[26]   Supernatural: Fortune Telling & Occultism

STORY: During my third year in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, I lived in the university domitory in a room for 5 people. I used to study in the public studying room until 2 or 3 am. One night after my studies, I went up to my room; all my roommates were asleep. While I was putting on my pyjama at my bed, I had a strange sensation that someone or a presence was somewhere about 5-6 metres behind my back. I looked behind me but no one was there. But that eerie feeling did not stop and I looked behind me a few more times. I never had that strange feeling before or anytime since that night. The next day while talking to my roommates, I found out that a group of people had played the Ouiji board in our room in the previous evening. That is the closest I got with the world of spirits.

Background:

·         The Church of Satan was founded in the US in 1966. They worship their Prince of Darkness Satan. It owns numerous “churches” and shops across the US including New York, California, Florida. There are other similar satanic churches.

·         An International Witches Meetup Day is organized every month for witches in over 600 cities in the world. In one meetup in 2004, almost 30,000 self-professed witches signed up to participate.

117.     Are supernatural phenomena real or imaginary?

a.   Reality:

(1)  The Bible describes supernatural phenomena as real (Ex 7-11; 2Ti 3:8; Da 1:20). Our entire belief will be different if we do not accept the objective existence of devils.

Reality of Satan and demons in the Bible:

Eze 28:1-17; Isa 14:12-21: Many theologians believe that these verses refer to Satan. However, the evidence is not definitive. They may simply be hyperbolical descriptions of the King of Tyre and the King of Babylon respectively.

Jude 6: “angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home”

2Pe 2:4: “God did not spare angels when they sinned but sent them to hell. (may have referred to the heavenly beings in Gen 6:1-14)

Ro 8:38: demons

Eph 6:12: rulers, authorities, powers, spiritual forces

Col 1:16: thrones (or principalities) and powers

 

(2)  Satan and his “principalities” are at work in the world today (Jn 8:44; 1Ti 4:1-2; Eph 6:12). Unsaved people can perform supernatural acts even in the name of Jesus (Mt 7:22-23).

(3)  But Christ has repulsed the demonic kingdom and broken its power (Col 2:15). With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christians will not be dominated by demonic powers, unless they voluntarily involve themselves in occultism.

b.   Occultism:

(1)  “Occult” means “hidden”. Occultism is a religion which sees itself as a revival of ancient paganism and of hidden knowledge about the nature and workings of the world.

(2)  There are 2 main categories of occult practice or involvement in occult powers:

(a)  Divination: attempt to foretell future events through interpretation of signs
(b)  Spiritism: attempt to contact superhuman spirits; witchcraft (the practice of supernatural magic and spells) is a form of spiritism

Wicca and Paganism

Wicca: ancient paganism (a religion), white witchcraft, may or may not involve the occult

Paganism: anti-Christian religion, often polytheistic

Witchcraft: the art of using magic and the casting of spells (the practice of a religion)

 

c.   Performing magicians: Most of them use deceptions in their performance and are not involved with the occult. However, it is also possible that some magical tricks involve evil spirits.

d.   Proper Christian attitude:

(1)  Understand Satanic powers yet not fascinated by it.

·         The NT shows no interest in demonology. We don’t know how the demonic world works and we don’t need to know. We should counteract “demonomania” (too much interest in demons) and “demonophilia” (seeing demons all over the place, blaming Satan for anything bad).

·         C.C. Lewis in the preface to The Screwtape Letters (1942): “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

(2)  Resist demonic powers and avoid any involvement. Jas 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

118.     Are the prediction of the future credible? Can Christians participate in those activities?

a.   Main varieties of divination:

(1)  Astrology:

o        It involves foretelling events on earth by interpreting relative positions of heavenly bodies; originated from star worship.

o        Astrology is forbidden by Mosaic Law (Dt 18:10-14); but still occasionally practised (2Ki 23:4-5), such as wise men of the east (Mt 2:1-2).

(2)  Cartomancy:

o        It involves forecasting by laying of cards; similar to other kinds using different mediums, such as Chinese fortune telling and life prediction.

o        Some are purely guesses based on deduction; some psychics may actually be accurate.

o        Jews used Urim and Thummin (Ex 28:30) and casting of lots (Ac 1:26), but the intent was to know God’s will, not future events.

(3)  Palmistry: foretelling through interpreting lines and shape of a person’s palms; sometimes using facial features.

b.   Most of the practices of divinations are false claims and falsifications (Jer 29:8-9; Zec 10:2) although they may sometimes be accurate. They are forbidden by the Mosaic Law.

c.   The future is in God’s hands and is normally hidden. Because the hidden future is God’s prerogative (Dt 29:29), even Jesus was not concerned in knowing future events (Mt 24:36). We are required to have faith and courage to face the future. Christians should never involve in divination.

Benefits of a hidden future

The details of our future is not known to humans for our benefit. Imagine, if a person knows the date of his/her death, there may be two possible consequences: overly worried and feeling helpless, or living irresponsibly.

