Mayor Gerardo Balmori
The Salvation Army
Definition of the term occult:
The definition is very broad. It includes everything from the most blatant Satan worship to the
most commonly accepted use of horoscopes. As examples I would mention séances, necromancy,
and all forms of communicating with the dead, and all forms of supra-natural psychic phenomena,
real magic (as opposed to simple sleight-of-hand tricks), fortune telling, the casting of spells,
wearing of charms, the use of ouija boards, astrology, etc. What I would like to show you is first,
that the Scripture forbids God's people to be involved in these practices, second, why this is so, and
third, what our positive alternative should be.
I. Scripture forbids God's people to be involved in these practices.
In Deuteronomy 18:9-12 Moses addresses the people just before they cross the Jordan River to
enter the Promised Land and drive out the pagan nations. READ Deuteronomy 18:9-12
Moses mentions eight spiritist activities: divination, soothsaying, augury, and sorcery, the use of
charms, mediums, wizardry, or necromancy. These are not clearly distinct activities; they overlap
and are sometimes used interchangeably. What they have in common is that they all involve
efforts to obtain knowledge which is ordinarily hidden, and the means of attaining it is through
dealings with the spirit world or with mysterious supra-natural forces.
There is something else these eight activities have in common. The knowledge sought is not out of
idle curiosity but out of a desire to exert some power over people or events.
Now what does Moses say about such activities? First, in verse 9 he calls them "abominations."
This means that God regards them as detestable, abhorrent, and loathsome. It is a very strong
word. We will do well to ask ourselves whether some seemingly innocent activity we are engaged
in may be an abomination in the eyes of God. Second, according to verse 12 the persons who do
such things are an abomination to the Lord. Not merely the activity but also the persons become
abominable in God's eyes. It is an unbiblical sentiment which says, "God only hates the sin, never
the sinner." When a person gives himself over to will, to delight in, and to follow abominable
practices he makes himself abominable in the eyes of God. Of course, this does not put a person
beyond the reach of God's love. The glory of divine love is that it reaches out to justify and to
sanctify precisely those whom God abominates because of their sin. According to verse 12, the
Lord dispossesses and destroys those who practice these things.
The word "Deuteronomy" means "second law." It is a restatement and expansion of what had been
laid down by God at Mount Sinai. So it is no surprise to find in Leviticus commands like these:
"You shall not practice augury or soothsaying" (19:26), "Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do
not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God" (19:31), "If a person turns to
mediums and wizards, playing the harlot after them, I will set my face against that person, and will
cut him off from among his people" (20:6).
If we turn to the New Testament we find nothing to change this divine rejection of the occult. On
the contrary the rejection is confirmed. For example, in Acts 19:19, Galatians 5:20, Revelation 21:8
II. Why God is so opposed to our participation in the occult?
One of the reasons is because it puts down God and exalts man. Or to put it another way, the
occult is simply a continuation of the ancient satanic deception in Genesis 3:5; "Go beyond what
God has appointed and you shall become like God." All forms of the occult present us with a
similar temptation: will we act like humble children of the heavenly Father and submit to God's
wisdom in limiting our knowledge and power, or will we, like Adam and Eve, hanker for the fruit
that can make us "wise" and for the power that belongs to God? Will we belittle God and exalt
ourselves or will we humble ourselves and exalt God by being content with his revelation and his
use of power on our behalf?
Let's begin again with our text in Deuteronomy 18. In verses 15-19 God promises to rise up a
prophet from among the people like Moses. The apostles saw the final and decisive fulfillment of
this prophecy in Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-23). He was the final great prophet like Moses. The point
of this prophecy in Deuteronomy 18 is that God has appointed a Revealer of his will and no other
medium of revelation should be sought. In verse 14 Moses says, "These nations, which you are
about to dispossess, give heed to soothsayers and to diviners." Then in verse 15 he gives God's
alternative: "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet ... him you shall heed." Then he
adds in verse 19, "Whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I
myself will require it of him." God has appointed for himself a Revealer of that which he desires to
be known, and when we turn from or go beyond that Revealer and consult other mediums we
belittle God and exalt ourselves. We devalue the revelation of Jesus Christ and take to ourselves
the prerogatives of deity. No one who loves Jesus Christ and orients all of his life around the
revelation of Jesus can turn to the occult for knowledge or power.
No matter how innocent the practices of the occult seem at first, they are all dimensions of the one
rebellion that has been underway since the Garden of Eden: the aim to avoid at all costs childlike
submission to the limitations and provisions of a sovereign God, and to get instead a power which
can be called great. Man in the occult is man in rebellion.
III. What is the positive Christian alternative to the occult?
The answer is one and the same everywhere in the New Testament: This is the victory that
overcomes the world, our faith. Over against all the allurements of the occult stands Jesus Christ,
the embodiment of all God's revelation. Faith takes its stand on the sufficiency of this revelation
and seeks no other secret knowledge. Faith lays itself open to the power of God through Jesus
Christ alone and seeks no other psychic or spiritual power. Faith cleaves to Jesus, loves Jesus,
adores Jesus, trusts Jesus, extols the all-sufficiency of Jesus and shuns, in all her many garments,
the temptress of the occult.