Tag Archives: witchcraft

What Does the Bible Say About Witchcraft?

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

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (12 votes, average: 3.92 out of 5)
Loading...

Do the Harry Potter Books Promote Witchcraft?

The question is important. No one can deny that Harry Potter has taken the world by storm. Children are reading again. British author J. K. Rowling has captured the imagination of millions with gripping, well-written stories about a childhood hero who engages the forces of evil with his own magical powers.

Many parents are concerned especially because of the Bible’s strong condemnation of witchcraft, sorcery, and magical arts ( Jeremiah 27:9; Revelation 21:8, 15 ). Many wonder whether Harry Potter, innocent as he seems, might contribute to an acceptance of more dangerous kinds of sorcery lurking in the shadows of postmodern culture. An answer to this concern needs to be balanced between the warnings of Scripture and the legitimate use of creative imagination in fiction.

Witchcraft approaches the supernatural as a means of providing a substitute for dependence upon the one true God. The pursuit of witchcraft therefore involves a moral decision to turn away from and against God—something that seems contrary to the main thrust of the Potter series.

Like most of the things in our popular culture, the Harry Potter books contain potentially dangerous elements. But their popularity is at least partially attributable to the fact that there are many things about them that are good. Further, their popularity means that they are part of our cultural environment—whether we like it or not.

In a secularized world, believers should pick their battles carefully. In most cases, it would probably be better for Christians to be familiar with the Potter series, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, than to think they can keep their children—or others–from reading it or being interested in it. If we are familiar with these books, we can help the children we influence see their possible dangers, and use them as a means to lead unbelievers towards a Christian worldview.

With that precaution in mind, it is important to realize that the magic described in the Harry Potter books is not real. This is apparent to any adult or child who reads them. Broomsticks really don’t fly, and wands and spells with magical powers don’t exist. The fact that they do in this engaging fantasy is no more likely to make a child or adult reader believe in real magic than reading about Peter Pan would generate belief in magical pixie dust. Children who read about Aladdin and his magic lamp don’t usually end up believing in genies. Neither do Grimm’s fairy tales generally make kids believe that princes can really be transformed into frogs, that trolls lurk under bridges, or that cannibalistic witches live in marzipan houses in dark forests.

The magical world author J. K. Rowling constructs isn’t dependent on gods, demons, or other occult powers. The fantasy world Harry has entered is one of magical “science,” resembling the world our ancestors might have thought possible before alchemy, astrology, and other medieval “sciences” turned out to be scientific dead ends.1 It brings the reader back to the mindset of a less sophisticated time when technology and magic were not clearly separated. It uses folk beliefs and legends to entertain us and engage our imaginations, but it never suggests that Harry’s world is real or accessible.

Although clearly fantasy, the adventures of Harry Potter do put sorcerers and witches in a positive light. These positive portrayals could possibly encourage a belief that there are some forms of real-world sorcery that are OK. This is why we need to use these books as an opportunity to educate children about the difference between fantasy and occultism.

The supernatural in Harry’s world doesn’t seem designed to mislead the unwary into witchcraft and the occult, but to awaken readers to the non-material and spiritual aspects of their own lives. As in real life, in Harry’s world things often aren’t as they appear to be. The seemingly harmless sometimes conceals something deadly, and apparent coincidences may turn out to be important events that are part of a significant turn in life’s journey. Harry’s world makes the reader vividly aware of an underlying cosmic struggle between good and evil. These books have depth, and that is part of the reason so many readers find them delightful and emotionally gripping.

When fully perceived, real life has supernatural dimensions that make any fantasy world superficial. Life is stranger than fiction. Good fantasy makes us aware of those supernatural dimensions. Bad fantasy either deludes us (if we willfully use it as a means of circumventing a reality we can’t face) or bores us.

As with all good secular literature, Christian readers are responsible to mine its content using tools forged by their own Christian worldview. When we read secular literature, we should keep in mind Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.

The real world is marked by sin and the curse, but the Scriptures call us, in the pattern set by our Lord Jesus Christ, to use the opportunities that the world offers us to witness to the truth. Certainly, good secular writers challenge Christian thinking and require us to grapple with issues we may not have otherwise understood. Faith in Christ, however, is based on a God who is the author and source of all truth and beauty. Christians are in a position to evaluate and learn from secular artists—like J. K Rowling—without paranoia or fear.

  1. As Professor Alan Jacobs explained in his fine article on the Harry Potter series in First Things, the sharp distinction that now exists between the “magical” and the “technological” (or “scientific”) hadn’t yet been established at the time of the Reformation. Our Christian ancestors thought that many things that are now considered superstitious and magical were legitimate ways to unlock and utilize the power concealed in nature. Jacobs points out that Calvinists were drawn to astrology because their emphasis upon the doctrine of election fascinated them with the possibility (considered legitimate in their age) of discerning God’s plans in the stars. Even the great physicist and mathematician, Isaac Newton, a professing Christian, was fascinated with alchemy. Back To Article
Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (14 votes, average: 3.36 out of 5)
Loading...

