Satan

What does the Bible say about Satan, and what do Christians believe about him? Not only is this an important biblical doctrine, but it has also been used to determine if someone has a biblical worldview.

The Barna Group has found that a very small percentage of born again Christians have a biblical worldview. They define a “biblical worldview” as having the following six elements: “The Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.”{1}

Various surveys (including the Barna surveys) show that many Christians think that belief in Satan is optional. After all, they argue, if I believe in Jesus that is enough. But if you believe that Jesus was God then you have to believe that Satan exists. Satan is mentioned in the Gospels twenty-nine times. And in twenty-five of those references, Jesus is the one talking about Satan.

Download the PodcastIt is also worth noting that Satan is mentioned many other times in the Bible. Satan is referred to in seven Old Testament books and every New Testament writer talks about Satan. Belief in Satan is not optional.

When Satan is discussed in the New Testament, he is identified by three titles. These three titles describe his power on earth and his influence in the world:

1. Ruler of the world – Jesus refers to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). This means that he can use the elements of society, culture, and government to achieve his evil ends in this world. That doesn’t mean that every aspect of society or culture is evil. And it doesn’t mean that Satan has complete control of every politician or governmental bureaucrat. But it does mean that Satan can use and manipulate the world’s system.

2. God of this world – Paul refers to Satan as “the god of this world” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan sets himself up as a false god to many. His power over religion and the ability to promote false religions keeps people from know the true gospel.

3. Prince of the air – Paul reminds Christians that they were dead in their trespasses and since in which they “formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Satan is the prince of the air and thus controls the thoughts of those in the world system. The Bible says: “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). So we should not be surprised that we find ourselves in the midst of spiritual warfare.

How Did Satan Fall?

The Bible doesn’t say much about Satan and his fall. There are two passages in Scripture that many believe does describe Satan’s fall but not all theologians are convinced. These passages are Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-19.

Ezekiel predicts the coming judgment of the Gentile nations and refers to “the prince (or leader) of Tyre” and then later to “the king of Tyre.” These do not seem to be the same person. The first is obviously the earthly leader of the city Tyre. Ezekiel is predicting his ultimate downfall and the destruction of his kingdom.

The person referred to as the “king of Tyre” seems to be a different person. He has “the seal of perfection” and was “blameless.” He is described as “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” It also says that he was “in Eden, the garden of God.”

It appears that the “king of Tyre” describes Satan who was serving God as an angel. The passage further says that Satan was “lifted up” because of his beauty which many commentators suggest mean that he was the greatest of all of God’s creations. But he sinned. This passage says “you sinned” and “you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.”

Another passage that appears to be talking about Satan is where the prophet Isaiah is predicting that God will bring judgment against Babylon. The first part of chapter 14 (verses 1-11) is directed at the king of Babylon. But many theologians and commentators believe that the subject changes in the next section (verses 12-19) because it focuses on the “star of the morning.”

It worth mentioning that the “star of the morning” in verse 12 could just as easily be translated “the shining one.” That connects with Paul’s statement that Satan is an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). The passage also says that he has “fallen from heaven.” It seems like we are not talking about the Babylonian king but actually talking about Satan.

If this passage is talking about Satan, then it tells us more about his motivations that led to his fall. Five times in this passage we see the phrase “I will.” He is prideful and wants to achieve a position “above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13). He also sought to be “like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). And he wanted to “sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north” (Isaiah 14:13). Each of these desires tells us more about his motivations.

From this passage we discover three things about Satan. First, Satan wanted to be superior to creation. Second, Satan wanted to be superior to the Creator. Third, Satan wanted a superior place to rule all of creation.{2}

What Do We Know About Satan’s Character?

The Bible tells us a great deal about Satan through the various names that are given to him. Let’s begin by looking at the name “Satan.” In Hebrew the name means “adversary.” He is opposed to God and His plans. And Satan is also opposed to God’s plan in our lives. If we are to be successful in spiritual warfare, we must understand that he is our adversary. This characteristic of Satan is significant. The Old Testament uses this name for him eighteen times, and it is used thirty-four times in the New Testament.

