What Happens When Christians Compromise?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reality of Christians compromising when it comes to sin. My contemplation of this came about partly because of my post three weeks ago entitled, Why Are Christians Perverting Justice? But also because of situation I’ve seen in churches and witnessed or heard witnessed within Christian circles both in the past and present.

Let me be clear, when I talk about compromise here, I’m talking specifically about compromising in regard to the principles/law/commands that God gave us.

Let’s look at the word compromise. 

(Definition by Oxford Languages) Compromise (noun): an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

When we look at this brief definition of compromise, I think there are a lot of Christians out there who would say that making a concession here and there isn’t such a bad thing. After all isn’t settling a dispute a good thing (Mat 5:23-26)? Aren’t we supposed to live at peace with other people (Rom 12:18)? Doesn’t the Bible say that we are supposed to be merciful (Luke 6:36)? 

Yes, the Bible does say those things, but each of those things are very different from making a compromise in regard to sin. Let’s dig a little further into the definition of compromise as a verb.

(Definition by Oxford Languages) Compromise (verb): 1. settle a dispute by mutual concession. 2. accept standards that are lower than is desirable.

(Definition by Cambridge Dictionary) Concession: something that is allowed or given up, often in order to end a disagreement

Noticed the concepts in these definitions of compromise: “mutual concession” “lower standard” “allow” “give up”?

Compromise and concession are two words we see often in the history of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Israel came into the promise land, much like how we come into the promise land of salvation when we become Christians. It’s a good land, and God promises us victory over our sin, in the same way God promised Israel victory over their enemies if they followed His ways and obeyed His commands. But they didn’t obey Him. They made compromises. They lowered their standard, instead of conquering all the land God told them to take they stopped short and allowed evil to live in parts of their land. Instead of worshiping God alone, they made mutual concessions with the nations around them and accepted into their homes the other nations’ gods. They allowed members of their households to be sacrificed to the religious systems of the nations around them. They gave up land they should have had because they didn’t want to do the work of fighting to keep what God gave them And what happens? Their salvation became polluted with defeat and slavery to evil. Just like how in our lives when we allow ourselves to return to sin after being freed of it, we are again brought into bondage by it (John 8:34, 2 Peter 2:18-22).

“For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” ~ 2Peter 2:18-20

What starts as people choosing an attitude of acceptance toward compromise within their own lives and within the Christian community becomes something even more deadly. The acceptance made in regard to the presence of sins, which have been subtly or not so subtly classified by large parts of the Christian community as “not that big of a deal” or “private issues” or “something everyone struggles with,” leads to not just an acceptance on the part of those making those compromises within their own lives or on behalf of other people. Their acceptance actually shifts from being just their own position to them pressuring the broader Christian community to also agree to and share in their compromises. Why?

I think there are two reasons to this: 

  1. Satan knows that once a person who wishes to be righteous has themselves accepted a compromise to sin in their own life or in someone else’s life, it becomes that much harder for them to be able to speak out against that sin anywhere else.
  2. Satan also knows that a compromise can be one of the fastest ways to keep a dispute about sin from being able to completely uprooted that sin. He convinces Christians that it is the dispute that is sinful not the sin itself. Thus Christians who would normally remove sin, will, in an attempt to end the supposedly “sinful” conflict of a dispute, demand that the top/symptom of the sin be cut off while compromising and allowing the root/heart issue to remain.

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”~ Romans 6:16

Compromises in regard to sin brings a silence to something that should never be ignored, whereas a dispute over sin draws attention, gets loud, and requires a resolution. No compromise should be made when dealing with sin. When compromises are made with sin, sin continues. And a lack of dispute over sin allows sin to remain unnoticed and unresolved.

If a Christian’s action of compromising Biblical principles in their own life is not addressed by a fellow Christian or Christian community, this disregard for sin becomes a concession on the part of the Christian(s) dealing with that person, and eventually that concession results in those Christians applying pressure on other Christians to also conform to this compromise so as to silence the law, which they’ve chosen to disobey, and thus remove the notice of sin.

“For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” ~Romans 5:13 ~

“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” ~1Corinthians 15:33

Our shame as a Christian community is that we are compromising, and we are failing to teach a true knowledge of God. Thus sin is being allowed in our lives and community more and more. We’re not walking in obedience, and because of this we are being corrupted and enslaved by the company we keep with sin. Our rescue and victory against sin will only come with repentance from sin and a return to the way of the LORD.

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments. I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; oh, do not forsake me utterly!” ~Psalm 119:1-8

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Connecting Beyond Social Media

Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

People talk about “Facebook Perfect” or “Instagram Perfect” or (Fill in whatever social media platform you’re currently using) Perfect, and the reason for this is that culturally we do recognize that social media can create a false impression of people’s lives.

When we fail to remind ourselves of the possibility that what we’re seeing isn’t the whole truth, it can be easy for us to let feelings of annoyance, jealousy, or discontent creep into our own lives and for those feelings to influence how we see ourselves and how we relate to others. The reverse of this position is also possible, where we feel superior because other people don’t seem to have it all together while we do. Both are an issue of pride. And…

“By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” ~Proverbs 13:10

Strife comes when we allow our feelings of insecurity or superiority to keep us in competition with other people rather than in bridging the gaps between ourselves and them. When we let pride get in the way of seeing beyond social media, we lose the real connection with people that could bring both wisdom and fellowship to our lives.

The fact that social media can and does create a false impression of people’s lives is a truth we need to continually remember. In order to stand in truth instead of pride, we must make the effort to connect beyond the “picture perfect” social media version of ourselves and others.

The questions we should be asking:

  1. How are we responding to the people who appear on social media to be doing better than us?
  2. How are we responding to the people who appear to be doing worse than us?
  3. Are we bothering to connect with people on a real level beyond social media that provides a means to truly see and care about each other?
  4. Or are we only ever connecting on the “picture perfect” level?