What Is Witchcraft?

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines witchcraft as:

The human exercise of alleged supernatural powers for antisocial, evil purposes (so-called black magic). A female held to have such powers may be called a witch or sorceress, the male counterpart being named wizard, sorcerer, or warlock. Belief in witchcraft survives in modern technologically developed cultures and remains a potent factor in most nonliterate societies.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines witchcraft in the following way:

a. an act or instance of employing sorcery especially with malevolent intent: a magical rite or technique; b. the exercise of supernatural powers: alleged intercourse with the devil or with a familiar.

and the Colliers Encyclopedia states:

Witchcraft may be defined for general purposes as the use of supposed supernatural power for antisocial ends. In primitive societies where magic is an accepted part of religious ritual, the witch is the unauthorized, and especially the malevolent, practitioner.

Notice that these works refer to witchcraft as the use of sorcery and supernatural power for malevolent intent. Witchcraft of this type exists in nearly every cultural setting. This judgment isn’t merely the conclusion of “Christian culture.” Historian Jeffrey B. Russell, who is not at all hostile toward modern Neopaganism, states:

Folk tales, like dreams, express the concerns of the unconscious in symbols; the meaning of the figure of the witch, like the meaning of any symbol, varies with the story. Usually, however, she represents an elemental natural force possessing enormous and unexpected powers against which a natural person is unable to prepare or defend himself, a force not necessarily evil, but so alien and remote from the world of mankind as to constitute a threat to the social ethical, and even physical order of the cosmos. This manner of portraying the witch is very ancient and probably archetypal. This witch is neither a simple sorceress, nor a demonolater, nor a pagan. She is a hostile presence from another world. The gut terror inspired by this archetypal witch helps to explain the excesses of hatred and fear that welled up during the witch craze.

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)
Loading...

Do Witches Always Practice Black Magic?

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.

  1. 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
Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading...

Can Christians Be Hurt by Witchcraft or Black Magic?

God is the Creator and Master of the natural world. Satan is only the master of illusion. He deals in hallucination and deceit. Any limited powers over nature he may possess are entirely circumscribed by God, but he can control susceptible minds. People in Satan’s power are obsessed and hypnotized by evil. The source of black magic’s power is fear. Academic writers have documented the life and death power of pagan magic over people who believe in it.

Dr. Herbert Basedow (1925), in his book, The Australian Aboriginal, has presented a vivid picture of the first horrifying effect of bone pointing on the ignorant, superstitious and credulous natives, and the later more calm acceptance of their mortal fate: The man who discovers that he is being boned by any enemy is, indeed, a pitiable sight. He stands aghast, with his eyes staring at the treacherous pointer, and with his hands lifted as though to ward off the lethal medium, which he imagines is pouring into his body. His cheeks blanch and his eyes become glassy and the expression of his face becomes horribly distorted. . . . He attempts to shriek but usually the sound chokes in his throat, and all that one might see is froth at his mouth. His body begins to tremble and the muscles twist involuntarily. He sways backwards and falls to the ground, and after a short time appears to be in a swoon; but soon after he writhes as if in mortal agony, and, covering his face with his hands, begins to moan.

After a while he becomes very composed and crawls to his wurley. From this time onwards he sickens and frets, refusing to eat and keeping aloof from the daily affairs of the tribe. Unless help is forthcoming in the shape of a countercharm administered by the hands of the Nangarri, or medicine-man, his death is only a matter of a comparatively short time (Walter B. Cannon, “Voodoo Death,” American Anthropologist, vol. 33, 1942).

Another anthropologist described the circumstances in which superstitious fear can take hold:

In “Voodoo Death” (Cannon 1972 [1942]) a person violates a taboo, such as walking on sacred ground, [or] eating a forbidden fruit, and, shortly after discovering that a taboo has been violated, the person is dead. The closely related phenomenon of “hex” death (Seligman 1975, p. 1977) occurs when a person learns that they have been cursed by someone with the appropriate technical knowledge and supernatural authority. As in the case of voodoo death, hex death kills within hours or days. While such deaths exhibit a fairly standard set of physical symptoms, they cannot be attributed to external agents such as poisons or bacteria nor to externally induced physical trauma. The death is psychosomatic.

A person who violates a taboo has broken the deepest rules of their culture and thereby is thrust outside the protective web of memes and traits which give meaning and structure to the world. The person who is cursed believes that someone else has severed the link between their soul and the cultural forms and practices in which that soul lives its life. Such people are in a situation where, in effect, they see no hope of ever again satisfying their higher reference levels. They are cut off from their culture. That kills them as surely as being cut off from food or water (William Benzon, Culture as an Evolutionary Arena).

