One of the reasons that the Word of Faith movement has become so popular in Christian and secular-settings is that everyone wants to know the “secret.” Everyone wants to have the “magic bullet;” you know, the secret to health; the secret to wealth; the secret to successful relationships; the secret to making a fortune on Wall Street –– if that is even possible anymore –– the secret to maintaining your perfect weight. The list is endless. Thus, when Rhonda Byrne informed the world she had discovered “the Secret to life”–– a secret harnessed by “the greatest people in history: Plato, Shakespeare…Lincoln… Einstein”— the world stood up and took notice. Within weeks, The Secret topped bestseller lists and morphed into a cultural phenomenon. In fact, on January 15, 2009, their going to have a special theater event, hosted by Lisa Gibbons entitled, Beyond the Secret. So it’s taken on a life of its own because it gives simple formulas or fast food formulas for very complex problems.
You ask, “What is the Secret?” Well, according to Rhonda Byrne it’s “the law of attraction.” Byrne continues, “The greatest teachers who have ever lived have told us that the law of attraction is the most powerful law in the Universe.” Byrne also adds, “You create your life through your thoughts.” Byrne also claims that “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. Ask, Believe, Receive.”
Does this sound familiar? Kenneth Hagin had the exact same formula as the father of the Faith Movement.
Byrne points to herself as a prime example. To transform herself from fat to thin, she thought thin thoughts, and did not so much as look at fat people, she says, “If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it.” As a result she says, “I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds, and I can eat whatever I want.” According to The Secret, the error is to think that food is responsible for weight gain. In short, for Rhonda Byrne thoughts are the primary cause of everything––whether good or bad. On one hand, thin thoughts produce thin bodies; on the other, six million Jews brought the horrors of the holocaust upon themselves. According to The Secret, “The law of attraction never slips up.”
For Rhonda Byrne, the genie that causes the universe to give you whatever you want is the law of attraction; however, here’s where I want to turn a corner, for Joel Osteen –– who is communicating from a quasi-Christian pulpit –– it is the word of faith; that is our genie. Osteen is committed to the notion that faith is a force, that words are the containers of the force, and that through the force of faith, one can create their own reality. As he explains in his mega best seller, Your Best Life Now, “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. This is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you’re saying is good or bad, positive or negative.”
While I want to make clear that Osteen and Byrne have noteworthy differences, they are united in the belief that the force of faith is so powerful that even God –– however you may define him –– is bound by its irrevocable reality.
If occult sources, such as those referenced in The Secret, pose the greatest threat to the body of Christ from without, I contend that the deadly doctrines disseminated by these prosperity preachers pose the greatest threat to Christianity from within. To avert this crisis, a paradigm shift of major proportions is desperately needed––a shift from perceiving God as a means to an end, to recognition that He is the end.
And while change must come, it clearly will not come easily. Those who are dispensing spiritual cyanide by the mega-dose occupy powerful platforms within evangelical Christianity. They’re like the popes in the medieval church. If people like John Hus dare speak out against indulgence, or John Wycliffe speak out against transubstantiation and indulges, if Wycliffe dared to take the Bible and translate it into the language of the people, there were consequences. That’s why Wycliffe’s bones were exhumed, burned and ashes spread to the wind. That’s why Hus was burned at the stake in the midst of his writings. That’s why William Tyndale died; his body ablaze and cried out, “O Lord, open the eyes of England’s King.” The problem then was that people were biblically illiterate because there were no Bibles in English. Today we have another problem, we have all kinds of Bibles, but we are not reading them. Therefore, we are falling prey to a brand new generation of prosperity popes. They control vast resources, and stand to lose multiplied millions of dollars, if they are exposed. The stakes are so high that those who are plunging Christianity into crisis are willing to do and say virtually anything to silence opposition.
Paul Crouch, founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), went so far as to suggest that if God does not kill “heresy hunters” like me, he will. Benny Hinn took it a step further. On TBN’s “Praise the Lord” program, he said, “You have attacked me. Your children will pay for it.”
Despite whatever threats they may make, despite consequences, I am absolutely resolutely convinced that Christianity In Crisis––The 21st Century is a book that needed to be written. A book that I pray will serve not only to expose the cancer that is ravaging the body of Christ from within, but will also serve to effect enduring changes among those who dare to take the sacred name “Christian” upon their lips.
When I first wrote about this subject beginning in 1990 with the original Christianity in Crisis, I have often said if I knew what I would face as a result of writing that book, I would have never written it. A lot of people immediately jumped on me and said that is cowardice. What I was trying to communicate to people is simply this, God gives us the grace we need and often times He does not give us the grace we need until the moment we need it.
If I took it on the chin as a result of writing the original Christianity in Crisis what in the world would posses me to write Christianity In Crisis––The 21st Century? I answer that question and address a lot of other issues on the Word of Faith Movement on the January 13th and 14th shows of the Bible Answer Man. You can access that off our front page under the “Today’s Broadcast” link.