More often than not, what we see online isn’t the full story. This point was driven home for me not long ago when I watched a friend of mine posting online about an event they attended and a product that they were launching. From all appearances on social media, this friend had it all together and was doing awesome. But then the friend texted me and in the course of our brief conversation they revealed that they were struggling to hold it all together.

My heart had made a prideful assumption about this friend based off what I saw online. And had we not spoken beyond social media the connection that provided truth would not have happened and we would not have gotten the chance to encourage each other. We all need the truth and we need each other to not make assumptions but to ask questions, listen well, and genuinely care. 

Now, sometimes the pictures we see really are the real story, and then the question becomes: Can we still choose to be happy for the other person and interact with them in a caring and kind way? Or do we let our jealousy, insecurities, and discontent keep us from being kind?

Let’s flip this scenario around too and ask the question: What if it’s you who has the life other people are jealous of, how do you respond to the people who don’t seem to match your world when they try to connect with you? Do you respond in a way that cares about the truth and honestly cares about them? 

Are we thinking about the other person as a person? Or are we so busy looking at the number of “likes” and “follows” they do or don’t have, the talents they do or don’t possess, and the friend groups they do or don’t hang out with that we don’t really see them as a fellow human being but rather as a social media comparison/competition?

The thing is, a huge number of people these days are experiencing extreme loneliness. Despite active online lives, people long for something more. Are we willing to risk being real ourselves in order to make connections beyond social media?

As Christians especially, are we living out loving and caring about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ online and offline? Or are we choosing to see them only as social media competition? Are we working together or working apart? 

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:1-4

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” ~ Romans 12:3-5

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Are We Willing to Share in Sorrow?

Have you ever noticed that people tend to find sorrow uncomfortable and disagreeable? Both in public settings and often even in private settings, sorrow is often experienced or expressed as awkward and off-putting by both the person doing the crying and by those observing it. But why? 

Why does a person feel awkward crying in public and why does the pubic feel awkward about the person crying? I think because in general people have no idea what to do in the face of grief. 

Sorrow is not risky nor is it likely to cause a person harm, and yet people tend to react to it the same way they react to a person becoming angry. Those watching shy away from sorrow or else try to pacify/silence sorrow as quickly as possible so as to shift the dynamics of the space back to a more comfortable emotion.

Why would people respond the same way to grief as they would to anger? I think because people’s feelings about sorrow are often the same as they are about anger: it brings out a feeling of helplessness. What if we changed that?

What if we responded to sorrow in a more Biblical way?

“Now we exhort you, brethren…comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak…” ~1 Thessalonians 5:14

This word “comfort” is the same word in Greek that we find in John 11:19  “And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.”

As Christians we are commanded to comfort, to uphold, to be a safe space for those who are sorrowful. When we feel like shying away, we should instead make an effort to sympathies. When we feel like pacifying, we should instead try to understand. Not just when it comes to others but also when it comes to ourselves. Make space for sorrow.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good…especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~Galatians 6:9-10

When we choose to share in people’s sorrow, we show people and ourselves what it means to truly be loved like Christ loves. 

“Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”  John 11:32-35

We often foolishly think of sorrow as something to get through as quickly as possible so that we can move on to something more comfortable. But sometimes it is the sorrow that must first be expressed and experienced in its wholeness before we can move on. 

“Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.” ~Ecclesiastes 7:3

Challenge: Next time you encounter sorrow in yourself or someone else, don’t shy away from it but rather let it be what helps make the heart better. 

I have many people in my life who do a beautiful job sharing well in sorrow, and I can attest to the fact that in our mutual willingness to be both vulnerable and cared about, Christ’s heart is seen and felt.

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Why Are Christians Perverting Justice?

Image by Sang Hyun Cho from Pixabay

In the Christian world there are a lot of people who preach “grace” and pressure others to offer “mercy” while dismissing what it means to uphold justice. This happens even more often when the offense or wrong has been done by a Christian against a Christian. When the party wronged or violated seeks justice on behalf of themselves and others, the words Christians often speak to them go along the lines of: “It’s now you holding an offense against them, so you need to forgive them.” “You should offer them mercy.” “As Christians we are supposed to go the extra mile.” “You need to turn the other cheek.”

All of these mindsets come from one passage in the New Testament where Jesus is being followed my a multitude and sits down with His disciples to teach them.

“…I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” ~ Matthew 5:38

I’ve written several blog posts in the past on the topic of what it means to not resist an evil person. And if you have read those posts you have perhaps gotten a sense of my own personal questions in regard to this passage. Because of these posts even more so I feel the weight of the challenge of this issue, as Christians we are preaching “grace” and pressuring others to offer “mercy” while failing to uphold justice.

Proverbs 18:5 says: “It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.” (ESV)

I think it’s time we take a long look at what it means for us as Christians to uphold justice. Because in our attempts to preach God’s heart of love we are actually failing to preach God’s righteousness. We talk about God loving the sinner, but we skip the part about God hating the sin. We are neglecting the way of the LORD. 

“…keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice” ~ Gen 18:19

We teach the part of what Jesus preaches about turning the other cheek, etc, and we completely ignore the part where Jesus just moments before that speaks this: 

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:17 (emphasis added) 

Let’s look for a moment at just a few of the law Jesus is talking about here, which we are commanded to obey.

“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” ~ Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Emphasis added)

You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” ~Leviticus 19:15 (Emphasis added)

“Therefore you shall observe all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them: I am the LORD.” ~ Leviticus 19:37

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.’” ~ Jeremiah 22:3

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”~ Isaiah 1:16 (Emphasis Added)

When Jesus spoke His sermon on the mount, He was in no way saying, dismiss the system of justice that is in place, remove the consequences of evil, let evil go unpunished, tell the victim to remain silent, exhort the wounded party to drop their case.

