thing though: God does want you to be rich:
Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:8-12).
. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 47-52.
. For a good overview of the biblical view of prayer see the chapter “God’s Sovereignty and Prayer” in A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God.