This past week, self-help guru and author Wayne Dyer died at age 75. He was beloved by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres, even officiating Degeneres’ wedding to actress Portia de Rossi. In addition, he appeared many times on PBS. As a champion of positive thinking, he wrote advice like this:
“Take the last five minutes of your day,” Dyer told CBS Sunday Morning in 2014, “and put your attention on everything that you would like to attract into your life: ‘I am well. I am healed. I am in perfect health. I am abundant. I am happy.’ Say those things to yourself. Then you’ll marinate for eight hours, and you’ll awaken and you’ll begin to attract the things that are in your subconscious mind.” 1
But despite his kind demeanor and positivism, and his award from Mind Body Spirit magazine as “the eighth most spiritually influential person in the world,” 2 from a Biblical point of view, he may have been an abysmal failure.
Dyer, who grew up as an orphan, had a lot of valid reasons why he may have not turned out perfectly spiritual. In fact, many in his situation are often emotionally crippled and riddled with dark places in their souls. So it seems reasonable that he should have some faults under his finely groomed exterior.
But if we hold him up as a leader, perhaps we should look beyond his positivism, public persona, gentleness, and publication numbers to evaluate his spiritual accomplishments. There’s no doubt he has been influential, especially if you count book sales and TV appearances, but is that success?
There are many good measures of spiritual success, but popularity and influence, surprisingly, are not two of them. In fact, the Bible warns that such outward “success” is a trap that can fool the best of us:
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26 NIV)
For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. (1 John 2:16 NLT)
What is in fact true success, Biblically, is the condition of our inner selves, our hearts. For example, when the Old Testament prophet Samuel was choosing Israel’s next King, God had him pass over the outwardly strong and handsome, choosing a small but courageous shepherd boy, David.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Of course, we can not see or judge Dyer’s true inner state, whether it was primarily happy or depressed, loving or fearful, patient or angry. But we can observe his outer life to see if the fruits of spiritual virtue pervaded his life.
Telltale Markers of Dyer’s True Inner State
Frankly, I would not want my children to be like Wayne Dyer, despite his apparent wisdom and gentleness (two admirable features, for sure) for at least these four great moral failures.
Dyer had to fend off two major plagiarism accusations during his career, the first regarding his very first blockbuster book. One was an actual legal case, which was eventually dismissed. So legally, he was never really found guilty. But he certainly did like to borrow content from others.
Multiple Failed Marriages
The most damning evidence of the failure of his spiritual schema is the fact that he was thrice married, and separated from his third wife. How can a man consider himself spiritually successful if, in personal relationships, he has repeatedly failed so miserably? It is possible to have failed in one marriage and still secure some semblance of maturity, but three?
Approbation of Gay Unions
OK, even well known evangelicals are now on that bus, so I suppose this does not prove that Dyer is “not Christian” or immoral. But in my book, this is a categorical moral error.
A Rejection of the Uniqueness of Jesus
Dyer positively mentioned Jesus many times on his blog, and is on record discussing his appreciation for Jesus’ advice that we become as little children (Matthew 18:2-4) 3. However, Dyer was a bit of a syncretist, and did not prefer any firm doctrinal statements, nor any exclusive teachings from any religious teacher. While his sentiments are typically loving and positive, they are certainly not committed to the need to be born again and following the only Savior:
“My beliefs are that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then becomes a lie. I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace. What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like.” 4
Dyer is perhaps another manifestation of those who emphasize only love, and go soft on specific, exclusivistic claims. 5 While I can appreciate the desire to not judge others, or tentatively and humbly hold to positions we can not definitively prove, Dyer’s lack of conviction on the saving power of the death and resurrection of Jesus make him, in a biblical view, at best, less than successful, and at worst, a false teacher.
Dyer is Now Dead
Dyer considered death an “illusion,” which we will only realize when our eternal souls pass to the other side. 6 This is diametrically opposed to what the Apostle Paul taught about Jesus, the gospel, and overcoming death – death is real, and is a great enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), the last enemy Jesus himself will destroy when He comes to usher in a Kingdom.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. (Revelation 21:4)
And beyond death, the resurrection and Day of Judgment, which both myself and Wayne Dyer will face, awaits us – did he feel that was also an illusion? The Bible clearly states that all of us will appear there, either touting our own righteousness, or falling upon the Rock and believing the gospel (Matthew 21:44):
For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
I consider [my good works and accomplishments] garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:8b-9)
Dyer was by many accounts a good man. He had a lot of wisdom plumbed from many traditions. But in the end, he could not sustain a marriage, and seems to have missed the unique claims of Jesus. I pity Him, and hope that in some way He did have saving faith. But he may not have.
- Dr. Wayne Dyer, motivational guru, dies at 75 (cbsnews) ↩
- The 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2014 ↩
- Dr. Wayne Dyer on Jesus of Nazareth (youtube) ↩
- Interview with Wayne Dyer (lifedynamix.com) ↩
- Less Dangerous: The Love Fundamentalists (wholereason.com) ↩
- Wayne Dyer, Motivational Guru And Bestselling Author, Dies At 75 (Huffington Post) ↩