The Scriptures condemn all sorcery as opposed to a proper sense of dependence upon God. In Galatians 5:20, witchcraft is listed as being one of the acts of the sinful nature. The book of Revelation contains several passages that condemn sorcery in the strongest terms ( Revelation 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15 ).
The Bible asserts that only God has the right to understand the realm of the supernatural ( Genesis 40:8 ). Under Old Testament law, intrusion into the realm of the occult made one worthy of death ( Exodus 22:18 ). 1
Interestingly, several Greek words in the New Testament that are translated “witchcraft” and “sorcery” have the root pharm, from which our words pharmacy and pharmaceuticals are derived. This root refers to “drugs, potions, and poisons.” Those who are familiar with the practice of sorcery, both among primitive tribespeople and modern occultists, know that psychoactive drugs are often used by shamans and sorcerers 2 to induce dramatically altered states of consciousness that provide supernatural knowledge or contact with spirits.
1. Also see Leviticus 19:31 ; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24 ; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 ; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3 . Back To Article
2. Although the use of drugs as “potions” is common in sorcery and witchcraft, not all modern witches advocate the magical use of drugs. Ritual, meditation, and other magical techniques are often used in their place to produce similar effects. Back To Article
Some Christians believe that people can be “demonized” by ancestral sin. They believe that in such cases the demonized individual needs to be freed of inherited demonic influence by a “power encounter” in which the inherited demonic influence is exposed and expelled.
In our view, there is no scriptural precedent for using power encounters or exorcisms to deal with the sinful patterns of living that are passed down from our ancestors. In fact, Scripture seems to place a clear limitation on the power of evil ancestral influences, comparing it to the much greater influence of godliness:
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV).
Practically speaking, how could we possibly distinguish the sinful tendencies inherited from our parents from those we learned by exposure to them and other significant people in our lives? Throughout the New Testament, deliverance from sin involves repentance and confession. Whatever the origin of our sinful tendencies, the biblical approach to dealing with them is neither quick nor easy. The New Testament gives us no reason to believe they can be “cast out” in the same way Jesus and the disciples cast out demons of the possessed. (See the ATQ article, Can Christians Be Demon Possessed?)
All of us are deeply affected by the sinful patterns of living of significant people in our lives. Our behavior is largely shaped by the behavior of our parents, whose behavior, in turn, was shaped by the behavior of their parents, and so on. John describes how God can cleanse our hearts of sin’s influence:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).
This doesn’t mean that our struggle is merely psychological or emotional. Satan is a real and personal foe, attacking us relentlessly, systematically (Ephesians 6:12). Yet the biblical pattern for overcoming inherited sinful patterns of living is not to obsess on the demonic element of our sinful traits, but to accept the direction of the Holy Spirit in uncovering and overcoming them.
A person who wins a lottery is much more likely to squander his wealth than someone who earns it in years of patient effort. Likewise, Christians need to understand their sinful tendencies and struggle with them before they can fully appreciate the value of being delivered from them.
The New Testament doesn’t promise power encounters that deliver us effortlessly from our sinful ways without the growing pains of spiritual renewal.
The word demonization is a term recently coined by evangelicals who believe that Christians can be inhabited by demons. These evangelicals believe that Christians can be inhabited by demons who control unyielded areas of their spirit, while not possessing them entirely (in the sense of displacing the union between their spirit and the Holy Spirit, or taking away their salvation).
It is important to note, however, that the terms demonization and demonized are simply transliterations of the Greek word that has traditionally been translated as “possessed” (daimonizomai: Matthew 4:24; 8:16, 28; 9:32; 12:22 ). This word indicates overwhelming demonic control as The Easton Bible Dictionary clarifies regarding demon possession: “This influence is clearly distinguished from the ordinary power of corruption and of temptation over men. In the demoniac, his personality seems to be destroyed, and his actions, words, and even thoughts to be overborne by the evil spirit Acts 19:15 ).”
There is no biblical basis for believing that a genuine Christian can be under the degree of demonic control indicated by the word daimonizomai. First Corinthians 6:19 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit establishes a permanent, intimate relationship with every believer. The body of a Christian is the Holy Spirit’s temple. Other passages also describe the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of Christians ( John 3:3-7; Romans 8:5-11; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 6:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; Titus 3:4-7 ).
In all of the documents left us by Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers, there is not one passage that directly states or even implies that Christians may have to deal with their own sin or the sin of another Christian by confronting and casting out an inhabiting demon.
This doesn’t mean that Christians can afford to be careless in respect to Satan’s power. Scripture warns of the danger of spiritual evil ( 2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 4:27; 6:11-12; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8 ). While the biblical examples of demonic possession imply a degree of direct demonic control that can’t exist when a person has established an intimate relationship with God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, Christians can still be oppressed and influenced by the demonic. One of the most striking examples in Scripture was Simon Peter’s opposition to Jesus’ commitment to the cross . 1
Ironically, in a misguided attempt to directly confront the demonic, Christian people sometimes become obsessed with it. This happens when they mistakenly conclude that all—or nearly all—of the evil they perceive within themselves derives from a separate personality—Satan or a demon. There may be disastrous consequences for Christians who attribute their personal sins to exterior, demonic causes rather than taking responsibility for the evil within their own hearts (See the ATQ article, Is Demonic Deliverance Ministry Biblical?)
- “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’ ” (Matthew 16:23). But this kind of demonic influence doesn’t involve demonic possession or “inhabiting demons.” Nor does it require exorcism. Back To Article
Many modern Neopagans and other practitioners of what they call the “Old Religion” insist that they aren’t involved in black magic.
1 While they call themselves witches and use the term “witchcraft” in reference to what they do, they renounce the use of a manipulative or malevolent black magic, and they have adopted an ethic that generally fits in well with the moral values of Western culture. Outsiders find it puzzling that such groups refer to their religious practice as witchcraft even though the term has many so bad connotations.
- There is reason to question whether a clear distinction between “white” and “black” magic really exists. This will be taken up in a later article. Back To Article