The Real Secret
June 1, 2007 - False teaching lures us through our TV screens, blockbuster movies and the latest New York Times best-sellers. The Apostle Paul warns us against anything that distorts the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. ... Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:6, 8, NIV).
by Donald S. Whitney
Where I live there’s a rerun of The Oprah Winfrey Show after the news. I was reading the paper and listening to the news a few months ago when I heard, “Next on Oprah: The secret to everything.” That got my attention. All I had to do was sit in my chair for five minutes to find out what it was. “The secret to health, to wealth, to defining the love of your life, to job success ...” The most influential woman in America was going to present to us the secret to everything—in the form of Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Secret.” The very day after that program, the book went to No. 1 on the best-seller list. I realized the book was going to be a phenomenon, so I bought it and read it.
“The Secret” speaks to our culture’s desire for hope. It appeals to virtually every desire, and promises to have the key to all of them. You’re promised there’s nothing that you can’t get with this “secret.” But “The Secret” is based on heresy. Here are a few passages:
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 (p. 164). ... 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 (p. 183).
The first way to scope out a heresy is to see what a text says about Jesus Christ and the Bible. “The Secret” basically says that you are God and don’t need Christ or the Bible. Your problem is wrong thinking, so you don’t need a savior. You don’t need a sacrifice. You don’t need a substitute. Jesus is relevant only insofar as He is someone the author sees as an example of teaching The Secret.
In one respect, the book is based on the same theology as much New Age teaching, that if you think the right thoughts and make the right affirmations, then that sort of faith will bring you whatever you want. The difference with this book is that it claims you can do this because you’re God. That’s the heresy of heresies—the original blasphemy in Genesis 3:5 when the serpent said to Eve in the Garden, “You will be like God,” which led to the fall of man.
Despite this, even some Christians defend the book, saying, “It’s just about positive thinking.” They seem to brush under the carpet the blasphemous passages that say, “You are God ... the universe exists for you.” They don’t realize that self-deification is the foundation of the book. It’s mind-boggling that some Christians do not see the problems with this, for the Bible gives no room for compromise, saying, “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39).
Everything We Need
The Bible also affirms that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ (Colossians 2:3). And Christ asks, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Strangely, “The Secret” never mentions sin or death or the afterlife. We read in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” But “The Secret” seems to imply that if you get cancer, as I did last year, you need only to think the right thoughts, and it’ll be gone. If we keep thinking the right thoughts we’ll live forever. But death is a certainty, so how does “The Secret” help us after that? In addition, why would we rely upon thinking our own thoughts, especially when we have a heart that the Bible describes as “more deceitful than all else And ... desperately sick”? (Jeremiah 17:9).
As Christians we know what to think about this because God has revealed the truth about these things in Scripture. We are the messengers, not the ones who originated the message. God has a right to tell us what to think through His Word, and we learn how to think by being “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2).
A Word on Prayer
Matthew 21:22, the lone Scripture verse quoted in “The Secret,” says, “All things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” But that’s not the Bible’s entire teaching on prayer. The Bible also instructs us to confess our sins and to ask for things in accordance with God’s will (Isaiah 59:1-2, 1 John 1:9, John 5:14). Furthermore, we are told that we don’t have because we “ask but with the wrong motives, that [we] may spend it on [our] pleasures” (James 4:2-3). That’s the arrow into the heart of this false teaching. James says we ask and don’t receive because we don’t ask, “What is God’s will? What will glorify Him?”
So knowing the Word of God is crucial to evaluating “The Secret.” Christ makes clear that He didn’t come to give us secrets to get what we want. He came to take the wrath of God, that we might receive God’s mercy. That’s central to the Gospel, as are Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. But there’s no mention of these in “The Secret.”
God Himself is the secret to everything. His divine power, referenced in 2 Peter 1:3, has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Read for yourself what the Bible says. The Gospel of Christ is an open secret, available to everybody.*
*If you would like to explore the truth of the Gospel, we will send you “Living in Christ,” a Bible study on the Gospel according to John. To request a free copy, visit billygraham.org/livinginChrist.