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Does the Christian worldview provide a place for the law of attraction? (Part 1): An apologetic evaluation of the roots of this doctrine

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Abstract

This article investigates the roots of the so-called spiritual law of attraction that some Christian preachers today describe as an important biblical law. One of the proponents of this idea, Pastor At Boshoff of the Christian Revival Church (CRC), refers in his sermons to the law of attraction as a powerful principle derived from the Word of God. This idea bears striking similarities to the positive confession doctrine as taught by popular Word of Faith preachers. The basic claim of this spiritual ‘law’ is that human beings create their own future through their thoughts and words. The article shows the idea of a spiritual law of attraction as a New Age doctrine that flows from a New Age worldview. Preaching prosperity through the law of attraction is not in accordance with orthodox, historical Christianity or the Christian worldview. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article challenges the secular view that intangible thoughts and words can take on tangible reality. This is important since this secular idea is infiltrating the Christian church. It is already being preached as biblical although the roots thereof are clearly shown to originate from the New Age movement.
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Verbum et Ecclesia
ISSN: (Online) 2074-7705, (Print) 1609-9982
Page 1 of 9 Original Research
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Authors:
Daniël J. Maritz1
Henk G. Stoker1
Aliaons:
1Faculty Theology, North-
West University,
Potchefstroom Campus,
South Africa
Corresponding author:
Daniel Maritz,
dan.jacobus.maritz@gmail.
com
Dates:
Received: 20 Jan. 2016
Accepted: 23 May 2016
Published: 27 July 2016
How to cite this arcle:
Maritz, D.J. & Stoker, H.G.,
2016, ‘Does the Chrisan
worldview provide a place for
the law of aracon? (Part
1): An apologec evaluaon
of the roots of this doctrine’,
Verbum et Ecclesia 37(1),
a1571. hp://dx.doi.
org/10.4102/ve.v37i1.1571
Copyright:
© 2016. The Authors.
Licensee: AOSIS. This work
is licensed under the
Creave Commons
Aribuon License.
Introducon
The founder and leading pastor of one of the big charismatic churches in South Africa, the Christian
Revival Church (CRC), Pastor At Boshoff1, delivered two sermons in 2010 that caused us to consider
the need to address the theme of his sermons apologetically.2 In these sermons, titled The law of
attraction part 1 and part 2, Boshoff (2010a) claimed that the spiritual law of attraction is indeed a
powerful principle in the Word of God (Boshoff 2010b). Even though the term ‘law of attraction’
never occurs in the Bible, he proclaimed it to be a central doctrine of Christianity based on the Bible.
While the task of Christian Apologetics is not only to defend the Christian faith, but also to
maintain a watchful eye for those in her midst that deviate from the true Scriptural understanding
of Christian doctrines (Oliphint 2013:29),3 this article aims to provide a background to the law of
attraction. It will attempt to furnish a framework that will help to understand the so-called law of
attraction better. To achieve this, it will seek to answer preliminary questions with regard to this
spiritual law. It will research the roots of the law of attraction and its ties to the modern New Age
movement. It will further investigate the similarities between the law of attraction and positive
confession as taught within the Word of Faith movement.
This is the first article of two that deals with the question if there is a place for the law of attraction
in the Christian worldview.4 It will serve as a broad base to understand what the law of attraction
is and where it comes from.5
1.Bosho established the Chrisan Revival Church (CRC) in 1994 and today the combined membership of the CRC is more than 53 000
members (CRC 2015).
2.This evaluave study will be done from the perspecve of the Reformed tradion. The enre discussion will thus assume that Reformed
theology, based on the Bible as the infallible Word of God, is the best and most consistent expression of the Chrisan faith. For a brief
summary of Reformed theology one can look at the three forms of unity (The Belgic confession of faith, the Heidelberg Catechism and
the Canons of Dort).
3.This arcle will work with Oliphint’s denion of apologecs. There are many dierent ways to dene apologecs. When discussing the
essence of apologecs, McGrath (2012:16) for instance emphasizes that apologecs helps to open the eyes of people to the reality,
reliability, and relevance of the Chrisan faith and that the task of apologecs sll connues today as new cultural and intellectual
challenges arise.
4.Aer discussing the Chrisan theisc worldview in detail, Sire (2009:46) comes to the following conclusion of what the Chrisan theisc
worldview is: ‘… Chrisan theism is primarily dependent on its concept of God, for theism holds that everything stems from him.
Nothing is prior to God or equal to him. He is he Who Is. Thus theism has basics for metaphysics. Since he Who Is also has worthy
character and thus The Worthy One, theism has basics for ethics. Since he Who Is also is he Who knows, theism has a basis for
epistemology. In other words, theism is a complete worldview’. The Chrisan worldview always starts with God how he reveals himself
and not how we think of him.
5.The second arcle evaluates the claim that the law of aracon as a doctrine derives from the Word of God. This evaluaon will take
the form of a content analysis.
This article investigates the roots of the so-called spiritual law of attraction that some Christian
preachers today describe as an important biblical law. One of the proponents of this idea,
Pastor At Boshoff of the Christian Revival Church (CRC), refers in his sermons to the law of
attraction as a powerful principle derived from the Word of God. This idea bears striking
similarities to the positive confession doctrine as taught by popular Word of Faith preachers.