The destiny of the world is, however, known to us through God’s Word. We know that God’s plan will prevail in the end, that evil will be conquered, and that we have eternal life. Such knowledge is sufficient for us.

119.     What are the different kinds of spiritism? Why should Christians avoid those activities?

a.   Spiritism is the attempt to contact superhuman spirits. These are almost always unclean spirits (Lk 11:18), including Satan and his fallen angels (Mt 25:41). These spirits can produce deceptive miracles (2Th 2:9). See examples of Simon Magus (Ac 8:9), Elymas (Ac 13:8), and woman in Ac 16:16. The origin of spirits can be tested (1Jn 4:1-3). [Contacts with angels from God are possible but God does not normally work through such contacts.]

b.   Main varieties of spiritism:

(1)  Necromancy (channelling): attempting to communicate with the dead through a person or a medium (1Sa 28:7). This is forbidden (Lev 20:6). This kind of activities actually involved evil spirits because the wicked dead are described as being confined (Lk 16:22-26).

(2)  Ouiji Board: calling evil spirits to answer inquiries. It may be sold as a game but it is actually equivalent to necromancy. [The original name of the game “Ouija” came from the combination of the French and the German words for “yes”. The board contains the alphabets, numbers, and spots for “yes”, “no”, “maybe” and “goodbye”. A 1994 survey reported that Ouija was the second most popular board game among teenagers after Monopoly.]

(3)  Magic and witchcraft: accomplishing acts beyond human powers, including healing and inflicting of diseases, love and hate magic, curses or death of enemies. Those acts were not achieved with supernatural powers of the witches and wizards but rather by superhuman evil spirits.

c.   Christians must not voluntarily communicate with superhuman spirits. This will expose themselves to demonic influence or even demonic domination and risk great personal danger. Spiritism involves practices that are abominable to God (Ex 22:18) and frequently involving Satan worship. Sorcerers will be excluded from heaven (Rev 21:8; 22:15)

d.   Christians should also be aware of the New Age religion which is a mixture of Eastern mysticism, modern philosophy and psychology, and counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s. Some of them involve spiritism.

120.     What is the nature of demonic possession? Can Christians be possessed by demons? Can Christians practise exorcism?

a.   Demonic possession:

·         It is the domination of a person by evil spirits and is often demonstrated through abnormal behaviour. There is great differences between demonic possession and insanity. The two must be distinguished. Jesus commanded the demon to leave but without touching. Yet He customarily touched the sick.

·         Signs of demonic possession (Mk 5:2-5) include change of facial form, change of voice, and displacement of usual personal identity by a new and alien self.

·         It may be spontaneous (invaded by evil spirits) or voluntary (yielded to or induced by the person involved). The Christian Exorcism Study Group reported that possession by an evil spirit is possible only when the individual puts him or herself in a vulnerable position and deliberately invites invasion.

b.   Demonic possession of Christians:

·         A true Christians (with the indwelling Holy Spirit) cannot be totally “possessed” by evil spirits as evil spirits could not peacefully co-exist with the Holy Spirit.

·         However, it is possible that the body and the outer areas of personality can be infested or oppressed. This can occur if a Christian is voluntarily involved in the occult, but only temporarily (1Ti 1:20; 1Co 5:5).

c.   Exorcism (deliverance ministry against demonic possession):

·         It is wise to be highly reluctant to conclude that a person is demonized; the situation must be explored carefully before coming to a conclusion.

·         Christians are cautioned against amateurish attempts of exorcism. Only devout persons of great piety, spiritual strength, and moral courage (preferably also with psychiatric training and experience) should be involved. It should never be attempted alone. There should be at least two mature and experienced Christians present. In addition, permission must be gained from a higher church authority before any exorcism is conducted.

·         Deliverance should never be undertaken under pressure either from the individual concerned or from a group. It should only be attempted if there is a clear sense of direction and conviction from God.

·         Exorcism is done with the power of Christ (Ac 16:16-18). Persons involved must be armed with prayer (Mk 9:29), preferably corporate prayer.

·         During exorcism, aggressive words, gestures or expressions should be avoided. Demons should not be talked to, argued with or given any attention other than that of rejecting, refusing and scorning them with the name of Jesus Christ.

·         After exorcism, the affected person must: receive Christ, confess sins, renounce the devil and his works, remove occult objects and connections, resist the devil (1Pe 5:8-9), submit to Christ and cultivate a spiritual life (Jas 4:7).

·         The incident should be subject to the same ethics of confidentiality as any counselling.

121.     Can Christians read fictions about spiritism like the Harry Potter books?

a.   Reality:

·         We cannot avoid the issue and walk away because the Potter books are popular and many children are reading them. The books have caused a controversy in many churches.

·         The question is not one with a simple one-sided answer.

·         Even major evangelical Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family and Christianity Today published both positive and negative reviews by different authors.

b.   Reasons for opposing the books:

(1)  The books may desensitize us to witchcraft.

o        The books glorify witchcraft (against Dt 18:9-12) and describe some witchcraft as good.

o        They include terminology representative of occult practices (1Ti 4:1), including consulting the dead (Dt 18:10-11; Isa 8:19).

o        They produce subtle desensitization to witchcraft, leading to fascination with the supernatural or even to trying magic.