For example, when a wrong or crime is committed by someone in the church against someone else in the church, God commands that justice take place. But instead of other church members standing up and saying, “We support justice.” Instead they remain silent, or even worse they tell the victim they had better remain silent and not seek a court to deliver justice. Because somehow, heinously so, we have been twisted into believing that to seek justice is to be selfish and unforgiving. 

 Was God selfish and unforgiving when He poured out justice on His son by killing Him on the cross? No, He was righteous.

Without justice there is no righteousness!

“Like a trampled spring and a polluted well, so is a righteous person who gives way before the wicked.” ~ Proverbs 25:26 (NASB)

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithes of mint, rue, and every kind of garden herb, and yet you ignore justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” ~ Luke 11:42 (NSAB) (Emphasis added)

We are not to neglect justice! We must keep justice; because without justice, one cannot show mercy.  Mercy without justice, is an empty grace, that says sin is not a crime and justice is meaningless. And to say that, is to say that God is false and righteousness is a myth. Such is not Christianity, but rather a way of Satan.

“…the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.” ~ Habakkuk 1:4

When we silence those deserving of justice, we are not asking them to display mercy; we asking them to silence mercy. When we let off the offending party by dismissing their trial, we rob them of knowing their guilt, a guilt that may have led them to be truly repentant and thus experience true forgiveness.

“Blessed are those who keep justice, and he who does righteousness at all times!” ~ Psalm 106:3

Challenge: Do not neglect the way of the LORD. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8) Justice must come first and mercy is to follow. This is the way of Salvation. Those who walk humbly with God are those who have first and foremost known their guilt and in that knowledge accepted God’s mercy. It is in this way that we ought to live. Not offering or requiring a hollow mercy of ourselves or others, that says sin is nothing and justice is meaningless, but receiving and giving a true mercy, fully felt because the weight of justice is already present. 

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How Do We Trust in God’s Timing?

Last week we talked about how our human desires to be in control can lead us astray. This desire for control manifests in a lot of ways, but I think one of the most common control issue moments in a Christian’s life is our failure to wait for God’s timing. We don’t want to accept someone else’s timing. We don’t want to have to endure through a delay. We want results here and now. And often we think we’re justified in our impatience because our desire is to accomplish something good God has asked us to do. 

Patience is something most of us don’t do very well. Patience by its definition is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering.” Why does patience bother us so much? Well, because patience means we’re accepting that control is not ours.

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God…” ~ Deuteronomy 10:17

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him…” ~ Deu 13:4 

There is more to godly patience than simply accepting that we, as finite humans, are not in control. Godly patience is about trusting in God’s control! 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

But even more than that, to be able to experience godly patience we also need to know—to truly grasp and understand—God’s heart toward us. Because, once we bask in the knowledge of who God is, the choice to entrust control to Him becomes not an action of fearful capitulation but rather an action of peaceful surrender. 

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep…” John 10:14

“…when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. ~ Matthew 9:36

“The LORD… my shepherd… He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” ~ Psalm 23:1 (A Psalm of David)

We often want to trek onward even when God, our Shepherd, has paused or has asked us to wait. When we understand, accept, and trust in who God is and that His plans and paths are best, then we shifts from a struggling impatience to a peaceful surrender toward God’s timing.

Challenge: Don’t let your desire for control keep you from trusting in the timing of the LORD God, the Good Shepherd, whose heart is to care for you, restore your soul, lead you in paths of righteousness, be with you always even in dark places, comfort you, prepare you, choose you, provide for you, give you His goodness and mercy, and bring you to dwell in His house forever.

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As Christians How Should We Respond to Magic?

Last week we talked about how magic is what is taking place—someone using special power to make things happen that would usually be impossible. The source behind magic is specified by calling it a “miracle” (sourced by God) or “sorcery” “witchcraft” etc. (sourced by demonic power). These titles explain WHO is granting the power. The source behind supernatural magic (i.e. real magic) is never a “what” but always a “who.” The WHO becomes extremely important when we ask the question: “How should we, as Christians, respond to magic?”

We need to always ask WHO is sourcing the magic.

In Exodus 4:21, the LORD say to Moses, “…see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand.” This is a command by God for Moses to do magic, and because God is the source granting Moses that power, it is called a miracle.

When we look at the nations around Israel who are practicing witchcraft, sorcery, soothsaying, etc., we read distinctly that their soothsayers are listening to idols and serving them. In other words those who are sourcing the power for their sorcery are in fact demons (see the verses below). 

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, …For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-15

“…they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them… they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil…” – 2 Kings 17:15-17

“They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.” – Psalm 106:36-38

“…the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” – 1Corinthians 10:20

Who are we supposed to be listening to, following, and serving?

The 1st of the 10 Commandments:“And God spoke…saying: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. …you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” – Exodus 20:1-5

“For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you. The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear . . .” – Deu 18:10-15

“…I now send you…to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” – Acts 26:17

“…the God of our Lord Jesus Christraised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. …He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath…” – Ephesians 1:17-21 & 2:1-3

There is power on both sides God’s and Satan’s. God makes it clear that His power is the only one we are to listen to and follow in all things, including supernatural magic.

As Christians we tend to consider magic, temptation, and Satanic power in a very divided context, when they are actually very interlinked. The LORD brought Israel out of Egypt by His supreme power, and yet Israel seeks after idols (i.e. demons), listens to them, and serves them. Why? 

Because humanity had and still has an intense desire/temptation to be in control, and magic is one more way in which a human can feel powerful and thus feed the desire for control. This desire for control is brought to the forefront in the garden of Eden when Satan comes and tempts Adam and Eve.

Humanity’s sin in the garden was not eating the fruit; humanity’s sin was the rejection of God’s supreme authority—the rejection of His right to command their obedience to not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil—and the pursuit of what they thought would make them equal to or greater than God. Humanity wanted control.