The basic claim of this spiritual ‘law’ is that human beings create their own future through
their thoughts and words. The article shows the idea of a spiritual law of attraction as a New
Age doctrine that flows from a New Age worldview. Preaching prosperity through the law of
attraction is not in accordance with orthodox, historical Christianity or the Christian worldview.
Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article challenges the secular
view that intangible thoughts and words can take on tangible reality. This is important since
this secular idea is infiltrating the Christian church. It is already being preached as biblical
although the roots thereof are clearly shown to originate from the New Age movement.
Does the Chrisan worldview provide a place for the
law of aracon? (Part 1): An apologec evaluaon of
the roots of this doctrine
Read online:
Scan this QR
code with your
smart phone or
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to read online.
Page 2 of 9 Original Research
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Preliminary issues regarding the law
of aracon
What is the law of aracon?
The law of attraction as a theological and philosophical
concept,6 refers to an all-powerful, impersonal, unbiased and
universal law that is always working without any exceptions
(Byrne 2006:5, 13; Gray 2015:7; Lester 2008:8; Rinaldi 2008:7).
According to its proponents, it is the law that determines
every moment of your entire life by responding to your
thoughts, whether they are positive or negative (Byrne
2006:5, 7, 13; Gray 2015:29–30; Hicks & Hicks 2006:32). If your
thoughts are positive, it is meant to attract good things or
circumstances into your life, but if your thoughts are negative,
it is meant to attract bad things or circumstances (Byrne
2006:9, 2010:15; Che 2010:16; Lester 2008:10; Rinaldi 2008:11).
The law of attraction is also connected to certain sayings in
life such as ‘like attracts like’, ‘birds of a feather flock
together’, ‘as above, so below’ or ‘ask and ye shall receive’
(Boshoff 2010a; Byrne 2012:7; Hicks & Hicks 2006:29; Lester
2008:2). Consequently everyone can use this universal law to
create and dictate the course of their own lives with their
thoughts and also with their words (Byrne 2006:5, 15, 17, 66;
Gray 2015:6, 68; Hicks & Hicks 2006:83–84; Rinaldi 2008:7).
How does the law of aracon work according
to its proponents
Hicks and Hicks (2006:29) considered it essential to
understand how the law of attraction functions, because
without this knowledge one can apparently never live a
purposeful life. Byrne (2006:15) believes that the law of
attraction has always been working in every person’s life
throughout history (see also Gray 2015:7). In her opinion this
law governs all the energy in the universe and it affects and
forms every single person’s life experience, whether they are
aware of it or not, whether they understand it or not, whether
they like it or not, or whether they believe in it or not (Boshoff
2010a; Byrne 2006:5, 2012:6; Hicks & Hicks 2006:32; Losier
2010:19). This law of attraction is totally unbiased in the sense
that your own personal background and worldview does not
concern the working of the law (Byrne 2006:13; Lester 2008:8;
Rinaldi 2008:7–8). The law of attraction functions permanently
and universally without any exceptions (Byrne 2006:5; Gray
2015:7; Trine 1897:522).
Even though it is held that the law of attraction is a universal
law and that it works without any exceptions, affecting
everyone in every corner of the globe, there seems to be some
extent of ignorance towards this law that supposedly
determines the order in the entire universe (Atkinson 1906:1–2;
Byrne 2006:5, 15; Gray 2015:7; Hicks & Hicks 2006:31). Proctor
(n.d.:n.p.) clearly expresses his concern regarding this profound
ignorance as follows: ‘Most people are ignorant of one very
important law of life – the law of attraction: You attract to you
everything that is in harmonious vibrations with you’.
6.It is not the same as the physical law that describes the inuence of material things
on one another, such as magnesm.
Proctor (n.d.) also explains that you cannot understand the law
of attraction without first understanding the law of vibration.
The law of vibration states that everything in the universe is
energy, and energy is firstly a vibration before it is matter.
Everything is therefore always moving or vibrating at one
speed or another (Burras, n.d.:1; Proctor 2011; Taylor 2010:26).
These vibrations, in which everything is constantly moving,
can either be positive or negative (Losier 2010:13; Proctor 2011).
According to this worldview of cause and effect, the moment
a person thinks about something, that thought will dictate
the vibration which that person’s mind and body are in
(Hicks & Hicks 2004:25; Proctor 2011). The reason for this is
that a thought affects the brain cells and, in turn, these brain
cells, depending on the thought, start to vibrate positively or
negatively (Hicks & Hicks 2004:26; Proctor n.d.). Lester
(2008:5) refers to this as thoughts that have become energised
and these thought vibrations will then send out
electromagnetic waves or extended vibrations or signals of
some kind and soon the individual will become aware of the
vibration in which he or she is (Hicks & Hicks 2004:25;
Proctor 2011). Your general feeling therefore describes the
conscious vibration in which you currently are. In other
words, if you feel good, you are in a positive vibration but if
you feel bad you are in a negative vibration (Byrne 2006:32;
Hicks & Hicks 2006:84–85; Losier 2006:14; Proctor 2011).
