Are witchcraft, astrology and spiritism just harmless hobbies, or are they deceptive sources of information and guidance? Many do not realize that the occult now pervades modern culture, and that Christians must remain on guard against its evil influence.
Millions are pursuing astrology, witchcraft and the occult. Are they sowing seeds of doom and destruction? Are these just harmless hobbies, or can you face real dangers if you dabble in the occult?
Less than three months after its release, the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone became the second-highest-grossing film ever, selling nearly $1 billion of tickets to theatergoers eager for a tale of witchcraft, wizardry and the occult. The first of seven installments in author J. K. Rowling's planned series, Harry Potter is at the helm of a multi-billion-dollar media empire that has made Rowling one of the three highest-paid women in Great Britain. Her books have sold more than 60 million copies in 200 countries around the world.
Yet, for many, the occult is more than fiction. A May 2000 Zogby America poll revealed that 57.7 percent of Americans aged 18–29 believe in ghosts. This phenomenon is not confined to the United States; Time Magazine reported recently that belief in ghosts is shared by 45 percent in Britain. Melbourne's Saturday Herald Sun reported that 46 percent of Australian women, and 34 percent of Australian men, believe in ghosts (January 16, 1999). Leger Marketing reported in October 2001 that 30.2 percent of Canadians believe in ghosts.
In Rowling's books, characters routinely interact with ghosts. Harry communicates with his dead parents through a special mirror. Characters seek guidance from astrologers, cast occult spells and use their paranormal powers to fight their enemies. The Bible condemns this as sorcery, yet it is a part of the ordinary world of Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series teaches young minds a false and evil worldview in which occult powers, condemned in Scripture, can be used as tools for good.
Sadly, instead of condemning the dangerous and un-biblical world of witches and wizards, some churches and clergy have tried to exploit its appeal to youth. Last year, a vicar in one English church held a special "Harry Potter liturgy." A serpent was hung in the church, while a clergyman wearing a wizard's robe led the service. Other elements of the Harry Potter story were brought into the church service. Incredibly, many other pastors expressed interest in having that liturgy for their own churches.
What have the world's churches come to? As one American commentator observed: "Nobody respects a religious institution willing to compromise willy-nilly with the secular culture, on a fool's quest for popularity. A church that will try anything stands for nothing!" (Rod Dreher, New York Post, Sept. 5, 2000).
Today's media fascination with the occult extends far beyond Harry Potter. Thirty-five years ago, many considered the television series Bewitched controversial. Today, it seems tame compared to such popular television fare as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed, which glamorize the occult.
And the occult is not just for teenagers or couch potatoes. Even leaders of nations pursue the occult. Former White House chief of staff Donald Regan reported, in his autobiography For the Record, that President Ronald Reagan's travels and activities were approved by an astrologer of his wife's choosing. The London Daily Telegraph reported that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher consulted an astrologer "for signs of future dangers." Most members of India's Parliament have personal astrologers on retainer. Even in the former Soviet Union, once a bastion of materialism, the occult holds sway, as Russia is "swamped by astrologers, UFOlogists, soothsayers, parapsychologists, bogus doctors and other charlatans, whom genuine scientists make few efforts to contradict.… One of the main tasks of a senior official in the Presidential Security Service is to study astrology and prepare horoscopes" (London Daily Telegraph, July 29, 1996).
Scripture reveals the source of occult deception. "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). Satan deceives the whole world, not just a part of this world. And he also has spirit helpers, called demons.
How does Satan deceive the whole world? He does it through the occult, false religion and false education—and through a social system that seeks licentious pleasure rather than God! The prophet Isaiah wrote: "And when they say to you, 'Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?" (Isaiah 8:19). Who are people seeking today: mediums, wizards or the true God? Isaiah wrote: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).
We need to understand that there is a real spirit world! Notice this warning: "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead" (Deuteronomy 18:9–11).
God Almighty condemns sorcery and witchcraft. If you are "playing around" with such darkness, then you need to reject that underworld of evil! Seek the true God of your Bible! God's warning continues: "For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you" (Deuteronomy 18:12–14).
Can anything be more clear concerning the evils of witchcraft and sorcery? And yet millions of adults are teaching their children that there is nothing wrong with a Harry Potter actively pursuing witchcraft and wizardry. But the prophet Samuel told King Saul that witchcraft is sin. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king" (1 Samuel 15:23).
God says that participation in the occult is spiritual harlotry (Psalm 106:38–39)! How did God punish His people for their wickedness? "Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles, and those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand" (Psalm 106:40–42). The nation of Israel went into captivity because of these abominable practices. A great tribulation and captivity will also come upon our peoples, if we fail to repent of our evil practices!
Some might argue that dressing up in Halloween costumes is "innocent" fun, and rationalize that parents today are not encouraging their children to expose themselves to symbols and practices of the occult. But parents who take this approach are risking their children's spiritual lives by underestimating the devil's influence (Ephesians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
In Luke's gospel, we find that our Savior cured many individuals who were plagued by evil spirits: "And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight" (Luke 7:21). Do we live contrary to our Savior's example? Do we teach our children to attract and cultivate evil spirits at Halloween? Certainly, dressing up like a demon or a witch invites evil rather than opposes it!
The Apostle James advises us to resist evil, not entertain it! "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). That is your Creator's instruction to you! He promises that the devil will flee from you. Yes, "Resist the devil!\ Do not join the masses in celebrating the dark world of Satan and the occult! Do not participate in the dark traditions of Halloween or any other such practices.
