Law of Attraction: A New Age Practice in the Modern Christian Church
In what seems like a previous life, I used to believe in a principle that states that you can have anything you desire, so long as you want it bad enough. This theory, touted as a Law by practitioners and believers, suggests that humans are divine; in fact, we’re creators. Everything that ever was and ever will be was created by a cosmic desire to make it so, thus we have the power to manifest our own reality in the here and now.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I now hold a different view. I believe that everything that ever was and ever will be was brought into existence by a creator God, and any power a human being can manifest is only available through the Holy Spirit, and according to the perfect will of our God.
Which is why it is endlessly troubling as I witness the modern church embracing principles like the one I used to hold dear. Having studied it thoroughly previous to my being born again, I can recognize it with ease, and it is pretty prevalent, right under the noses of the faithful.
Before we explore precisely how this movement has made its way into Christendom, let’s have a look at exactly what this principle is, who promotes it, and why it is dangerous.
The Law of Attraction, as it is now known, is not really the breakthrough that it claims to be. Magicians and Occult practitioners have been engaging in this philosophy for ages. In an effort to make it sound cutting edge, proponents of the Law of Attraction couch it in scientific terms. Specifically, the Law of Attraction can best be understood as the principle of “like attracts like”. If you put something positive into the universe, the universe (the catch all term for those who refuse to accept a singular deity) will send something positive back to you. Likewise, if you put only negativity into the universe, negativity is what you will attract. This is explained in a pseudo-scientific sense by claiming that since all matter, including human beings, are made of energy on a quantum level, like energy attracts like energy. If your thoughts have a measurable mass, then that means that they too are made of energy, hence your thoughts can and do manipulate the energy around you.
Through this principle, you can literally focus your thoughts to a specific outcome, and the “universe”, or the energy around you, simply has no choice but to comply with the specific energy output of your positive thoughts. If your positive thoughts are focused on a certain specific outcome, say you want a new shiny red bicycle, the energy around you will work to put events in place that will ultimately result in you receiving said bicycle. Kinda sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
While this principle has been available in varying forms for ages, the promotion of the Law of Attraction as scientific principle came into vogue around the early 1900’s as part of what was known as the “New Thought Movement.” The phrase “Law of Attraction” was used in the 1906 book by William Walker Atkinson titled Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World. Herein we see the term “like attracts like” presented as a provable theory. Soon thereafter, this “law” began to be applied in terms of prosperity, such as the book Prosperity Through Thought Force by Bruce MacLelland. As the term caught fire, more and more New Age practitioners began to co-opt the principle, and apply it to their own philosophies. Famous Theosophist Annie Besant, who was a follower of Madame Helena Blavatsky, adopted the term in 1919, claiming that it proved the reality of the mystical concept of karma.
This principle was widely known amongst gurus of the New Age for a long time, but began to gain a big foothold in mainstream pop culture with the release of the film and subsequent book The Secret. The Secret had an insidious rise to popularity. Touting itself as a “self help book”, the title is derived from the claim that the Law of Attraction is something so powerful and so completely successful; it has been hidden away from mainstream thought. The author and presenters claim that successful business owners and elite millionaires have known this “secret” for a long time, and have tried desperately to keep it out of the hands of average human beings, lest we all become mega-bazillionaires.
When watching the film, one begins to see how this purportedly scientific principle is actually an esoteric form of divination, handed down from age to age. The film opens with the title screen reading “The Secret was Buried.” We then see an emerald tablet (which is a blatant shout out to the Emerald Tablet of Egyptian/Greek Hermetic lore) being transcribed onto a parchment scroll and handed to a priest. The emerald tablet is then buried by the pyramids of Giza. Next, we are taken on a journey through time as we witness alchemists like the darling of the New Age set St. Germain, who are studying and applying the principles of the Emerald Tablet. These texts are passed down from generation to generation until ultimately we see them being handed to a group of elite businessmen in a boardroom. Unlike the original intentions of the New Thought Movement, which filmmaker Rhonda Byrne claims as the source of inspiration for her film and book, The Secret adopts a very clear focus on materialism and wealth enhancement, packaged in slick esoterica, promoted as self help.
So, with the obvious occult implications of The Secret, how did it become so popular with Average Joes and soccer moms?
Enter Oprah Winfrey. In an article on her website, Oprah says of The Secret, “It has been marketed and packaged in such a way that people of our generation, of this time, can receive it in a way that perhaps they couldn’t have received it from other philosophers.”
Oprah was so moved by the contents of The Secret, that she invited a selection of gurus and New Age practitioners featured in the film to be guests on her show. It can be remarked that this was likely the beginning of Oprah’s burgeoning spiritual movement, which continues to this day on her website and her OWN network. Due to Oprah’s incredible visibility and popularity at that time, she influenced millions of unsavvy viewers to purchase The Secret and apply it to their lives.
Once the Law of Attraction gained a foothold in pop culture, it never really let go. Using basic ideas like visualization, it is easy for the gullible and misguided to practice. One of the most popular methods described by practitioners of The Secret is that of The Vision Board. Essentially, the reader/viewer is encouraged to get a big piece of cardboard and paste things to it that they want to draw into their lives. If you want a new car, a new home, money, a new dog, a new boyfriend/girlfriend… whatever the case is, you are to find pictures of these items and glue them to your Vision Board. Once the board is full of all of the STUFF that you want, you are encouraged to study the board regularly, imagining that all of these THINGS are yours. Eventually, the universe will give them to you. Isn’t that AMAZING!? Again, it sounds an awful lot like magic, doesn’t it? Occultists and wiccans use a similar philosophy with their sigils and signs that are meant to represent things that they’d like to manifest in their lives. They use visualization while focusing on their created sigil in an effort to bring those things to themselves.