Byrne (2006:33) goes further to suggest that your feelings are
in fact communication from the universe itself to inform you
about your thoughts.
Because everyone is allegedly always sending out these
positive or negative vibrations, which are determined by
their thoughts, this is the point where the law of attraction
comes into play (Hicks & Hicks 2006:63; Losier 2006:13–14).
When these positive or negative vibrations are sent out by
your thoughts, it will attract positive or negative things and
circumstances into your life (Byrne 2006:9; Lester 2008:2, 5;
Losier 2006:19). Eventually, positive vibrations that are
caused by positive thoughts cause to bring positive and good
things into your life, while negative vibrations that are caused
by negative thoughts cause to bring negative and bad things
into your life (Byrne 2010:15; Che 2010:16; Hicks & Hicks
2004:26–27; Lester 2008:2; Rinaldi 2008:11). Byrne (2006:28)
writes: ‘Nothing can come into your experience unless you
summon it through persistent thoughts’. Lester (2008:19)
compares this principle to the positive and negative poles of
a battery. Just as a battery functions to attract and repel, so
your thoughts possess the power to attract and repel things
and circumstances.
Byrne (2006:7) illustrates the principle of the law of attraction
by suggesting that you should think about yourself as a
magnet. Every individual is the most powerful magnet in the
universe and this unfathomable magnetic power that is
within every individual can only be emitted through your
thoughts. Through the law of attraction it seems that your
thoughts become reality in your life (Atkinson 1906:4–5;
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Byrne 2006:9). The magnetic power of the law of attraction
apparently reaches out from your thoughts into the universe
and attracts the things that are at the same positive or
negative vibrational level (Hicks & Hicks 2006:83; Proctor
2011). The reaction of the law of attraction to a person’s
predominant thoughts is therefore responsible for every little
detail that comes into that person’s life experience (Gray
2015:23; Haanel 1917:627; Hicks & Hicks 2006:32–33).
Ponder (1984) presents a clear explanation of this magnetic
illustration:
… as a magnet, you do not have to force success and prosperity
to yourself. Instead, you can develop that exalted, expectant,
prosperous state of mind that is a magnet for all good things of
the universe to hasten to you, rather than entertaining the tense,
critical, anxious, depressed, unforgiving, possessive state of
mind that is a magnet for all kinds of trouble and failure. (p. 37)
This far it is clear that the law of attraction, according to its
proponents, responds to your thoughts and sooner or later it
should provide you with a physical manifestation of
whatever is mostly in your thoughts (Byrne 2006:7, 13; Gray
2015:53; Hicks & Hicks 2006:31, 45; Lester 2008:5). According
to Lester (2008:7), the law of attraction makes anything
possible and all that a person needs to change is his or her
mindset, in order to decide what one wants to be, do and
have in life – because the law of attraction guarantees it
(Byrne 2006:23, 36; Lester 2008:5; Proctor 2011). This is valid
for experiences, relationships, prosperity, money, wealth, and
all the things one desires most (Byrne 2006:98; Gray 2015:8;
Lester 2008:7; Trine 1897:522, 575).
It must be added that the consequence of this law for each
individual is that no one can ever be surprised by what
happens, because thoughts determine reality (Byrne 2012:7;
Gray 2015:68; Haanel 1917:643; Hicks & Hicks 2004:27; Hicks &
Hicks 2006:30). The law of attraction makes each individual the
sole creator of his or her entire life by using his or her thoughts
and words (Byrne 2006:15, 46; Gray 2015:68; Hicks & Hicks
2006:83–84; Taylor 2010:29). When you look at your life
experiences so far, you should be able to determine your
dominant thought on every subject of your life (Byrne 2006:9, 15;
Lester 2008:6, 8).
According to these authors the principle of the law of
attraction is functioning on the grounds that there is some
kind of energetic or quantum connection of oneness between
everything in the entire universe (Byrne 2006:160–163; Che
2010:73; Taylor 2010:68, 121, 135). In this great oneness and
interconnectedness the universe is regarded to be an infinite
supplier from where everything in your life is delivered by
using such means as the law of attraction (Byrne 2006:163;
Proctor 2011; Taylor 2010:68). In this way the universe also
plays a godly providing part, by arranging or rearranging
certain elements to provide a manifestation of people’s
thoughts through the law of attraction (see Byrne 2006:40,
150–151; Lester 2008:7).
The origin of the idea of a spiritual law of
aracon
Apart from the questions of what the law of attraction is and
how it works, we must also consider the origins and the
development of the underlying principle of the law of
attraction.
Although Lester (2008:3) believes that it is impossible to
pinpoint exactly when and where the concept of the law of
attraction entered into human consciousness, she still
provides a couple of explanations. According to one of these
explanations the law of attraction most probably originated
at the very moment of creation, with the beginning of
thought. In another explanation Lester (2008:4) adds that it
may date back to 6000–7000 years ago, where it found
expression in the mystical traditions and beliefs of ancient
magicians and sages. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes7 seems
to be an example of this phenomenon, and supposedly states
that everything in the world is interconnected and that
thoughts always influence things.