The Great Deception: The notion that gaining the knowledge of good and evil (to be like God) would result in no longer being subject to God—humanity becoming their own authority, their own master, their own sovereign.

The Truth: We are not God, we will never be God, and we will always be subject to God. In rejecting God’s authority by seeking the knowledge of good and evil, humanity simply additionally made ourselves also subject to sin.

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey…” – Rom 6:16 (NKJV)

Satan, the father of lies, likes to feed the illusion that people have the right and ability to do as they please with their lives and can freely access supernatural power and use that power to control their own fate, but the reality which Satan keeps to himself is that the power they’re accessing belongs to him (is sorcery). It is under his authority not theirs, and the use of that power comes with a very steep price—that of being ensnared and controlled by him.

“…that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” – 2Timothy 2:24-26 (NKJV)

The truth the Bible tells us: Supernatural power is never neutral, and it’s never under human control. Any control a human thinks they have over supernatural power is an illusion created by Satan to ensnare them. Let me say that one more time: Human control of magic is an illusion.

The Two Biggest LIES surrounding magic (supernatural power) align with the two most common mindsets toward magic:

  1. Magic is not real (therefore being ensnared by Satan’s supernatural power is of no concern)
  2. Magic is yours to control (therefore submission to God’s supernatural power is of no concern)

What should our response to magic be as Christians?

  • When it is God’s power, respect His authority and do only and exactly what He says to do with it.
  • When encountering any power that is not of God, do not seek after it, do not have it in your midst, do not engage with it, and definitely do not have friendship or fellowship with it.
  • Do not believe or propagate Satan’s lie of there being a neutral supernatural power (magic) out there for you to use to your own purpose. There isn’t. 

What happens when we think supernatural power is ours to control or utilize as we see fit?

Samson is a good example of what happens when we assume God’s power is ours.

Samson thought his supernatural strength belonged to him and was his to control. Samson was thus ensnared and bound by evil. In the end, Samson calls out to God: “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once…” (Judges 16:20-28) God honors Samson’s acknowledgement and request and gives him one more moment of God-given supernatural strength.

Another good example is when Israel is defeated in battle.

Israel decides not to ask God why they’ve been defeated, but instead they chose to take the ark of the LORD into battle with them. They thought they could use God’s ark like a protective talisman and manipulate the power to their will “when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” 1 Sam 4:3. God’s response? He allows Israel to again be defeated in battle and lets His ark be taken by the Philistines. Then God deals with the Philistines in His own time and His own way to make His power clear. (1 Samuel 4 &5)

In the time of Acts, God was working miracles by the hand of Paul, and seven sons of Sceva try to call the name of the Lord Jesus over someone who has an evil spirit. “And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” Acts 19:11-14 (One man with an evil spirit overpowered seven men)

Why does this event magnify the name of the Lord Jesus?

I believe this encounter magnified the name of the Lord Jesus because it was a clear message that God’s power is not for others to control. These men obviously thought they could take up God’s power and use it themselves by their own authority against satanic power. They were mistaken on both counts. Supernatural power is not a tool that can be picked up by whoever wishes and put to whatever task they decided. It is either Satan’s power, or it is God’s supreme power. We are invited to partnership with God in displaying His power, but we are not in control of it.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” – Galatians 6:7-8

“…when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.’” – Acts 8:18-21

Supernatural power is either God’s or Satan’s. So who are you serving?

  • God offers life.
  • Satan destruction.

And there is no in between.

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Is Magic Bad? (Let’s Look at What the Bible Has to Say)

As I mentioned last week there is a portion of the Christian realm that would say, “All magic is bad.” I also commented on how I think our use of the word “magic” and our use of the word “miracle” contributes to the Christian community’s confusion about whether or not magic is bad, good, neutral, or two-sided.

It’s rumored C.S. Lewis struggled in his fiction writing to find a word he could adequately use to replace “magic.” In the end he used the word “magic” in his fantasy realm both to refer to good power and bad power. Many fiction writers have tried alternatives to “magic” in their writing, words like “powers,” “skills,” “gifting,” etc. But, regardless of whether the use of a different word for magic fits the context of any given story, these alternatives are either fantasy magic or simple a new title for supernatural magic: an ability/power that is sourced/granted by that which is supernatural.

We tend as Christians to contrast the words “miracle and magic” like we do “angels and demons,” but I do not think this is a fully accurate way of looking at magic. Stick around and I’ll show you why.

First let’s look at the English definitions of the word “miracle.”

Encyclopedia Britannica: Miracle—extraordinary and astonishing happening that is attributed to the presence and action of an ultimate or divine power.

Cambridge Dictionary: Miracle—an unusual and mysterious event that is thought to have been caused by a god because it does not follow the usual laws of nature.

Here’s the thing: A miracle may seem straightforward when it’s Jesus doing an astonishing event contrary to nature (like healing someone who is blind, multiplying bread and fish, etc.), but what about when it’s Moses or Aaron taking an action that brings about a miracle, or Elisha, Peter, Paul, Stephen, etc.? Such happenings could fall under another definition as well, that of magic.

Cambridge Dictionary: Magic—the use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible.

Things like controlling water (2 Kings 2:8), calling down fire (2Ki 1:10), and making iron float (2Ki 6:6), all sound like magic. They are labeled as neither one, but when we talk about these specific events as Christians, we would call them “acts of God” or “miracles.”

The events of the initial plagues of Egypt are the same events displayed by Moses and Aaron and by the Egyptian magicians. Why do we call one a miracle and the other something else? As Christians we tend to refer to all events specifically linked to God’s power as miracles, even when the Bible does not necessarily refer to them that way. Why? Well, the distinction we’re making is not in regard to the event itself (because they were doing the same things). So what is it referring to?