Another common name for Satan is “the devil.” This name in the Greek is diabolos and is derived from the verb meaning “to throw.” The Devil throws accusations and lies at us. This is a significant part of spiritual warfare. He accuses believers while he slanders and defames the name of God. This name occurs thirty-six times in the New Testament.

There is one passage in the New Testament that uses both of these names for Satan. Peter warns believers about Satan who is an “adversary” and “the devil” who is on the prowl like roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He is a formidable adversary that believing Christians should not take lightly.

Satan is also known as the “tempter.” He tempts us to follow him and his evil ways rather than follow God’s plan for our lives. When he appears to Jesus in the wilderness, he is referred to as the tempter (Matthew 4:3). Also, Paul refers to Satan as “the tempter” (1 Thessalonians 3:5) and thus illustrates one of the key characteristics of Satan: he tempts humans to sin.

A related name is “serpent.” Satan took the form of a serpent to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Paul talks about Satan tempting Eve due to his subtle tempting and craftiness (2 Corinthians 11:3).

In addition to tempting believers, Satan is referred to as the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

Satan is also called “the evil one” both by Jesus (John 17:15) and John (1 John 5:18-19). Satan can control the world system, but believers are given the power to resist his temptations and evil designs. Satan is the source of much of the evil in the world, and that is why believers must reckon with his impact and content with spiritual warfare.

We also see his power in the names that describe his dominion. He is described as “the god of this world” in 2 Corinthians 4:4. He is also called “the prince of the world” (John 14:30) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). And he is known as “the ruler of the demons” in Matthew 12:24.

How Are We Caught in the Snares of Satan?

The Bible teaches that Satan can capture our minds and divert us from God’s purpose. This is called a snare. In certain biblical passages (for example, Psalm 124), we read about fowlers and the use of snares. They would capture birds by spreading a net on the ground that was attached to a trap or snare. When the birds landed to eat the seeds spread out, the trap would spring and throw the net over the birds.

A snare could be anything Satan uses that entangles us or impedes our progress. It could be roadblock or it could be a diversion. A wise and discerning Christian should be alert for these snares that can prevent our effectiveness and even ruin our testimony.

The character of Satan gives us some insight into his methods and techniques. James gives us a perspective on this by telling us that when we are tempted we should not blame God. Instead we should understand the nature of temptation and enticement. “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

James shows that temptation toward sin in usually a process rather than a single act. We are tempted and then carried away and enticed by our own lust. Like a fisherman who tries to catch a fish using bait, Satan tries to entice us by placing before us something that will cause us to be carried away. Then when lust has conceived, we do it again, and eventually experience death.

Satan is not only the tempter, but he is a subtle deceiver “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus warned that there will be “false Christs and false prophets” who will “show great signs and wonders.” They will be so convincing that they “shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24).

Paul teaches that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light” and his demons transform themselves as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Satan’s main strategy is to lie. Jesus said concerning Satan, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Paul prays that Christians would “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14).

How Did Jesus Resist the Temptations of Satan?

How can we resist Satan’s temptations? We can learn some valuable lessons about how to deal with spiritual warfare by watching how Jesus was able to resist the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4; Mark 1; Luke 4) in the forty-day Temptation. The Bible records three attempts by Satan to get Jesus to act independently of His Father’s will for Him.

1. Challenged God’s provision – Satan first challenged Jesus to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). The Bible tells us that Jesus was very hungry after fasting for forty days. While Jesus had the power to do so, He resisted because it was His Father’s will that he fast in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.

Instead Jesus quotes a portion of Deuteronomy 8:3 back to Satan. “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).

2. Challenged God’s protection – Satan next took Jesus into “the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple” (Ma­tthew 4:5). He then commanded Jesus to throw Himself down in order for the angels to protect Him. In other words, Satan wanted Jesus to take His protection into His own hands and no longer trust in God’s protection. Notice that Satan even quotes Scripture (Psalm 91) to Jesus (Matthew 4:6) in order to tempt Him.

Jesus, however, quotes a portion of Deuteronomy 6:16 back to Satan. “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test”” (Matthew 4:7).