Taylor (2010:32–66) spends a whole chapter explaining his
view on the origins of the law of attraction. According to him,
it was used throughout the ages by ancient religions and
philosophies. After mentioning religions such as Jainism,
Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism and Christianity,
together with Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras,
Socrates and Plato, he comes to the conclusion that the law of
attraction is deeply rooted in the history and mind of
humanity, which is also somehow in tune with the rest of the
universe (Taylor 2010:15, 66).
Burras (n.d.:1) assumes that the law of attraction has most
certainly been around for ages, but that it was always hidden
from the masses to keep people uninformed, or, as he puts it
‘unconscious’. Rinaldi (2008:8), in turn, is of the opinion that
Buddha was the first to introduce the human race to the
principle of the law of attraction and that the whole concept
of karma in Eastern religions is based on the principle behind
the law of attraction.8 Proctor (2011) also mentions that all the
great leaders throughout history were in agreement of the
apparent fact that you become what you think.
Byrne (2006:4) elaborates by explaining that religions such as
Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam,
together with ancient civilisations like the Babylonians and
Egyptians, supposedly delivered it throughout the ages in their
writings and stories. She adds that, since the law of attraction
began at the beginning of time, there is no limit to its existence –
it has always been and will always be (Byrne 2006:5).
Even though it is claimed that the principle of this ‘universal
law’ has been around for a long time, it has not always been
7.This is an ancient, crypc text. There are numerous translaons and interpretaons
of this text.
8.If the concept of karma is based on the law of aracon, it could not have originated
in Buddhism, because centuries before Buddhism, Hinduism taught the concept of
karma.
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officially labelled the ‘law of attraction’. P.P. Quimby9 never
called his theory the ‘law of attraction’, but he did lay the
foundation for a mind–cure philosophy which stated that the
source of all health was in the mind and any cure for sickness
must also begin in the mind (Clarke 2006:113; Hanegraaff
1998:485; Quimby 1921:186, 194). Hanegraaff (1998:485–486)
recognises Quimby as one of the most influential contributors
of the New Age belief that you can create your own reality.
Rinaldi (2008:9) claims that the term ‘law of attraction’ was
first introduced to the public in a book titled Thought vibration
or the law of attraction in the thought world, by W.W. Atkinson10
in 1906. This is actually not correct since the term ‘law of
attraction’ already appeared in P. Mulford’s11 book Thoughts
are things, in 1889, and later in R.W. Trine’s12 book In tune with
the infinite, in 1897.
As far as this research could establish, the term ‘law of
attraction’ was first used in a more theological and
philosophical manner in 1877 by H.P. Blavatsky13 in her two-
volume book titled Isis unveiled: the master-key to the mysteries
of ancient and modern science and theology (Blavatsky 1877a,
1877b; Taylor 2010:55). Unfortunately it is not clear what
exactly she meant when she used the term.
The ‘law of attraction’ was further popularised by C.H.
Haanel’s14 book The master key system, in 1917, and N.V.
Peale’s15 book The power of positive thinking, in 1952. In 2006
the concept of the ‘law of attraction’ gained a lot of renewed
interest with the appearance of R. Byrne’s book titled The
Secret. Bond (2007:20) expressed her big surprise regarding
the large number of copies of The Secret that were sold, and
further mentioned that the appearance of The Secret caused
great curiosity among people to explore similar concepts of
how you can use thoughts to attract prosperity and happiness.
The multiple explanations of the origin of the law of attraction
are an indication of this spiritual law’s unreliability.
9.Quimby (1802–1866) is regarded as the founder of the metaphysical New Thought
movement, which is considered to be a forerunner or a tributary of the modern
New Age movement (Clarke 2006:27; Jones & Woodbridge 2011:29; Peters 2013;
Steyn 1994:61, 105; Travis 2007:1022). Eddy, the founder of the Chrisan Science
movement, was one of Quimby’s paents whom he apparently cured using his
theory (Fogarty 2008:22; Steyn 1994:105).
10.Atkinson (1862–1932) was an acve parcipant in the New Thought movement
and also the editor of the New Thought magazine (Weinberger 2006:188). He
claimed that the doctrines of karma and reincarnaon serve as a key that can
unlock the most mysterious aspects of the Chrisan doctrine (Bender 2007:598).
11.Mulford (1834–1891) is considered to be one of the earliest writers and founders
of the New Thought movement (Byrne 2006:193).
12.Trine (1866–1958) is menoned as a signicant individual who contributed to the
circulaon of theories on posive thinking (Steyn 1994:105). He is considered to be
the most prolic New Thought writer in the early 20th century (Jones &
Woodbridge 2011:32). Butler (2006:58) vividly menons Trine’s book In tune with
the innite as one of the New Thought movement’s most popular publicaons.
13.Blavatsky (1831–1891), under the inuence of spiritualism and Eastern sources,
embraced the pracce of contacng advanced upper spirit beings to ensure that
their plans were fullled (Clarke 2006:28; Heelas 1996:44). She was also the co-
founder of The Theosophical Society in 1875 (Honsberger & Halverson 1996:161).
