Are Subliminals Sinful? (A Biblical Assessment)


Subliminal messaging, which consists of attempts to influence a person’s mind without their conscious awareness of it, is a self-help trend that is growing in popularity. Certain aspects of the communication technique give many Christians pause. Are “subliminals” sinful or is some people’s discomfort just related to the fact that the process is different than traditional therapeudic approaches?

Subliminal messaging is sinful because a person is unaware of what is being secretly communicated to them. The Bible tells Christians to love God with their mind, which, in part, means to steward and protect it. Even if subliminals are positive, the mindless process is unwise for Bible-believing Christians.

How does subliminal messaging for self-improvement work? What is the nature of the subliminal content? What does the Bible say about using the mind? What does the Bible say about positive affirmations? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see Does the Bible Say Cutting Your Hair Is Sinful? to learn more.

subliminals self-help
Are subliminal messages possible according to the Bible? See below

How does subliminal messaging for self-improvement work?

Techniques found within the modern trend vary, yet well-known “subliminals,” accessed on Youtube, use music and images to distract a person from the secret messages that are being communicated to them. The subliminal messages, such as flashes on the screen, enter the mind below the level of consciousness, making a person unaware of the communication.

What is the nature of the subliminal content? In recent trends, the subliminal messages are generally positive. The creators of the videos have the goal of communicating affirming messages to people that increase their confidence, will-power, and self-esteem. Some people report feeling better after watching and listening to the videos, even though they aren’t sure what the subliminal messages were.

What about subliminal messaging that lures people to use them? In part, their popularity is due to the fact that they are new. Self-help trends rarely have staying power, making new techniques appealing to consumers and lucrative for creators. Many people gravitate toward trends because they have a strong desire to change. Some people want to be less angry. Others want to lose weight or quit smoking.

Are subliminal messages possible according to the Bible? Because the world is fallen and filled with sin, it’s possible to trick the human mind, which is what subliminal messaging does. Studies have proven that subliminal communication techniques are effective, which is why advertisers and brand experts have used them in the past to encourage consumers to buy what they are selling. [1]

Also see Is Playing Video Games Sinful? to learn more.

subliminal messages
Doesn’t God sometimes say things that people don’t understand? See below

What does the Bible say about using the mind?

The Bible encourages Christians to be fully aware of what enters their mind. For example, Colossians 3:2 reads, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (ESV) Paul’s instruction in this verse tells believers to be purposeful about how to use their minds. The mind must be responsibly and biblically stewarded, protected, and filled with God’s truth.

Albert Mohler writes, “Most human beings evidently do not like to think. At the very least, most seem quite satisfied never to think in a concerted, critical, and careful way. [They] never think strategically, consistently, or critically.”

Subliminal messaging threatens biblical discernment. Discerning biblical truth from worldly error is critical for believers who live in a fallen world. If a person doesn’t know what is being communicated to them, they will fail to discern the content of the messages as Scripture instructs them to do.

  • Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Ephesians 5:8b-10, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Doesn’t God sometimes do and say things that people don’t understand? Yes. Isaiah 55:9 reads, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” However, truth that is beyond a person’s understanding isn’t the same as subliminal messaging. God’s teaching style isn’t to trick people and work around their intellect.

“Whereas some things that God says and does are transrational, insofar as they are mysterious and often go beyond our ability to fully comprehend, God never does things that are irrational in the sense that they might violate the fundamental laws of logic or the reasonable and rational truths of Holy Scripture.” ~ Sam Storms

Also see Does the Bible Say Witchcraft Is Sinful? to learn more.

positive affirmations
What is the content of positive affirmations? See below

What does the Bible say about positive affirmations?

Scripture includes many positive statements according to a biblical worldview, such as God loving the world so much that he gave his only son Jesus to it so that whoever believes in him will live forever (John 3:16). However, the “positive affirmations” that are commonly found in the self-help industry don’t reflect a biblical worldview, but a secular one.

What is the process of receiving positive affirmations? These statements are often repeated countless times in order to influence the mind through repetition. They are also subliminally communicated, such as by being flashed on a screen at the speed of a strobe light. These techniques attempt to implant information into the mind by tricking it, rather than by teaching it.

What is the content of positive affirmations? Examples of affirming statements include “I will lose weight” and “I am winner.” Biblical truth is much more powerful, effective, and transforming than trying to trick the mind with wanna-be truths. Christians are to have their identity rooted in their relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible is full of statements about who a person is in Christ.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:7, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
  • 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
  • Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Also see Is Overeating A Sin? to learn more.

References:
[1] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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