The Power of “Possibility Thinking”
In the 1950s Norman Vincent Peale first championed “the Power of Positive Thinking” as the equivalent of biblical of “faith”, and he was a phenomenal hit. Unfortunately, he also contributed to the widespread misconception that biblical faith is a “positive thinking” which transcends reality–the idea that reality is a product of our dreams.
Then Robert Schuler built the Crystal Cathedral with “the Power of Possibility Thinking” and took over Norman’s crown as the king of positive thoughts. Now Joel Olstein is the apostle of positive thoughts, and people love it. The “New Atheists” also love it. Dawkins and his boys are relentless in their uneducated assertion that Christian faith is merely wishful (or fanciful) thinking, and the “Positive Thinking” preachers contribute to the foolish stereotype.
Just when it seems “Possibility Thinking” might be a winner, suddenly this headline:
Man commits suicide at Crystal Cathedral altar
Now wait…that’s not supposed to happen in the Crystal Cathedral. But here’s the story:
The unidentified man walked up three steps to the altar area, knelt before a gold cross and put the gun to his head…
Bummer. It raises questions about the Positive Thinking Power:
- Does this fill the Crystal Cathedral with negative vibes?
- Will the Sunday service be more negative?
- Was the suicidal guy using “Possibility Thinking”?
Interesting conundrums. And ironically, at the time of the suicide:
“We were talking actually about the suicide prevention hotline that we have here at our church and telling [the tourists] it’s opens 24 hours, seven days a week, and then just then, I heard this pop.”
Well, one thing’s for sure: a fact-based faith is better than a thought-based faith (positive or negative). “Facts is facts” people say, and for good reason.
So “Them’s the facts,” in this case.
- The Tragedy and Beauty of Love
- The Demands of Loneliness
Reminds me of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” – Covey used the example of Elie Wiesel’s positive thinking while he was in a Nazi death camp. Wiesel projected himself outside of the camp doing things he loved in his mind and this was able to give him a positive attitude and help him survive.
No knock on Wiesel, I believe that his positive thinking is a powerful and useful tool, but it seems only a dim mirror of the kind of contentful attitude the apostle Paul was able to have throughout his many hardships.
While Wiesel looked forward to the hope of one day escaping his Nazi captors, Paul looked forward to eternity with his creator. Although it happened, Wiesel’s escape was uncertain. While Paul sat rotting in prision, he too felt that he would die soon and contemplated whether or not it was better to live or die. Paul was able to have a superior outlook because it didn’t really matter if he died or not – to live is Christ, to die is gain. Either way, he was a winner! Now, that’s some hope, not just positive thinking, that’s the real deal!
As astute as usual, Joe.