In his TV series Edges, Christian communicator and broadcaster MAL FLETCHER looks at some of the big issues of the day. Here, Mal examines the ever increasing popularity of the occult.
Over the years, the popular media have featured all kinds of stories about channelled spirits and other supernatural phenomena. Is there any truth in the stories? Are there any dangers behind the hype? Even at the height of our post-modern love affair with technology, we're not satisfied to live in a purely material universe. Today as much as ever, we want to experience reality on a spiritual level.
The word occult comes from a Latin word that means "hidden, secret". It speaks of knowledge that is beyond normal human knowledge -information that's communicated only to the initiated, by supernatural, spiritual forces. Modern occultism comes in many different but related packages. One of those packages is called wicca or "nature religion". Wicca worships the earth and natural phenomena. Some people, says the Bible, wrongly worship and serve "created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1: 25). Another form of occultism is called "second sight". Some people claim that they can see beyond the present into the past, the future, or as with clairvoyance, into some "alternative present". Then there's "divination", where special knowledge comes through reading cards or consulting the dead, and "channelling" of so-called "spirit guides".
Some people are attracted to the occult because they want spiritual enlightenment without having to make a commitment to anything. Some are drawn to it because it offers pleasure - perverted sex, for example, forms a part of a number of occult practices. For some individuals, though, occult activities seem to offer a way to develop the true potential of their inner, spiritual nature.
The ancient wisdom of the Bible offers us a very different picture. It warns us against any involvement with witchcraft, contact with the dead, astrology and all aspects of the occult. Any knowledge, power or control on offer there, it says, are based on the deceptive work of beings it calls "demons". It also calls them "evil spirits", "unclean spirits", "principalities" and "powers". Occult forces offer us power, but what they want is power over us. Some people will say, "That's just a throw back to an age of superstition." But in some parts of the world, the raw, naked power of dark spiritual forces is very much on show even today. Witches and witch doctors will cut off their fingers, toes or ears as offerings to the spirits that control them and give them unusual powers.
According to the Bible, demon spirits are volitional beings - they can act on the basis of choice - and they possess an intelligence which surpasses our own. They may even have some limited insight into the future, which would explain why the most common occult practices involve fortune-telling, astrology and other forms of what the Bible calls "false prophecy". According to the Bible, these shadowy spiritual beings answer directly to their lord and master, Satan. Many Bible scholars believe they are the fallen angels who followed Satan when he rebelled against God. Even Jesus spoke about "the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25: 41).
If demons are fallen angels, they were originally designed to be ministering spirits, angelic beings who help us to reach our God-given destiny (Hebrews 1: 14). Now they act in exactly the opposite way, opposing the good things that God wants to do in our lives. Because they're spirits, these malevolent beings don't die. That's why they're able to operate as what the Bible calls "familiar spirits". They know things about people because they are can see into human lives. They can use their knowledge to deceive - by pretending, for example, to be friends who speak from beyond the grave.
Some people will argue that there are different ways of using occult power. For example, they say there is "white" witchcraft, where power is used for constructive things, and "black" witchcraft, where power is used to bring curses and so on. The Bible makes no such distinction. In fact, it shows us that the so-called white variety may be more dangerous, because even the Devil likes to come dressed as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11: 14).
Jesus faced the power of evil spiritual forces right through his ministry life. The demons he encountered brought people nothing but misery. (See, for example, Matthew 9: 32-33; 17: 15; 12: 22; Mark 5: 2-7 and Luke 13: 11). In every case, Jesus rebuked the dark spiritual powers and threw them out. In every case, they had to obey. The Bible says that demons themselves know the Scriptures, and they tremble -because they know about the judgment that God has in store for them at the end of the age. Whenever they came face-to-face with Jesus, they would shriek and cry out for mercy, because they knew who he was -the Son of God.
The power of the occult is based on deception and bringing people into hopeless bondage. A small dose of truth is often used to suck people into believing a great lie. Occultism draws us away from the truth about God, about ourselves and about our eternal destiny. Jesus said, "There is no truth in the Devil ... he is ... the father of lies" (John 8: 44). Jesus also said, "When you know the truth, the truth will set you free" (John 8: 32). There is only one supernatural power we should ever allow into our lives -that's the power of God, through Jesus Christ. His power rips through deception, overcomes Satanic attack and frees us from any bondage. When we open our lives to Jesus, he gives us the spirit of godly power, love and a calm and stable mind (2 Timothy 1: 7).The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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