3. Challenged God’s dominion – Satan then took Jesus “to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8). And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). Satan would give Jesus rule and dominion over all that the world could provide if he were turn away from His mission to save mankind and worship Satan.

Notice that Jesus did not challenge Satan’s claim that he had the kingdoms of the world to give to Him. After all, Satan is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). But instead Jesus said to him, “Go Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Matthew 4:10).

As believers we should remind ourselves that Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus tells us that “the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:11). But his influence is still felt. Jesus also refers to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). John tells us that “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). And Peter reminds us that “the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The good news is that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Notes

1. “Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years,” March 2009, www.barna.org.
2. You can find more information about Satan, demons, angels, and spiritual warfare in my book A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2009).

© 2011 Probe Ministries

 

See Also
Probe Answers Our Email: Angels and Demons

 


“How Do I Answer the Argument for Satan Because All Positives Have a Negative?”

I was hoping you could help me give an answer to my co-worker. He follows a lot of pagan beliefs. Today he was discussing how the “elite” run the world, and I asked him who he thinks influences the unjust “elite.” He responded, “Satan.” I asked, Do you believe that there is such thing as Satan? and he replied, “Yes, every good thing in the world has a counterpart, hot and cold etc. Therefore since every positive force has a corresponding negative force, a negative ‘spirit’ must exist.”

I was not sure how to respond, other than to say that is not what the Bible teaches, evil is not eternal, and Satan will be overthrown and sent to the lake of fire and tormented forever. I guess he is positing dualism. I wanted to know how I could break down the argument that Satan must exist because “all positives have a negative.” Obviously I agree that satan is real, and I am not disputing his existence; I am disputing the argument he uses to arrive at Satan’s existence.

 

It seems to me that you are quite right to point out that this is not what the Bible teaches. God is the eternal Creator of all that exists (other than Himself). Hence, there can be God without any Satan, good without any evil, etc. I think your response was right on target.

Not only is this true, but (as something of an aside) it’s also important to remember that God did not originally create the angel who became Satan as an evil being. Rather, Satan fell into sin of his own free will. [Please see my answer to email, “What Caused Lucifer (Satan) to Fall?”]

The principle that every positive must have a negative is therefore simply false. Cold is the absence of heat. And one can certainly conceive of a logically possible “hot” world that no human being would ever regard as “cold.” In addition, we must also remember that just because we can conceive of something’s opposite, this does not mean (or prove) that the opposite actually exists. One can have heat without cold, light without darkness, love without hatred, etc. None of these REQUIRES an opposite. And for someone to claim that they do would require some sort of argument or proof to that effect—not just an assertion that it is so. After all, we can think of many examples to the contrary. So why should we believe that all positives have a negative?

Finally, according to Occam’s razor [Editor’s note: “The simplest explanation is often correct”], we must not multiply causes (or entities) beyond necessity. The God of the Bible provides all the explanation we need regarding the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the existence of objective moral values, etc. To posit, in addition to God, an eternal “Satan”, is not only unbiblical, it is also completely unnecessary.

At any rate, these are a few of the thoughts that occur to me after reading your letter. I hope this is helpful in talking with your friend.

Shalom in Christ,

Michael Gleghorn

© 2010 Probe Ministries


Photoshopping Life

When Ray and I visited the Galapagos Islands, one of my favorite pictures was the two of us with a gigantic tortoise. Unfortunately, my big ol’ red purse was on the ground in the picture too. So I photoshopped it out.

galapagos-tortoise-photoshopped

At our son’s wedding, one of the ushers wasn’t wearing his boutonniere when it was time for the formal pictures. “Not to worry,” the photographer said. “We can photoshop it in later.”

During my daughter-in-law’s holiday family picture taking, someone suggested photoshopping in a beloved uncle, since they were missing him. “No! He’s been dead for two years!” someone else responded. “You don’t photoshop in a dead person who couldn’t have been here with us!”

We just had fiber-optic TV and internet installed. We can now pause and rewind live TV. Whoa.