Consider for a moment that in the Bible neither God nor Jesus used the word “miracle” or “magic.”  Before you start referencing all the verses where your Bible says miracle and magic, let me remind you that the Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The words “miracle” and “magic” are English words, which translators have applied to Scriptural concepts.

In the Bible there are at least three different Hebrew words that are translated as “miracle” and at least two different Greek words. That’s 5 different words in the Bible all used at times to express the concept we label “miracle.” 

Verses with “miracle” from the Old Testament:

“When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle (môp̄ēṯ),’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, so that it may turn into a serpent.’” – Exodus 7:9 (NASB)

The translations that use the word miracle in Ex 7:9 are KJV, NKJV, NLT, NIV, ESV, NASB. Everyone agrees this should be called a miracle.

“So I will raise my hand and strike the Egyptians, performing all kinds of miracles (pālā’) among them.”-Exodus 3:20 (NASB)

The translations that use the word miracle in Ex 3:20 are NLT, NASB. Whereas KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV use the word “wonders.”

“Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles (‘ôṯ), which I did in Egypt…” – Numbers 14:22 (KJV)

The translations that use the word miracle in Num 14:22 are KJV, NLT. Whereas NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASBO use the word “signs.”

Verses with “miracle” from the New Testament:

“Then [Jesus] began to reprimand the cities in which most of His miracles (dynamis) were done, because they did not repent.” – Matthew 11:20 (NASB)

The translations that use the word miracle in Mat 11:20 are NLT, NIV, NASB. Whereas KJV, NKJV, ESV use the words “mighty works.”

“And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. …they began to confer with one another, saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle (sēmeion) has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” – Acts 4:14-16 (NASB)

The translations that use the word miracle in Act 4:14 are KJV, NKJV, NASB, NLT. Whereas NIV, ESV, use the words “notable sign.”

These same five words in Hebrew and Greek, translated in these verses as “miracle,” are also translated as a lot of other words throughout Scripture. Words like: wonder, sign, wondered, wondrous, special, marvelous, work, hard, wondrously, performing, signs, token(s), ensigns, mark, power, mighty work, strength, might, virtue, mighty. 

Take the Greek word: Sēmeion. This word is translated in Acts 4:14 (see above) as our English word “miracle”—a power sourced by God and used by the disciples. But then that same Greek word is translated in Revelation 13:11-14 and Rev 16:13 (see below) as “great signs” and a “sign” —a power sourced by Satan. We know this is Satan because of Rev 12:9 and Rev 20:2

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence… He performs great signs (sēmeion), so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs (sēmeion) which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast…” – Revelation 13:11-14 (NKJV)

“And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs (sēmeion), which go out to the kings of the entire world…” – Revelation 16:13 (NKJV)

Here are also examples of the Greek word Dynamis used to express both good and bad power: 

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles (dynamis), wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—” – Acts 2:22 (NKJV)

“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power (dynamis) and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.” – Luke 9:1 (NKJV)

Now it could be said in Luke 9:1, “Jesus gave His disciples miracles” or it could also be said, “Jesus gave His disciples magic”-the ability to do the impossible. Bear with me, I know to many of you and even myself this sounds wrong, but that is because we’ve been using the word magic as if it only ever is referring to the bad side of supernatural power. But having studied this issue in the Bible for quite some time now, I think we need to shift our wording, because look at the verse below.

“Behold, I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions, and authority over all the power (dynamis) of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.” – Luke 10:19 (NASB)

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power (dynamis), signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” – 2Th 2:9-10 (NKJV)

The same word that is translated as miracle in one place is also the same word used to refer to the power of the enemy. 

Also, like the word “miracle,” there is not simply one word translated as “magic” in the Old or New Testament but rather a handful of different Hebrew and Greek words. That being said, there are actually very few verses that reference magic. Much more verses use other words that are translated more specifically as sorcery, witchcraft, etc. However, two places in the New Testament have Greek words which are more distinctly linked to magic, yet a number of translators also translated these two words as sorcery. Let’s take a look at that passage below and figure out why.

“But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery (mageuō) in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power (dynamis) of God.” And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries (mageia) for a long time. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”- Acts 8:9 (NKJV)

The Greek word mageuō is translated by the KJV, NKJV, NLT, NIV as “sorcery.” Whereas the ESV and NASB simply use the word “magic.” The word mageia is translated by the KJV, NKJV, NIV, as “sorcery” but the NLT, ESV, NASB translated it as “magic.”

Why do some translators label this sorcery while others label it magic? Well, because looking at this passage we know from the context that Simon’s previous magic was not sourced by God. Thus, it was sorcery. Hence many of the translations are making this delineation clear from the start by calling the “magic” Simon is using “sorcery” (i.e. magic sourced by demonic power).

Now, consider for a moment that people were astonished by Simon’s magic and thought it was of God. They didn’t know and couldn’t tell the difference between sorcery and miracles simply by the acts themselves. It wasn’t until they were preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ that they could delineate. 

In other words to put this distinction a bit more plainly and probably a bit startlingly, I think a better way to look at this issue may in fact be this:

Magic is what is happening. Specifying the source behind the magic by calling it a “miracle” (sourced by God) or “sorcery” (sourced by demonic power) is what explains WHO is granting the power. Thus, without knowledge of the source of the supernatural power at work, we cannot say implicitly “magic is good” or “magic is bad.”Rather we must first determine who is sourcing the magic. Note: It is not “what” but “who” because supernatural magic (i.e. real magic) is always sourced by a “who” not a “what.”

Next week we will look further into the question of who is sourcing the magic, and we’ll look at what our response to magic should be as Christians. 

