Earlier, I embarked on a three-part apologetic mini-blog series on Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret. In part one, we examined The Secret on its own terms. In part two of this series, we will explore its framework, or blueprint.

Ask, Believe, and Receive

            Rhonda Byrne’s blueprint for how to create your reality is lifted out of the pages of the Bible, Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24. On what grounds does Byrne cite Scripture for the framework of the secret, given that she does not exclusively posit Christian theism anywhere in the book? As mentioned before, the term “Universe” can be substituted for any higher being you are comfortable with, so long as you recognize “there is something bigger than us.”[1] Byrne’s illusory universe is drowning in contradiction. To assert that the “Universe” can be substituted for any god (including self) is to equate the Triune God with His creation. What’s more, it’s false because the Creator-creature distinction is obliterated. Consequently, once we are demoted to a self-referential understanding of ourselves, all knowledge of self ceases, because we cannot know ourselves apart from God in whose image we were created. He is necessary; we are contingent and derivative. Additionally, it is fundamentally incoherent for Byrne to make Christian Scripture the authority for her worldview without affirming the author of Scripture, the Triune God.

Stolen Capital

Another contradiction in her worldview is captured in the following statement, “You are the Master of the Universe,” but in the same breath, she admits that there is something bigger than us. Even her deliberate capitalization of the common noun, “Universe” indicates a deference and respect for a god—albeit a false god. Byrne is using “stolen capital”[2] which means that she has taken the Scripture (Mark 11:24) from the Bible and the Christian worldview in order to establish her unbiblical worldview without submitting to the lordship of the Triune God. Stolen capital is inevitable in the unbelieving position because Christianity is true and its interpretation of the world is true as well. There is no way for the unbeliever to make sense of the world apart from the Trinity, because He has created the world in which facts, science, and biblical truth exists—so unbelievers are always stealing capital from him; even if it is not an explicit biblical reference as is Byrne’s stolen capital.

According to Romans 1:18-23, all men know God—including Rhonda Byrne—but they suppress the truth they know in ungodliness and unrighteousness. Byrne presupposes the Triune God as all men do, but she is engaging in what Dr. Oliphint refers to as the “sensus/suppression dynamic” which means that God’s covenant creatures are “knowing while suppressing.”[3] This further illuminates Romans 1:18-23 and shows that Byrne is not simply denying “a god” within her illusory universe—No! She is in willful rebellion against the Triune God whom she is in covenant with; this renders her a covenant-breaker in Adam and without excuse. Rather than bend her knee in submission to the Triune God who was, and is at every moment revealing himself to her, she prefers to expend useless energy devising ways to shut him out of her world, but she does so unsuccessfully, because her world is contained within God’s world; therefore the center of her illusory universe cannot hold apart from God’s revelatory import. Hence, the stolen capital of Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24.

Breaking Down False Exegesis

Now that we have established the reason why she has imported biblical Scripture into her illusory universe, let us examine her use of the principles she draws from the text. In order to create your reality, first you must “ask.” “Make a command to the Universe,” and be clear on what you want. Herein lies a classic case of adding to and taking away from Scripture (Rev. 22: 18, 19). According to the Scripture, you are to make your request known to God in prayer. Notice two things about this first step: the first is that “ask” has been exchanged for “command,” and the second is that “prayer” has been discarded. These changes comport with the Genie metaphor spoken of earlier and also help to maintain the illusory universe Byrne has created. Note that the things asked for in The Secret, and the examples cited primarily concern health, wealth, and happiness. No one is asking for more self-control, kindness, gentleness, patience, and the like.

The second step is to “believe” that what you ask for—or “commanded” in this case—is yours the moment you ask for it. “Make-believing”[4]is how you get to the point of believing; become a child again. Essentially, you must lie to yourself by pretending that you live in an illusory universe in which everything that you want and ask for is yours right now, though you do not see it. Byrne goes on to say, “Have faith. Your belief that you have it, that undying faith, is your greatest power.”[5] This begs the question, why should one have faith? A master does not need faith to believe that his servant is going to do as he commanded him; that would contradict the master-servant dynamic. Faith in someone or something indicates an admission of limitations and the need for “someone bigger” than yourself to bring about your desired end. Christian faith is “belief in the verbal direct revelation of God as it explains the facts of the universe here in this world: ourselves, and the world as created, the world as providentially controlled, the world as coming into judgment in history.”[6] Faith is not superstition, which is essentially what Byrne is advocating.

The third and final step is to “receive” by feeling the way you will feel when it arrives, because feeling happy and positive about what you ask for brings you into the frequency of receiving. The way to get on this frequency is to say, “I am receiving now. I am receiving all the good in my life now. I am receiving [fill in your desire] now. And feel it. Feel it as though you have received.”[7] Here you can see that Byrne is now plumbing the depths of delusion within her illusory universe. In her world, the sensory experience reigns supreme; you must feel in order to receive. So if you do not feel it, you must recite the statement above in vain repetition until you are placed on the frequency of receiving and feel it. Then and only then will you receive.

Now that we have looked at Byrne’s exegesis of Mark 11:24—or lack thereof—let us see what this Scripture has to say on its own term. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you will have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus is not saying that you have power to bring any and everything you want into existence. On the contrary, he is teaching that your requests must be made known to the Triune God in humble submission to him through prayer with godly motives, believing that if it is his will, it will indeed come to pass. This is a beautiful picture of the creature’s reliance on the Creator, not a license to have a cosmic shopping spree to fulfill all of your covetous desires.

 

[1] James Ray, quoted in Rhonda Byrne, The Secret  (Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, 2006), 46.

[2] Greg L. Bahnsen Van Til’s Apologetic: Reading and Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1998), 297.

[3] K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of our Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 44.

[4] Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, 2006), 50.

[5] Ibid., 50.

[6] Cornelius Van Til, “History and Nature of Apologetics: Faith, Reason, and Theistic Proofs – Part: 1” (lecture, Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, January 1, 1980).

[7] Rhonda Byrne, The Secret  (Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, 2006), 53.