I’ve always come across the notion of ‘speaking things into existence’, with variations such as ‘speaking things into the atmosphere’, ‘naming and claiming’, ‘positive confession’, ‘calling things that are not as though they were’, ‘decreeing and declaring’ and the like. I’ve seen these phrases used in many churches and by many believers and probably at one time or another, practiced this.
Speaking things into existence (STIE) represents the action of saying aloud what we want to happen in our lives and in our environment, and then that – because it has been said aloud and believed – will then become reality. This comes from a deeper concept that the words we speak have spiritual or supernatural power to cause change in our lives. This has been said to help many reach certain goals, turn their lives around, do things they were not able to do, and help individuals with finances, health and broken relationships.
In our age, this has become a very popular ideal in both Christian and secular circles in the 20th and 21st Century. However, despite its growing popularity, I maintain that speaking things into existence is not as helpful, and certainly not as biblical as it may seem. I would like to make it clear from the jump that my aim is not to bash or harmfully target beliefs for the sake of cynicism, but to show that a lot of what we may be fed/taught actually may be more harmful than useful to us.
The doctrine of STIE is known to originate from the Word of Faith Movement, and in particular, Word of Faith Minister, E.W Kenyon, who began to incorporate concepts similar to those of the Law of Attraction, Mind Science and Metaphysics into doctrinal rhetoric. Word of Faith Ministers such as Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and the like, have almost seamlessly adopted the secular ideals of the Law of Attraction, Mind Science and Metaphysics into their ministry, allowing such concepts to creep into the Church.
On the more secular side, recent rise in fame of this ideal comes largely from the book, “The Secret” (2006), written by author and producer, Rhonda Byrne. In The Secret Byrne claims the secret to life is the ‘Law of Attraction’, or in other words, positive thinking or imagery. These phrases and concepts point to the idea that a person can invoke or attract positive or negative experiences and happenings in their life by focusing on positive or negative thoughts. In her book, Byrne states things such as: “Your thoughts become things!” and “Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything.” Even further, she then instructs readers to turn their petitions to the Universe: “In the moment you ask, and believe and know you already have it in the unseen, the entire Universe shifts to bring it into the seen.”, “You are the master of your life, and the Universe is answering your every command.” Though that is a very holistic and simplistic break down of The Secret, this is essentially what it is promoting.
Now, there are some differences between the Law of Attraction and STIE, however, they are almost one in the same concept. (I will be referring to them almost interchangeably for the first parts of this post). They both have the believer’s desires at the forefront of the ideal, and both speak of an invocation of things that aren’t yet present, coming into being, either by thinking/focusing, or by speaking. The main difference is that for the secular ideal, ‘the Universe’ is the one who grants our wants through the interconnected energy of our continuum, whereas ‘God’ is the granter in the Christian understanding. The notion of STIE enables the believer to envision what they want to see happen, speak it into the atmosphere and wait until it is granted by God, much like what Rhonda Byrne perpetuates. If I want to be rich, I have to think positive thoughts of wealth and prosperity, not thoughts of poverty; like attracts like. If I want to be healthy, I must think thoughts of good health and vitality, not of poor health and disease; again, like attracts like. There is much similarity here, and from experience, I can recall being told not to say or think certain things because even thinking negatively will harm my imminent or far future.
I have 4 considerations as to why I believe that STIE and the Law of Attraction may be more harmful than we think:
(1) It is impractical
From a practical point of view, do we really accept that simply by thinking and believing, situations and circumstances will automatically change? I’ve heard it said many a time: ‘I speak prosperity and wealth over my life’, yet the person speaking remains poor. I’ve heard ‘I decree and declare good health into my being’, and the person’s health may not be doing so well. STIE is impractical. STIE may be the manifestation of someone’s emotional want for something, but hardly is it a manifestation of what they ask for. If STIE works, then a lot of poor people would be far richer than they are; a lot of sick people would be far better than they are. Yet this does not happen, because even though our words may have emotional power and spiritual power (to an extent), they do not have the metaphysical power to enable change to a situation.
The fact is, STIE neglects the happening of exterior circumstances that are not under the speaker’s/believer’s control. Some may dispute with me and give me examples of celebrities who have rose to wealth and success against the odds, because at one point or another, they spoke it into the universe and it came true. Or disputers may give me the example of many hospital patients who had illnesses, but changed their thinking to a much more optimistic mindset and slowly, but surely became better and stronger in health. I appreciate both examples and take them into consideration. However, one’s rise to fame can never be defined by just speaking or thinking positively. Though one’s speaking may encourage a mindset of optimism, motivation, drive and discipline, it ultimately was not speaking that got them their success, their work did! Speaking to one’s self to encourage and remind self about goals to achieve is useful, but that itself does not cause anything to manifest. Similarly, the optimism of a cancer patient, for example, may be helpful, but it does not always entirely cure one of cancer and it does not speak for those who were optimistic, yet their disease still took its toll.