(Note: All Scripture translations are indicated on each verse, emphasis added)

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Is Magic Real? (Let’s Look at What the Bible Has to Say)

When you ask people the question “Is magic real?” you get a variety of responses. A good bit of this happens because of the differences in what people mean by magic (hence our previous three weeks defining: entertainment magic, fantasy magic, and supernatural magic). Today we’re going to talk about whether or not magic is real, of course the definition of magic that I will be using is that of supernatural magic. There is also another element to the discussion of magic that needs to be addressed to fully answer this question. Next week I’ll explain what that element is and why it too is important.

Before giving my talk, “The Issue of Magic: Lord of the Rings vs Harry Potter” I asked the Christian homeschoolers attending the session to fill out a questionnaire answering what they thought of magic. Here’s the list of options I gave them. 

I think magic is: 

  • Not Real
  • Neutral
  • Good
  • Bad 
  • Two Sided

What would your answer to this question be?

To be fair to the people in the session, they had not yet had the benefit of any clear definition as to what I meant when I said magic. So, keeping that in mind. 

Here are their answers: 

  • 25% of people said they thought magic was Not Real
  • 12.5% of people said they thought magic was Neutral
  • 0% of people said they thought that magic was Good
  • 43.75% of people said they thought magic was Bad
  • 18.75% of people said they thought magic was Two Sided

Long before giving this talk on magic, I had heard Christians say about the magic content in the books, movies, video games, card games, etc. that they or their children were watching, using, or playing was not of any concern to them because “magic isn’t real.” So, as concerning to me as it was that roughly 1 out of 4 of the Christians attending a talk about magic checked the box “magic isn’t real,” it was really not that surprising to me.

At the same time, I have also over the years become very aware of those in the Christian realm who would say quickly and forcefully, “All magic is bad.” So again, having almost 2 out of every 4 people present say that they think magic is bad, was also not surprising. 

The confusion within the Christian realm on the issue of magic is exactly why the discussion of magic is so important, along with a clear look at Scripture.

I think the group that says, “Magic isn’t real” fail to look at magic within a spiritual context. And I think the group that says, “All magic is bad” fail to understand the complexity of our uses of the word “magic” and our use of the word “miracle.” In other words, most Christians do not question the existence of God’s supernatural power but rather the existence of other humanly accessible supernatural power.

So let’s dig into the first of these two concept: that of magic within a spiritual context.

Is Magic Real or Not?

First and foremost, one of the biggest arguments to make in regard to the realness of magic (as defined as “supernatural magic”) is that God and His power exists and that God clearly warns the Israel in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 that soothsayers, sorcerers, mediums, necromancers, etc. should not be found among them, in Exodus 22:18 that Israel should not permit a sorceress to live, and in Leviticus 19:31 that Israel is not to seek after mediums and spirits. If witchcraft, soothsaying, omens, sorcery, spells, mediums, spiritist, etc. had nothing real about them, why would God so forcefully tell Israel to steer clear of these practices? I believe that this warning isn’t about avoiding something fake but rather something that is quite real. Keep reading and I’ll show you why.

There are a number of passages that give a very clear view of REAL magic, both that of God’s power and of other supernatural powers. A few of those passages are the Egyptian plagues, Balaam’s ability to bless and curse, the showdown on Mount Carmel, King Saul’s interactions with a medium, and the fortune teller that Paul encounters.

Egyptian Plagues

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’ ”

So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Exodus 7:8-13

Some people argue that the turning of rods into snakes (this supernatural magic) by the magicians of Egypt was illusion/slight-of-hand (a.k.a. entertainment magic). In other words, they would say that pharaoh’s sorcerers were not actually duplicating supernatural magic but rather performing slight-of-hand/an illusion.

Here’s why this being entertainment magic cannot be the case:

  1. There was no time for pharaoh’s magicians to prepare for this encounter and pull off illusion/slight-of-hand. As the stage magician Teller points out in one of his articles, pulling off entertainment magic requires an insane amount of planning, preparation, and practice.
  2. If this was an illusion that Pharaoh’s magicians were already capable of performing, Pharaoh and/or his magicians would have called out Moses and Aaron’s actions as an illusion. (Some people argue that snake charmers can charm snakes to a stiffness that looks like a rod. But notice that Pharaoh doesn’t laugh Moses and Aaron out of his throne room. Rather Pharaoh calls his magicians and seeks conformation of their power/abilities. Pharaoh hardens his heart only AFTER his magicians “also did in like manner,” even though Aaron’s rod consumes the magicians’ rods.)
  3. The magicians rod/snakes interacts with Aaron’s rod/snake. (The reason illusions work is because they have been designed to do so by preplanning and preparation. Aaron’s rod—which was not part of their plan—touches/consumes their rods, which would have disrupted any illusion they had crafted.

Pharaoh’s magicians in Exodus 7:22 also by sorcery (a.k.a. supernatural magic) turn water into blood. And Exodus 8:7 the magicians also did as Moses and Aaron and “brought up frogs on the land of Egypt.”

But in Exodus 8:18 something changed. The magicians try and fail to bring forth lice (which, if all else had been an illusion, you would think bringing forth lice would be far easier to pull off than snakes, blood, and frogs).

What is most interesting about this moment of inability is what the magicians say to Pharaoh about their failure.  The magicians say to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” (Exodus 8:19)

The magicians saying that, “This is the finger of God” could mean one of two things: Either the magicians are saying that God is present because Moses and Aaron can do things the magicians can’t do (an acknowledgment of supernatural power). Or they are saying that God is clearly present, because the magicians cannot do what they would otherwise have been able to do (an acknowledgement of the involvement of a more powerful supernatural power than that which they, the magicians, are accessing).

I believe it’s the second of these two options, and my reason for this is not just because they say this about God right after they cannot perform magic but because we see a very similar event take place with Balaam the son of Beor when he is hired to curse Israel and on Mount Carmel when Elijah has a showdown with the prophets of Baal.

