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Bible and Occult: Witchcraft, Sorcery, Spiritualism, Psychic

The Bible and the Occult:
Witchcraft, Wizards, Wicca, Sorcery, Magic, Spiritualism, Paganism, and Psychics

Bible and sorcery: witchcraft, magic, Satanism, wizards, mediums, fortune-tellers, psychics paganism. Should a Christian practice divination, necromancy, soothsaying, enchantments, spiritualism?

The occult is increasingly accepted. We frequently hear about sorcery, witchcraft, magic, Wicca, Satanism, wizards, mediums, fortune-tellers, spiritualism, psychics, and paganism. The New Age Movement popularizes all these. What does the Bible say about them? Should a Christian practice divination, necromancy, soothsaying, enchantments, spiritism, augury, and other aspects of the occult? Can pagan practices be harmonized with Christianity?

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The religious significance of the occult

Sometimes people wonder whether or not various aspects of the occult are religious in nature or should be of concern to Christians. Consider these quotations regarding witchcraft:

For many, Witchcraft is more than just a religion…it’s a way of life ... When witchcraft is practised [sic] as a religion, it is called by the Old English term for witch, Wicca. This term is used to counter all the negative stereotypes that society has given witchcraft. Wicca is primarily a religion that worships nature, and sees all creation as sacred. ... Wicca also worships both a male and female deity, a female Goddess and a male God, who had together created the world and everything in it. ... Spells ... [are] ... rituals and prayers that are conducted in witchcraft to ask for divine help in a certain aspect of life. - Quoted from witchcraft [dot] com [dot] au

Witchcraft is a pagan religion. Pagan religions worship multiple deities rather than a single god. Paganism is one of the oldest religions and includes all religions that are not Christian, Muslim or Jewish, meaning Paganism includes the Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and American Indian religions as well as all other nature-oriented religions. ...

Wicca, a modern Pagan religion that worships the Earth and nature ... The central Wiccan theme is, “if it does no harm, do your own will”-from people.howstuffworks.com/witchcraft.htm

So witchcraft is practiced by many as a religion. Many other aspects of the occult are admittedly religious in nature.

The purpose of this study is to example what the Bible says about occult practices. Whether or not the practitioners admit the religious aspects, we will see that all aspects of the occult should be of concern to Christians.

Current popularity of the occult

Through the mid-1900’s, no one took witches and magic seriously. Today it is different. Many people would be surprised to find how commonly the occult is practiced in our society, and they may find it is closer to home than they realize.

Books — Nearly every bookstore has a major section on the occult. Some bookstores and book clubs are devoted entirely to the occult.

Magazines and tabloids, such as the National Enquirer, sold at every grocery store check-out lane, promote psychics and all kinds of occult practices.

Games — Toy or game sections in stores often sell occult games such as Ouija boards or Dungeons and Dragons and similar “fantasy games.” Still more popular are computer games involving witches, sorcerers, demons, and occult powers of all kinds. Often players role-play or pretend they are these occult characters.

Stores – Some stores specialize in selling paraphernalia used in various occult activities. We have such a store called “Sacred Earth” in Antioch, IL. Their web site says:

Sacred Earth brings you a diverse selection of LANG="en-US">spiritual and magickal [sic] supplies, including an extensive collection of herbs, stones, jewelry, ritual tools, books, herbal smudge sticks, tarot cards and more. atsacredearthshoppe [dot] com

Television and movies — Many programs and movies have major occult themes, beginning years ago with “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” etc. Many children’s cartoons now feature occult powers, with witches, sorcerers, demons, etc.

Music — Many popular recording artists are personally involved in sorcery, witchcraft, and Satanism. Popular songs often involve aspects of the occult, and album covers often portray occult and Satanist symbols.

Education — Many colleges and universities teach courses discussing the occult, and even high school and grade school texts may contain references to witchcraft and the occult. An honors student at a Ft. Wayne high school once called me to express concern about the number of students involved in Dungeons and Dragons at school.

The New Age movement consists largely of people involved in the occult and pagan religions.

Satanic rituals — News often mentions crimes which police suspect are the result of Satanic worship rituals.

Halloween is a holy day in witchcraft.

The Wiccan year begins on the sabbat (holy day) of Yule, when the Goddess gives birth to the God. The God grows strong through spring and summer, and then in fall, the God and Goddess unite. At this time, the Goddess becomes pregnant with the new God. The old God dies on Samhain (Halloween) to be reborn at Yule ... on [the sabbat of Samhain] Halloween ... the dead are said to be able to communicate with the living in order to be with and celebrate with their families. - from http://people.howstuffworks.com/witchcraft.htm

The Women’s Liberation Movement – Given the predominance of female goddesses in the occult, especially Wicca, it should be no surprise that many feminists practice various aspects of the occult.

