A few weeks ago I started a series of articles scanning the history of the followers of Christ from its earliest days all the way to the present time. We have looked at some of the most notorious false teachers to date, but, there are yet others we will examine. Along the way we have visited such figures as Arian, Ellen G. White, Pastor Russell, and soon we will discuss Joseph Smith of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Today, we will look at the life and legacy of a man who prepared the way for Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, and the new wing of those who are apologizing for the Church of Christ who cite Norman Vincent Peale as an authority. Mr. Peale has been successful even in our brotherhood by using an apologetic approach to preaching the gospel in a way that no one will be offended (and most want recognize as something different).
Mr. Peale was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1922 and assigned a small congregation in Berkeley, Rhode Island. Two years later he moved to Brooklyn, New York where he established himself as a gifted communicator so that in only three years he grew a church from 40 to 900 members. He stayed a Methodist for a few more years before joining the Reformed Church in America.
Mr. Peale had a tremendous fascination with psychiatry. Teaming up with a Sigmond Freud-trained psychiatrist, Dr. Smiley Blanton, He began a religious-psychiatric clinic in the church basement. They wanted to respond to the psychological needs of their congregation and especially the deep=rooted effects of the Great Depression. He began a program called “The Art of Living” which would exist for 54 years and founded a magazine called Guideposts which grew to 2 million subscribers. His most successful written work was a book called The Power of Positive Thinking, published in 1952
Mr. Peale popularized what has become known as “positive thinking.” He took existing ideas from Christian Science and other works and gave them a religious veneer. His foremost contribution was this notion that thoughts are causative, that our thoughts can change our lives, our health, our destiny. Readers were thrilled with the notion that if they believed it, they could have it, or be it, or do it. Peale reduced God to a force and made Christianity self-centered rather than God-centered. Very little is said of the sovereign mind and purpose of God; much is made of the things men can say to themselves and can do to bring about their ambitions and purposes.
Before Peale is was rare to hear of statements like “nothing is impossible,” or “be all you can be.” The Bible makes it clear that the troubles we experience in this life are not merely the result of negative thinking that can be overcome by tapping into our potential through positive thinking. They are the results of a deep-seated rebellion against God that involves not only the mind, but the will. We simply cannot overcome the evils of this world or even the evil in our hearts, in our own strength. Apart from Christ we can do nothing-John 15:5. Apart from being born again, we are eternally dead in our trespasses and sins-Ephesians 2:1 Where Peale taught that our deepest problem is a lack of belief in ourselves and that our salvation comes with a simple shift in thinking, the Bible teaches that no man can save himself, regardless of how positive his thought may be!! Salvation comes from outside, not inside one’s self!! The glory of Christ is in the fact that He has “reconciled us in His body, the Church.” 2 Corinthians 5:18 There is a demand from God that we must obey His law without respect for any consideration of how we may “feel” about what God has had to say! They hope of eternal life is not in ourselves, it is in Him “with whom we have to do.” Hebrews 4:13 Peale’s antagonism to “proofs” based on recitation of eternal inspiration, citing a book, chapter, and verse, will never change the sin we have committed into righteousness as our God has demanded. There is a clear and definite wrong and an equal and sustaining right that will judge us, John 12:48, and that is not going to be based our positive thinking potential. This religion is a modern day “double-talk,” a means of agreeing with those with whom we must disagree IF we stand up for the Lord, an affiliation of association based on “our positive outlook” on things we believe in and it matters not what others believe these aspirants cannot bring themselves to contradict that “faith.” BUT, the old truths are still truth no matter who now denies the power of that truth. 2 Timothy 3:5. Jesus Christ is still the Lord, God Almighty, and the Lord of Host.