I believe this becomes harmful when individuals put too much belief in what they have said, yet do not have the work ethic or practicalities to achieve what they want to achieve. It grieves me to know that at times, external circumstances have overpowered an individual’s life so much that what they want simply cannot become true. This is probably a lot truer for people of colour who have been the most disenfranchised in the Western world. It also grieves me to know that many churches that teach doctrines like this, telling congregations to speak riches, yet in the next moment, fleece them of their livelihood.
We must confront the realness of life, not with words primarily, but with our actions and our convictions. We cannot blindly expect things, irrespective of our environment.
(2) It is flawed on a moral level
In the book, “The Secret”, Byrne writes: “Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything.” Taken into consideration, let’s apply this on a moral level.
Do those who are raped, think about rape?
Do those who are murdered, think about murder?
Do those who experience racial abuse, think about racial abuse?
The answer to these questions has to be a resounding, ‘no’.
Robert Verlarde in an article about The Secret writes: ‘Perhaps the greatest flaw in The Secret is its inability to adequately solve the problem of evil and suffering. If everything that comes into our lives is the result of our creating our own reality with our thoughts, then what is the explanation for those who have been raped, tortured, or worse?’ (http://www.equip.org/article/the-secret-revealed/)
The reality is also that the Law of Attraction and STIE cannot necessarily stop evil and suffering, and we have to take those into account. The Law of Attraction and STIE are not our answers to evil, being wronged or living in an evil world.
(3) It is not biblical
If there is anything you remember from this post, please remember that the ONLY person in the scripture that can speak something into existence is God. Psalm 33:9 states, ‘For He spoke, and it [the world] came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.’ Hebrews 11:3 states: ‘By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God…’ God as the omnipotent Creator has the power to cause anything to come into being. We do not have that same function or power.
Disputers may point to the scripture, Proverbs 18:21: ‘Life and death is in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.’ However, within the context of Proverbs, this is not pointing to a metaphysical, creative or destructive power of the tongue, but rather points to the fact that God has made us as expressive beings, and we have the power of the tongue in the sense that (1) we have physical power – for example – the words of a judge/jury or an army general or doctor can determine whether someone lives or dies; (2) we have spiritual power – words reveal our hearts (e.g. ‘From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Luke 6:45) and the ability to accept Jesus along with a believing heart (Romans 10:9) and (3) we have emotional power with our words that affect people on a daily basis, whether in uplifting one another, or discouraging, offending and hurting one another. The impression of metaphysical power to take or give life itself is not ascribed to us in this scripture, but throughout all of scripture, that ability is only ascribed to God, not us. (https://www.gotquestions.org/power-of-the-tongue.html)
Though we are made in His image, God is the only true Creator. God is the only one that can create a substance from nothing. We cannot do that. A lot of the scriptures used (exempting Proverbs 18:21) such as Romans 4:17, state that God is the one with ability to speak things into being, let us not apply that to ourselves. We are not God.
STIE is not seen to be encouraged in both the Old or the New Testament. If you disagree, prayerfully reconsider. Many interpretations using scripture to support this ideal may come from a self-centred interpretation.
This kind of approach causes one to become self sufficient, putting man in the place of God, leading to my next and final point…
(4) It is self-serving
The notion of STIE and the Law of Attraction propagate the idea that “you can change your life and you can heal yourself”, when this is not the case. These notions ignore three important things: (1) Our lack of true power over our own lives, (2) The importance of prayer, and most importantly, (3) God’s sovereignty over our lives.
To begin to think that you master your own destiny entirely is to push God out of the picture, creating a life centred around your own wants. Scripture does not encourage this, but rather, it encourages obedience and submission to God with not just portions of our lives, but with all of our lives.
Our wanting of power to manifest and create things ourselves screams of a self-sufficiency, and a dethroning of God, that we may take a seat and be in control. If we have this attitude, we are sadly mistake. The truth is, no positive statement can ever incur a blessing from God that He did not already plan to give, nor can a negative statement negate the blessing He has already planned to give us! God is in control. God organizes and structures our lives, not so that we can use our own power to change it, but that we can solely trust in Him, love Him and submit ourselves to Him no matter what the circumstance.
The hard truth many churches may not seem to teach is that God has not promised anyone health, wealth or prosperity. Jesus his Son in His human life probably only had one of the three! Because of this, we must trust God’s plan to get us through our troubles by relying on Him as our Father, who relates to us through His Son, giving us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when we want to achieve a goal for His glory, or for when we cannot take the hardships of life.
God give us the power to believe and trust in Him, not to speak things into existence, as though we are Lord or manufacturer of our own lives.
It is important to know that God is not a being by which once you’ve spoken something into existence, it will come into being, as though God is our personal genie waiting for your list of things you want to see in your life. God is in charge. He is the Lord, He is Sovereign and it is His will that we should be primarily concerned with, not our own.
All in all, let us reconsider this ideal and how we use it, or if we incorporate it in our lives. We must note that these kind of ideals attempt to remove the sovereignty of God and His control, deny the reality of life and the fact that life may or may not go the way you want and you may not have as much control over it as you want. Let’s take a realistic approach to our lives, knowing that we can reach our goals without superstition and formulas. To the Christian, we should endeavor to be wise and as biblical as possible, submitting our will to God!