Divination Practices – Biblical Divination?
By: Dr. John Weldon
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2002|
|Some allegedly “Christian” diviners have pointed to biblical examples of divination in order to justify their practices. Such examples, say the authors, are either irrelevant or misinterpreted, or they confuse the source or purpose underlying the prognostication.|
Divination Practices – Biblical Divination?
(from Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House Publishers, 1996)</center>
Some allegedly “Christian” diviners have pointed to biblical examples of divination in order to justify their practices. Such examples, however, are either irrelevant or misinterpreted, or they confuse the source or purpose underlying the prognostication. As we will shortly see, God’s people were strictly prohibited from using divination. But there were also times when God had to communicate His will for specific reasons, and He chose particular methods for this. Before Scripture existed or was widely available, there had to be a way to communicate the divine will in necessary circumstances.
Thus, in the Bible, certain exceptional methods were used to discover God’s specific will, such as the Urim and Thummim, dreams, through the Old Testament prophetic ministry, and casting lots (Exodus 28:30; Acts 1:24-26).
These methods are replaced today by other means (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). One reason for this is because God’s divine power and Scripture itself supply “everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him” (2 Peter 1:3), and, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-11). In cases where Scripture does not supply the specific information God needs to convey in order to fulfill His will, He uses other methods. The ministry of angels may be used or gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:4; 13:2), or an individual prophecy may be given. Thus, we are told, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt” (1 Thessalonians 5:19; see 1 Corinthians 12:10; 13:2; 14:1, 6, 22; 2 Peter 1:20).
Regardless, methods as the Urim and Thummim, casting lots, and so on, were never intended as a general means for people to divine the particulars of their own future, e.g., the Urim and Thummim were used only by the priests of Israel. Further, divination for personal knowledge of the future is both unnecessary and dangerous. In Scripture, God has already told us the broad outlines of future history as it relates to biblical eschatology. His people are to trust in His Word and in His sovereignty over future events, both in their own lives and in the final outcome of human affairs. For very good reasons, God has not and does not reveal our specific, individual futures. For example, no one likes pain, and if we knew the future most of us would try to avoid unpleasant situations, suffering, and tragedy, which may, in fact, be God’s will for us; thus avoiding what God has wisely determined is best for us from the eternal perspective.
People grow in their faith and in their ability to endure things. God’s will that cannot be endured at one point in life may be able to be endured or accepted at another. And no one but God knows the final cost for not enduring His will (cf. Matthew 19:11-12; John 16:12). Had Jesus not accepted the suffering that was God’s purpose for His life, what would have been the outcome? But how many of us would willingly face something like that were divination to reveal it? Only God knows what will finally be accomplished through the sacrifices and sufferings of His saints. This is why Scripture tells us, “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19 NASB).
Occult divination adopts an entirely different view, one that does not trust God for the future. By seeking to know future events, divination promises to allow the individual to control his future. In this sense, it represents a fundamental rejection of God’s infinite, wise, and perfect will, replacing it with the limited and self-serving perspective of the human will. Because it represents a conscious abdication of divine sovereignty for human “control,” it is ultimately a confrontation with God. This is why the Bible strictly opposes divination. While it acknowledges that people use divination (e.g., Genesis 4:4-5), it condemns and never endorses such practices:
- “Do not practice divination or sorcery” (Leviticus 19:26).
- “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft…. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so” (Deuteronomy 18:10, 14).
- “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry…” (1 Samuel 15:23).
- “They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger” (2 Kings 17:17).
- “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33:6).
- “Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds’” (Jeremiah 14:14).
- “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. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way [Greek: “a way”] to be saved’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:16-18).
This last passage (where the diviner attempted to justify her own practice by linking it to the apostles’ ministry) reveals the true source of power behind divination: the spirit world.
In conclusion, the difference between the biblical approach and occult approach to the future can be seen in the areas of the source of information (God or Satan), phenomena (Scripture, prophecy, divinely ordained implements or occult, pagan methods), and outcome (glory to God through trust in His will or individual confusion and perhaps destruction from trusting in the devil’s will). In the following months we will examine various popular methods to see some of the consequences of rejecting God’s will in this matter.