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What Luther Says

Why Are So Many Christians Interested In Mediums Or Psychics?

I remember when my grandma died back in 1994 that my mom turned to the writings of best-selling author and psychic, Sylvia Browne, who was also popularized by TV Talk Show Host, Montel Williams, for comfort and grief counseling after losing her mom.

As a non-Christian at the time, she welcomed with open arms anything and everything that made her pain and suffering go away even if it was temporary and even if the apparent "answers" were nothing but a mix of deception, half-truths, and lies that helped her get through those dark days.

Looking back, I don't know how we missed the glaring fact that it was a non-Christian who wrote a book about the Christian reality of life-after-death and heaven. Then again, we weren't really Christians at the time either so I get it.

What about Christians today though? Why are so many Christians interested in "mediums" or psychics? I like how one Christian blogger put it...

We can group the subjects of ghosts, “spirits,” and spiritualism into a broad category known as the occult or occultism. This word refers to anything involving supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs or practices. It should not be confused with “cults,” which is what we call sects of religious followers that fall outside orthodox (historic) Christianity. The origin of both words is in that which is discerned by secret, ritual practice. 
Part of the lure of both occultism and cults is one’s initiation into mystical, exclusive knowledge unknown by society at large. At its core, the danger of such practices stems from their isolation from the unified revelation we have from God through His Word, the Bible.

Why are so many Christians interested in "mediums" or psychics? Probably for the same reason that anyone is. The "Old Adam" within is desperate to feel in control in this life and if consulting with a so-called professional who claims to know the future can make someone feel "in control" even in the smallest areas of life, then perhaps that's enough for some people.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that God is crystal clear about our involvement with those who claim to know the future by consulting with the spiritual realm...

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (ESV) When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV) The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Leviticus 19:31 (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 20:6 (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 20:27 (ESV) A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 John 4:1 (ESV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Revelation 21:8 (ESV) But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death

There are many more Bible verses that I could've included in the above list, but that should be sufficient for our purposes here today.

We cannot  --  and should not  --  pursue certain knowledge beyond what He Himself reveals to us. This doesn't mean we shouldn’t strive to uncover new information about the physical, visible universe He created. But it’s the deeper truths about the supernatural world which we should limit to that which He has imparted by special revelation.

And yet, I'm sorry to say that I know too many Christians who consider visiting a medium/psychic as just a "harmless" form of entertainment.

I thought about this topic today after reading a section in the excellent book titled "The House Swept Clean: A Biblically Balanced Pattern For The Diagnosis, Exorcism, And Pastoral Care Of The Victims Of Demonic Possession" by Pastor Darrell Arthur McCulley.

