Friday, June 22, 2007

The Secret, the Bible, and the Answer

An unexpected best-seller has recently been making the rounds, promoted as the path to health, wealth and happiness. It is called The Secret and is a compilation, by Rhonda Byrne, of motivational thoughts of people from various walks of life. It is not a new teaching, but a recycled one, a distillation of the “New Thought” philosophy movement from the late 1800’s. Essentially, “the secret” is what is known as the “law of attraction,” that “like attracts like” and that we tend to attract to ourselves whatever we focus ourselves on. Focus on poverty and sickness, for example, and that is what you’ll end up with. Focus on wealth and health, and happiness, and they shall be yours.

There is an underlying value to the book that is true: The world was created to respond to us. The Bible teaches us that the world was framed by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3), and we were created in the image of God, to be like God, and to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28). Also, experiments in quantum physics demonstrate that the world does indeed respond to the very act of how we observe it.

What is left out, however, is the truth that sin has marred both mankind and the world. Remember that there were these two trees in the Garden of Eden: The Tree of Life, from which man could eat feely, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which was forbidden. Adam and Eve rebelled against God, ate from the forbidden tree, and disconnected from the life of God. The result is that the world was plunged under a curse. That is still the problem today.

The answer, however, is found in Jesus Christ, who sets us free from the penalty and power of sin. The apostle Paul tells us that all of creation is waiting for us to manifest this salvation:
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
Just as the fall of man negatively affected creation, so the redemption of man also brings with it the restoration of creation.

But instead of eating from the Tree of Life and operating from the life of God, the life of the Spirit found in Jesus Christ, man keeps eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, trying to deal with good and evil apart from God. That is what The Secret ends up doing: It tries to deal with good and evil apart from the life of God and the power of the Holy Spirit — and that ultimately leads to death.

The Secret promotes positive thinking, which is not necessarily bad, just inadequate. Consider what Jesus had to say about changing the world:
So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:22-24)
It begins with faith in God. It is not enough just to imagine mountains moving, or even to speak to them; we must also believe in our heart, and the faith by which we believe in our heart has everything to do with faith in God. Indeed, it is a faith that comes from God. The Bible says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

The Secret is not about the kind of faith that comes by hearing the Word of God, but merely about the power of human intention. Human intention can be very powerful, but when it is not directed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, it can also be very destructive.

From a Christian point of view, the problem I have with The Secret is that it is not founded on the Word of God, by which the world itself was created, and by which faith comes. However, the current interest in The Secret gives us an opportunity similar to the one Paul had at Mars Hill. The Athenians had a temple to the “unknown God.” But Paul took that as an opportunity to tell them about this unknown God, and he preached Jesus to them (Acts 17:22-23).

Likewise, I do think that the people cited in The Secret have learned some things about how God's creation works, though they have missed some crucial aspects which are revealed to us in the Scriptures. But the things that they have learned presents a common ground for understanding, and a “Mars Hill” opportunity to bring the teaching of Scripture and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Though man was created to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it, the likeness of God in us was marred by Adam's sin in the Garden. But Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, we have redemption, so that we may be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). In other words, what was lost in Adam is restored to us in Jesus Christ, and all creation is waiting for that to be revealed in the grown-up children of God (Romans 8:19-22).

THAT is the essential key, which The Secret lacks.