A Christian Assessment of Psychics and Ghosts


We have considered the methodology that psychics use when they do readings. We have found that in many cases they “fish” for information. At other times they cheat by deriving information beforehand. But some psychics are in genuine contact with demonic spirits. Regardless of how they operate, there is insurmountable evidence of their dismal rate of accuracy. We have also “tested the spirits” and found that the true source of psychic teachings is not God but rather evil spirits intent on deceiving humankind. What is a Christian Assessment of Psychics and Ghosts?

Let us not forget Solomon’s admonition in Proverbs 3:21: “Preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight.” We are not to let them out of our sight because they will protect our minds from all kinds of deception—including the deception that is being disseminated on a massive scale by modern-day psychic mediums. We gain sound judgment and discernment from the pages of Scripture. 

Occultism Condemned

Some psychic mediums claim to have a gift from the Holy Spirit, but the Bible condemns all forms of occultism, divination, and sorcery. Leviticus 19:26 commands, “Do not practice divination or sorcery.” Leviticus 19:31 instructs, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” The Old Testament is clear that a person who consorts with familiar spirits is cursed by God (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6). Sorcery is such a heinous offense against God that it was punishable by death in Old Testament times (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27). 

Second Kings 21:6 tells us that Manasseh “consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.” By contrast, “Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:24).

In 1 Samuel 28:3, Saul “expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.” Later, however, we read that “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance” (1 Chronicles 10:13).

Acts 19:19 reveals that many who came to Christ in Ephesus destroyed all the paraphernalia they had previously used for occultism and divination: “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (A drachma was about a day’s wages.)

In the Bible, God categorically condemns all spiritistic activities as heinous sins against Him. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 is clear: “Let no one be found among you…who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD.” To be clear, this means that the spiritistic practices of James Van Praagh, John Edward, Sylvia Browne, Char Margolis, and all other modern psychics are detestable—literally, an abomination—to the Lord.

Biblical scholar Stafford Wright, in his book Christianity and the Occult, has examined all such Old Testament references to spiritism. This is his conclusion: “It is beyond doubt that the Old Testament bans any attempt to contact the departed. This is true of the law, the historical books, and the prophets. Is there the slightest sign that the New Testament lifts the ban?”[1]

Dead Humans Are Not Available for Psychic Contact

Human beings are not available to appear on earth after death. Likewise, human beings are not available for psychic contact.

At death, the believer’s spirit departs from the physical body and immediately enters the presence of the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23). The unbeliever’s spirit departs from the body, goes to a place of great suffering, and is involuntarily imprisoned until the future great white throne judgment (Luke 16:19-31; 2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 20:11-15). The departed—whether believers or unbelievers—are confined to their respective realms, and God forbids contact between people on earth and people in either of these realms (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).

The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 illustrates this for us. The rich man and Lazarus had died and gone into the afterlife. The rich man—an unbeliever—was suffering great torment. He wanted to contact his living brothers to warn them. But he was not allowed to do so. Communication between the dead and the living was simply not permitted (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). Since this is the case, we can deduce that if a psychic encounters a spiritual being at all, it is a demonic spirit and not a departed human being (see 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 John 4:1).

What about the Medium of Endor?

Psychics and spiritists sometimes claim support for their practices from the pages of the Bible. They often point to King Saul’s experience with the medium at Endor as a proof that spiritism is acceptable (1 Samuel 28).

The biblical account of the medium at Endor is quite controversial, and Christians have expressed differing views. A minority believes that the medium performed a miracle through demonic powers and actually brought Samuel back from the dead. In support of this view, certain passages seem to indicate that demons have the power to perform lying signs and wonders (Matthew 7:22; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Revelation 16:14). This view is unlikely, however, because Scripture also reveals that death is final (Hebrews 9:27), the dead cannot return (2 Samuel 12:23; Luke 16:24-27), and demons cannot usurp or overpower God’s authority over life and death (Job 1:10-12).

A second view is that the medium did not actually bring Samuel from the realm of the dead, but a demonic spirit simply impersonated the prophet. Those who hold to this view note that certain verses indicate that demons can deceive people who attempt to communicate with the dead (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Chronicles 10:13). This view is unlikely, however, because the passage affirms that Samuel did indeed return from the dead, that he gave a prophecy that was actually fulfilled, and that demons would be unlikely to speak God’s truth because the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44).

