Is There a Difference Between White and Black Magic?

In traditional occult terminology, black magic is malevolent magic that seeks to hurt, while white magic is used for healing and other good purposes.

1 From a biblical perspective, this distinction is not valid. Magic—whether black or white—draws power from the same source. All magic—whether “black” or “white”—seeks to tap an impersonal source of power that is controlled by ritual or formula.

In contrast to magic, prayer (when properly understood) appeals to a personal source of power—an Ultimate Authority who is in charge of our lives and to whom we must be submissive (Matthew 16:25 ).2 It’s true that some religious people have a “magical” view of prayer, thinking that a particular formula of prayer requires God to respond to their desires. But a biblical view of prayer places the initiative both with the one who brings a request to God, and God Himself. The interaction of freely offered prayer with God’s sovereign providence is mysterious, but it is founded in trust, submission, and moral obedience, not mere secret or esoteric knowledge or occult ritual.

The Bible indicates that there is no legitimate impersonal source of magical power. It condemns all magic equally.3 The understanding of natural laws gained from science is a source of impersonal power, but natural laws are not arbitrary or erratic. They are under God’s authority and in turn place limitations upon those who use them. There is no such thing as “black” science and “white” science. Science is science, regardless of the beneficial or destructive ways it is used.

Unlike science, magic doesn’t depend on the careful observation of nature, and isn’t accessible to anyone who has the discipline to follow its rules. Magic violates natural law and is accessible only to an initiated few who know the secret rituals that unleash its preternatural power.

According to Scripture, all real magic—whether “white” or “black”—draws its power from divinely forbidden, demonic sources that influence the magician both outside himself and within his being.

  1. The term “magic” here refers to “real” magic—magic that attempts to use supernatural forces by means of spells and charms. It doesn’t refer to the harmless sleight of hand of illusionists and entertainers. Back To Article
  2. The notion that spiritual forces can be invoked at will to change the material conditions of our lives, or those of others, properly belongs not to religion or to genuine spirituality as it has been understood by mankind’s greatest religious teachers, but rather to magic. It is not accidental that one of the most important phrases in Christian prayer is “Thy will be done.” The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament alike emphasize over and over again that true prayer, and true spirituality, lies in submitting the human to the divine will, and not the reverse. They also stress that the divine plan is not necessarily the human plan. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). (God the Evidence, Patrick Glynn, p. 92) Back To Article
  3. Magic. Scripture doesn’t condemn the work of illusionist “magicians.” It doesn’t have in view the kind of “magic” or “sleight of hand” that is done for wholesome entertainment purposes. It is concerned with real magic. Magic—the attempt to exploit supernatural powers by formulaic recitations to achieve goals that were otherwise unrealizable—was seen in a negative light in the Old Testament ( Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6 ; 1 Samuel 28:9 ; Isaiah. 8:19; 44:25; 57:3 ; Jeremiah 27:9; Ezekiel 22:28; Micah 5:12 ; Nahum 3:4; Malachi 3:5 ) and was banned under penalty of death ( Exodus 22:18 ; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11 ). (Evangelical Dictionary of Christian TheologyBack To Article
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