Another popular concept from The Secret is the positive affirmation, or repetitive statement of intent. In this practice, you just say the things you want over and over and eventually you’ll get them. Easy peasy! Exactly like a magical incantation! Except not, because it is SCIENCE, right??
With all of the overtly occultic, Gnostic, and Hermetic pagan influences on The Law of Attraction, how do I boldly claim that it has found its way into Christian circles?
In recent decades, a movement has been spreading throughout Christian churches. Largely knows as the Prosperity movement or Word of Faith, these preachers make bold claims about how to achieve personal prosperity through abundant faith practices. Their skillful couching of The Law of Attraction in Christianese has led many millions of people unknowingly into New Age concepts. Many of the readers of this site are aware of the dangers of this movement, but perhaps not aware of how tightly woven the prosperity gospel is with the Law of Attraction, and how insidiously it twists true Christian principles of faith with deceptive occult practices.
In Word of Faith circles, a huge emphasis on “name it and claim it” has led Christians to believe that by simply making statements of intent, you can force God’s hand and make Him give you what you desire. In the Word of Faith and prosperity realm, God is rather impotent, bound by certain laws that force Him to comply with the wishes of believers because they said the right words. Whenever I think of this, I’m reminded of the old Jim Henson fantasy film Labyrinth, in which the goblins who do the bidding of the Goblin King encourage a naïve young girl to use a magical incantation by urging her to “say your right words!”
Literature rivaling the popularity of The Secret has emerged from the Christian prosperity movement. It is not uncommon to find the book The Prayer of Jabez in the homes of nice Christian families. This book by author Dr. Bruce Wilkinson revolves around a singular appearance of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10. The passage reads:
Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.
It is an inspiring prayer in which Jabez, who is called in the previous verse “more honorable than his brothers”, cries out to God in this short prayer, and God answers his prayer in the affirmative.
The book Prayer of Jabez recognizes the simplicity and broadness of Jabez’s prayer, and maintains that all one has to do to achieve similar results is to pray this exact same prayer on repeat until God complies. The claim of the book is as follows:
Are you ready to reach for the extraordinary? To ask God for the abundant blessings He longs to give you? Join Dr Bruce Wilkinson to discover how the remarkable prayer of a little-known Bible hero can release God’s favor, power and protection. You’ll see how one daily prayer can help you leave the past behind – and break through to the life you were meant to live. Now an all-time best-seller. by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson.
Now you tell me, how is this ANY DIFFERENT than a magical incantation? The fact that the words are lifted from scripture does not change the fact that what Dr. Wilkinson is encouraging is the exact same principle put forth by The Secret and The Law of Attraction, in that if you say your right words, your wildest dreams will manifest.
If we say it long enough eventually we’re going to reap a harvest. We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying. – Joel Osteen
Similarly, the concept much promoted in Word Faith circles is that of speaking things into being. Speaking words of prosperity will bring it forth. Speaking words of life will ward off death. Speaking words of death will invite death. Speaking the right and wrong words essentially manipulates God into doing YOUR will, rather than praying that HIS will be done. You see? Say your right words. Say your right words. Kenneth Hagin, a key figure in Word of Faith circles, calls it The Law of Faith. Interesting, no?
Another popular Prosperity preacher is Creflo Dollar, who teaches, “your tongue is the best tool to use. Make these confessions daily, and watch as your life begins to manifest the things you speak.” Creflo, and others like him, dance dangerously toward the New Age idea of man as creator, equaling the power of God Almighty, if only we would say our right words. Creflo says that if we believe hard enough and say the right things in combination with what we believe, we can literally manifest anything! He says, “when God released his words look what we got. An entire planet.” The implication here is that we could do the same thing. We’re creators. We’re gods. We’re divine. What need have we for God, when we’re quite capable of using God for our purposes, to elevate ourselves to His status, thus nullifying any need for Him at all?
Please understand, I by no means downplay the very real supernatural gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to believers. And I believe heavily in the power of prayer. We’re told that if we pray ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He hears us. (1 John 5:14). According to His will. Not of ourselves. Not because we can make Him obey our own will and desire, but because He is a loving and merciful God.
A powerful counter to the claim that God will literally give you any level or prosperity that you can conceive of is found in James 4:3 which states:
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
In the English Standard Version, this is translated as “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Thus, we’re admonished to pray according to His will for the things that we need, and that may even include financial or material items if it is something that we need for one reason or another, but chances are that if you’re praying for a sports car or a billion bucks, you’re praying amiss for something that you’ll consume upon your lusts, rather than for the betterment of your family and faith. To me it is quite clear.
I also believe that there IS a certain truth to the power of positive thinking, if one applies it to the life of a Christian believer. This is not to say that if you think positive thought, the universe or God is compelled to make it so, but in the sense that when we view ourselves and our own lives through the lens of God, and when we view ourselves as new Creations in Christ, we will certainly be more compelled to live more righteously and according to His will, which bears good fruit. But it is not by anything that we’ve done. Any power comes from God exclusively. When we can think with the mind of Christ, we’re far more capable of navigating through this fallen world with abundant joy. So in this sense, being positive, if framed in the context of deriving that positivity from your identity in Jesus, your life will certainly be more fruitful. Which has nothing to do with wealth or STUFF.
More and more, I am seeing the Law of Attraction, along with other New Age practices, infiltrating the modern Christian Church insidiously. Whether preachers in these churches are unaware of their own embracing of occult teaching, or if they are knowingly bringing it into mainstream Christianity through subterfuge, the onus is on the believer to be aware of what to look for.
In the end, discernment is key. This is why I am a strong believer in the need for Christians to make themselves aware of what the enemy is promoting, because then we’re able to recognize that same thing when in manifests in the sanctuaries of our churches. Do not be deceived.
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