An article on Facebook posted by this writer in 2017 on New Thought teacher and writer Frances Scovel Shinn (1871-1940) led to many comments defending Shinn, and continues to draw additional comments since then.


New Thought, a movement that started in the 1800s (though its seed is in Emmanuel Swedenborg’s [1688-1772] writings) that claims to be Christian, is still going strong. The New Age adopted many New Thought principles (such as Christ Consciousness and affirmations), which are also found in motivational and self-help teachings, as well as in popular bestsellers such as The Secret. Oprah is a follower of New Thought. Dr. Oz is a follower of Swedenborg.


New Thought still exists as a movement and was the foundation for at least three major churches, Christian Science, Unity, and the Church of Religious Science (now called Centers for Spiritual Living). There is a large New Thought website and online library. New Thought teaches that man is innately divine and has always been part of God. The New Thought Jesus was a man who achieved Christ Consciousness through realization of his innate divinity.


Made in the Image of God

One comment on the Facebook post about Shinn argued that being made in the image of God makes man divine (and several agreed). I responded to that person, pointing out that that statement does not mean that. Just recently (June 2024), someone coming to that post admonished me about my view on being made in the image of God. She wrote this as a comment to me:


“Your point just revealed the level you are at in your walk in Christ. God is not so insecure but it is man that is insecure in believing we have no divinity. We are not the divine creator but we are OF the divine creator meaning there is some of his divinity within us through the one and only mediator Jesus Christ. We are heirs and joint heirs with Christ IF you believe we are. “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:17. Did you also know Christ told us we would be doing greater things than he did? (John 14:12). Being bound by religion is just as an affront to God as a believer of new age.”


I am not sure what is meant by being “of the divine creator,” but there is no divinity in man. God is distinct from creation and no part of him is in creation (for a thorough examination of that topic, see this book). God created man but that does not make man “of” God in the sense that man shares God’s divine nature.


Being “joint heirs with Christ” means just that, not that man shares in God’s divinity. God’s divinity is unique; nobody outside the Trinity has deity. Those who trust in Christ are adopted into God’s family but adoption does not mean divinity. Adoption means one has the undeserved blessings of being in God’s family, not that one has God’s nature (see commentaries on this).


Being “bound by religion,” as the commenter charges, suggests that not recognizing one’s innate divinity is due to a narrow view that hides the truth. But God’s word, which is the authority on who man is and who God is, is quite clear that man is not divine. No passage in Scripture read in context even hints at man being divine. (New Agers, followers of New Thought, Mormons, the commenter on the Facebook post, and others misuse Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 82:1 in John 10:33-39 when Jesus quotes “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” although it is clear Jesus is referring to men.)


Moreover, it is illogical for man to be divine. If that were true, it would suggest man shares in God’s nature. But if man shares in God’s nature, then God is not unique as God and he is therefore no longer God.


Being made in the image of God indicates that man reflects aspects of God such as will and intelligence, which means man has the ability to make moral choices, unlike other creatures. Although angels also possess will and intelligence, there is no scriptural indication that they are made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God is said only about humans in the Bible.


Shinn’s Fatal Theology

Since so many defend Frances Scovel Shinn as either being Christian or having merit even if not Christian, what makes Shinn a problem?


Shinn’s book, “The Game of Life,” which had originally been asked about, is on a New Thought site,  and offers many reasons why Shinn should be avoided.


Spiritual Laws

Shinn has a chapter on Karma which states:


“The more man knows, the more he is responsible for, and a person with a knowledge of Spiritual Law, which he does not practice, suffers greatly, in consequence. ‘The fear of the Lord (law) is the beginning of wisdom.’ If we read the word Lord, law, it will make many passages in the Bible much clearer.

‘Vengence is mine, I will repay saith the Lord’ (law). It is the law which takes vengeance, not God. God sees man perfect, ’created in his own image,’ (imagination) and given ‘power and dominion.’”

This is the perfect idea of man, registered in Divine Mind, awaiting man’s recognition; for man can only be what he sees himself to be, and only attain what he sees himself attaining.”


Shinn is not talking about karma in the Hindu sense of reincarnation, but as a spiritual law in which


Man receives only that which he gives. The Game of Life is a game of boomerangs. Man’s thoughts, deeds and words return to him sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.”


Shinn teaches throughout this book that one’s thoughts and words create reality. So if one thinks or speaks bad things, then he will be afflicted with bad circumstances, whereas affirming good things brings about good circumstances.