A third view is that God sovereignly and miraculously allowed Samuel’s spirit to appear in order to rebuke Saul for his sin. Samuel’s spirit did not appear as a result of the medium’s powers (for indeed, no human being has the power to summon dead people—Luke 16:24-27; Hebrews 9:27) but only because God sovereignly brought it about. This view is supported by the fact that Samuel actually returned from the realm of the dead (1 Samuel 28:14), and this caused the medium to cry out in fear (see verse 12). The medium’s cry of astonishment indicates that this appearance of Samuel was not the result of her usual tricks.

Although God allowed Samuel’s spirit to appear on this one occasion, we should not take this to mean that mediums have any real power to summon the dead. God had a unique purpose for this one special occasion. So this passage is descriptive, not prescriptive. That is, it simply describes something that happened historically. It does not prescribe something that people should expect to happen in the future.

Satan Can Masquerade as Dead People

Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). We can infer from this that he also has the ability to masquerade as a dead person haunting a house as a ghost. Likewise, he can pose as a dead person communicating with a psychic medium. He is a masterful counterfeiter and deceiver. Satan and demons are more than willing to masquerade as dead humans to deceive tens of millions of people and draw them away from Jesus Christ.

The Test of Deuteronomy 13:1-3

Because psychics and demonic spirits can be so deceptive, Scripture has given us an extremely important test to use. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says that if a “sign or wonder” comes to pass from a prophet or a “dreamer of dreams,” and what they say comes true, but then that prophet or dreamer urges us to follow other gods, we are not to listen to what that person says. 

A survey of psychic teachings proves that they fail the test of Deuteronomy 13:1-3 because they hold to an unbiblical view of God. Some hold to a pantheistic view of God (“all is God”). Some hold that God is merely an impersonal force or an “infinite intelligence.” Some hold that God is a “divine spark” that resides in all human beings. Some believe in God the Father and God the Mother. Hence, based on the timeless words of Deuteronomy 13:1-3, we reject the words of psychics that are laced with perilous deceit. 

A Former Psychic’s Assessment

Contrary to the claims of psychics, they are playing with fire when they contact spirit entities. In reality, they are trafficking with demons. Even psychics and spiritists themselves acknowledge the existence of evil spirits or “evil energies.” That is why they try to take steps to protect themselves.

Marcia Montenegro is a former psychic and occultist who is now a Christian. From her many years of involvement in the occult, she remembers the dangers:

As this writer’s psychic abilities expanded, so did the frightening experiences. Many of this writer’s friends and associates in the occult often had similar experiences. In fact, it is common practice for a psychic to call on benevolent protective forces or to visualize “white light” (supposedly for protection) before practicing a psychic technique, doing a reading or spirit contact. What do they think they are protecting themselves from? By doing this, the psychics acknowledge the existence of evil or harmful beings, but how do they know these beings are not disguising themselves as benevolent spirits or guides? What law says a white light is a barrier to evil entities? Why would such a light keep out any spirits? Maybe the evil entities have been laughing all these years at this flimsy “protection” as they fed false information to the psychics and pretended to be helpful.[2]

I think Marcia is right on target. Psychics are being duped by these evil spirits, who have been duping people for thousands of years and know how to put on a good disguise. These spirits mimic our dead loved ones, and their goal is to lead the living to believe that they need not fear death, that death is a simple transition, that all people—regardless of what religion they subscribe to—cross over into the Other Side, and that they need not trust in Christ for the joys of heaven. Make no mistake about it, the powers of darkness hate Jesus Christ and they will do anything they can to deceive people away from believing in Him.

Go Deeper

  1. Stafford Wright, Christianity and the Occult (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 112.
  2. Marcia Montenegro, “The Psychics: Can They Help You?” CANA website, posted February 1, 2003.

Dr. Ron Rhodes received his Th.M. and Th.D. degrees in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating with honors. He is currently the president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, an apologetics organization located in Texas.

The author of more than 60 books, with millions of books in print, Dr. Rhodes is a keynote speaker at conferences across the United States and Canada. As time permits, he also teaches at a number of seminaries, including Dallas Theological Seminary and Veritas Evangelical Seminary. He has been a guest on many national and regional radio and television programs, including the John Ankerberg Show. He and his wife, Kerri, reside in Texas.

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