The ability to manipulate digital images and sounds has spoiled us, I’m afraid, into thinking we should be able to manipulate the rest of life. It’s a technologically enhanced update of the enemy’s lies in the garden, enticing Eve to think she and Adam were entitled to be like God, a thinly veiled offer to make themselves as gods, just as he had.

And so we end up with people redefining things like marriage to include any two people, including those of the same sex. And a couple of gay men who successfully got both their names put on the birth certificate of their adopted son. This is the fruit of people redefining truth and reality according to their whims and desires.

And it is so much more serious than subtracting a purse or adding a flower.

 

This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/photoshopping_life
on January 6, 2009.


“Is Clairvoyance Wrong?”

A lady popped into one of our meetings recently who said she is clairvoyant and has worked with tarot cards in the past. Someone in another church had told her it was wrong so she got rid of her tarot cards but wants to know if her gift of clairvoyance is also wrong and what to do about it. She said she has had dreams of disasters, etc. before they have happened and they have been reported as she “saw” them. We are a church who operates in the prophetic but I was at a loss how to explain the difference in “layman’s” terms. I know one is in the occult but have never met anyone who said they had correct predictions before as I always believed Satan could not predict the future and now I am a little confused as to how to explain it.

Clairvoyance is indeed a manifestation of the occult. Satan has all kinds of supernatural knowledge (although he is not omniscient) so we shouldn’t be surprised when he feeds people knowledge of some future events. Particularly since this lady has worked with tarot cards, which is another open door to the occult, someone needs to explain to her how important it is to renounce her openness to the enemy’s power and secret knowledge because if power and knowledge don’t come from God, they are coming from an evil source which will prove to be harmful eventually.

The biblical standard for prophets, either fore-telling or forth-telling, is 100% accuracy (Deut. 18:22). Clairvoyance is a demonic counterfeit to the way the Holy Spirit gives knowledge supernaturally, and this lady can probably identify at least one dream or vision or thought that did not come to pass or in which she got a detail wrong because unholy and UN-omniscient Satan cannot perfectly mimic the actions of our perfectly holy God.

Concerning what to do about it, the way to slam shut the open door to the kingdom of darkness is to repent of participating in occult activities which God has forbidden for our own protection, and to “renounce the deeds of darkness” (Rom. 13:12) in Jesus’ name. For further information, check out Neil Anderson’s book Victory Over the Darkness.

So glad you wrote! I hope you find this helpful.

Sue Bohlin

© 2010 Probe Ministries

 

See Also:
“What’s the Difference Between a Prophet and a Clairvoyant?”

 


“How Can I Have a Better Relationship With Angels?”

Dear Sir / Madam,

I live in Ghana [West Africa] and am a Christian who is seriously looking for a possible and better way to strenghtening my relationships with the Angels. I actually want to have a physical angelic encounter, even though I might have had a spiritual expereince, however, I wish that my physical encounter with the Angel will enable them act swiftly when I call upon them.

May I also know why is it that sometimes when we call the Angels in times of trouble they do not appear? Please do help me to have an encounter and also to have their swift response.

Dear _____,

Thanks for your letter. I want to strongly discourage you from attempting to contact angels. As a Christian, you should seek to strengthen and develop your relationship with the Lord—not with angels. The Bible nowhere tells us to seek to contact angels, and indeed, seeking such contacts may lead you to actually contact demons. If God wants to send an angelic messenger your way, He is fully able to do so. You do not need to seek contact with angels. Work on developing your relationship with the Lord through daily Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other Christians who love and follow the Lord, etc. The Lord is fully able to meet all your needs as you look to Him and trust in Him. You shouldn’t busy yourself with trying to contact angels. If God wanted us to do such things, He would have told us to do so in the Bible. But He did not. He wants us to seek Him alone. Remember, Satan can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Seeking to contact angels could lead to demonic deception. And believe me, you don’t want to get involved with demons! So please, for your own spiritual well-being, focus your spiritual energies on developing your relationship with the One who created the angels—the Lord God almighty.

For more information on angels from the Probe website, please use the Search function at Probe.org to search the term “angels.”