14.Haanel (1866–1949) was a very successful businessman who advocated his own
methods that he allegedly used to achieve greatness (Byrne 2006:191). In his book,
The master key system, he developed an enre plan to instruct people how to live
by the law of aracon (Jones & Woodbridge 2011:40).
15.Peale (1898–1993) is considered to be a well-known advocate of New Thought,
who merged secular thought with biblical ideas (Jones & Woodbridge 2011:33–34).
Nearly every proponent has a different explanation for the
origin of the law of attraction. When the proponents’
backgrounds are taken into consideration nearly all of them
were involved in New Thought practices.
The New Age worldview and the
law of aracon
When considering the development of the law of attraction
above, it became clear that the relation to the beliefs and
practices of the New Age movement16 should also be
contemplated and discussed. According to Bond (2007:20),
The Secret has certainly revitalised the New Age knowledge
base, and one should prepare for many more books on the
same subject. It is important to keep in mind that the New
Thought movement is considered to be a tributary of the
New Age movement. In this way there is clearly a direct
connection between the two movements and representative
sub-movements (Clarke 2006:27; DeChant 1990:331;
Hanegraaff 2000:299; Steyn 1994:61).
Finnegan (2003:346) emphasises that the New Age movement
will be present for some time to come (Clarke 2006:39–40). It
has swept across the U.S.A., Europe and Asia, and it is also
penetrating the continent of Africa, being very much alive in
South Africa (Chepkwony 2006:313; Steyn 2007:265).
It is considered extremely hard to describe, locate and capture
the New Age movement, because there are no fixed creeds
and not just one identifiable organisation connected to it
(Chepkwony 2006:313; Clarke 2006:25; Collins 1998:91;
Hanegraaff 1998:1; Heelas 1996:16–17; Klippenstein 2005:391;
Redden 2012:55). Zacharias (2012b) describes New Age
spirituality as a jelly-like substance which is very hard to
identify. ‘New Age movement’ is a loose umbrella term
referring to a variety of people, organisations, events,
practices and ideas. Although this movement includes cults,
sects and even denominations, it is not restricted to any one
of these (Aupers & Houtman 2007:201; Chepkwony 2006:313;
Eide 2010:130; Groothuis 1988:18; Steyn 1994:6, 2007:267).
Accordingly, the New Age movement can be described
briefly as a vast and widespread, loosely structured, mega-
network of individuals, groups and organisations, who share
common values and ideas characterised by mysticism and
monism, and a common vision of a coming age of peace and
mass enlightenment (Finnegan 1992:353). Martin (2015)
considers the New Age movement to be the enthronement of
humans and the demotion of God.
It is of paramount importance to note that the basic beliefs of
the New Age movement do indeed portray the growing
infiltration of Eastern and occult mysticism into Western
culture, which brings forth a syncretism of Eastern and
16.The term ‘New Age’ is derived from astrology to indicate the arrival of the supposed
new age of Aquarius (Matzken 1990:15; Zacharias 2012a:8). Zacharias (2012b) also
refers to this as New spirituality and 21st century spirituality. Although Steyn
(2007:266) menons that it is trite to assume there is nothing new to the New Age
movement, Marn and Zacharias (2003:407–408) indeed describe it as nothing
ne w.
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Western worldviews (Campbell-Jack, McGrath & Evans
2006:484–485; Honsberger & Halverson 1996:161, 163;
Martin & Zacharias 2003:409; Steyn 2007:266). Consequently,
the New Age ideology is presented by a mixture of a wide
variety of sources that often contradict one another (Aupers
& Houtman 2007:201; Finnegan 1992:354; Redden 2012:56).
Due to the strong influence of Eastern religions and
philosophies, New Age pioneers commonly adhere to a
monistic, pantheistic worldview. The simplest way to describe
this worldview is ‘all is one, and all is God’ (Chepkwony
2006:317–318; Finnegan 1992:353–354; Joseph 2012:180;
Martin & Zacharias 2003:412).
Monism views ‘God as one’ in the sense that there is absolutely
no duality or differentiation within this oneness. Within this
view the whole universe is made up of one substance and
there is only one unified consciousness, of which everybody
is part. This absolute oneness is then characterised as a kind
of force or energy, which is not a lifeless energy, but rather a
Cosmic Mind or Consciousness, often called the Universal
Self, the Divine Mind, the Universe, the Source, Divine
Intelligence, the Force of the Universe, the One Supreme
Power, the totality of Universal Life Energy, et cetera (Byrne
2006:162; Chepkwony 2006:317; Finnegan 1992:356; Gray
2015:69; Honsberger & Halverson 1996:163–164; Lester
2008:4; Skinner 2006:104–105).
In turn, pantheism is the belief that ‘all is God’, which means
that everything is somehow inherently a manifestation of
God. The divine oneness emanates in absolutely everything,
so that everything is God and God is everything. Thus, if God
is the impersonal Universal Self, then we as humans are the
particularisation of that Universal Self (Chepkwony 2006:318;
Honsberger & Halverson 1996:164; Skinner 2006:105–106).