Just as many are surprised to learn how serious a problem this is in our society, many more are surprised to learn how much the Bible has to say about it. We will consider Bible teaching regarding two general areas of occult activity.


I. Attempts to Perform Supernatural Events


A. A Description of Occult Practices

Some occult concepts are hard to define.

Many terms overlap in meaning or are used by different people in different ways. We will use terms as follows:

“Witchcraft”: sorcery, the attempt to exercise supernatural powers by means of magic rituals or techniques (incantations, spells, drugs, potions, curses, charms, etc.).

“Magic”: efforts to exercise supernatural powers or to appeal to spirit beings (other than God) to produce some event considered unattainable by natural means.

Note that we refer here to appeals to supernatural and spirit powers to influence the course of events on earth: powers which are beyond the laws of nature and the natural course of events.

What supernatural powers may be appealed to?

Those involved may believe they are appealing to various different forces:

* Pagan or heathen deities (as in the earlier quotations about Wicca)

* Spirit of some dead person (“ghost,” or “spirit”)

* Satan and demons — some people knowingly attempt to appeal to demonic forces to work in their lives (others, such as in Wicca, do not believe Satan even exists).

* Many people ignore who or what the power is. They simply learn certain rituals that they believe summon spirit forces to produce some end result. If they think they can obtain the desired goal, they do not care who the force is.

Regardless of who or what force people believe they are appealing to, whenever people appeal to any spirit or supernatural power other than the God of the Bible to work in their lives, that is the occult as we use it in this study.

The occult does not include events that are understood to occur by natural law.

We do not include in the occult attempts to produce even some amazing result beyond our comprehension, yet it is understood to be done by the power of natural law.

* “Magic” as sleight of hand tricks done for social entertainment is not under consideration. These involve illusions and techniques completely within the realm of natural law, if we only understood the trick. Those who practice such know that this is simply a natural skill they have learned by practice (like playing a musical instrument or swinging on a trapeze).

* Physicians may use drugs or treatments to produce a healing effect. The intent is to use natural laws to benefit the body (whether or not we understand the law).

In none of these cases are people appealing to supernatural spirit forces.

The occult includes these supernatural powers whether done for helpful or harmful goals.

Some people think a “witch” is an ugly hag who rides a broomstick with a black cat on Halloween, casting spells, or sticking pins in voodoo dolls. That is witchcraft, but there is much more.

Witches may be men or women, pretty or ugly. They may distinguish “white magic” from “black magic.” Black magic means spells, incantations, curses, etc., intended to bring harm to someone (like the evil witch in Snow White). This is viewed as bad, even by some witches. White magic uses spells, etc., to try to bring good fortune, such as producing rain, finding some lost object, bringing success in war or business, producing a good crop, etc. (like the fairy godmother in Cinderella).

Some would tell us that white magic is good because it helps people, but only black magic is wrong because it harms people. We will see, however, that all sorcery and occult practices are wrong, because they come from the wrong source. The source of the power is what makes them inherently evil, regardless of the intended goal.

B. Bible Teaching about These Supernatural Powers

Witchcraft, sorcery, etc., are condemned without qualification in both the Old and New Testaments.

Deuteronomy 18:9-14 — Every aspect of the occult is here itemized and forbidden as an “abomination.” Specifically forbidden are: one who practices “witchcraft” (NKJV; “divination” — ASV; KJV) or a “sorcerer” (NKJV and ASV; “witch” — KJV), or a “spiritist” (NKJV; “wizard” — ASV, KJV).

Leviticus 19:31 — Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits (“wizards” — ASV, KJV); do not seek after them, to be defiled by them (NKJV).

Leviticus 20:6 — And the person who turns after mediums and familiar spirits (“wizards” — ASV, KJV), to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. (NKJV)

Leviticus 20:27 — A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has a familiar spirit (“wizard” — ASV, KJV), shall surely be put to death (NKJV).

Revelation 21:8 — But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Revelation 22:15 — But outside [heaven] are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

Acts 13:8-10 — Elymas the sorcerer tried to keep Sergius Paulus from accepting the gospel. Paul rebuked him saying: “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?”

Note that the Bible does not distinguish whether the witchcraft is intended to achieve a beneficial goal or a harmful one. It is all inherently wrong because it is an appeal to a forbidden source of power.

[2 Chron. 33:6; 2 Kings 9:22; Ex. 22:18; 1 Sam. 15:23; Mic. 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Jer. 27:9; Mal. 3:5; Isa. 2:6; 2 Kings. 21:6; 23:24; Isa. 19:3]

Specific powers of witchcraft and sorcery are named and condemned.