I hope this advice is helpful and well-received.

Shalom in Christ,
Michael Gleghorn, Probe Ministries

© 2009 Probe Ministries


“What Caused Lucifer (Satan) to Fall?”

What caused Lucifer to sin? He didn’t eat of any tree so he would inherit sin nature or knowledge of evil. Did Lucifer have knowledge of good and evil when God created him, unlike Adam who got the knowledge after eating the fruit? And one more thing: Did Adam sin after eating the fruit or by eating the fruit?

Thanks for your letter. The question about what caused the fall of Satan is a difficult one. In 1 Timothy 3:6, Paul seems to indicate that the sin of the devil was pride or conceit. Although the passage is debated, some conservative scholars believe that Ezekiel 28:11-19 may describe the fall of the devil. The section is addressed to the “king” of Tyre. Notice some of the things which are said in this passage. This “king” is said to have been “in Eden” (v. 13). He is called a “cherub” (a type of angel) in vv. 14, 16. He is described as “blameless” from the day of his creation, until he sinned (vv. 15-16). His sin seems to have been that of pride or conceit (v. 17). All of these descriptions are consistent with the “king” being Satan.

However, other scholars believe that Ezekiel is just using hyperbolic language to describe the arrogance of the human ruler of Tyre. Everyone agrees that the human ruler is in view in vv. 1-10. The question concerns the referent in vv. 11-19.

We are simply not told whether Satan had any knowledge of good and evil before his fall into sin. However, until his sin, he could not have had any experiential knowledge of evil because he was created perfect and holy.

God’s prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil occurs in Genesis 2:16-17. There Adam is told “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (v. 17). As we read chapter 3, the sin seems to take place upon eating from the tree. It is this act which violated God’s prohibition. This seems clear to me from verses like 3:7, 11, 17.

Hope this is helpful.

Shalom in Christ,

Michael Gleghorn

© 2008 Probe Ministries


“Can Demonic Powers Read Minds?”

Question: Someone said in Sunday School that Satan and the demons can’t read our minds. Where does it say that in the Bible?

There really isn’t a scripture that proves this, just the logic: demons are finite creatures, as we are. They are not omniscient like God. (Consider this: if Satan could read people’s minds, he certainly would have been able to read Jesus’ mind to know how abysmally he would be trounced at the Cross!) Jesus spoke scripture out loud to Satan during His temptation in the wilderness so he could hear it. In the spiritual armor passage of Eph. 6, we are told to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema, the spoken-out-loud word) of God.

Randy Alcorn has answered this question in an excellent way: “Can Demons Read Our Thoughts?”

Hope you find this helpful.

Sue Bohlin

© 2007 Probe Ministries


“Why is Satan Mentioned Little in the Old Testament?”

One of my religion professors brought this up when we were discussing Judaism.

She said that in the Old Testament there was no belief in Satan or the devil. I asked her about the book of Job. She then said that the Hebrew word used in Job that was translated as Satan is actually a word simply meaning adversary. So I looked up the original meaning of the word and sure enough, there it was. The word appears in many other places of the Old Testament but was never translated as Satan into the current English Bible. The word is even used to describe the Angel blocking Balaam’s path in Numbers 22.

Mostly this just causes me to wonder why there seems to be so little mentioned of Satan (at least obviously and directly) in the Old Testament when compared to the New. Surely Satan was just as much a problem then as he is now.

Your professor is correct in that the “adversary” of the OT is just that.

Theologians often talk about “progressive revelation” regarding the unfolding of truth in scripture. Those living during OT times didn’t know exactly how God was going to provide salvation for his people through the sacrifice of His Son, but they did understand the concept of blood sacrifice and the need for atonement. Those living under the law had small glimpses of Satan’s work, but it took the added information of revelation in the NT to give a more complete picture. It might also be noted that many of the concepts about Satan revealed by Jesus through the NT writers can be found in literature outside the Bible during the first century. As time goes forward revelation gives us a clearer concept of a fallen angel who leads a rebellion against God’s reign and works to disrupt the work of the church.