Honsberger and Halverson (1996:164) explain this concept by
referring to each individual as a stream that flows from an
infinite lake, and just as the water in each stream is of the
same essence as the water in the lake, so every individual’s
essence is one with God. According to this monistic
pantheistic worldview, the oneness or the interconnectedness
between all things should be viewed as a manifestation of the
Divine. This causes New Agers to believe that each individual
is inherently a divine being who is capable of great and
powerful things (Chepkwony 2006:318; Collins 1998:93;
Skinner 2006:107; Velarde 2007:3).
Byrne (2006), for instance, seems to underline this when she
writes:
You are God in 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 beliefs and practices within the New Age movement
place a strict emphasis on the self. The main focus is on
empowering oneself rather than on a transcendent being
with absolute authority (Farias & Lalljee 2008:277–278;
Klippenstein 2005:397; Martin 2015). Everything revolves
around the principle that you must turn inward to reach a
higher consciousness and to experience the God-self (Collins
1998:93; Hanegraaff 2000:305; Huss 2014:50). Maclaine
explains that every individual is his or her own best teacher
and that there is no place for any other idol to be worshipped,
because the God everyone is seeking lies within oneself and
not outside (Chepkwony 2006:318).
Many of the New Age beliefs and practices are in one way or
another based on creating one’s own reality, as some of the
law of attraction authors also claim (Amarasingam 2009:279;
Byrne 2006:15; Haanel 1917:643; Hanegraaff 1998:230–231;
Hicks & Hicks 2004:27; Hicks & Hicks 2006:30; Honsberger &
Halverson 1996:164; Jones & Woodbridge 2011:38–39; Steyn
2007:267; Velarde 2007:2). Proctor (2011), for instance, says:
Do you know that you are the architect of your own life? You
truly are and you can tap into this infinite source of supply – and
it is an infinite source of supply.
Taylor (2010) also contributes to this belief when he writes:
What we have to do is prove to ourselves that the universe is
abundant, we are all connected with each other and the universe,
and our thoughts shape our reality. (p. 68)
Lastly, Byrne (2006) affirms:
The Universe offers all things to all people through the law of
attraction … Each of us has the ability to tap into that unlimited
invisible supply through our thoughts and feelings, and bring it
into our experience. So choose for You, because you’re the only
one who can. (p. 150)
Zeller (2011:6) adds that New Agers usually have a high
regard for science, but that science is then used in their
practices to support and legitimise spiritual worldviews and
also to criticise the existing scientific consensus (Hanegraaff
1998:62; Heelas 1996:36). Zacharias (2012a:62) is of opinion
that the perils of the New Spirituality are made to look
wonderful and that pseudoscience is connected to a mystical
vocabulary that results in absurd deductions. This might also
be the case with the law of attraction, since it is claimed to be
a phenomenon in quantum physics (Byrne 2006:15; Che
2010:3; Taylor 2010:68). However quantum physics is often
hijacked by New Age spirituality to support their worldview
that everything is interconnected energy in a pantheistic,
religious sense (Ankerberg & Weldon 1996:509; Velarde
2007:4; Zacharias 2012a:87). The implication of encouraging a
science of consciousness is that it opens the door to mysticism
and the occult (Ankerberg & Weldon 1996:513). Physicist
Pagel states that no qualified physicist would claim these
kinds of connections without committing fraud (Zacharias
2012a:87).
The similaries between the law of
aracon and posive confession
The law of attraction is a New Age practice that accordingly
flows from a New Age worldview. Peters (2013) points out
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that there are a lot of New Thought and New Age (discussed
under point 3 above) overtones in the modern Word of Faith
movement.17 Hanegraaff (2009:15–16) also emphasises that
the similarities between the Word of Faith movement and
New Thought metaphysics are indeed significant. It is
considered important by this research to look at the
similarities between the law of attraction and the doctrine of
positive confession within this Word of Faith movement.
The reason why this movement is called the Word of Faith
movement is because the name ‘Word of Faith’ emphasises
the importance and power of your words (MacArthur
1992:342). Faith, as seen by the positive confession teaching
of this movement, does not imply the usual Christian
understanding of faith in God, but rather faith in your own
faith and consequently the speaking of so-called faith-filled
words. Faith is therefore not faith in God but a force one
directs at God to manipulate him or to equip him to do as the
faith practitioner sees fit (Frigulti 2015:25; Hanegraaff
2009:93–95, 97; Jones & Woodbridge 2011:87–88; Kenyon
1998:36; MacArthur 1992:342, 346; Peters 2013).
The doctrine of positive confession is considered to be the
most distinctive and dominant doctrine of the Word of Faith
movement. The working presupposition of this doctrine is
that one’s mental attitude determines what one believes and
confesses, which in turn determines what one gets from God.
If one thinks rightly, believes rightly and confesses rightly,
nothing is impossible. This doctrine is seen as some kind of
spiritual activation that sets into motion the spiritual laws
governing the universe (McConnell 1995:135–136; Neuman
1990:32, 34). Souders (2011:121) refers to positive confession
as the power of words in order to bring about physical
environmental changes in your life. It can also be summarised
as ‘what you say is what you get’ (Togarasei 2011:341).
Positive confession is seen as the vehicle through which
God’s promises have the opportunity to influence your life
(Hollinger 1988:136).