Exodus 7:11,22; 8:7 — Using their “enchantments,” Pharaoh’s magicians tried to duplicate the miracles done by Moses and Aaron. “Enchantments” refer to the ceremonies or rituals sorcerers and magicians use to accomplish their ends: incantations, spells, magic words (“hocus-pocus”), wearing of charms (amulets), etc.

As the witchcraft website says: “Spells are used by Wiccans, and are a series of rituals and prayers that are conducted in witchcraft to ask for divine help in a certain aspect of life.” But God forbids them all.

Deuteronomy 18:10 also mentions these “enchantments” as part of that which is forbidden (“enchanters” — ASV, KJV).

Isaiah 8:19,20 - When they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? ... 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.

“Whisper and mutter” refers to the incantations and spells of magicians. These words are supposed to give the user power to induce the spirit beings to accomplish the desired result. If you know the words, you can lead the spirit to do your bidding.

Note that God’s objection is that such practices are a failure to seek after the true God.

Galatians 5:20,21 — Those who will not inherit the kingdom of God include those who practice “sorcery” (“witchcraft” — KJV). This includes the occult in general, but refers especially to the use of drugs and potions brewed by witches in their cauldrons, etc. (Movies and books often refer to the witches’ books of spells and recipes for potions, etc. “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...”)

God condemns, not only the whole practice of the occult, but also the specific methods, rituals, and mumbo-jumbo words used.

[Lev. 19:26; 2 Kings 17:17; Isa. 47:9,12; Jer. 27:9; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isa. 3:20; Rev. 9:21]

Witches and sorcerers cannot duplicate the powers and miracles God did through inspired men.

The Bible often warns us to avoid being deceived by lying wonders [2 Thess. 2:9; Matt. 24:24; Deut. 13:1-5]. Many Bible events involved confrontations between those who did true miracles from God and those who practiced forms of sorcery or magic.

Exodus 7-9; read 8:18,19 — Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers tried to duplicate the signs and plagues God caused through Moses and Aaron (7:11,22; 8:7,8,18; 9:11). For a while they seemed to succeed, but soon they failed and admitted Moses had the power of God.

Daniel 1:20 — In all matters of wisdom and understanding the king found Daniel and his friends ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers.

Daniel 2:1-13,27,28 — None of the magicians in Babylon could tell the king his dream and interpret it. But by the power of God, Daniel could both state and interpret the dream accurately [cf. 4:7,9]. Later he likewise interpreted the handwriting on the wall that predicted the downfall of Belshazzar (5:7,11). [Cf. Gen. 41:8,24]

Acts 8:9-13 — When Simon used sorcery to amaze the Samaritans, they believed he had great power from God. But when Philip preached Jesus and did true miracles by the power of God, both the people and Simon himself believed and were converted [cf. vv 5-7].

Acts 13:6-11 — Elymas the sorcerer was powerless to resist the superior power God worked through Paul.

I do not know whether the power of sorcerers can be explained through trickery, which pretends supernatural power but can really be explained naturally, or whether Satan really does possess some supernatural power. But what is sure is that Satan can never duplicate God’s true miracles. By comparing sorcery to the miracles of the Bible, we have proof witchcraft is inferior, so we should not put our faith in it.

Witchcraft, magic, etc., are the occult substitutes for Bible miracles. Where God has done miracles for His people, believers in the occult seek supernatural works by means of spells, incantations, etc. that appeal to other spirit powers.

As stated on the witchcraft website:

Wicca also worships both a male and female deity, a female Goddess and a male God, who had together created the world and everything in it. ... Spells are used by Wiccans, and are a series of rituals and prayers that are conducted in witchcraft to ask for divine help in a certain aspect of life.

While many in the occult may not think they are appealing to gods, nevertheless God forbids all such because it is an appeal to supernatural powers other than His. God will never allow His people to follow that which counterfeits His true works.

[Isaiah 47:9,12-14; 1 Kings 18; Acts 16:16; 19:13ff]


II. Attempts to Obtain Supernatural Knowledge


A different form of witchcraft and sorcery is “divination” or “soothsaying.” This involves supernatural methods used to seek information that cannot be obtained by natural processes of study and investigation. Especially, it seeks to foretell the future.

Just as magic is the occult substitute for God’s miracles, so divination is the occult substitute for God’s prophecy.

