Monday, August 28, 2006

The New Age Preacher and His Influence

"Reverend Norman Vincent Peale is, to many, the most prophetic and moving New Age preacher of the twentieth century. He is also the founder of the self-help movement that formed the groundwork for the Church Growth Movement. Peale formed perhaps the most dramatic and meaningful link between religion and psychology of any religious leader in history. It is this same approachable, therapeutic brand of religion that many mega churches, including Saddleback, put forward today.…
(George Mair, A Life With Purpose: Reverend Rick Warren: The Most Inspiring Pastor of Our Time [Berkley Books, 2005], p. 93-94)

Norman Vincent Peale's influence was like leaven permeating all of neoevangelicaldom. His influence carried far beyond Saddleback and is now being exported globally, not only by Rick Warren, but by another evangelical mega-leader -- Ken Blanchard -- who is connected to Rick Warren through their joint global leadership training initiatives.

Relevant to this discussion is the announcement that another important book has just been posted online! Warren Smith has recently updated each chapter in Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel. Many events have transpired since 2002 when Warren first wrote about New Age leaders like Neale Donald Walsch, Marianne Williamson and Oprah Winfrey and their striking similarities and interconnections with evangelical leaders.

A few years after writing Reinventing Jesus Christ, Warren Smith wrote Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church. In this best-selling book Smith contended that there were New Age implications to Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan, and he particularly focused upon the influence of mega-church leader of the Crystal Cathedral, Rev. Robert Schuller.

In his new online version of Reinventing Jesus Christ and its chapter updates, Warren Smith puts forth exciting new material that is also relevant to Deceived on Purpose. Once again, Smith has noticed the profound influence of Robert Schuller on the thinking of Rick Warren. A fascinating Chapter 10 Update examines how Schuller's thinking was influenced by Norman Vincent Peale, and how Peale's thinking was influenced by the New Ager Florence Scovel Shinn.

On page 162 of A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen explains the important background information to this scenario. He noted that George Mair's book, A Life with Purpose, which was a "positive account" of Rick Warren's life, stated that:

"New Age prophet Norman Vincent Peale was at the foundation of the church-growth movement and furthermore 'many of Peale's uplifting affirmations originated with an "obscure teacher of occult science" named Florence Scovel Shinn.'"

Mair's book, on pages 91-100, does indeed give quite a bit of credit to Norman Vincent Peale, observing that Peale was the first mega-church pastor to bring in salesman techniques, a prosperity gospel, psychology and metaphysics. (Given this glowing description, it is no wonder that Mair's book created quite a stir among the Saddleback apologists when it first came out!)

The following material is excerpted with permission from the Chapter 10 Update of Warren Smith's newly-expanded Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel (Copyright 2006) posted at


Norman Vincent Peale
Sometime in March 2005, before all of Ken Blanchard’s New Age endorsements came to light, I received two articles from a pastor from Indianapolis, Indiana. One of the articles was a clipping from the August 3, 1995 Indianapolis Star. It had a big picture of Norman Vincent Peale and the headline read:

Norman Vincent Peale accused of plagiarism
‘Power of Positive Thinking’ author’s work similar to that of a little-known teacher of occult science.(

The article, published by Knight-Ridder Newspapers, asked the question: “Was the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, father of the ‘believe and succeed’ theology sweeping American Protestantism, a plagiarist inspired by the occult?” In attempting to answer that question, the newspaper referred to an article from the Lutheran Quarterly that had contended that Norman Vincent Peale drew much of his inspiration from the writings and teachings of occult/New Age author Florence Scovel Shinn. Concerning the Lutheran Quarterly article, the Indianapolis paper stated:

After comparing his books to hers, the authors cite scores of specific instances in which Peale and Shinn not only think alike, but use similar or identical phrases.(89)

The newspaper article went on to say:

Shinn, who died in 1940, drew on mystical sources dating to the ancient Egyptian philosopher Hermes Trismegistus and the secrets of Freemasonry.

Such sources are progenitors of New Age, a movement considered ungodly hocus-pocus by conservative and fundamentalist Christians….