Essek W. Kenyon18 (1998:66–67), who is considered to be the
grandfather or father19 of the Word of Faith movement,
describes it as a spiritual law that everyone is governed by
their own confessions (Hanegraaff 2009:17; King & Theron
2006:311; McConnell 1995:24; Peters 2013). Accordingly,
everyone sooner or later becomes what they confess.
17.The Word of Faith movement is somemes also known as the Health, Wealth and
Prosperity gospel. It is found in churches that preach a promise of health and wealth
to Chrisans who are prepared to exercise their faith in the proper way (King &
Theron 2006:309–310). Hollinger (1988:131) denes it as follows: ‘The health and
wealth gospel is an idenable religious movement comprised of disnct teachings,
key preachers, a parcular clientele, conferences, massive publicaons, media
ministries, local congregaons that idenfy with the teachings and preachers,
educaonal instuons, and a loosely-knit organizaon called the Internaonal
Convenon of Faith Churches and Ministries (ICFCM). Adherents have oen labelled
themselves “Word” or “Word of Faith Churches” as well as “faith movement”’.
18.Kenyon (1867–1948) was born one year aer the death of Quimby. He aended the
Emerson School of Oratory in Boston where New Thought metaphysics ourished.
Trine was one of Kenyon’s classmates there. Kenyon quickly became familiar with
the tenets of New Thought and Chrisan Science (McConnell 1995:15, 24). This is
evidenced by his advancement of posive confession theology, his elevaon of
human beings and explicit teachings on health and wealth (Jones & Woodbridge
2011:51).
19.Most faith teachers will refer to Hagin as the father of the Word of Faith movement,
but in truth it is Kenyon (Hanegraa 2009:17).
He further adds that it is not only your thinking, but also
your words, that build power or weakness in yourself
(Kenyon 1998:72). Kenyon and Gossett (2009:33–34) also
explain that ‘confession’ is not the confession of sin, but
rather that of faith and that faith as such is not faith until a
positive confession comes from the lips. It is a positive
mindset that becomes faith by confession. You must therefore
cultivate the habit of thinking big things, and then learn to
express those big thoughts in words, because you intently
become what you think you are (Gossett & Kenyon 1977:66;
Kenyon & Gossett 2009:70). This is considered possible
because exactly the same creative ability that God possess
apparently also lies in yourself, and it can only be manifested
through your confession (Kenyon & Gossett 2009:39).
According to the faith teacher Kenneth E. Hagin20 (1979b:2),
your words will either lead to destruction or lead to life,
happiness and health. According to him, the words one spoke
yesterday made life what it is today (Hagin 1979a:23).
Everyone is considered to be a product of their own words,
because in life you always get and receive what you believe
and say (Hagin 1979b:14, 1979c:3). Hagin (1979a:8), for
instance, writes: ‘For you can have what you say. You can
write your own ticket with God. And the first step in writing
your own ticket with God is: Say it’. Furthermore, your
words are allegedly able to create spiritual things, as well as
natural and physical things (Hagin 1979b:12). Hagin
(1979b:29, 32) uses Mark 11:2321 as the supposed biblical
teaching to motivate the statement that one will have
whatever one speaks.
The well-known faith teacher Kenneth Copeland22
(1974:14–15), speaks of the so-called force of faith, which
makes the universal laws of the spirit world function
(Copeland 1983:15). He also explains that God created the
entire universe using this force of faith. Each time God spoke,
he released his own faith, which is considered to be the
creative power by which his words came to pass (Copeland
1980:6–7). Because God created the universe through his
faith-filled words, this universe is also controlled by words.
Copeland (2010:5) suggests that we live under a so-called
word-activated system that no one can change. However, in
this word-activated system, each individual can choose his or
her words to change their environments and circumstances
(Copeland 1983:15, 2010:5). Copeland (2015) also says: ‘Any
image that you get down on the inside of you that is so vivid
when you close your eyes you can see it, it’ll come to pass’.
20.Hagin (1917–2003) is widely accepted as a guardian, teacher and prophet by faith
teachers. He claimed to have died and to have been resurrected on three separate
occasions (Hanegraa 2009:21). He further stands accused of extensively
plagiarising Kenyon’s work. Although Hagin denied this accusaon, it evidently
seems to be correct when his wrings were compared to Kenyon’s (McConnell
1995:6–8, 50; Neuman 1990:54). The health and wealth theology can thus clearly
be traced from the mind-healing cults via Kenyon to Hagin (Neuman 1990:54). He
embraced and spread the teachings of Kenyon with great success (Jones &
Woodbridge 2011:54).
21.‘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’ (Bible 1982).
22.Copeland started his ministry as a direct result of memorising Hagin’s messages. In
1988, on the Trinity Broadcasng Network (TBN), he called God the greatest failure
in the Bible (Hanegraa 2009:24–25, 387).
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According to Copeland, intangible words do indeed take on
tangible reality (Hanegraaff 2009:25).
In turn, Joyce Meyer23 (2015) also seems to adopt a similar
concept when she explains the importance of one’s thoughts.
