Is there any merit to the occult? For thousands of years people with various motives have practiced such systems as divination, Satanism, astrology, and witchcraft. In many ways, in fact, they have been highly successful in instilling fear and awe in the minds of once-faithful believers, captivating them with trickery, feigning “otherworldly” powers. Even some Christians who choose not to follow the occult teachers have, at least, concluded that they do have some degree of power. One writer studied the occult and wrote, “Divination is the act of attempting to prophesy (forecast future events) or discern human character through occult means by making use of certain omens or divination tools such as tarot cards, tea leaves, Ouija board, astrology, palmistry, scrying devices (crystal balls, mirrors, crystals, etc.). The methods of divination often changes but the spirit and force behind it remains the same…a demon spirit” (Primer For Recognizing Occult Doctrines and Practices, Pastor David Brown, Ph.D.) The question that we want to answer is whether or not this is actually true? Is there really power behind the occult? Should we be afraid because Satan and his demons have instilled mystical abilities in human vehicles?
What is at stake?
This lesson is important for the Christian to consider because it has eternal ramifications. The Bible deals with the topic of the occult in a very severe manner – our participation in it, after all, can exclude us from salvation (Revelation 21:8). God has not changed His feelings on the matter since He spoke so many things through the prophets in the Old Testament. In the same way that He condemned the false miracle workers and sorcerers of Elijah’s day, he still condemns the witches and astrologers of today. These practices are, in fact, as popular as they have ever been thanks to a society that revels in mystic curiosities. People who have such a hard time believing in (and obeying) God seem to give great heed to swindling psychics and tarot card readers. People who cannot keep their marriages afloat often blame it on their astrological symbols and predictions. They blame poor parenting, adultery, lack of motivation at work, and a host of other personal problems on a prediction they read in the newspaper that day. In the end, the occult is escapism: Instead of relying on God and the Bible, they grasp at anything and everything that seems to make sense.
Part the occult’s success comes from the fact that we are willing to believe popular myths and legends – stories about strange “goings on” or coincidences derived from horoscopes. Unfortunately, many of us have gullibly believed such things, but fail to pay attention to what God has said about the subject. “There is no such things as an idol in the world, and there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4, Acts 17:22-29, 14:15).
Astrology is probably the most popular “false science” in the world. A 1966 poll revealed that 32 million Americans were serious believers in astrology – so who knows how many believe it now! At its most basic level, astrology is the theory that the sun, planets, and stars have an influence upon individuals and the course of their lives. It is a system of predicting the future based on the alignment, polarity, and gravity of the heavenly bodies. At the moment of a human’s birth, the condition of the heavenly bodies has a direct influence that will have an impact on the rest of his or her life. However, when put into a Biblical perspective, astrology does not fit reality. The Bible always holds the individual accountable for what he or she does in life (2 Corinthians 5:10). We are told to beware of the influence of society (1 Corinthians 15:33), but never to beware of the influence of the stars. In fact, the heavenly bodies were not created by God as a bane to our existence, but as aids for navigation and the signs of seasonal change (Genesis 1:14-15).
It is likely that astrology appeals to people because it removes responsibility. People like to know that their problems are not really their own fault (“I am this way because of my sign” or “Well, that’s just how my sign is”). This is called fatalism. Curiosity seekers want to know if they will be rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, famous, or worthless – without actually accomplishing anything. But does this prevent that person from truly living and experiencing life? Astrology may excuse our shortcomings and character flaws, but it also determines our course in life for us. In the end, it becomes a matter of “wanting to have their ears tickled” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Astrology and Science
Astrologists fail to realize that the heavenly bodies are just part of the created universe. They move on a course just like everything else does. It makes as much sense to predict the future based on how your dog wags his tail, or how often it rains. Not only that, but astrology and science are not congruent:
· “The zodiac is an imaginary belt of the heavens, within which are the apparent paths of the sun, moon, and principle planets. Each division of the zodiac (your "sign"), due to the procession of the equinoxes, now contains the constellation west of the one from which it took its name. The study of the zodiac is complicated by the fact that there has been more than one construction of the positions of the planets in the zodiac. The reason for this is the precession, the rotation of the equinox backward. The zodiacal signs, have consequently, slowly moved out of their positions. Therefore, your sign is not your sign” (“Bible Authority – Astrology”, Dunagan, www.beavertonchurchofchrist.net).