In spite of the power pagan sorcerers and witch doctors hold over people who accept their authority, Christian missionaries confront “powerful” witch doctors with immunity to curses and black magic. I personally recall a confrontation between a Christian missionary in Haiti and several witch doctors at a famous voodoo shrine, the missionary laughing at their threats while ripping their inverted cross fetishes out of the ground and throwing them into a nearby lagoon. On another occasion, a voodoo houngan actually placed a curse on a son of this missionary, only to die himself in the time frame he had set for the death of the boy. Another witch doctor cursed the womb of a woman newly converted to Christianity. When she became pregnant, she fled to the mission compound and lived there for several months out of fear for her baby. Concerned for her feelings, but realizing that she was giving in to her fear, the missionaries helped her understand that the witch doctor’s curse had no power over a believer indwelt with the Holy Spirit’s power. She moved back home, and in a few months delivered a healthy baby boy.1The Bible describes the awesome power of the Creator (Genesis 1; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 8:3-4; Proverbs 8:29; Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 44:24-28), a power that instantly brought the material world into existence and is equally capable of instantly destroying it. The feeble magic of demons and sorcerers can no more thwart such boundless power than a grain of sand can stop a tsunami or a drop of rain the eruption of a volcano.

Obedient people empowered by God’s blessing and immersed in His favor are impervious to Satan’s power. A loyal child of the Creator stands in the power of the Creator (Genesis 15:1; Proverbs 18:10; Ephesians 6:16).

Since vulnerability to black magic is rooted in fear and lack of trust, Christians can count on God’s protection when they submit to His authority. But if they actively suppress or ignore God’s moral law for selfish purposes, they enter the realm of the demonic and become vulnerable to its power. If they live a gangster’s lifestyle, they become vulnerable to its dangers.  If they live by Satan’s code, they become subject to its rules. Sin and rebellion feed and magnify fear. Trust in God is manifested by a willingness to resist sin.

Christians should also keep guard over their imaginations, thinking of the admonitions of Paul and James:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8)

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

If we don’t put our trust in God, we may become more and more obsessed with Satan. In the Middle Ages, imaginations obsessed with Satan’s power led to the witch craze, causing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be tortured and killed. The witch craze was the consequence of people becoming so obsessed with satanic power that they viewed the normal tragedies of a fallen world as the result of black magic. (See the ATQ article, Did Church Authorities Seek to Eradicate Paganism in Europe by Killing Millions of “Witches”?)

Once a person has accepted the authority of Jesus Christ, he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within (John 14:16-17). All of us are susceptible to the temptations and trials of the “world, flesh, and devil.” However, the Creator God loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and will protect us if we are willing to trust Him enough to do right. The focus of spiritual warfare in a Christian’s life needs to be his own sinful nature and desires. We don’t need any rituals or charms to protect us. Just a simple prayer for protection, and willingness to acknowledge and forsake any conscious sin is enough.2

  1. This baby boy went on to be raised by his Christian parents, attended mission schools and college, and now is an accountant. This family’s courage to resist Satan’s lies made it possible for their family to be lifted out of the most extreme poverty and spiritual darkness to new horizons of spiritual and material hope. Back To Article
  2. Using the metaphor of a well-equipped Roman soldier, Paul told us how we could be prepared for spiritual warfare. We are to put on the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:11-18), which includes:
    • The belt of truth. Since Satan depends on deceit to maintain his power, our first line of defense is always truth. We must never distort or misrepresent the truth, regardless of any advantage we might gain by doing so.
    • The breastplate of righteousness. Any sin in our life leaves us open to Satan’s attack. Even though we are given the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), we must still continually put on the protection of holy living.
    • The shoes of the gospel of peace. With our feet firmly planted on the truth that we are at peace with God and that He is on our side, we can stand firmly against Satan’s attacks.
    • The shield of faith. In order to quench the “fiery darts” of Satan’s temptations, we must trust and believe what God has said about every area of our life.
    • The helmet of salvation. This is the confidence that there is coming in the future a great victory celebration. It is also referred to as the “hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). This helmet protects us against Satan’s missiles of discouragement and doubt.
    • The sword of the Spirit. Since the Word of God is the basis of our faith, we need to learn how to wield it with authority. Scripture is our best offensive weapon against the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12).

    After he described the various elements of the armor, Paul said that we are to be in constant prayer. Prayer expresses our dependence on God. We can fight against Satan only “in the [strength of] the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). In the power of Christ and with the armor of the Spirit, we will be victors. Back To Article

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (156 votes, average: 4.09 out of 5)
Loading...