Let’s Talk about the Occult—Theologically
Recently a student at a major Christian university wrote an article in the student newspaper defending the use of tarot cards—as not demonic and as compatible with Christianity.
Tarot card “reading” belongs in the larger category of “the occult” and specifically divination (foretelling the future by paranormal means).
Three biblical passages stand out as opposing all forms of divination: Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 8, and Acts 16. As anyone who is biblically literate known, the latter passage records the story of a young woman who was enslaved (human trafficked) by two men. She was a fortune teller, used divination, and that because of a demon in her. The apostles liberated her from that evil power and “gift” much to the chagrin of her masters.
Besides scripture, Christian tradition has always stood firmly against divination by any means other than prophecy by the Holy Spirit or special revelations from the Holy Spirit.
But let’s talk about the theology behind the biblical and traditional Christian prohibitions of divination.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
Divination arises from a desire to know the future or to receive guidance about how to live one’s life from some power or force or principle other than God. This is one manifestation of the fall—the desire to be as God. All evil and harm ultimately arises from that desire—to have power that belongs only to God and to possess it for oneself independently of God. Underlying that is the fallen human craving for security outside of God.
All occultism, whether divination or magick (the two main forms of occult practice), is also an opening to a demonic realm through which spiritually destructive forces can come. And many people become obsessed with the occult; like pornography and drugs, the occult can become addictive.
Divination can also be personally harmful psychologically. I will tell my own story here.
When I was about eight years old I snuck into a fortune teller’s tent at a carnival. I knew my parents would be appalled, but I couldn’t resist. I paid her fifty cents and she read my palms. The only thing I remember that she said was that sometime during my fifties I would suffer a very serious illness. Who would say that to an eight year old boy? Not a nice person. That prediction, which I took to be more than a prediction, haunted me for decades. I feared my fifties.
All one has to do to see that tarot cards belong to a category of evil is to examine the pictures on them. But here my concern is why? Why would a Christian ever want to use tarot cards or defend their use? Why would the faculty advisor of a Christian university newspaper ever allow an article defending tarot cards as innocent be published? Why would there not be an outcry on that campus and among its constituents about such public defense of something universally condemned among orthodox Christians as evil?
Are tarot cards evil? Are they demonic? Well, no…if all we are talking about is the paper and ink. The evil lies in the imagery and use of tarot cards—the purpose for which they are used and their use by demonic powers and principalities to harm people and lure them into the realm of the occult which is, according to Christianity, a realm ruled over and used by Satan.
Some people have suggested a gentle approach to the student author—simply attempting to help her clarify her values by asking questions. While that gentle approach has its place, such as in a situation where the person is using tarot cards but not publicly promoting their use as innocent and even compatible with Christianity, a firmer approach also has its place, such as in a situation where a person is publicly promoting the use of tarot cards (or anything else universally considered evil by Christians) within a Christian community.
Let’s use a hypothetical example. Suppose a male student at a Christian university wrote an article, published in the student newspaper, arguing that animated pornography is innocent and compatible with Christianity because it has no victims. I predict that there would be an outcry against that and that the response would be more than values clarification.
My concern is that some Christians no longer really believe in Satan or demons and do not believe that occultism is truly dangerous, demonic, or sin.
I wonder where people who condone the promotion of tarot cards within a Christian community would draw the line? What if a student published a piece promoting attendance at seances? Don’t laugh. I have known students (and others) who went to mediums to contact deceased loves ones and friends. Every week I drive past a “church” of “spiritual science” where the pastor is a medium. It looks like any other church. Should we not warn brothers and sisters in Christ (and others) against such practices? If we should not, perhaps it is because we don’t really believe in the reality of evil principalities and powers or that the Bible’s prohibitions against divination are valid.
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