Bible.org has quite a few files on the person and work of Satan that might be of interest to you. You can find this material at: www.bible.org/topic.php?topic_id=12. Here is a good article on Satan in the OT from that site: Satan’s Part in God’s Perfect Plan. I hope that you find this helpful.

Don Closson

Editor’s Note: See also the section “Angels in the Old Testament” in our Angel Quiz: Origin and Background of the Angels and Demons.

© 2007 Probe Ministries


The False Teaching of “The Secret” – A Christian Evaluation

Kerby Anderson examines The Secret and The Law of Attraction from a biblical perspective and finds it teaches a dangerous mixture of half truths and outright lies.

Rhonda Byrne and The Secret

The book is called The Secret, but it didn’t remain a secret for very long. Already the book has sold more than three million copies, and there are nearly two million DVDs of the teaching. There seems to be no end to the public’s interest in this message presented by Rhonda Byrne.

Some call The Secret a transformative message. Others see it as a popular combination of marketing that parallels the success of The DaVinci Code with the message found in Eastern religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. Whatever it is, it has exploded in our culture ever since Rhonda Byrne’s first appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The Secret has been promoted as “a feature length, historic and factually based account of an age old secret” which is said to be four thousand years in the making and “known to only a fortunate few.” The DVD and the book reveal “this great knowledge to the world.” Supposedly it is the secret to wealth, the secret to health, the secret to love, relationships, happiness, and eternal youth.

The basic premise of The Secret was borne from the troubles that affected Rhonda Byrne. She is a television producer and mother in her fifties. A number of years ago she “hit a rocky patch in her business and personal lives.”{1} Her father died suddenly and her relationships with her family and work colleagues were in turmoil. It was at that moment of despair when she “wept and wept and wept” that she discovered a long-neglected book entitled The Science of Getting Rich.{2}

In the book she discovered how to let your thoughts and feelings give you everything that you desire. She then dedicated herself to sharing these principles with the world in the form of The Secret.

Many have called it marketing genius. After all, all of us want to be in on a secret. So why wouldn’t we all want to know the secret to life? That is what Rhonda Byrne promised in her DVD. “Torchlights flicker on the 90-minute DVD and the soundtrack throbs portentously before it gets down to giving you the secret for getting your hands on that new BMW.”{3}

Its success shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, many self-help authors have become celebrities and quite financially successful by addressing American’s desperate need for happiness and significance.

Several show up as contributors to The Secret. For example, Wayne Dyer has written nearly thirty books on the subject of self-help. His 1976 book, Your Erroneous Zones, has sold over thirty million copies. Jack Canfield is best known for his Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. There are currently over 115 titles and 100 million copies in print.

The Law of Attraction

Rhonda Byrne’s book and DVD on The Secret supposedly bring together “the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries.”{4} These pieces are brought together to produce this life-transforming message.

While it is passed off as new and exciting, there are many other teachers who preceded The Secret with a similar message. Charles Fillmore, who founded the Unity School of Christianity, talked about “The Twelve Powers of Man,” arguing that the causes of all things are “essentially mental.” Norman Vincent Peale is best known for his The Power of Positive Thinking. Deepak Chopra talks about “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.” Motivational speaker Tony Robbins believes “it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”{5}

Rhonda Byrne not only relies on people she calls the guardians of The Secret, but also upon a documentary released a number of years ago called What the Bleep Do We Know? The film makes all sorts of metaphysical claims based upon their particular interpretation of quantum physics.

According to Rhonda Byrne, the key element of The Secret is what is called “The Law of Attraction.”{6} You can summarize the law with three words: “Thoughts become things.” In other words, if you think hard enough about something, it will take place. Think good thoughts, and you will reap good things. Think bad thoughts, and bad things will happen to you. You create your own circumstances, and you can change those circumstances with your thoughts.

A central teaching of “The Law of Attraction” is that nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts. Thus, everything that surrounds you right now (both good and bad) has been attracted to you. As you focus on what you want, you are changing the vibration of atoms of that thing so that they begin to vibrate to you.{7} Ultimately, you determine the frequency or vibration so that you can best acquire wealth, health, and fulfillment.