Shinn makes the mistake of believing that man created in God’s image means man is perfect. Man only needs to realize he is perfect, Shinn writes, and then can attain anything he wants. These are all beliefs essential to New Thought.


Jesus Out of Context

In Chapter 2, Shinn takes Jesus out of context:


“Jesus Christ gave a wonderful example of this. He said to his disciples: ‘Say not ye, there are yet four months and then cometh the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are ripe already to harvest.’ His clear vision pierced the ‘world of matter’ and he saw clearly the fourth dimensional world, things as they really are, perfect and complete in Divine Mind. So man must ever hold the vision of his journey’s end and demand the manifestation of that which he has already received. It may be his perfect, health, love, supply, self-expression, home or friends.”


Shinn quotes Jesus as though he is teaching that if we see things as prosperous already, we can make them so. But Jesus was talking about the need to reach “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”


Immediately following the passage quoted by Shinn, Jesus sends out his disciples to cast out demons, to heal, and to preach, but only to the Jews. He specifically forbids them to go to the Gentiles.


The disciples were sent only to the Jews at this time, to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah. The power given by Jesus to the disciples to cast out demons and to heal were confirmation that the Messiah (whose miracles fulfilled Old Testament prophecies) had sent them.


Denial of Evil/Sin

As is the case with all New Thought teachers, evil and sin are denied (from Chapter 4):


Jesus Christ said, ‘Resist not evil,’ for He knew in reality, there is no evil, therefore nothing to resist. Evil has come of man’s ‘vain imagination,’ or a belief in two powers, good and evil. There is an old legend, that Adam and Eve ate of Maya the Tree of Illusion, and saw two powers instead of one power, God.


It would be odd and even unreasonable for Jesus to say “resist not evil” if he did not think evil existed. Jesus is not saying here that evil does not exist and he never even implied that. In fact, Jesus often spoke of evil, and not as an illusion. Jesus said to some scribes in Matthew 9:4:


“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’”


Also said by Jesus:


“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” Matthew 12:35


“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Matthew 15:19


“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” John 7:7


 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” John 3:19


Jesus is the true Light and one only can walk in this Light that overcomes evil through faith in Christ.


“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’” John 8:12


The Healing Element

Denial of evil and sin also plays into the New Thought view of illness. Either illness does not exist and is only a result of bad thinking, and/or one can “cure” illness through positive thoughts and affirmations.


Shinn was a strong influence on New Thought (Science of Mind) writer and teacher Louise Hay (1926-2017), whose books and teachings on health were first embraced in the New Age, but have since mainstreamed into many “mind-body” practices, some of which have been tragically damaging. Hay published a book by Shinn through Hay House, the publishing company founded by Hay. Despite some critics, Hay’s ideas on the body and healing continue to influence.


The Christ Within

One more example of gross error from Shinn:


Christianity is founded upon the law of forgiveness – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Karmic law, and the Christ within each man is his Redeemer and Salvation from all inharmonious conditions.


First of all, it is not “the principle of forgiveness” that is relevant, but rather God’s forgiveness.  Jesus did not redeem those who believe “from the curse of the Karmic law,” but from the penalty for sins, which is eternal death; that is, separation from God, the source of light, peace, and love.


The “Christ within” is a core teaching of New Thought, that each person is his or her own “redeemer” from “inharmonious conditions.” But this “Christ within” is a false Christ.


New Thought, though claiming to be Christian, turns Christianity upside down, so that Jesus is not the Way, but a Way-shower; man is not lost in sin, but has only to realize his divinity; and redemption is not through faith in Christ, but through one’s own efforts and change of perceptions.


In New Thought, man must work to have the “right perception” of reality and believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that he himself is divine and can have peace through an impersonal God and weak Jesus. New Thought makes complicated what is simple truth: that man, whose will is naturally against God, needs redemption, and that redemption is found only through faith in the Light of the world, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.


It is important to acknowledge that Shinn’s teachings and influence are poison, spiritually, mentally, and physically. As with all teachings presenting a false Christ, there is no redeeming quality in Shinn’s teachings, only deception and destruction; hence, this is a fatal theology.


Related Information

CANA Article on New Thought teacher Emmet Fox


CANA Article on New Thought influenced Agnes Sanford


Commentaries on the “gods” in Psalm 82:1


Explanations of Psalm 82:6 and John 10:35

Got Questions


Video from iThink Biblically



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