What does the Bible say about Spiritism and the Occult? By Jack Kettler
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical, and commentary evidence for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. In this study, we will look at two closely related topics, Spiritism and the Occult the Scriptural warnings to avoid such practices.
What is Spiritism?
The Bible clearly forbids Spiritism. God’s people are to make no attempt to contact spirits. Séances and necromancy are occult activities forbidden by God (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Galatians 5:20; 2Chronicles 33:6). The fact that Spiritism places the occult under a veil of “science” makes no difference. The Bible tells us that the spirit world is off-limits to us, for our own protection. The spirits with which Spiritism has to do are not human; the Bible says that the spirits of men face judgment after death (Hebrews 9:27), and there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that spirits return to the land of the living for any reason or in any form. We know that Satan is a deceiver (John 8:44). *
What is the Occult?
Occult means, “hidden.” It covers practices that are not approved of by God e.g., astrology (Isaiah 47:13), casting spells (Deuteronomy 18:11), consulting with spirits (Deuteronomy 18:11), magic (Genesis 41:8), sorcery (Exodus 22:8), witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10), and Spiritism (Deuteronomy 18:11). Occult practices such as Ouija boards, tarot cards, astrology charts, contacting the dead, séances, etc. are to be avoided by the Christian and Jews alike. **
A selected list of Scriptures relevant to both subjects:
“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18 ESV)
“If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” (Leviticus 20:6 ESV)
“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit [a medium or a necromancer], or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:27)
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-11)
“And he [Manasseh] caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.” (2Chronicles 33:6)
“And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20 ESV)
“That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish.” (Isaiah 44:25)
“And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.’ (Acts 19:19 ESV)
“Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies.” (Galatians 5:20)
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5:8)
C. S. Lewis wrote, “The Screwtape Letters,” which contain the dialogues between the demons “Wormwood” the nephew of “Screwtape” his uncle demon. In the preface, we learn there are two equal and opposite errors, and we can fall into concerning devils and demons. One is to doubt their existence, which is what usually happens in the modern world influenced by rationalism. The other is to have an unnecessary interest in them influenced by the New Age movement. The devil made me do it is a cop-out. In contrast, to deny the reality of Satan and his minions is dangerous in light of 1Peter 5:8.
Consulting with spirit mediums, spiritists, practicing witchcraft, astrology, and magic are sinful rejections of God. Oprah Winfrey says to “find your own spirit.” Oprah’s idea is a contemporary example of a dangerous call to find a spirit medium. In the modern world, these so-called dark arts come in seemingly respectable scientific settings. They are to be avoided nonetheless.
Moreover, these above practices warranted the death penalty in the Older Covenant economy of Israel. Today the church does not wield the power of the sword. However, the church can excommunicate members found practicing these dark arts.
“Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit* that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.” (1Samuel 28:7)
* Brown-Driver-Briggs on familiar spirit:
אוֺב noun masculine Job 32:19 skin-bottle, necromancer, etc. — absolute ׳א Leviticus 20:27 8t.; plural אֹבוֺת Leviticus 19:31 7t. —
1 skin-bottle, only plural אֹבוֺת חֲדָשִׁים new (wine-) skins Job 32:19.
2 necromancer, in phrase אוֺב אוֺ יִדְּעֹנִי necromancer or wizard Leviticus 20:27 (H; usually translated ‘a man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit or that is a wizard’ RV; but better a man or a woman, if there should be among them, a necromancer or wizard; no sufficient reason for exceptional use of phrase here); וְיִדְּעֹנִי ׳א Deuteronomy 18:11; 2Chronicles 33:6 = 2 Kings 21:6 (where וידענים ׳א); הָאֹבוֺת וְהַיִּדְּעֹנִים Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6 (H) 1 Samuel 28:3,9; 2 Kings 23:24; Isaiah 8:19 (where repres. as chirping & muttering, in practice of their art of seeking dead for instruction, probably ventriloquism, & so ᵐ5) Isaiah 19:3.
3 ghost, Isaiah 29:4 וְהָיָה כְּאוֺב מֵאֶרֶץ קוֺלֵח וּמֵעָפָר אִמְרָתֵח תְּצַפְצֵף and thy voice shall be as a ghost from the ground and from the dust thy speech shall chirp (so Ge MV Ew De Che and others, but chirping might be of necromancer, as Isaiah 8:19).
4 necromancy אֵשֶׁת בַּעֲלַתאֿוֺב a woman who was mistress of necromancy 1Samuel 28:7 (twice in verse); (> RSJPh xiv, 127 f makes אוֺב primarily a subterranean spirit, and significant. 2 only an abbreviation of ׳בעלתא etc.); קסם בּאוֺב divine by necromancy 1Samuel 28:8, which seems to be interpretation of 1Chronicles 10:13 ׳שׁאל בא inquire by necromancy. (In these three examples אוֺב is usually interpreted as ghost or familiar spirit conceived as dwelling in necromancer; but this apparently not the ancient conception.)
The result of Saul’s sin:
“Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?” (1Samuel 28:16)
Saul and the Witch of Endor by R. Bickersteth, D. D.
Then said Saul to his servants, Seek me a woman that has a familiar spirit that I may go to her, and inquire of her…
At this period to which the text relates Saul was in great perplexity, owing to the want of someone through whom to obtain counsel from God. The affairs of Israel were at this time in a critical state. Their ancient adversaries, the Philistines, were mustering their forces. The moral degeneracy of Israel served to embolden the enemy. Let us now endeavour to point out some of the practical lessons, which this remarkable narrative suggests.
1. The history forcibly teaches the solemn truth, that a man’s day of grace is by no means invariably co-extensive with his life on earth. It is evident that at least for a time before Saul perished he was left to eat of the fruit of his own way, and to be filled with his own devices. The Spirit departed from him, and at the same time, the Spirit of evil entered in and took full possession of him. After this, there were no further means to be tried for his conversion. The king had outlived his time of opportunity, and God was departed from him. Saul’s day of grace had then terminated; and, whilst you notice this, observe also the steps which led to this consummation: they were a progressive series of resistances offered to God’s Spirit — repeated acts of provocation, the repetition of refusals to hearken and to obey. There are numbers who are emboldened in a course of irreligion from the impression that it will be easy at some future time to turn and repent, and undergo the indispensable change, without which they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. On this account, it becomes more necessary to repeat the warning that the season for turning to the Lord may pass away, never to return, even before the stroke of death ushers the soul to its everlasting portion.
2. Again, the history before us is instructive as pointing out what act it was on the part of Saul, which challenged his final and immediate punishment. From the narrative, it appears it was the sin of witchcraft. But the peculiarity lies in this, that it was a sin which Saul had professedly abandoned, and against which he had proclaimed open war. Can we err in concluding from hence that sin is then more especially hateful to God when practised by one who knows its nature and has once deliberately purposed to forsake it? To fall back to the indulgence of a sin, which you have once resolved to renounce is a sure way to provoke the heavy displeasure of God.
3. The narrative is full of instruction as to the folly of expecting conversion by miracle when it is not effected by ordinary means. The reappearance of Samuel availed nothing for Saul’s conversion. The reanimated Prophet could not guide the man who had abandoned the guidance of God’s own Spirit. Be not deceived to suppose that if unconverted by what God is doing for you now, you would be converted by any supernatural agency. Your conversion is possible now. It is the province of the Holy Ghost to effect it. Use the means you have. God will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask. (R. Bickersteth, D. D. The Biblical Illustrator, Electronic Database).
“So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.” (1Chronicles 10:13 ESV)
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:31 ESV)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/
** CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html