Norman Vincent Peale
Watchman Fellowship is a ministry which deals with cults and heretical teachers. We do not publically get involved with "intramural" disagreements among Christians. The Scripture reminds us that "now we see in a glass dimly (we) know in part" (I Corinthians 13:12). No one has or understands all the truth but all Christians have always agreed on and understood the essential doctrines of the faith. The Bible is clear on what constitutes fatal heresy (a denial of salvation), which is a denial of the true God and a rejection of the gospel of grace (Galatians 1:6-9, 4:8; Romans 1:18-25; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; John 12:44-50; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6; etc.).
Heretics will invent a different god and gospel. The Bible warns that these false teachers will teach things opposed to sound doctrine which will "tickle the ears," or satisfy man's carnal desires, and "turn (them) aside to myths," (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Watchman Fellowship frequently receives requests to expose certain teachers who may be teaching poor and harmful doctrine. We may sympathize, but must decline if we feel they are right on the essentials. But occasionally through our research we find people who may be well known and influential, yet definitely fall into the category of false teachers.
One of these is Norman Vincent Peale, publisher of Guidepost magazine and writer of many books including the best selling Power of Positive Thinking. Our conclusion after much research is that Norman Vincent Peale is a universalist, that is, he believes that everyone is going to heaven if they believe in a god, and have some redeeming value, which is just about everyone. This is evidenced by several situations documented in Peale's life.
On March 28, 1980, Dr. Peale was the featured speaker at an 85th birthday dinner honoring Mormon prophet speaker Spencer W. Kimball. The official Mormon newspaper reported that Brigham Young University bestowed an honorary degree on Dr. Peale (Church News, February 9, 1980, p. 11).
Included on the same page was a transcription of a radio address Peale made on April 27, 1975, when Dr. Peale "received a blessing" from Prophet Kimball. In this radio address Peale said that he had been struggling with a difficulty for several weeks. While speaking in Salt Lake City he was invited "to be received by the President of the Church." After lauding the "righteous" Mormon church, Peale said, "I met with these men of God... these three dedicated Christian leaders (Mormon first presidency) I felt he [Kimball] was so spiritual." Peale then related how the three leaders laid hands on him and prayed. Peale stated "Sir, He is here, I feel His presence," (emphasis mine).
Dave Hunt in The Seduction of Christianity documents on Page 152 that Peale was the guest on The Phil Donahue Show and "denied the necessity to be born again," (Transcript, October 23, 1984). Also Peale called the virgin birth `some theological idea' of no importance to salvation (Family Weekly, April 15, 1984, Cover Story).
In Guideposts one regularly finds cover stories and articles by people who do not profess Christianity, but relate how they overcame difficulties through some dependence of God. He has featured Ed Asner, New Age leaning Martin Sheen and Dr. George Ritchie as well as Mormon Dale Murphy. Peale is also a 33rd degree Mason (Christian Information Bureau Bulletin, December 1986). According to Dave Hunt's bulletin Peale wrote in the Masonic Magazine, New Age, concerning his involvement, "Men of different religions meet in fellowship and brotherhood under the fatherhood of God." Peale also demonstrates that he is much more in alignment with the New Age Movement and its accompanying belief categories, than he is in Christianity.
Peale first became suspect when he consistently began endorsing New Age/Occultic writers. The following are several examples. In Dr. Bernie Siegel's book, Love, Medicine, and Miracles, Peale writes, "In these pages is found a precious secret, that of health and well being" (inside cover). In the book Siegel describes how he got his message and insights through guided meditation and an inner spirit guide (p. 18-20).
Siegel also promotes meditation, hypnosis, and guided visualization with eastern/Occultic presuppositions based on "cosmic-at-oneness and enlightenment," Yoga and Kundalini, and Silva Mind Control (pgs. 147-152).
Siegel also teaches that through continuous "spiritual consciousness" death no longer exists and that he has "received many messages from those who have died," (p. 220). Siegel concludes with instructions on how to meditate and visualize cosmic-at-oneness energy healing you. He also lists a whole spate of New Age writers and books for suggested reading (pp. 227-239).
Peale also endorses the writer Eric Butterworth who is one of the chief leaders and writers for Unity School of Christianity. Butterworth, in his writings, clearly teaches New Age/Occultic world views. Peale writes of Eric Butterworth "Thought-motivating and spiritually rewarding," (?Life is for Lovingo, noted on cover of How to Break the Ten Commandments, Eric Butterworth).
Found on the cover of the book The Game of Life by metaphysician Florence Shinn, is Peale's endorsement, "By studying and practicing the principles laid down in this book, one may find prosperity, solve problems, have better health, achieve good personal relations - in a word win the game of life. The Game of Life is filled with wisdom and creative insights. That its teachings will work I know to be a fact, for I've long used them myself."
What are these teachings? "Jesus Christ knew in reality, there is no evil There is an old legend that Adam and Eve ate of `Maya the Tree of Illusion' Therefore evil is a false law man has made for himself... has been hypnotized by the race belief (of sin, sickness, and death) which is carnal or mortal thought," (p. 30.)
" Jesus Christ brought the good news (the gospel) that there was a higher law than the law of Karma. The world thought is that of sin, sickness and death. He saw their absolute unreality. We know now from a scientific standpoint, that death could be overcome by stamping the subconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life. Working under the direction of the superconscious, (the Christ or God within man) the `resurrection of the body' would be accomplished," (pp. 46-47).
