The following is an excerpt from Brannon's new book, What Every Christian Should Know: Understanding and Defending Biblical Truths. For full details and to order please click here:
For most of the past century, Walt Disney productions have entertained millions of people with animated tales of magic. Since Mickey Mouse first starred in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we’ve seen the supposed wonders of the supernatural at work. It’s all meant for fun, of course, and the good guys always win.
But are there really any good guys?
When it comes to real magic, the answer is “no.” Although you may have heard a distinction between black magic—special powers used for evil—and white magic—powers used for good—both are from the demonic realm. White magic is meant to look good, but it’s not. By God’s standard, it is evil, too.
Seduced by Magic
White magic may well be more dangerous than its dark alternative because it is actually black magic camouflaged as something good. People have always been fascinated by the idea of magic. As A. W. Tozer notes, “So strong is the bent of the human heart toward magic that there has hardly been a time when the faith of Christ has not been plagued with it.”
Strange as it may seem, many people who claim to be Christians these days are fooling around with various forms of magic, Gnosticism, and mysticism, all of which derive from the occult. Many have wrapped occult practices, techniques, and messages in a veneer of Christianity by using Christian titles, terminology, and slogans.
Many within the New Age movement talk about Jesus, God, salvation, or atonement, but they’re playing with words. The New Age is nothing more than the old lie of Satan which he first tried with great success on Eve in Genesis 3:4: “You will be like God.” To people today, that means we each get to decide what is right and wrong. We can discover hidden knowledge. We decide our own truths. Some churches now even offer “Christian yoga,” yet there’s nothing Christian about it. Yoga means yoke or union with a Hindu god.
Yoga’s cousin, transcendental meditation (TM) is likewise popular, originally brought to America by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-twentieth century. Despite the popularity of drug use in the 1960s, many Americans did not want to take drugs to discover their “inner Christhood” or deity through an altered state of consciousness. As a result, the Maharishi took advantage of the opportunity to bring Hinduism to the United States. He gave yoga the more marketable name, transcendental meditation, and brought it to the West.
So, yoga is an integral part of Hinduism, a thoroughly occult-based religion, and we’re supposed to believe it can be Christianized? I don’t think so.
Christians have also gotten involved in other practices unbecoming to Christ followers. Take automatic writing, for instance. It’s the idea that you can read a verse and then sit in silence, waiting for the Lord to tell you—either audibly or “in your spirit”—a message to write down. The practice is supposed to reveal what a particular verse means.
New Age author Helen Schucman actually claims to have written a whole book through automatic writing. A Course in Miracles is acclaimed by devotees to be the ‘Bible of the New Age.’ And who is the entity that supposedly helped Schucman write her bible? She claimed it was Jesus, but no doubt any help she received was from a demon with the boldness to call himself Jesus.
So now automatic writing shows up in Christianity—even among evangelicals. Jesus Calling, one of the best-selling Christian books in the past decade, is written by Sarah Young. Although she doesn’t claim automatic writing as the source for her work, she does acknowledge the influence of God Calling, a devotional book by A. J. Russell in the 1930s. Russell, a New Age mystic, created the book by editing the journals of two unnamed women—the “two listeners”—who credited automatic writing as their source.
Although I don’t agree with everything Merrill Unger writes, he offers an insightful overview of what magic like this is all about:
Magic may be defined as the art of bringing about results beyond man’s power through the enlistment of supernatural agencies. White magic is black magic in pious masquerade. It uses, in a magic way, the name of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, along with Bible phrases and terminology, but is demonic—demonic in character. . . .
It is carried on in many so-called Christian circles. It is called white because it parades under the banner of light in contrast to black magic that openly enlists the aid of the powers of darkness.38
Despite this, many Christians involve themselves in occult practices such as Kundalini yoga. This particular “brand,” popular with some evangelical circles, manifests involuntary bodily movements supposedly induced by a connection with the Holy Spirit. In Hinduism, these are called kriyas and are actually a sign of contact with demons. I detail this in Religious Trojan Horse and show its popularity within the Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements, in particular. Similar manifestations embraced by many so-called Christians include holy laughter, barking like dogs, crawling around on all fours, and experiencing uncontrollable shaking of the head, the body, or extremities. Those who demonstrate these unbiblical manifestations believe them to be a sign that the Holy Spirit has come upon them. Unger, obviously, has warned that such a claim is not to be trusted. Even if these people attribute the manifestations to the Holy Spirit, they are actually the work of Satan, the very sort of activity we see in Hinduism and the New Age.