Note the Bible teaching regarding various forms of divination:

A. Divination in General

Deuteronomy 18:10,14 — “Divination” (ASV, KJV; “soothsayer” — NKJV) and “diviners” are specifically listed among the aspects of the occult that were forbidden as abomination among God’s people. A soothsayer is a fortune-teller: one who attempts to predict the future by occult methods. These things were practiced by the evil nations that God cast out of Canaan.

2 Kings 17:17,18 — God later sent Israel into captivity because they practiced sins including “divination” (ASV, KJV) or “soothsaying” (NKJV).

Many of us may not be familiar with these terms, but such practices were well-known in Bible times and are becoming more common today. The Bible plainly condemns them.

B. Augury (Interpretation of Omens)

Deuteronomy 18:10,14 — The list of occult practices that are an abomination to God includes “one who interprets omens” (NKJV; KJV — “observer of times”; ASV — one who practices “augury”).

2 Kings 21:6 — King Manasseh of Israel did much evil before God, including the practice of “soothsaying” (NKJV; “augury” — ASV; “observed times” — KJV). [2 Chron. 33:6]

This practice involved the belief that the activities of the gods could be predicted by observing events in nature (weather, animals, movement of stars), or by chance ritual ceremonies (casting lots, tossing arrows, etc.). Astrology is augury based on observation of the stars and planets. By observing such events, people attempted to predict the future.

Again, such practices are evil and an abomination to God.

C. Psychics and Fortune-tellers

This includes all those who attempt to predict the future by supernatural, spirit powers: fortune-tellers, crystal ball readers, palm readers, mind readers, reading tarot cards [silent “t” in tarot], reading tea leaves, or Ouija board [reading animal livers — Ezek. 21:21].

The Bible says:

Only God can read the minds of men.

1 Corinthians 2:11 — For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

John 2:25 — Jesus had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

1 Kings 8:39 — Only God knows the hearts of man [Jer. 17:10].

Psychics and mind readers pretend to read men’s minds, but only God has this power, and He no longer gives it to men (see 1 Cor. 13 below). When men claim supernatural power to read the minds of others, they are involved in a form of witchcraft and divination, condemned in the passages above.

Only God can predict the future.

James 4:14 — You do not know what will happen tomorrow.

Proverbs 27:1 — Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. So, no human can predict the future by natural law. Any effort to predict the future must be based on supernatural powers.

Isaiah 41:21-23; 42:8,9 — God challenged the idols to prove they are gods by predicting the future. He rested His claim to Deity on His ability to predict the future.

So, God says no power but His can really predict the future. When people claim to be able to do it by occult means, they are claiming the power of God (regardless of their intent).

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 — God did miracles in the age when His written word was not complete. By God’s supernatural power, men revealed His will and confirmed by miracles that it was from God (Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Heb. 2:3,4). Since the written word (that which is perfect — James 1:25) has come, God no longer gives men the power of prophecy.

So, no one today can predict the future by the power of God. Anyone who claims such a power is not doing it by God’s power. Whatever power he claims, it must be a form of occult divination, condemned by God.

[Cf. Acts 8:14ff; 1:22; Jude 3; etc. See notes on work of Holy Spirit.]

A test for impostors is to see if their predictions ever fail.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 — After rebuking all forms of the occult (vv 9-14), God predicted the coming of the true prophet (Jesus) in whom people should trust (vv 15-19). Then He explained some ways people could recognize false prophets. A prophet is not from God if he claims to speak in the name of some other god or if his predictions of the future do not come true.

Occult diviners, psychics, and fortune tellers often speak in the name of supernatural beings other than the God of the Bible. All who do so are false prophets.

Other occult prognosticators are proven to be false teachers when their predictions fail to come true. Here are some examples:

Jean Dixon

She became famous by predicting the death of John Kennedy. But one rarely hears about her predictions that failed. These include:

* World War III would begin in 1958. (Did it?)

* Russia would put the first man on the moon. (A good guess since they led the space race at the time. But America was first; Russia still has not done it.)

* Lyndon Johnson would be the Democratic candidate for president in 1968. (Since he was president at the time, he was the logical choice. But he refused to run.)

* President Ford would resign and Rockefeller would replace him. (Ford never resigned; Rockefeller was never president.)

* Reagan would be the Republican candidate for president in 1976. (Ford won the nomination instead).

[Others: Red China would enter the UN in 1958 — it didn’t happen till much later. Vietnam war would end within 90 days of May 7, 1966 — it did not happen till much later. All quotes via: Halbrook, 1974 Florida College lectures; O’Neal, Searching the Scriptures, 6/78]

National Enquirer psychics

People have recorded the results of their predictions as follows:

* 22 false predictions in 1975 (R. Harris, Contender, 1/76)

* 14 misses in the second half of 1977 (O’Neal, Searching the Scriptures, 6/78).