On Page 83 the author teaches the law of reincarnation. Are these isolated incidents? No, the pattern continues.
Peale endorses the book The Jesus Letters by Jane Palzere and Anna Brown. He writes "What a wonderful gift to all of us from you is your book. You will bless many by this truly inspired book," (emphasis mine).
How is it inspired? According to the advertisement, "a book communicated through a process known as inspirational writing (automatic writing). Self identified as Jesus."
Some quotes are given from the book, "God does not see evil. He sees only souls at different levels of awareness. It matters little if these writings come from the Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus of Jane, they are all the same consciousness and that consciousness is God. I am part of God, and Jane and Anna are part of that same God."
When one examines many of the self-help, New Age, Occult books, references and quotes from Norman Vincent Peale frequently occur. For instance, in The Magic Power of Your Mind by Natter Germain, Peale is referenced four times in harmony with the books stated purpose: "[It] shows how you can harness ESP, hypnotism, telepathy, clairvoyance and auto-suggestion to achieve health, wealth and happiness beyond your dreams."
In Steve Richard's book Levitation, he suggests using the technique of "suggestions articulation" found in Power of Positive Thinking to induce meditation which can be used to transcend gravity. (p. 63).
Peale is listed in the bibliography of Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis by Caprio and Berger, along with a whole spate of New Age and Occultic authors. Peale also wrote the introduction and endorsement of The Stress Strategists by "national psychic and professional numerologist" Kathy Bury. Ms. Bury stated on the telephone that she did Dr. Peale's numerology chart (similar conceptually to astrology) at his request.
This is not merely guilt by association. Dr. Peale himself credits his theology of positive thinking to Ernest Holmes, founder of New Age/Occultic Church of Religious Science (Ernest Holmes, The First Religious Scientist, James Reid, p. 14). In fact, Peale borrowed the phrase "positive thinking" from Charles Fillmore, founder of the New Age Unity School of Christianity (Positive Imaging, p. 77). Charles Braden documents Peale's evolvement into his New Age synthesis in his book Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought.
Braden, in his research wrote, "I once wrote him (Peale) saying that I had read his books and articles and in doing so had had the feeling that I was reading New Thought. Had he indeed heard their leaders, read their books, and consciously or unconsciously been influenced by them?" (p. 388).
Peale's answer came by way of a personal call to Braden. Peale stated that "he had read them all and had found invaluable elements in them," (Ibid). Peale referred Braden to The Tough-Minded Optimist for his background. In chapter two of that book, Peale expressed dissatisfaction with both his liberal seminary education and with fundamentalism. He began to read "spiritual literature" from Unity, Religious Science, Science of Mind, Christian Science, and from various other "metaphysical teachers" (Spirits in Rebellion, p. 389).
Peale made a most significant admission when he related that he almost resigned from his pastorate when his teachings came under heavy criticism from fellow clergymen. He indicated that his father, also a Methodist minister, persuaded him to continue by saying, "You have evolved a new Christian emphasis out of a composite of Science of Mind, metaphysics, Christian Science, medical and psychological practice, Baptist Evangelism, Methodist witnessing, and solid Dutch Reformed Calvinism," (Ibid, p.3 91).
Dr. Peale's father was correct about the New Age identification, but apparently did not understand Reformed theology or orthodoxy very well. When one reads Norman Vincent Peale, it is obvious that he never tells anyone that they must come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ before they can become a child of God, born again and indwelt by His Spirit. Instead the assumption is that everyone is already a child of God and can access the Power through using certain principles and techniques. The first words we find in Power of Positive Thinking is "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities!" (p. 1; emphasis mine).
Peale consistently operates with New Age doctrine and practices, emphasizing the creative power of thought and that consciousness is true reality and aligning your consciousness by meditation or affirmation, will automatically bring what you desire.
He states, "A meditation in which you visualize a white mist filled with myriads of little points of energy. Scientists say this is life substance, the life force. visualize this mist high above you, around you, at your feet then breathe in the white mist, and visualize it proceeding upward into your brain making it alive with new power. I have been practicing this type of meditation for several days. It induces a sense of vital energy, an awareness of God's presence. Who is God? Some theological being? He is so much greater than theology. God is vitality. God is life. God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized!" (No More Stress or Tension, Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking, May, l986, pp. 22-23)
When asked in a recent letter about some of Dr. Peale's endorsements of specific New Age writers, and the Mormon prophet, the response was written by Peale's secretary, Mrs. Evelyn Yegella. She stated that she could find no reference nor endorsement to The Game of Life and The Jesus Letters. She also stated that "Perhaps he (Peale) is too generous with his praise" and that he "does not endorse the New Age Movement" (letter from the Foundation For Christian Living, October 31, 1988). Yet in a recent interview with Beth Ann Krier of the Los Angeles Times, Peale said, "I don't know much about that New Age business. I have received critical letters that I belong to the New Age. I've got to look into it and see what it is. But anything that develops legitimate, positive thinking principles, I'm for it."
Instead, the apostle Paul says that first we must "present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice to God... not being conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is the will of God, that which is good, acceptable and perfect," (Romans 12:1-2), and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," (Philippians 4:13).
Frankly, we find Peale appalling and Paul appealing.