In my Worldview Weekend mega-resource, worldviewpedia.com, I archive video clips of false teachers like Kenneth Copeland and the late Kenneth Hagin involved in holy laughter, rolling on the floor, and being drunk in the spirit. In one, Hagin announces, “Drunk again, drunk again” as people in the audience stumble around, laughing and acting drunk, supposedly overcome by the Holy Spirit. In truth, it is a form of white magic in its typically pious masquerade.
We often see evidence of black magic around us as well. At the mall, you’ll see people in Goth outfits—black trench coats, black shirts, black makeup, and the like—and wearing occult jewelry. That’s the basis of the Gothic look. So, the influence of black magic is fairly easy to spot. Many of them are into the Wicca religion, occultism, or black magic.
White magic, on the other hand, is more difficult to address because its many forms of camouflage include hints of the truth. One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to insinuate just enough truth to attract an audience that would not be attracted to darker things. People then mistake the partial truth for the whole truth, and Satan succeeds in undermining the Gospel. It’s the sort of false teaching we see from sources like Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar.
These are outlets for selective truth. At times, I’ve turned on their television programs just to see what they’re teaching, and I’ve noted, “Well, that’s true. This guy is reading from the Bible and is actually teaching it accurately. He described that verse in context.” They offer just enough truth to build credibility with listeners. People in the audience are wooed into thinking the teachers are reliable and therefore don’t recognize when they shift into Scripture-twisting mode. Suddenly, an unwitting audience is believing things like “you need to send in your faith seed,” “apply the power of positive thinking,” “name it and claim it,” or “your words have power to create your future.”
Joel Osteen is an especially toxic example of this approach. He promotes what he calls the power of “I am.” “Look in the mirror,” he says, “and say, ‘I am.’ Tell yourself that you’re healthy, strong, and successful.” He also warns against saying bad things of yourself because if you do, those bad things will come looking for you. Yet, this is the occultism known as positive confession or shamanism. To dress it up as Christianity, Osteen uses scripture out of context (of course) and twists it to his own ends.
Christians should not be duped by such things. Scripture warns us against white magic. In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, Paul says:
Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
White magic is Satan transforming himself into an angel of light, and the consequences can be extremely serious. For instance, I suspect that Moroni, the angel who allegedly appeared to Joseph Smith and gave him the tablets which Smith “translated” into the Book of Mormon, was a Satanic angel of light. It started one of the largest modern-day cults, the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I believe the same is true of many cult leaders today. They think they’ve encountered an angel when, in fact, they are involved with a demon.
Unfortunately, this is not just a television phenomenon. Chances are there are one or more “churches” in your community that are packed on Sunday morning. One might even be the biggest church in town. The pastor, though, is not really a minister of God. He’s preaching a false Gospel, and the implications for the church leader and his congregation are bleak. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). People are either believers and in the camp of God, or they are in the camp of Satan. So, many “pastors” are not true pastors; they’re hirelings (John 10:12). And as 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 says, their “end will be according to their works.” Those who masquerade as ministers of righteousness really work for Satan.
Scripture records a revealing story of white magic at work. Look at Acts 16:16-18:
Now it happened, as we went to pray, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.
Divination is another word for magic and is also an occult practice. Any time you see the word divination, you’re talking about something that deals with the occult.
The slave girl in this story apparently is able to reveal information, like a fortune teller, that supposedly comes from the spirit world. Her owners sold her divination services and made a lot of money. They certainly didn’t care about her soul. They were interested only in the money. The demon speaking through her did as so many false teachers do today. It laced its comments with just enough truth to be convincing. “These men are the servants of the Most High,” it announced, “who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” That is, after all, exactly what Paul and his companions were doing. Yet the demon had a seriously ulterior motive. It was using the girl to infiltrate the group of believers. And isn’t that what goes on today? Demonically inspired false teachers infiltrate the Church, speaking just enough truth to build credibility and attract an audience.
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