In Part I I tried to outline the fundamental ideas behind occultism from the Bible’s perspective. Now the occult by definition is secretive and it is sometimes hard to identify practitioners, especially when they masquerade as believers. With the format I presented in the first part I want to show some of its out workings if it finds its way into the Church.
First of all, the Gospel is central to Christian theology. Anyone who does not hold to our worldview would have a theology contradictory to the Gospel. Now if these contradictory theologies somehow broadly intersects with the general outline of the occult which I have previously demonstrated, certain conclusions can be made.
- It is something other than Christian.
- It resembles the occult.
- (Based on the previous observations) it is most likely occultism.
Basically, with the Gospel as our standard we compare and contrast. If it does not conform to the standard we reject it.
When there is occult influence, or any external influence for that matter, Christian theology is subtly reconfigured to accept foreign worldviews. For example Colossians says we are in Christ who is the head of all kinds of authorities and powers (Colossians 2:9-10.) A synthetic reinterpretation could be the Christian has control over occult forces and therefore he can use them against the forces of darkness. In polytheism spirits, through magical means, can be controlled by humans. This directly contradicts the rest of the chapter where Paul tells them to completely dissociate with every way of thinking and behaviour that is not found in Christ. In the Christian worldview all powers submit to God in Christ alone. A theological shift away from the Gospel is very significant because it is a worldview change. It forms the basis for all their actions so we need to pay special attention to it.
Occult influences in the Church are ultimately syncretic. If it does not come from within it came from without. We must therefore look to the surrounding culture for its source. I earlier cited the Nicolaitans as an example of cultural/theological syncretism. An example of this external influence is where YHWH, the God of Israel, resembles traditional deities and their behaviour and not how he is portrayed in the Bible. Secondly, God blesses his people almost exclusively through the offerings they give as opposed to their faithfulness to him in how they live day to day. Thirdly, God is a means to fulfil personal vendettas instead of trusting everything to a righteous judge who will vindicate his own. Lastly, traditional African religions are also heavy on “props” and instructions. You must use a particular item, or go to a specific location, and fulfil specific instructions to the letter before God moves on the individual’s behalf.
Another big sign of occult influence in the Church is sectarian behaviour. Certain individuals claim to have not only special access to God, they have exclusive rights to him. They might not say it directly but they strongly imply every other minister is inferior to them. This means the people become utterly dependent on the “prophet”. From what the scriptures mean to whom they should greet, everything is done based on the “prophet’s” instructions. The leading of the Spirit is no longer for every believer but it is for those who follow a particular leader. With such elitism there is a correspondent dip in responsibility and accountability. They are the sole mediators between God and men, who are you to scrutinize what they do? Their “call” gives them license to do and say anything as they see fit. They justify the unjustifiable, they are never wrong. Unsurprisingly, humility is far from their make-up. They are on a different level, upper echelon, breathing rarefied air.
The final outworking of occult influence on the Church I would like to mention is the commercialization of ministry. The commercialization of ministry is not only limited to occult influences but it is a question of how human beings handle power. (See A New Vision of Wealth for more.) In the case of occultism, from ancient times there has always been a fee for enlisting their services (Numbers 22:7.) We find a similar thing in the Church that for supernatural assistance a certain material donation to certain individuals must be made. Again I say, the God of the Bible does not benefit from our worship so we cannot influence him to serve our selfish ambitions. This directly contradicts the occult and its idolatrous ways.
In conclusion, the Bible’s position on the occult and anything else associated with idolatry is entrenched. God completely detests it. There is no room for polytheism in the Church. It is the highest act of spiritual treason and there is nothing but divine indignation against it (Romans 1:18-32.) The New Testament is a covenant of faithfulness to one God and him alone. To seek out other so-called gods means you are breaking the covenant. As the people of God we need to be very wary and reject anything that compromises our relationship with him.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. – 1 Corinthians 10:14