The Secret and Joel Osteen: An Even Greater Problem than American Christianity’s ABC moment.

We do live in an anything but Christian moment. Sometimes it has been called an “A-B-C” (anything but Christian) moment. It is a moment in human history in which we are not only being attacked in the West by a liberal liberalism but we are also being invaded, as it were, by militant Islam. The demographics alone are alarming. Perhaps there is even a greater problem, which is the problem of a church ill-equipped, and ill-prepared. A church that is gorging on empty calorie diets. A church that is no longer a leavening force within the culture. If there was ever a time in which the church needed to stand up and be counted, it is now.

Let me give you just a little anecdote. There was an article in USA Today entitled “How Conor McGregor’s Belief in Law of Attraction Will Help Him Beat Floyd Mayweather.” This of course was about the Floyd Mayweather vs. Connor McGregor fight which took place on Saturday. Connor McGregor talked about the law of attraction in this article. He said, “It is the most powerful thing in the world…the belief that you are able to create whatever situation that you want for yourself and no one can take it from you. It is believing something is already yours.” McGregor went on to say, “If you can see it here and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen…you are creating that law of attraction and it will become reality.” Vocalizing desires then makes them real. McGregor predicted as a result of the law of attraction that he would win in just two rounds. He lost, of course, in the tenth round.

Now, that anecdote is interesting to me for this reason: it does not just come out of midair. It comes from a book that was a mega bestseller called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. She told the world that she had discovered the secret to life, and boy did the world take notice, Oprah Winfrey at the top of the list. What was the secret? The secret was the law of attraction. Rhonda Byrne got the law of attraction from the New Testament. She says it is quite easy; the New Testament gives it to us in “three simple steps”: ask, believe, receive. Then she goes on to point to herself as the principle example. In order to transform herself from fat to thin, she had a method; she thought thin thoughts. In fact, she said she did not so much look at fat people because if you see people who are overweight and observe them, that is going to be a negative consequence. She says as a result of the secret, “I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can eat whatever I want.” In other words, for her, the error was to think that food [i.e., overeating] was responsible for weight gain.

That kind of rhetoric, at first blush, may seem merely silly, but there is a clear and present danger in the reasoning. Just as her followers must avoid fat people for fear of becoming fat as well, they must avoid cancer victims for fear of contracting cancer or, for that matter, poor people for fear of becoming poor. In other words, you have to avoid the very people that Jesus exhorts us to care for. Do not even look at them, according to Rhonda Byrne.

What I found to be remarkable about Byrne is that she is remarkably open with respect to The Secret’s dark underbelly. She points out events in history where masses have been lost. Why? Again, the law of attraction. They attracted horror to themselves. Thoughts of fear can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “We are attracting everything to ourselves” and “There is no exception,” says Joe Vital, a law of attraction devotee. Thin thoughts produce thin bodies. On the other hand, six million Jews brought the horror of the Holocaust upon themselves. Or, think Houston. In Houston, there are millions of people attracting fifty-seven-trillion liters of floodwater to fall on Houston because they are thinking negative thoughts — at least that is the logical extension of her view.

For Rhonda Byrne, the jinni is the law of attraction, but this has metastasized, because it is not just being taught in the world under a quasi-Christian framework; it is being taught overtly in the church. In Houston, you have Joel Osteen. He is explaining that you have to begin speaking words of faith over your life; your words have enormous creative power; the moment you speak something out, you give birth to it, it is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative. When Osteen describes the genocide of nearly one million Rwandans, the implications are never far from the surface. Wherever and whenever tragedy strikes, words are at the center of the narrative. “Think about it,” exhorts Osteen in Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, “Your words go out of your mouth and they come right back into your own ears…and those words will produce exactly what you’re saying.” As proof, Osteen invokes the Bible. Says Osteen, “The Scripture tells us that we are to ‘call the things that are not as if they already were’” or were already in place. The problem here is he has taken a text, and he has distorted the text. He is quoting from Romans 4:17 and, as he must surely know, that text says nothing of the sort. It does say something of the sort, it is just that he has put a spin on it. The spin is that we are to call those things that are not as though they already were. But what does the Bible say? It says it is God who calls those things that are not as though they already were.

All of that ought to be a warning that we are within the church buying into a form of New Thought metaphysics carefully packaged for Christian consumption. Now the atheist world, the materialist world, looks at this and says, “See how easily Christians are misled! How gullible they are!” But, this is a caricature of Christianity. It is not the real thing.

What I am saying is this: yes, we face a threat from a liberal liberalism. Just think about the transgender movement. Now sex is no longer tied to biology. Think about gender fluidity. There are fifty-seven or more varieties now. Think about same-sex marriage. All of this is a threat to the historic Christian faith and to Western civilization. Then we have the demographic issue of millions and millions of self-aborting Europeans meaning that through the social structure now in vogue, the death rate exceeds the birthrate, and filling the vacuum (as vacuums are always filled) are millions and millions of polygamous Muslims. Yet, you wonder, somehow or other, how in the world could Islam be in bed with a liberal liberalism or vice versa? Does not seem to make much sense? But it does when you come to think about the reality that, right now as I speak, Christianity is seen as the obstacle that has for too long been dominant within Western culture, and it must be unseated. Now you have, as I said, strange bedfellows. In the midst of this milieu, a crumbling church and me talking to you on the Bible Answer Man broadcast saying, if you will be salt and light, you can exercise the power of one, and make a difference. And if you think the power of one is not significant, think Martin Luther. Or, think about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Or, in a negative sense, think about Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong or Pol Pot. We can make a difference, but it is not because words create reality; it is because we are called by God who does create reality to be empowered by the Spirit and to go out and make a difference while there is yet time.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following articles:

What Is The Secret? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Secret Revealed: Assessing the Latest Self-Help Phenomenon (Robert Velarde)

Osteenification and What It Portends (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century: Wealth and Want (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity Still In Crisis: A Word of Faith Update (Bon Hunter)

What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 1): E. W. Kenyon and the Twelve Apostles of Another Gospel (Hank Hanegraaff)

What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 2): The Teachings of Kenneth Copeland (Hank Hanegraaff and Erwin M. de Castro)

God Is Love, but Is Love God? (Elliot Miller)

Addressing the ‘Positive Gospel’ of the Metaphysical Movement (Dean C. Halverson)

See also our e-store resources:

Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff

The Osteenification of America by Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the August 29, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.