Do you want something? Then you need to focus on it. In one segment in the DVD, a kid who wants a red BMX bicycle cuts out a picture of it from a catalog. He concentrates on it and even obsesses about it. He is rewarded with a bike.

Do you want to lose weight? Do the same thing. Rhonda Byrne talked about the weight she gained after her pregnancies. But once she applied “The Law of Attraction,” she realized her error: “Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.”

Do you want to get healthy? Visualize health. One woman in the DVD claims to have cured her breast cancer in three months without chemotherapy or radiation. She claims she did this by visualizing herself well and watching funny movies on television.

The Seductive Message

The incredible popularity of The Secret illustrates the spiritual hunger in our culture. But while people are hungry for spirituality, they are not willing to attend church to be fed spiritually. Instead they go to the bookstore and buy this book or DVD along with other books dealing with spirituality.

A buyer for West Hollywood’s popular metaphysical bookstore, The Bodhi Tree, said that DVD of The Secret had “become the biggest selling item in the 30-year history of our store.” Why has it become so successful? Here is what a writer for Time magazine concluded:

Mixing the ancient conspiracy hoodoo of The DaVinci Code with the psychic science of 2004’s cult hit What the Bleep Do We Know?, it interweaves computer graphics, historical recreations and interviews with “experts” into a study of “intention-manifestation” – the philosophy that contends our emotions and thoughts can actually influence real-world events. In other words: if you really, truly believe you can beat the lottery and visualize scratching off a winning ticket, you can do exactly that.{8}

The appeal of The Secret is understandable. People want to be wealthy and healthy. But this false philosophy leads to death and destruction. In Colossians 2:8, Paul warns Christians: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than on Christ.”

There are countless examples that demonstrate that “The Law of Attraction” does not work. If you don’t think so, try this simple experiment. Visualize that you have a million dollars in your checking account. Think lots of positive thoughts about all the money you assume is in your checking account. Then go to the bank and write a really big check. The cashier might even have positive thoughts about your account. But then you will come face-to-face with reality. The bank’s computers don’t have positive thoughts about your checking account, nor do they have negative thoughts about your checking account. They are just doing the math. Despite all the positive feelings you can muster, your check will bounce.

Even those who accept the metaphysical basis of The Secret are concerned with its seductive message that appeals to our materialism. After all, practitioners are using this supposed ancient wisdom to acquire material goods. One of the “experts” in the film says: “The Secret is like having the universe as your catalog.”{9}

Many wonder if acquiring more possessions is what The Secret should be all about. “The get-rich-quick parts really bothered me,” says the buyer at the Bodhi Tree. “It’s my hope that people won’t use creative visualization to obtain wealth for themselves, but in more positive, altruistic ways.”{10}

Spiritually Dangerous

We have already shown that the premise of The Secret is false. You cannot alter reality simply with your thoughts. “The Law of Attraction” can essentially be summarized with three words: “Thoughts become things.” That is not true.

But the teachings of The Secret are not only false; they are spiritually dangerous.

Rhonda Byrne makes this observation in her book: “So whatever way you look at it, the result is still the same. We are One. We are all connected, and we are all part of the One Energy Field, or the One Supreme Mind, or the One Consciousness, or the One Creative Source. Call it whatever you want, but we are all One.”{11}

Essentially she is teaching that we can become gods. We are God in a physical body. We are the creative source and the have the cosmic power to manipulate the universe according to our own desires. We are creating our own reality and thus can manipulate that reality to our own ends.{12}

Contrast that with the temptation in the Garden of Eden where Satan tells Eve “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Why is The Secret so popular? Because we are tempted to be “like God.”

It is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks in The Book. Satan knows that we are vulnerable to this desire to be “like God.” Satan tempted Eve in the Garden with this tactic, and he is tempting millions today with the same tactic.

John warned us of the temptations in the world: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

We must choose that which we love and worship. Are we going to love the world and all that is in the world? Or are we going to love God? We must choose what we will love and which view of reality we will accept.