"Demons can also give information. Many psychics have made their livings this way for thousands of years thanks to demons. Paul encountered one in Philippi: Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.  
Demons feed their human 'host' information which makes them look like they're in communication with the dead. Often when a grieving person has been to a necromancer (one who claims to be able to speak with the dead) they are given information of a very personal and specific nature. A great example of this is John Edward, a very convincing psychic whose show Crossing Over with John Edward appears on the Sci-Fi Network. Edward gives incredibly precise information which is far and away superior to the blunt, generalized 'fishing' answers many fake psychics use. This man, however, comes across as a very stable, average Joe with no freaky characteristics. He does not dress in sequins or have a funny accent (his hometown of Queens, NY notwithstanding.) He is very charming and sincere. And almost always right. Instead of a general question such as 'you were thinking of your father today, weren't you?' that a lesser or fake psychic might use, Edward will get extremely specific. He once asked a member of the gallery watching his show if she had considered bringing a body part of the dead person with whom she was hoping to make contact, but changed her mind. Flabbergasted, she reported that she and her mother had debated bringing the tooth of the person to the studio but decided it would not be appropriate. This kind of specificity is a clear indication that at least some of the information Edward gets is genuinely from a supernatural source. 
There is little which is more damaging to the cause of Jesus Christ than this man and the type of things he does. He makes the Occult look convincing, accurate, respectable, and reasonable. Now if the woman who experienced the 'tooth' episode, for example, looks in her Bible and sees the words of Job: As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave does not return. He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more. she might conclude that in this one small thing the Bible is just plain wrong. Consciously she may think that it's no big deal, but the seed is planted and the damage done. Once the Bible is 'just plain wrong' in one thing, a thinking person will realize that the rest of it is not guaranteed to be true. If it can't be trusted in Job about what people can and can't do after they die, then why should we trust Jesus when He says He can raise us from the dead? If I can come back as a spirit, why do I even need a body or a resurrection? From one tiny thread, a person's faith in Christ can unravel. It might never become woven at all. 
This is all the more distressing when one considers that these people listening to John Edward and his ilk never ask the question: 'Just because the information I get from him is true, does that mean those giving him the information are who they claim to be?' Why do people assume that the source from which Edward gets his information is telling the truth? Once they accept that such knowledge is given to the 'reader,' they buy the rest of the reader's shpeel hook, line, and sinker. But any good lawyer (or parent of a teenager, for that matter) will tell you that just because a witness answers one question truthfully is no proof that they will answer all of them truthfully. Accepting the psychic's claims as to the source of information just because that information is accurate or convincing is foolish. For years after my grandfather passed away in 1973, I received mail from my grandmother with his return address labels on it. This fact was something that I and grandma knew, but my mailman could not have known. Should I then have assumed that when the mailman said, 'Looks like you got a letter from your grandpa,' he was right just because he correctly delivered it to me? Of course not. Yet it is exactly this type of leap of assumption that believers in genuine psychics make all the time. 
Sometimes people are impressed because the information they get is so accurate and they think it's unknowable by anyone on the outside. Some people say, 'John could never have known which song my papa used to sing to me as a child; only papa could have known that!' Well, on the first statement they might be right, assuming that Edward is a genuine necromancer and not a talented fraud. However, the last part of their thought might not he right. Even assuming that no other human could have known the fact a necromancer gave them, this does not rule out that a spirit might not have been watching. Many people believe in guardian angels that watch over them all their lives. If this is true, then maybe these angels would know these intimate and special details of their lives. It is not a leap of faith to think that a 'guardian demon' (such as in C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters) or other spiritual involvement might not provide information to evil spirits for the very purpose of discrediting God and His Word. 
Another question that never seems to be asked about some of this information is, 'What's the big deal about that?' By this I mean that some of the exchange between 'this world and the next' may be fascinating in its presentation, but beyond that really is not very impressive. For example, a genuine psychic could sit for hours telling some poor sucker every detail of his or her life, causing both a raising of the person's interest and a lightening of their wallet. But people enthralled with the presentation of modern-day psychics rarely ask the question, 'So what?' All the spirit has done, even if it is real, is tell the person something they already know. 'Predicting the Past,' which is often the bread-and-butter of genuine psychics, is (from a miraculous point of view) a no-brainer. If these so-called deceased friends and relatives want to show their love and give special guidance from the Great Beyond, they haven't really accomplished much by telling the subject all about his childhood. He was there, after all; they've given him nothing he didn't already have. Ditto with telling people of their lives in the present. Big deal; if it could talk, they could get the same information out of their house cat. The only thing of interest here is the source of information, not its content. If these spirits could say with equally detailed accuracy who will win the third race at Golden Gate Park, it would be more impressive-slightly. Even then all the spirit is doing is giving the same educated guess that any skilled elderly alcoholic bookie with 30 years experience could give them. A Christian is entitled to be unimpressed by such 'psychic predictions.' Our God made dozens of prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah. Where He would be born, to whom, how it would happen, what He would do and not do, and how He would die and rise from the dead. 
When a demon can match that, a Christian can be impressed. But if it can only tell of one's childhood or past, or what one is doing in the present, what's the big accomplishment? 
-- Pages 38-41

Hopefully, that helps to frame this subject in a more Biblical light for you, especially if you're someone who's inclined to think that playing around with such things as a Christian is "no big deal" in the grand scheme of things.

The same Christian blogger I referenced earlier digs a litter deeper...

One of the best known examples is the deposed King Saul’s attempt to contact the deceased prophet, Samuel, in 1 Samuel 28. Saul could not understand why the Philistines were gaining such an advantage over the Israelites. God had not fulfilled his desire for further information. It’s at this point that the truly God-fearing person rests in God’s sovereignty and trusts Him despite being uninformed. But Saul, who had lost his kingship because of repeated rebellion against God, wasn’t satisfied that three God-ordained sources of revelation had not answered his questions. 
So Saul sought the help of a medium — a channeler of spirits — against the already-clear commands of God (Dt. 18:10). Read 1 Sam. 28 to learn that this alleged spirit of Samuel mostly recounted information Saul already knew, but also accurately predicted Saul’s defeat and death in battle that would take place the next day. 
One New Testament reference provides a sufficient response to occultism. Galatians 5 teaches Christ has set believers free from the bondage of fleshly habits and desires. Verses 19–21 list many such fleshly practices, including “sorcery.” The Greek word behind this is “pharmakeia,” from which we have the English word “pharmacy.” Through the use of mind-altering potions and medicines ancient sorcerers induced themselves and others into altered states of consciousness, in which they communicated with spirits to gain special knowledge. 
Probably the most thorough lexicon of ancient Greek, Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, repeatedly ties the word “pharmakeia” and its different forms to the seduction and deception that Satan and his demons work upon people to lure them away from God and His saving truth. Paul wanted believers to have nothing whatsoever to do with sorcery because it opened people up to deception that would lead them away from Christ and ultimately to eternal hell. Instead, believers should place their full trust in the knowledge God has given us through His Word and leave the rest in His perfect care. 
Yes, ghosts and mediums are real. They are real manifestations of demonic influence in the world, designed to trick people into false belief systems set up against the knowledge of God. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4–5 that biblical truth is a weapon we use to tear down such false knowledge. Our responsibility as Christians is to avoid the lure of occultism, and lovingly guide others away from it, knowing that people’s eternal destinies are at stake.

This is most certainly true.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Christians interested in mediums or psychics should know that God has issued grave warnings to us about consulting them and engaging in such practices, and so if that's you, then please repent of your sins and turn from such demonic wickedness before you are led so far away from the Lord and the truth that you suffer eternal consequences.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 6 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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