Balaam’s Ability to Bless and Curse

Then [Balak the son of Zippor] sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor…to call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam…

Numbers 22:5-9

Things to note about Balaam being asked by Balak to curse Israel: 

  1. Balaam has a reputation for being able to successfully bless or curse people. It is not made clear what supernatural source(s) he had used to do magic (the accessing of supernatural power) prior to this point. But there is fairly good evidence to assume Balaam was at least at times using a supernatural power that was not God’s. (For example in Num 24:1 it says, “when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery…”) In other words, Balaam had been successfully using sorcery to bless and curse. He is also later called a soothsayer (Jos 13:22).
  2. The LORD tells Balaam, “you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” (Num 22:12) and “only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” (Num 22:35) Balaam then says to Balak, “Now have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.” (Num 22:38)
  3. When Balaam blesses Israel he says within his blessing “[God] has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” He goes on to say about Israel, “The LORD his God is with him…For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’ (Numbers 23:20-23)

Conclusion: Balaam had been using supernatural power to successfully bless and curse people, but when it came the nation of Israel he could only do that which God had commanded him. His normal ability to curse or counter a blessing was hindered. 

Mount Carmel

In 1 Kings 18: 22-40, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel saying, “the God who answers by fire, He is God.” The prophets of Baal agree to the showdown and Elijah’s terms that there must be an answer by fire and they attend the event and “called on the name of Baal.” However, no fire comes down for the prophets of Baal, but fire does comes down for Elijah.

Things to note about the fire showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal:

  1. The prophets of Baal agree to the very public showdown of calling down fire which will display whether or not their god has power. (Can demonic power do this? Yes. We read in Rev 13:13 that demonic power can make fire come down.)
  2. They go to a lot of effort to try to call down fire at the showdown
  3. They attract even more attention to themselves leaping about the alter they have made while trying to call down fire
  4. They go so far as to self-harm in order to try to call down fire
  5. They don’t accept defeat, don’t try to claim any sort of accuse for their inability, or even admit failure even after hours of trying. (It’s Elijah who finally ends their attempts by just going ahead with his sacrifice, which he drowns in water, and then stands back and watches as fire comes down from God and consumes ever last bit of the sacrifice.)

Now, this could mean one of two things: Either these prophets of Baal were total frauds but were very dedicated to their performance yet epically failed to pull off the illusion they agreed to pull off and that which they staked their god’s reputation and their own lives on. Or, far more plausibly, they knew they could normally call down fire from Baal but unbeknownst to them were suddenly unable to do so at this showdown. (Much the same way as the Egyptian magicians attempted to bring forth lice failed and how Balaam was unable to curse or counter God’s blessing on Israel. The hand of God was present, therefore, their ability to do what they could normally do was prevented.)

Medium Consulted by King Saul

In 1Samuel 28:6-15, King Saul of Israel wants answers from the LORD but isn’t getting them, so he seeks out a medium (witch, necromancer, and/or consulter of familiar spirits) and asks her to “bring up” the dead prophet Samuel for him to talk to. She agrees to do so, but when Samuel shows up, the medium freaks out.

Two interesting things to note about this event in 1 Samuel 28:

  1. The medium doesn’t question her ability to accomplish Saul’s request to “bring up” Samuel, she only questions what will happen when she does, since being a medium in Israel is punishable by death.
  2. When the medium sees Samuel, who she said she could “bring up,” she freaks out. Why, when this is what she had agreed to do?

Either, this process has never worked for her before, but she has impressively faked it until now (we would assume “impressively” considering: she is still a medium in Israel despite it being punishable by death, and she is known by King Saul’s servants as someone who can do what Saul is asking to have done), or, this process has indeed worked for her before, but only in the sense that when she has “called up” a dead person to get answers for someone, a spirit has indeed shown up who knows things about the dead person and can even masquerade as the dead person but isn’t actually the dead person. (Hence, the mediums confusion and fear when the real Samuel turns up.)

How could a spirit pretend to be a dead person? Demons and Angels can transform themselves into human form
Satan can disguise himself/masquerade as an angel of light (2 Co 11:14), and we know for certain that angels can look like/take on human form (so it would follow that demons can do likewise). In Genesis 19:1-5 we read about two angels who come to Sodom to speak to Lot and are assumed to be men by the townspeople.

Conclusion: The medium’s abilities to produce real information about the dead was legitimate (hence her reputation), but the supernatural source she was using to gain that real information was different from the source which drew forth the real Samuel to speak with King Saul. (This is also not the only time in the Bible were dead people—still dead, not resurrected—are seen and heard. Check out Matthew 17:3.)

Fortune Telling Slave Girl

Now it happened, as we went to prayer, 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. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

Acts 16:16-19

Two things to note about the slave girl’s fortune telling: 

  1. There are two supernatural powers present. One is acknowledge as a spirit of divination (he) (a supernatural being)(a.k.a. a demon) that has possessed the slave girl and the other, Jesus Christ, is shown as having the power to cast out that spirit/demon. 
  2. The girl’s fortune-telling—clearly linked to the demon—is called profitable (a.k.a. successful), and when the demon is gone the girl’s masters knew immediately her ability to tell people’s fortunes was gone as well. The slave girl’s masters knew who was sourcing the girl’s power/ability. 