Shinn’s privately published metaphysical works, reissued by both Simon & Schuster and the Church of Religious Science, are available in New Age bookstores. Peale penned the introduction to the Simon & Schuster edition, indicating he had “long used” Shinn’s teachings.(90)

The Indiana pastor had included a copy of the Lutheran Quarterly article that the Indianapolis paper had referred to. The Lutheran Quarterly article exposed Peale’s unattributed use of Shinn’s occult/New Age teachings. The Peale/Shinn side by side quotes clearly demonstrated the similarity of their writings. The authors wrote:

THE STRIKING SIMILARITY between these passages discloses an unsettling theological secret. Along with many other parallel concepts, affirmations, metaphors, and stories, they provide testimony that the writing that made Norman Vincent Peale “minister to millions” and a millionaire many times over, shows a startling similarity to the writings of an obscure teacher of Occult science named Florence Scovel Shinn. Whatever may be the embarrassment caused by these striking similarities, it pales against the discomfiture that millions of mainline Christians, purporting to stand on orthodoxy and Scripture alone, have thus unwittingly embraced the Occult. So strong is its tacit foothold that it now may well be the primary working faith of many in the churches….(91)

The pastor told me that he was reminded of the Lutheran Quarterly article after reading my book, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church. My observations concerning the New Age implications of Rick Warren taking unattributed material from Robert Schuller had reminded him of this article about Norman Vincent Peale taking unattributed material from Florence Scovel Shinn. The pastor pointed out that the New Age implications of Rick Warren’s teachings did not stop with his teacher Robert Schuller, or even to Schuller’s teacher, Norman Vincent Peale. It stretched back through all of them to the occult itself. A deeper look into Peale’s background confirmed that this 33rd degree Freemason had endorsed other New Age authors and teachers through the years.(92) Ironically, one of the New Age authors endorsed by Peale was Bernie Siegel – the same Bernie Siegel that Rick Warren had indiscriminately referred to in The Purpose-Driven Life. The Indiana pastor suggested that Norman Vincent Peale had popularized the occult within the mainstream Christian Church, and that these teachings may have been passed along to pastors like Robert Schuller and Rick Warren, who in turn passed them on to millions of others.

It is not surprising that New Age leader Neale Donald Walsch openly praises Norman Vincent Peale in much the same way as he did with Schuller. In discussing occult manifestation – how feelings inside of you can create events outside of you – Walsch states:

This phenomenon is discussed with extraordinary insight in the classic book The Power of Positive Thinking, written over fifty years ago by the Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a Christian minister who understood that feelings are a gift from God, giving us the power of creation.(93)

When Ken Blanchard and Rick Warren co-led the 2003 Lead Like Jesus Conference in Alabama, Blanchard stated that Norman Vincent Peale had been one of the men responsible for bringing him into the faith.

And God started sending me this team, Bob Buford, Norman Vincent Peale, and [Bill] Hybels. All kinds of people started coming after me. I finally joined up in 1987-88 and turned my life over to the Lord…. I found out this is a really good deal.(94)

As a new Christian, Blanchard had co-authored The Power of Ethical Management with Peale, shortly after Peale had endorsed Bernie Siegel’s book Love, Medicine and Miracles. Incredibly, a website for Indian Guru Paramahansa Yogananda devotees stated that the Blanchard and Peale book had actually been “ghost-written” by Blanchard’s longtime New Age friend, Jim Ballard.(95) Blanchard’s Christian testimony We are the Beloved was also listed on this same website as having been “ghost-written” by Ballard. Because Ballard is a Yogananda devotee, and was being featured on the Yogananda website, it is presumed that the information was provided by Ballard himself. It would seem that Blanchard’s early relationship with Peale, as well as his thirty-year friendship with Ballard, may have helped to contribute to Blanchard’s serious lack of discernment still in evidence today.

Although Blanchard has been presented as naïve by many of his defenders – including Rick Warren – a closer examination of Blanchard’s past reveals a much different story.…


To continue reading, see the new Updates at Particularly of relevance to the last full paragraph of today's post is the Chapter 5 Update which explains the significance of Jim Ballard.

The Truth:

"Woe be unto the Pastors who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture! saith the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:1)