She says that what you think about is what you end up doing,
to the extent that it becomes your reality. If someone keeps
sowing negative thoughts, attitudes and words, it will
produce negative results in life (Meyer 2013:11). Therefore
you must rather speak of the things you desire most, as if
they already exist in your life, even if they do not. Apparently
you can reach into the spiritual realm with your faith and talk
of the things you want most, as if it is already a reality in your
life, and it will be delivered (Meyer 2013:51–52). Words are to
be understood as containers of creative and positive or
destructive and negative power, with the consequence that
what you say today you will end up having tomorrow
(Meyer 2002:87–88). Meyer (2005) also writes about a
principle that she finds in Matthew 9:29 24:
The Bible says it will be unto us as we believe (See Matt. 9:29).
That principle works in the negative as well as the positive. We
can receive by fear as well as by faith. (pp. 9–10)
She applies this principle to Job who feared the bad things
that happened to him (Job 3:25 25), and so he seemingly
brought the bad things upon himself. Peters (2013) connects
this statement of Meyer directly to the law of attraction.
It is clear that Joel Osteen26 (2004:129, 139) also underlines
this same principle when he explains that everyone draws
into their experience what they are constantly thinking about.
It is not just thoughts that are important, but also words.
According to Osteen (2004:165), it is not enough to just
imagine things; you must also speak words of faith over your
life to give birth to it with enormous creative power. This is
considered to be a spiritual principle that works positively or
negatively, depending on the words you use.
To some extent it seems that, locally, At Boshoff (2008:40) also
writes about this positive confession doctrine, explaining
that you must change from the negative to the positive
because, in the same way your faith can be seen and heard,
your unbelief is also very visible and audible. Although God
is all-powerful, he cannot override your will since he gave
men free will. Accordingly, God can only work with the
positive or negative power that is within yourself. Everyone
must therefore be careful with their thoughts and words
23.Meyer earned a PhD in theology from Life Chrisan University (LCU), which lacks
scholasc accreditaon. Apart from Meyer’s belief that your words create future
realies, she also adheres to the so-called lile gods doctrine (Hanegraa
2009:40–42; Meyer 2011).
24.‘Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you”.
(Bible 1982)
25.‘For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened
to me’ (Bible 1982).
26.Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in America (Jones & Woodbridge
2011:72). Jones and Woodbridge (2011:76) is of opinion that, in his teachings,
Osteen is simply recing New Thought metaphysics. He explained that the reason
why God took Zachariah’s speech away is because God knew how powerful our
words are and that Zachariah’s negave words would somehow cancel out his plan
(Peters 2013).
since God, the angels and the demons are all always listening
to your faith or unbelief. The moment you open your mouth
to speak, you can invite God into the equation or leave him
out of it. If there is a ‘no’ in your words, God cannot intervene
on your behalf (Boshoff 2008:40–41).
Jones and Woodbridge (2011:59) compare proponents of the
New Thought with many of the faith preachers27 who believe
that words – both thought and spoken – are a force that
somehow has creative power over reality (Coleman 2004:425).
Until believers visualise, and speak with faith-filled words,
God is unable to act on their behalf. Positive confession seems
to be a doctrine that is proclaimed to be Christian, but it works
on exactly the same basis as the law of attraction (Jones &
Woodbridge 2011:62; Peters 2013).
While New Agers use the law of attraction ostensibly to
obtain what they desire from the universe, Christians who
advocate positive confession believe they are ordering their
desires from God, or ordering God for their desires
(Hanegraaff 2009:103; Peters 2013). Peters (2013) describes
this practice as cultic doctrine, wrapped in Christian
terminology, which obscures the line between God the
Creator and humans as his creatures.28
Conclusion
Preliminary issues regarding the law of attraction have been
described above, indicating how it is understood to work by
its proponents and where the underlying principle of the law
of attraction originated from. The New Age worldview,
underlying the law of attraction, has also been touched upon
in order to establish that the law of attraction is indeed related
to New Age practice, incorporating a New Age monistic,
pantheistic worldview. A direct line was drawn from the law
of attraction to the positive confession doctrine within the
Word of Faith movement.
All of this was done to provide a background and framework
regarding the law of attraction. The stage is now set to move
on to the second article in which At Boshoff’s sermons
(Boshoff 2010a, 2010b) on the law of attraction will be
evaluated. The ultimate question to answer in this two-part
series is: Does the Christian worldview provide a place for the law
of attraction? This theoretical background is not enough to
answer this question adequately. Because Christian doctrine
rests on the Scriptures, the Scriptures should be drawn on in
order to answer this question.
Acknowledgements
Compeng interests
The authors declare that they have no financial or personal
relationships which may have inappropriately influenced
them in writing this article. Confirmed
27.Some of the other popular faith preachers not menoned include: P. Crouch, T.D.
Jakes, B. Hinn, F. Price, J. Hagee, C. Dollar, E. Long, J. Duplans and P. White
(Hanegraa 2009:26–82; Jones & Woodbridge 2011:15, 56).
28.Some crics connect posive confession to the world of the occult as a New Age
pracce (Simpson 2007:85). Frigul (2015:61) for example arms a strong link
between the doctrine of posive confession and the occult, specically the use of
the law of aracon.
Page 8 of 9 Original Research
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Authors’ contribuons
D.J.M. is the author and H.G.S. is the co-author.
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