Notice God's warnings against mediums and familiar spirits: \Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:31). The Creator God plainly states that we should avoid mediums and spiritists. He does not want you to be defiled by evil influence. Notice His strong language: "The person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 20:6–7).
When a person consorts with mediums and familiar spirits, God says that he is prostituting himself. Christians are to be clean and wholesome. They should be "holy" as we just read. Remember what the Apostle Peter wrote: "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15–16).
Satan also deceives mankind through astrology. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Astrology originated in Mesopotamia, perhaps in the 3rd millennium bc, but attained its full development in the Western world much later, within the orbit of Greek civilization of the Hellenistic period. It spread to India in its older Mesopotamian form. Islamic culture absorbed it as part of the Greek heritage; and in the Middle Ages, when Western Europe was strongly affected by Islamic science, European astrology also felt the influence of the Orient…. Although various Christian councils condemned astrology, the belief in the worldview it implies was not seriously shaken. In the late European Middle Ages, a number of universities, among them Paris, Padua, Bologna, and Florence, had chairs of astrology."
Even though all true Christians have condemned astrology over the years, it has persisted. In our modern time, astrologers admit that the newspaper variety of horoscope advice is mainly entertainment. But when world leaders consult astrologers for guidance, they are seeking the wrong god! Listen to God's warning through the prophet Jeremiah: "Thus says the Lord: 'Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them" (Jeremiah 10:2).
We have already seen that Jesus predicted that signs and wonders would deceive the many. The book of Revelation reveals dramatic events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ. There will be a great false prophet and religious system that will perform miracles, signs and wonders. The Apostle John writes this about the great false prophet. "He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men" (Revelation 13:13). Millions, if not billions, of people will be deceived by these impressive miracles. "And he [the false prophet] deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast" (Revelation 13:14).
How can you tell whether someone is truly a minister of God, and not someone controlled by the occult world? Deuteronomy gives us a key. "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'; which you have not known; 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him" (Deuteronomy 13:1–4).
A false minister or prophet may even prophesy accurately concerning some sign or wonder. But God says that if he leads you after other gods—if he leads you away from the God of the Bible and the true Jesus Christ of your Bible—then he is a false prophet. Notice also that God may be testing you, to see if you will be faithful to His Word and to His way of life!
Satan has deceived the whole world. He has many methods of deception, including witches, wizardry, channeling, sorcery, astrology, spiritism and false religion. You need to be on guard against the dangers of the occult.
The Apostle Peter gave us this instruction in 1 Peter 5:8–9: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."
God promises us protection from evil. Jesus taught us to pray: "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13). Paul exhorted Christians: "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:11–12). You can overcome the wicked one by knowing the word of God—the Bible—and living by it. You can overcome the temptations and deceptions of the occult and false religion. As the Apostle Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." May God empower you to go forward in faith. May you live not by the dark deceptions of this world, but by the light of truth, God's Word.
Movies like The Sixth Sense, and television programs such as Crossing Over With John Edward, play on mankind's wish that the dead could communicate with the living. This is an age-old wish; nearly 3,000 years ago, a desperate King Saul sought help from a medium—and suffered greatly for doing so.
Saul had disobeyed God's instructions regarding the Amalekites. He received God's judgment that "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king" (1 Samuel 15:23).
Because of Saul's disobedience, the Spirit of God was no longer guiding him (1 Samuel 16:14; 28:6). Desperate for guidance, Saul asked a medium to perform a séance, though he knew this violated God's law, which prescribed the death penalty for witchcraft or mediumship (Leviticus 20:27).
During the séance, a spirit identified as Samuel (1 Samuel 28:14–15) warned that the Philistines would defeat Israel's armies, and Saul would soon die. Saul became "dreadfully afraid" because of these words, and "fell full length on the ground" (v. 20).
Clearly, this spirit's message terrified Saul. But was the summoned spirit really Samuel? No, it was not. Scripture explains that Saul never actually saw Samuel; he only perceived that the spirit was Samuel because of the medium's descriptions (1 Samuel 28:14). The Bible faithfully records Saul's experience, from his terrified point of view, but does not teach that the spirit was Samuel. Interestingly, most of today's mediums follow a similar practice, claiming to communicate with deceased spirits even though—like Saul—their clients never actually see those spirits.
Crossing Over With John Edward is wildly popular in some circles, and has even spawned imitators like The Pet Psychic, whose host claims to communicate with families' dearly departed pets. Spirit communication is not only the stuff of horror movies and cable television; even "innocent family fare" like Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol stirs the hope that our loved ones can still call to us from beyond the grave. But this is a false hope. Our dead friends and relatives are unconscious, and will remain so until the resurrection (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalm 146:4). Their state in death is compared to a sleep from which only God can wake them (1 Corinthians 15:51). No medium can summon the dead.
The Apostle Paul warned that some in the "latter times" would give "heed to deceiving spirits" (1 Timothy 4:1). Some modern mediums may be charlatans, who infer details about the dead by "reading" their living, paying clients. But other "genuine" mediums may be genuinely deceived, communicating with demonic spirits who impersonate the deceased.
"Genuine" or not, mediumship is dangerous business. But few today realize the serious consequences of rebelling against God's law and seeking after spirits. What was the result for Saul? Scripture explains: "So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance" (1 Chronicles 10:13). Christians today should heed Saul's cautionary example.