The "Gospel of Success" - Is it the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Many years ago, Paul wrote to the saints at Colosse:  "See that there be no one who shall lead you away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).  Christians have always had to be careful about deceptive teaching, and today the "gospel of success", by way of motivational authors and speakers such as Zig Ziglar, has spread into business settings where we might not expect it.  Proponents of this "different gospel" (Galatians 1:6) often quote scripture passages, whose interpretation is subtly altered to suit their hidden agendas.  And during the last few years especially, these teachings have infiltrated various marketing seminars.  So let's look briefly at the origins and goals of Ziglar's philosophies:

  • In Ziglar's recent book, Over the Top, he states (p. 273), "Many men qualify under one word or the other, but 'world renowned' and 'humble' are seldom used to describe one man.  Godly, gentle, modest, generous, compassionate, dignified, and respectable all describe the character of the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.  I know this to be true, first, because as I mentioned earlier, I studied and applied his philosophies to my life with great success, and second, because I had the privilege of knowing him personally.  Many times Dr. Peale and I shared the platform.  I knew the public and the private man.  He truly was what he appeared to be — and then some.  His enormous success and popularity never turned his head or caused him to lose his sense of awe and gratitude.  The people he inspired and took over the top by way of his books, cassette recordings, and publications such as 'Guideposts' number in the millions.  ... It is safe to say that Dr. Peale finished well."
  • The editor of Freemasonry, A Celebration of the Craft states that Norman Vincent Peale "is the best known champion of Freemasonry in America today".  Peale wrote, in the Introduction, "There is, as I see it, nothing like Masonry.  It is unique in its fellowship which spreads over much of the earth, in addition to our own country.  Moreover, this in-depth fellowship spans the years, even the centuries, running back into antiquity.  To me it means a personal relationship with great historical personalities and, taken by and large, also with about the finest body of men whom it is possible to assemble anywhere".
So Ziglar is clearly a disciple of the late Norman Vincent Peale, the "best known champion of Freemasonry in America".  Now let's briefly see what Freemason authors write about their beliefs:

  • Manly Hall, 33rd degree Mason, in Lost Keys of Freemasonry, wrote, "When the Mason learns that the key to the warrior on the block is the proper application of the dynamo of living power, he has learned the Mystery of his Craft.  The seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands" (page 48).
  • Albert Pike, 33rd degree Mason, Grand Commander, and author of Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, in his Instructions to the 23 Supreme Councils of the World on July 14, 1889, reportedly stated that "Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also God.  ... Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil". *
These statements clearly show the evil nature of Masonry.  God says that Lucifer is "fallen from heaven" and assigns him "to the recesses of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).  But Adonai is our Lord:  "The Lord Jehovah" in Ezekiel 2:4 is "Adonai Jehovah" (see Darby translation footnote), and we read of "the ark of Adonai Jehovah" in 1 Kings 2:26.  He is the One of whom we read:  "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).  Masonic teaching really calls evil good, and good evil; and puts darkness for light, and light for darkness.  In Isaiah 5:20, God pronounces "Woe" on those who do this.  I would add that James Taylor, in Ministry by J. Taylor, New Series, volume 45, page 176, perceptively links Masonry with Shinar (see Genesis 11:1-9) and notes that secret organizations including Masons "are inimical to the truth".  (The word inimical means hostile.)

Let us now consider some of the authors whom Ziglar espouses:  In See you at the Top, he recommends books by Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, and Napoleon Hill in the "Further Reading" section.  In Secrets of Closing the Sale, he states, "The following books have been very meaningful to me and I believe you will glean some useful ideas and inspiration from them".  The book list includes The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do by Robert Schuller, and Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone.

In their well-researched book The Seduction of Christianity, Dave Hunt and T. McMahon write:  "Ernest Holmes founded the Church of Religious Science, also known as Science of the Mind, upon the 'Supreme Secret' that the 'Masters of Wisdom' revealed to Napoleon Hill.  It is closely related to the Positive Thinking of Norman Vincent Peale and the Possibility Thinking of Robert Schuller.  ... In 1958 Holmes prophesied, 'We have launched a Movement which, in the next 100 years, will be the great new religious impulsion of modern times ... [destined] to envelop the world ... .'" (page 23).  Let's briefly see what these men teach:

  • Napoleon Hill states, in Grow Rich with Peace of Mind (pp. 158-160), "Now and again I have had evidence that unseen friends hover about me, unknowable to the ordinary senses.  In my studies I discovered there is a group of strange beings who maintain a school of wisdom.  ... The School of Masters who can disembody themselves and travel instantly to any place they choose ... to give knowledge directly, by voice ... Now I knew that one of these Masters had come across thousands of miles, through the night, into my study ... much of what he said already has been presented to you in the chapters of this book and will follow in other chapters. 'You have earned the right to reveal a Supreme Secret to others', said the vibrant voice.  'You have been under the guidance of the Great School.  ... Now you must give the world a blueprint'."  In Think and Grow Rich (pp. 215-219), Hill writes of his "meetings" with nine men from the past:  Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Ford, and Carnegie, stating, "I now go to my imaginary counselors with every difficult problem which confronts me and my clients.  The results are often astonishing."

