New Thought did not deny
God or Jesus, but redefined them, and this is seen in three major New
Thought churches that exist today: the Church of Christ, Scientist (or
Christian Science Church), Unity School of Christianity (now usually
called Unity or Unity Church), and the Church of Religious Science.
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of Christian Science, was heavily influenced and allegedly healed by Quimby, and claimed that she was reinstating "primitive Christianity and its lost art of healing." 18 She proposed that mind is the only reality, and that Christ healed by a spiritual influence, which she had discovered in the Scriptures. 19 Right thinking was necessary for healing, since illness resulted from an erroneous view that the material world is real. 20
Christian Science views the Bible as allegorical and only meaningful as interpreted by Eddy, whereas Eddy's work, Science and Health, is accepted as divine and infallible. 21 God is a divine principle and is Divine Mind, and all that exists is Divine Mind; nor are God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit personal beings. 22 Jesus and Christ are separate; Jesus was a mere man, but the Christ is a principle identified with God. 23 Death is illusory, because man is neither mortal nor material. 24 Since man is good and equated with God, there is no sin, and heaven and hell are states of thinking. 25
The Unity School of Christianity, founded in 1889 by Charles Fillmore (1854-1948) and his wife, Myrtle, remains one of the largest offshoots of New Thought. 26 In spite of the influence of Eastern beliefs on Fillmore, and his acceptance of reincarnation, Unity perhaps maintains a stronger focus on Jesus Christ than other New Thought churches. 27 Actively promoting itself as practical Christianity, Unity freely uses biblical terms and language, thus perhaps proving to be a more subtle deception than other New Thought organizations, especially since it is not restrained by the more narrow teachings of a strong founder (such as Mary Baker Eddy in Christian Science). Unity publishes the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, a guide to esoterically interpreting Bible names, places, and events, and maintains an open prayer line at its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. 28
Unity teaches that:
One Unity brochure offers meditative statements such as, "O Christ, Thou Son of God, my own eternal Self," and Unity recommends repeating an affirmation 30 that one is Christ in order to realize the truth of this belief. 31
Church of Religious Science
The third major New Thought church is the Church of Religious Science, founded by Ernest Holmes (1887-1960). Holmes, influenced by transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Swedenborg, spiritism, Theosophy 32, hypnotism, and Hinduism, held to and developed many New Thought beliefs, which he called Science of Mind. 33
Holmes taught that Jesus was a man who used Science of Mind principles; there is a distinction between the historical Jesus and the Christ (the latter is a state that can be realized by all); man is divine; sin is error or ignorance; death is an illusion; and heaven and hell are states of mind. Holmes also taught that all religions are essentially one and teach one truth.
Holmes' contribution to New Thought (eventually incorporated by the New Age and the Word of Faith Movement 34) was his emphasis on positive affirmations and negative confessions. This is rooted in belief in a spiritual law that if one unites one's mind with Divine Mind and affirms what one desires, speaking it as though it is a present reality, then it will be manifested. Since unwanted conditions are not actually real, one must affirm that which is true reality. 35
Positive Thinking, a Fox, Oprah, and Chicken Soup
Due to its use of Christian terms and the Bible, and its claims to be Christian, New Thought has influenced many in the Christian church through admired ministers such as Norman Vincent Peale (d. 1993), author of The Power Of Positive Thinking, and popular New Thought writer and Divine Science minister Emmet Fox (d. 1951).
Peale's bestselling book, The Power of Positive Thinking, influenced many, especially in the human potential movement. Most people believe that to "think positive" merely refers to a sunny disposition or positive outlook. However, the term is based on the belief that thinking something in a positive way can manifest it into reality. This technique is originally found in the occult, especially the practice of occult magic (sorcery).
The bestselling video and book, The Secret, is an example of New Thought principles. 36 Those promoting The Secret claim it is compatible with Christianity, and both the book and video frequently quote or refer to the Bible and to Jesus.
Peale and Fox further blended New Thought teachings with Christianity through misinterpretation and misapplication of Bible passages. Peale and Fox were both influenced by Fillmore, founder of Unity, while Peale was also influenced by Holmes, founder of the Church of Religious Science. 37
Fox wrote the popular book, The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life, which is sometimes sold in Christian bookstores. 38 In this book, Fox denies the existence of sin and the atonement of Christ, and declares that reality is merely the expression of inner thought. 39 Fox claims that the "Plan of Salvation," as he calls it, taught in evangelical Christianity, "is as completely unknown to the Bible as it is to the Koran." 40
For Fox, man's main purpose is "the changing of one's consciousness," 41 by which Fox means replacing the delusion that we are separate from God with the realization of our oneness with God, and that we are on earth to manifest and express God through creative power that is like God's. 42 Fox asserts that this is what Jesus meant by "entering in at the strait gate" in Matthew 7:14 (KJV). 43
In his book of devotionals, Fox writes that Jesus was concerned with "mental states, for he (Jesus) knew that if one's mental states are right, everything else might be right, too." 44 Fox uses familiar Christian or biblical terms that seem correct if the reader does not know what Fox means by them, and is not familiar with Fox's true beliefs.
Oprah Winfrey, one of the most influential women in the United States, 45 claims a book by Eric Butterworth (d. 2003), a Unity minister, influenced her view of Jesus. 46 In a 2008 television broadcast, Oprah said that she is a Christian but, due to Butterworth's teachings, she came to understand that Jesus did not come to die on the cross; instead, he came to show us how to achieve "Christ Consciousness." She said that rather than the cross, what Jesus really was about was "Christ coming here to show us how to do it ---- how to be ---- to show us the Christ consciousness that he had, and that that Consciousness abides with all of us." 47
In his book, Discover the Power Within You, Butterworth writes that Jesus was a "great way-shower," and that "Christ is not a person" but rather he is "a degree of potential stature that dwells in every man." 48 He also states that "Jesus' real mission was to bring the message of the Divinity of Man to all the world." 49 The book is dedicated to the founders of Unity, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and Butterworth's philosophy is a fitting tribute to Unity beliefs.
In light of Butterworth's influence, it is not surprising that Oprah Winfrey heavily promoted the bestselling book and DVD, The Secret, which is essentially re-packaged New Thought philosophy. The Secret even heavily quotes from earlier New Thought pioneers.
Chicken Soup for the Soul
Almost everyone knows about the popular series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, whose chief editors, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, are New Thought proponents, though this fact seems to be barely known. Misleading many is Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, which contains essays from well-known Christians Corrie Ten Boom and Chuck Colson, as well as some other Christians, but also offers essays with New Thought or New Age outlooks. Many are unaware of Canfield's and Hansen's true beliefs, and may assume this series is harmless.