“All truth is God’s truth,” said Augustine, a fourth century Christian theologian and apologist. I agree.
But what if I do not want to attribute my truth to God? Is it still valid? Does the ownership of truth have any bearing on its truthfulness? Does it matter who is saying it, or why it is being said, as long as it is true? The answers to these questions provide insight into why it matters whether a motivational speaker does not refer to Jesus, the Bible or the Gospel, for what he says to qualify as truth. In this thought experiment, I will attempt to clarify my previous post, in which Conrad Mbewe decried motivational speaking as “a curse” to the church.
What if the principles being outlined by the speaker are similar to those in the Bible, only without references to God or Bible?
For example, what is wrong with telling people to “work hard”, “set attainable goals”, “have a vision for their life” and “live a life based on a character ethic rather than a personality ethic”? Isn’t it true that “do not give up” and “do not be afraid” are statements clearly taught and illustrated in the Bible? Do I have to explicitly refer to God or the Bible for me to use those principles and teachings to encourage another person?
Myles Munroe speaks and writes many truisms. For instance, in his book Waiting and Dating, he says “Being open to correction means making ourselves vulnerable, and many people are not willing to do that.”
In another book, Understanding Your Potential, he gives another true-sounding word of advise, “You must decide if you are going to rob the world or bless it with the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you.”
While these and many quotable statements that motivational speakers say are true, they are all truncated truths. They make true promises but hide the reality of our inability to attain them. They rightly point out our failures but wrongly point out the source of our success.
A motivational speaker will say something like, “You can do it because you have the power to do it within you. You have to release your potential”. But the Bible says “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” The motivational speaker may even invoke Christ in their claims, but Jesus is only depicted as a genie that conjures up the power for us. Ultimately, while the principle may be true, we are the ones in charge of the principle.
We end up with half truths, and we all know that the problem with half-truth in our speaking is that it is a whole lie
What motivational speakers do is that they own the truth. They personalize it in themselves. They become the living exemplifications of the principles they preach. This is why they become so famous. It is why they easily earn the title M.O.G. (Man of God).
Here’s the logic: If I am to motivate people about success, I must first be successful. My life must be the reference point. My might must be the foundation upon which the truth I speak is based. I cannot be poor and preach prosperity. I cannot be a follower and preach (I mean, speak) leadership. I cannot be a D student and speak about academic excellence. I must be the change I want to see in this world. This is the crux of all motivational speaking. We do not go to mere nobodies to be motivated, we go to the gurus, the experts, the success stories.
Which makes the Bible’s approach appear so radical… and foolish. Adulterous David motivating us with Psalms on purity? Idol-worshiping/womanizing Solomon penning Proverbs 31? Cold-footed Peter telling us to rejoice in our sufferings? Sickly Paul healing the sick and raising the dead? A homeless Jesus speaking about his father’s mansion? It is crazy! No one will pay to go listen to such a “motivational” speaker.
No wonder most preachers who strive so hard to be faithful to the Gospel earn so little.
It is indeed true that all truth is God’s truth. It is also true that motivational speakers say a lot of true things. The problem with motivational speakers is that they give the impression that the power in the truth they speak lies in us, the hearers… or even worse, in them. It is nothing but heresy. It is no coincidence that many of these “Christian motivational” books are found in the “self-help” section of the bookshop.
This self-sovereignty should cause an outrage in us.
It is ironic that Jesus would get killed by claiming to BE the Truth, and yet many motivational speakers get a pass (and our money) by essentially making similar claims daily.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” [Colossians 2:8]
It is not of God if it is not according to Christ.