    But God forbids such practices.  In Leviticus 20:26-27, we read:  "And ye shall be holy unto me; for I Jehovah am holy, and have separated you from the peoples to be mine.  And if there be a man or a woman in whom is a spirit of Python or of divination, they shall certainly be put to death:  they shall stone them with stones; their blood is upon them."  And in Deuteronomy 18:10, we read:  "There shall not be found among you he that ... useth divination, ... or a sorcerer, ... or one that consulteth the dead."  (Divination is the art or practice that seeks to discover hidden knowledge usually by means of augury or by the aid of supernatural powers.  Sorcery is the use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits especially for divining.)

  • The late Norman Vincent Peale, a 33rd degree Mason, confessed his indebtedness to Science of Mind founder Ernest Holmes, writing on the back cover of Ernest Holmes:  His Life and Times:  "Only those who knew me as a boy can fully appreciate what Ernest Holmes did for me.  Why, he made me a positive thinker."  In 1980, during his keynote address at Mormon president Spencer Kimball's 85th birthday party, Peale called Mormon leaders men of God who are doing God's work and praised Kimball as a true prophet of Jesus Christ.

    To which god was Peale alluding?  Well, Peale was a Mason, Mormon church founder Joseph Smith was a Mason, Mormon leader Brigham Young plainly declared in Journal of Discourses (v. 5, p. 331) that the Christian God is "the Mormon's Devil", and the third Mormon president John Taylor stated in Journal of Discourses (v. 6, p. 167) that Christianity was "hatched in hell".  We have already noted that Lucifer is the god of the Masons.  These things are very sobering to consider, especially for those who espouse the writings of Peale or his disciple, Zig Ziglar.

  • Robert Schuller, in Time magazine, March 18, 1985, stated, "I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition".

    Yet Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:2, "proclaim the word; be urgent in season and out of season, convict, rebuke, encourage, ...".  To convict a person is to find or prove him guilty, to convince him of error or sinfulness.  Jesus told the Pharisees in John 9:41, "If ye were blind ye would not have sin; but now ye say, We see, your sin remains".  Was Jesus being "crude, uncouth, and unchristian" when he made them "aware of their lost and sinful condition"?  Far be the thought!  And Stephen said in Acts 7:51-52, "O stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers, ye also.  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain those who announced beforehand concerning the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have now become deliverers up and murders!"  Were his Holy Spirit-inspired words "crude, uncouth, and unchristian"?  Surely not.

These are just a few examples of the strange and unscriptural New Age practices and teachings of Hill, Peale, and Schuller.  And over the years, we have known the heartbreak of persons whom we love coming under these deceptive influences.

Well, Paul wrote these sobering words to the saints at Corinth:  "But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craft, so your thoughts should be corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ.  For if indeed he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or ye get a different spirit, which ye have not got, or a different glad tidings, which ye have not received, ye might well bear with it" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

And John wrote:  "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world".  Then he added this encouraging word:  "Ye are of God, children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:1).  Thank God for the blessed Holy Spirit who indwells us!

I note, in closing, that John Darby wrote as to wrong teaching in his day:  "I send you a few remarks on modern rationalist views and their bearing on Christianity (just as I penned them down for myself), that Christians may not lightly suffer the taint of such views to approach them; whatever may be their patience with those who may be deceived".  (Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, volume 9, page 360).

* Recorded by A. C. De La Rive and reported in La Femme et l'Enfant dans la Franc-Maconnerie Universelle, page 588, as found in Edith S. Miller, Occult Theocracy, volume 1, pages 220-221 and in Ed Decker & Dave Hunt, The God Makers, page 130.

"For the rest, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the might of his strength.  Put on the panoply of God, that ye may be able to stand against the artifices of the devil:  because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies.  For this reason take to you the panoply of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having accomplished all things, to stand."  Ephesians 6:10-13.


The Gospel of Success - Is it the Gospel of Jesus Christ?