We are admonished “to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The principles in The Secret are not biblical principles but pagan, worldly principles that have been around since the beginning.

The Secret calls upon us to use our thoughts for our own selfish desires. Paul, however, tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that we are to present our bodies as a sacrifice to the Lord. We are to be selfless, not selfish.

(For more information on the spiritual dangers of The Secret, see Russ Wise’s in-depth analysis, which uncovers the occultic connection with several contributors to the project.)

The Secret and Science

To prove “The Law of Attraction,” the foundational principle in The Secret, Rhonda Byrne’s DVD presents physicists who imply that the latest scientific discoveries validate this metaphysical principle. One of the “experts” in the film is Fred Alan Wolf who apparently talked about the relationship between quantum mechanics and consciousness. Evidently, most of this wound up on the cutting room floor.{13}

The other “expert” on the film is John Hagelin, who is affiliated with Maharishi University. Both Wolf and Hagelin distanced themselves from the ideas in the DVD and acknowledged that “The Law of Attraction” does not seem to work in reality the way it is described in The Secret.

Some of the ideas in The Secret can also be found in the film, What the Bleep Do We Know? The documentary combines interviews along with a fictional narrative to bring together thoughts about the possible connection between quantum physics and spirituality. The interviews and computer graphics imply that the latest scientific discoveries (in neuroscience, psychology, physics, etc.) suggest that we can manipulate the universe with our mind.

The film even sets forth the principle that the universe is actually constructed from thought or mental images rather than some substance. It goes on to suggest that “empty space” is anything but empty. And it teaches that our beliefs about who we are and what is reality are influenced by our own thoughts and mental perspective.

The film may be interesting fiction and metaphysics; it is very poor psychology and physics. Scientists have rejected the ideas in the film as nothing more than pseudoscience with no relation to reality.

The message of The Secret also bears no relation to reality. It says, “Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.” Science disagrees.

But the message is also dangerous. Karin Klein with the Los Angeles Times recounts the dangerous impact of The Secret on those who follow its prescription: “Therapists tell me they’re starting to see clients who are headed for real trouble, immersing themselves in a dream world in which good things just come.”{14}

It’s not surprising that The Secret is popular. People are spiritually hungry, and the book and DVD partially feed that hunger. The message is seductive, but as we have also seen it is wrong, and more importantly, it is dangerous. It is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks in The Book. We need to exercise spiritual discernment and realize the false teaching in The Secret.

Notes

1. Jerry Adler, “Decoding The Secret,” Newsweek, 5 March 2007, 53.
2. Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich, 1910, www.scienceofgettingrich.net.
3. Adler, Decoding, 53-54.
4. Home page of The Secret, www.thesecret.tv/home-synopsis.html.
5. Adler, Decoding, 55.
6. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 28.
7. Ibid., 156.
8. Jeffrey Ressner, “The Secret of Success,” Time, 28 December 2006.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Byrne, The Secret, 162.
12. Ibid., 164.
13. Adler, Decoding, 57.
14. Karin Klein, “Self-help gone nutty,” Los Angeles Times, 13 February 2007.

© 2007 Probe Ministries


“Why Didn’t God Just Throw Satan into Hell When He Rebelled?”

Why did God allow Satan to deceive mankind for a certain time period? Why did He not just throw Satan into hell first after he rebelled?

You’re right, we don’t know many things in the mind of God, but some wise people have pointed out that God has Satan on a leash (see the opening of the book of Job), and He is able to use him as an instrument in His plans to produce a beautiful, strong, mature, SEASONED Bride for the Lamb. Spiritual warfare, and the discipline of prayer, are the ways God prepares us to be the Bride of Christ, and the very real warfare (yet pre-decided outcome) is what purifies us, strengthens us, deepens us, matures us.

If you’ve ever known spoiled-brat types who have never known hardship or suffering, for whom life was made easy and who never had to experience the consequences of their choices because other people paid them, then you see how ugly untested, unchallenged people can be. God wants better for us and better for His Son. He uses Satan to achieve that goal.

I hope this helps. . . even if its just a little!

Sue Bohlin

© 2007 Probe Ministries