· Astrology is based on only 5 planets in our solar system.
· Astrology is based on an earth-centered universe.
· The attributes of human character, which are assigned to each constellation, are arbitrary. Therefore, do you want somebody else telling you how to act, feel, love, work, play, and decide the outcome of your life?
· Your sign is based on the day of your birth, but it would make more sense if it was based on the day of conception.
Why is it condemned?
Astrology, Ouija boards, tarot cards, etc. are all condemned by God because it demonstrates a lack of trust in Him. Man is always looking for a shortcut to wealth, successful relationships, and so on, but shortcuts are not to be found. Instead of actually working at a marriage, a job, a family, or character flaws, people try to cut corners by depending on the occult. It appeals to human selfishness, claiming to have the inside track to fame, fortune, and love.
· It is worshipping the creation (the stars, planets, etc.) instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25).
· It manifests a lack of faith in God as the sole provider of insight and guidance in life (Matthew 7:7-8).
· It denies that God has all control in this world (Matthew 6:32-33).
· Like all forms of divination, astrology is not content with what God has already revealed. It is man’s attempt to look into things that are not his to know (Deuteronomy 29:29).
· God claims that He has revealed all truth that is necessary (John 16:13), but astrology says, “This is not enough, we want more.”
“Do not be terrified”
Consider what is written in Jeremiah 10:2-5; “Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them; for the customs of the people are delusion… Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.” If there really is power behind all of these idolatrous and occult practices, then why does our God tell us not to fear them? According to this, as well a number of other scriptures that will soon be addressed, there is no merit to black magic. It is all a hoax. Indeed, there is no power or authority or spirit in this world that is not from God (Romans 13:1.) God tells us that the occult customs of the people “are delusion,” which is very similar to Paul’s definition in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. In this passage the works of Satan are called “false wonders” and those who believe them are led into “deception” and given a “deluding influence” that they might believe what is false.
We should never let ourselves become “terrified by the signs of the heavens,” such as the prophesies of astrologers. Astrology is based on a system of assumption, perpetual vagueness, and unscientific exploration of the stars. Rather than being based on nine planets, it is based on a solar system of five otherworldly planetoids. Astrology is a fatalistic religion, telling each and every person what has to happen throughout the course of life – “You will meet so and so today” or “You will be injured in a terrible accident” or “You will never meet the love of your life.” Is there no room for free will? Is there no consideration of choice? What if an unemployed man read his horoscope on a given day and it told him that he would be injured in a work-related accident? There is no merit to astrology, and even God challenges astrologers to stand up and get a prophesy right for once; “Stand fast now in your spells… Perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you may cause trembling. You are wearied with your many counsels; let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you” (Isaiah 47:12-13.) In a similar call for proof, the astrologers and sorcerers of Nebuchadnezzar’s court were unable to answer their king’s very simple question, “What did I dream last night?” (Daniel 2:1-12)
Jeremiah 27:9-10 clearly states that occult practices are all lies. There is no power behind them except for the power of greed. “Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.” Do we really want to believe a lie?
We should never be afraid of claims about demons and spirits, magical cards and palm readers, mummies, ghosts, spooks, and crystal balls. Look again at Jeremiah 10:5. The occult can do us neither harm nor good, so we should, in turn, give it neither fear nor faith. Liars and spiritual prostitutes do not deserve our money or our spiritual terror. In the same way that Ehud, the judge of Israel, escapes his enemies in Judges 3:26 by passing “right under the idols” of Moab, we should never be afraid to go about doing the wonderful work of the Gospel without dread. We must always remember, friends, that we are not preaching a falsehood; we are not preaching a system of darkness and fear; we are not preaching hopelessness, demonism, and mysterious signs from the heavens. We are preaching the GOOD NEWS of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and is “seated at the right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also the one to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21.) Amen!