* Of 58 predictions, only two were right, and these were easy guesses (Bob Craig, Gospel Anchor, 5/79).

The track records of the psychics proves they are false teachers. We should not be afraid of them.

D. Spiritism and Necromancy

Necromancy (NECK-re-man-see) is the alleged power to communicate with the spirits of dead people (“ghosts”). Other terms for those who claim this power are: “medium,” having a “familiar spirit,” “spiritist,” or “spiritualist.”

Literally hundreds of thousands of people claim this power in the US, many of whom are members of spiritualist or spiritist churches (Kingdom of the Cults, Martin, p. 199). Many “Christians” claim this is approved of God. I had a former sister-in-law who attended meetings of such a group.

What does the Bible say?

Deuteronomy 18:11 — The occult practices that are an abomination to God include mediums, spiritists and those who call up the dead (NKJV; “consulter with a familiar spirit … necromancer” — ASV, KJV).

Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27 — God’s people must not seek out mediums or familiar spirits. If they do, they should be cut off. Those who are mediums or have a familiar spirit should be stoned.

Ecclesiastes 9:6 — Those who are dead have no more portion in anything done under the son forever.

Luke 16:27-31 — Abraham refused to let Lazarus go back from the dead to warn the rich man’s brothers. Why? Because God had already sufficiently revealed His will through prophets in the Scriptures.

God’s inspired prophets have provided all the Divine revelation people need. When people seek further information through people who return from the dead, they are wicked like the rich man in Hades. Those who trust the Bible know that they do not need people to return from the dead to give them supernatural knowledge.

1 Samuel 28:3-14 — Saul consulted a woman from Endor who had a familiar spirit, to get her to call up Samuel. Some think this proves the practice is valid. But note v12 — When the woman saw Samuel she cried out with a loud voice. Why? She had agreed to call him up. If she had expected him to come, why be surprised when he came?

1 Chronicles 10:13,14 — Saul died because he was unfaithful and because he consulted with this familiar spirit. However one explains the means by which the woman called Samuel back, the fact is that God disapproved of Saul for appealing to a medium, and it led to Saul’s death.

[2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isa. 8:19,20; 2 Kings 23:24; Isa. 19:3; 29:4]

Conclusion

Why is God so opposed to the occult?

Witchcraft and every aspect of the occult are plainly condemned by God. But why? Because they are a counterfeit substitute for the power of God.

Remember the statements quoted in our introduction:

Wicca is primarily a religion that worships nature, and sees all creation as sacred. ... Wicca also worships both a male and female deity, a female Goddess and a male God, who had together created the world and everything in it. ... Spells are used by Wiccans, and are a series of rituals and prayers that are conducted in witchcraft to ask for divine help in a certain aspect of life.

Witchcraft is a pagan religion. Pagan religions worship multiple deities rather than a single god.

Whether or not they acknowledge it (as in these quotations), occult practitioners serve gods other than the God of the Bible. They appeal to other spirit powers to provide “divine help,” which they ought to trust in God to provide.

They “worship and serve the creature (‘nature,’ ‘all creation’), rather than the Creator” - Romans 1:25.

People who need supernatural power, should turn to the one true, living Creator.

* God has done great miracles to prove His power. Magic is the occult counterfeit for miracles. It is an attempt to achieve supernatural events by spirit power other than that of God. [Isaiah 8:19,20]

* God has revealed His will and predicted the future in prophecy. Divination is the occult counterfeit for prophecy. It is an attempt to obtain supernatural knowledge by spirit powers other than the power of God.

Colossians 2:8-10 — Christians are complete in Christ. We have all the supernatural knowledge from God that we need and all He will ever give in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:3). We have the record of miracles to confirm that message (John 20:30,31). God meets our daily needs in answer to prayer (Philippians 4:6,7). To turn to the occult is to belittle our completeness in Christ and to seek supernatural help somewhere other than in God.

Acts 19:18-20 — When God’s word prevails in the lives of people today, they renounce their involvement in magic or sorcery. They remove and destroy all aspects of it in their lives.

The gospel of Christ cannot coexist with the occult in our lives. Either the occult will drive out faithfulness to Christ, leading to eternal condemnation, or else the gospel will drive out the occult, leading to salvation. Are you involved in the occult, or are you a faithful servant of God?

To see the evidence that the Bible and the gospel of Jesus are the true revelation of religion, see our article on that subject on our Bible Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/.

If you would like to study further about related Bible topics, we have a number of other study materials on our web site that should interest you. Please see the links listed below.

(C) Copyright 1998,2008 David E. Pratte
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