(2)  The books do not acknowledge any supernatural powers or moral authority.

o        The world in the books resemble a kind of dualism, with two equal, uncreated, antagonistic forces. Witchcraft is neutral.

o        The world in the books is a morally confused world. Choosing between the two is purely a matter of personal opinion.

(3)  The books contain too much violent acts.

(4)  The books encourage disobedience to authority as Harry Potter and his friends often break rules.

c.   Reasons for supporting the books: (including Chuck Colson, Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, and a professor from Wheaton College)

(1)  The books encourage courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice for one another.

o        The theme is the fight between good and evil; evil is presented as evil and good as good.

o        Harry Potter displays virtues including courage, loyalty, compassion, joy, humility, friendship and love.

(2)  The magic in the books is only literary witchcraft.

o        The witchcraft in the books is purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. It has no resemblance to the supernatural witchcraft in occultism.

o        There is no contact with a supernatural world.

o        The presence of mythological creatures and characters is a sure sign that it is a fantasy.

o        The portrayal of magics not overly positive, as they are sometimes potentially dangerous.

(3)  The books can open up the appreciation for other fantasy books with a distinctly Christian worldview like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

o        The books could be a springboard to fruitful discussion to understand occultism.

o        The stories are rich in parallels to the Judeo-Christian faith (see below). It can act as a tool leading to the gospel.

d.   Analysis of the argument:

(1)  Many accusations against the books are simply slanders and are not based on facts, such as the claim that the author J.K. Rowling is a real witch.

(2)  The description of the witchcraft and other supernatural phenomena in the Potter books are not much different from many books accepted as good books, such as Lord of the Rings written by the catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien, or the Narnia Chronicles written by famous Protestant apologist C.S. Lewis.

o        There were also good magic, good witches and good wizards in the Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, or Lord of the Rings. The objected astral projection or leaving one’s body to traverse space and time is also found in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The reason for the acceptance of these books is that the central themes of these books are not about magic or astral projection, but neither are the Potter books.

o        Spirits and supernatural powers are literary devices used by the author to tell a story, not a subtle attempt to lead unsuspecting souls into occult practices.

(3)  Children love the Potter books because of their legitimate needs:

o        hope that comes in the form of wishes that might come true

o        a sense of control or empowerment

o        self-esteem that comes from accomplishment

o        affirmation of their emotions and tools to help deal with them

o        knowledge that they can face fear and conquer it

o        a strong sense of identity, of belonging, and of destiny

o        love that is found in loving families

o        the company of good friends

(4)  C.S. Lewis talks about Sehnsucht—the longing for the mysterious. “Magic, fantasy, and wishes are the staples of Children’s literature because they are tried and true when it comes to satisfying a child’s heart.” He believes that other-worldly stories can tap into our hunger of God’s wonder.

(5)  Arguments against the books are also valid and should be considered when making a judgment.

e.   Conclusion:

·         This is a disputable matter with no simple right or wrong answer. Each Christian can make their own decision on whether or not to read the books.

·         It is advisable to allow only those children aged 10 and older to read the books. In addition, it may be necessary to relate the following important messages to the children.

f.    Messages to children who read Harry Potter books:

(1)  Don’t focus your attention on demonic powers, Satan, hell, and aspects of darkness. Instead, focus above on Jesus Christ and all the powers of God.

o        Have confident assurance that God is greater than all the forces of evil and fully committed to protecting those who take refuge in Him.

o        Don’t be afraid of dark powers because God keeps His promises.

o        Whenever we feel afraid, sense danger, or see the influence of evil, use the 3 spiritual weapons (Eph 6:10-18): (a) shield of faith – believe God’s Word and His promises, (b) sword of the Spirit – quote Bible verses out loud, (c) prayer to God in Jesus’ name, or memorize the Lord’s Prayer.

o        Memory verses: Jas 4:7; 2Th 3:3; Rev 3:20; 1Jn 4:4; Jn 14:27; Jas 2:19; Dt 31:6

(2)  Distinguish between “magic” in the fantasy genre and in real-life settings. Know about the dangers of occult involvement. Spiritual things that we should NEVER do (Dt 18:9-14) include:

o        offer human sacrifice

o        practise divination (Ouiji board, psychics, tarot cards, crystal ball), interpret omens to discover hidden knowledge

o        practise sorcery or try to use magic powers, cast spells, engage in witchcraft

o        consult a medium or spiritist, offer yourself as a medium through which a spirit could communicate to others

o        consult the dead

(3)  Know that some things in the books agree with principles in the Bible.

o        Courage, loyalty, sacrifice, and love are treasured virtues.

o        There is a reality beyond the physical existence.

o        The love and sacrifice of Harry’s mother broke the power of Voldemort. Similarly, Jesus’ love and sacrifice broke the power of death.

o        People search the Philosopher’s stone which gives eternal life. There is eternal life in God, and it is a free gift.