Fox // 2008 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 28th, 2008
That old time religion meets the new age!
The Secret Things of God presents a faith-based alternative to the best-selling self-help sensation around the book and video presentation of Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. In the more familiar ideas of Byrne's work, the "law of attraction" is the key that rules personal destiny. What you say, what you think, what you dream becomes your reality. The Secret stated that the universe presents or gifts you with things you put into action by asking for and imagining them. The idea is that you create your own fate and blessings with thoughts, desires, and beliefs. It probably troubled Christians, because it sort of bypassed prayer and a relationship with God. So now we have a Christian psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud, setting out to capitalize on a phenomenon by tweaking everything and returning it to faith-based ideals around theology and psychological principles. He doesn't really deviate from the basic idea of the law of attraction, but claims that the Lord or creator is attracted to us. The idea is that God wants us to be happy, and if not then the sadness has a purpose and is as much of a gift. He encourages people to see the good in all things, and by doing that they celebrate God and their religious beliefs. It is an affirming message, but it hardly seems new, as we've heard all of this before from televangelists and people like Joel Osteen. Some fundamentalists will criticize this concept as trying to turn God into a cosmic ATM by attaching the "law of attraction" to scripture, while others will rally and suggest that this is an accessible way to get people back in to church. No matter where you end up, The Secret Things of God is at least an uplifting program with good advice for people who found The Secret too far away from Christian beliefs.
The DVD is simply a session with Dr. Cloud as he lectures a small group of people on a scenic, well-lit set. The diverse audience is receptive, often shown smiling and nodding as Cloud walks through what he wrote in his book quickly. Intercut with the spoken diatribe are clips of people like Dr. Drew Pinsky (known for the Loveline radio show and that Celebrity Rehab program on VH-1), members of the clergy, preachers, and rabbis seen as talking heads confirming the validity of what he is saying. Throughout the program, we get scriptures shown on the screen to reinforce the message and to add religious veracity. Sometimes the scriptures seem to be conveniently interpreted to support Dr. Cloud, but the Bible is certainly a religious text that has been taken in many ways by scholars and theologians. We can't criticize the man for using the verses for his own support.
I can't see many people finding any of this outright offensive, but savvy Christians will notice a few things that stick out. First off, most of the scriptures are from the Old Testament. That seems odd, because that book of the Bible has the most passages where God demands things from His followers or outright curses them as often as He blesses them. Yet this is the easiest way to make The Secret Things of God multi-denominational and include the Jewish faith in the message. Now, Dr. Cloud does include a couple of passages that mention Christ, so we know his main audience would be Christians. Yet it's hard not to notice the emphasis on the Old Testament and the endorsement of rabbis. Also, there is no sense of a denomination within Christianity, and Dr. Cloud comes off as part of a universal concept of the Christian faith.
The ideas presented are encapsulated by seeking out and practicing what are termed "spiritual realities" that make life work. These include: true joy, inner peace, sustaining hope, and powerful purpose. Dr. Cloud criticizes The Secret, saying it is impersonal and detached because it relies only on yourself and your power to create, but his version of the "law of attraction" is about relating to God. He says life is a collaboration between yourself and the Lord. He has cribbed his title from a letter by the Apostle Paul that stated "Regard us...as those entrusted with the secret things of God." He has received much praise from religious people for finding a way to simply encapsulate the idea behind faith and trust in a higher power and how to relate that to the ideas found in literature about the "attractor factor."
If all of this intrigues you then certainly The Secret Things of God makes an entertaining hour and an half. The program is well produced, and the DVD looks fine for this sort of genre. A modest clear transfer and a stereo sound mix make it all move along just fine. There are no extras really, but no surprise there. It's a bare-bones product designed to accompany Dr. Cloud's written version of the material. It's nice to hear others chime in on the topic, and I enjoyed the inclusion of the guest speakers. If The Secret was troubling for you on a spiritual level, this DVD might help to reconcile things in your mind. The only thing I wonder is if these messages weren't already incorporated in the teachings of the church? There has always been an idea to "trust in God" and that He has plans for each of us. Is this a new concept or just a way to repackage an established and ancient idea? I suppose that is the real "secret," that most of this has been there all the time right in front of you. Still, Dr. Cloud does a good job with delivering an uplifting message that most will find encouraging.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Trailer on GodTube
* Timeless Truths Meditation