Demons and Angels can know things that are beyond the knowledge of a human and can pass on that knowledge
Demon-possessed people that Jesus encounters immediately know who He was and often identify Him far more accurately than even those around Him. The man possessed by a legion of demons calls Jesus, “Son of the Most High God” (Luke 8:28). Angels can know and reveal things to and through people that are currently beyond the knowledge of the human(s) they are dealing with: Like when an angel tells a man in Caesarea to send to Joppa for Simon Peter who is living with a tanner, whose house is by the sea. (Act 10:3-6, Act 11:13) Or when an angel tells Zacharias that his wife will become pregnant and bear a son. (Luke 1:13)

Let me clarify here that I don’t believe that demons know the future or that angels do, but rather that angles are told the future by God and thus are able to share it. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the satanic side of the spiritual realm knows the future. In fact, it’s very clear in Scripture that neither Satan nor his demons know the future. But they can influence people’s choices and trajectory to such a degree as to often bring about their predicted results, which can appear to be foreknowledge of the future—basically a type of stage magic brought about by the use of supernatural magic. In other words, a supernatural being (a spirit) tells a person “the future,” which is actually a prediction not based in the spirit’s true knowledge of the future but rather on a supposition or intention of that supernatural being. The being/spirit then uses supernatural magic to bring about that which was supposedly foreknown. Thus supernatural magic is used to perform stage magic (a.k.a. entertainment magic). The result is a supernatural being creating an illusion of power beyond what it actually possessed, much the same way a stage magician does.

Supernatural beings have real power (magic) which they use and do at times allow humans to access/utilize.

Back at the beginning of this post, I mentioned that there is another element that needs to addressed within the discussion of magic. We’ve actually already brushed against this element quite a bit, but in next week we’re going to dive fully into the question “Is magic bad?” within the complexity of our uses of the word “magic” and our use of the word “miracle.”

Check back here next Monday, or subscribe to receive next week’s blog post on this topic.

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What is Magic? (Type 3: Supernatural Magic)

Last week we talked about the second type of magic: fantasy magic. This week we’re going to talk about the third type of magic.

The Three Types of Magic

  1. Entertainment Magic (deception and trickery) 
  2. Fantasy Magic (make-believe)(un-real)
  3. Supernatural Magic (accessed/sourced power)

Supernatural Magic

This is a type of power/ability that is accessed/granted and comes from a supernatural source. 

A definition from Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Supernatural

: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe especially:of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil

a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature

b: attributed to an invisible agent (such as a ghost or spirit)

From Wikipedia: Magic (supernatural)

“Magic, sometimes spelled magick, is the application of beliefs, rituals or actions employed in the belief that they can manipulate natural or supernatural beings and forces.”

From Encyclopedia Britannica: Magic (supernatural phenomenon)

“The purpose of magic is to acquire knowledge, power, love, or wealth; to heal or ward off illness or danger; to guarantee productivity or success in an endeavour; to cause harm to an enemy; to reveal information; to induce spiritual transformation; to trick; or to entertain. The effectiveness of magic is often determined by the condition and performance of the magician, who is thought to have access to unseen forces and special knowledge of the appropriate words and actions to manipulate those forces.”

There are a lot of types of power/ability out there, which is why when talking about supernatural magic it’s important to recognize that this is a type of power/ability that is accessed/granted AND that which comes from a supernatural source. 

Both elements of being accessed/granted and of being from a supernatural source need to be considered because humanity has gained power/abilities from many different sources. A few of those different sources of power/abilities are things like the power of psychology (understanding the way people’s minds work to communicate, influence, manipulate, etc.), the power of science (discoveries like gravity, magnets, chemical reactions, medicine, electricity, combustion, pesticides, etc.) the power of nature (the use of dams, sluices, forges, solar power, windmills, sails, fuel, coal, etc.) the power of society, and the list could go on and on. My point is, when discussing supernatural magic, there can be confusion about the concept simply because many people have faked supernatural magic by using a different form of accessed/gained power. 

People with knowledge of psychology, science, and nature can and have convincingly deceived other people into believing they were accessing or using supernatural magic when in reality they were not. For instance a person may claim they will use supernatural magic to black out the moon or cause fire to rain throughout the sky, when in reality they simply had foreknowledge of a coming lunar eclipse or a meteor shower.

The concepts of science and magic have long been entangled and confused. I believe this was and is because of the often hidden and astonishing power of science, but science is mankind’s discoveries of inherent natural elements within our world, which can be utilized in powerful ways. Whereas, supernatural magic comes from source(s) that function outside the laws of nature.

Now that we’ve established what supernatural magic is, there is another question which quickly becomes relevant in both the context of crafting a fantasy novel and in the context of the real world.

Is Supernatural Magic Real?

Check back here next Monday, or subscribe for next week’s blog post where we will launch into a study of what Scripture has to say about the reality of Supernatural Magic.

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What is Magic? (Type 2: Fantasy Magic)

Last week we talked about entertainment magic. This week we’re going to talk about the second type of magic.

The Three Types of Magic:

  1. Entertainment Magic (deception and trickery) 
  2. Fantasy Magic (make-believe)(un-real)
  3. Supernatural Magic (accessed/sourced power)

Fantasy Magic

The depiction/portrayal of make-believe settings or places that cannot or do not exist in our world, and fantastical creatures/character with extraordinary and mysterious abilities/power that cannot or do not exist in our world like fairies, unicorns, griffins, trolls, centaurs, werewolves, mermaids, pegasus, etc. Fantasy magic is the type of powers/abilities/traits that these make-believe creatures/character/setting naturally possess which are often unique, powerful, unexpected, mysterious etc. These type of traits are not considered supernatural, because they are crafted as something that is meant to exist naturally within that fictional/fantasy realm.

In other words, the same way a fish can breath underwater and be astounding to humans who do not possess the ability to breath underwater, a fantasy creature/character possessing a unique ability/power to do something different from what any creature/character in our normal world can do, would be magical but not supernatural. It is fantasy magic but not supernatural magic when it is a natural characteristic to the creature/character/setting in the fantasy realm in which it has been crafted.

However, depending on how the creature/character within the fantasy realm is crafted, the creature’s/character’s abilities (partially or fully) may not simply be fantasy magic in origin but actually an accessed/granted magic. This type of magic would fall under supernatural magic. 

So in summary: Fantasy magic is make-believe creatures/characters/settings that have inherent mysterious and/or powerful abilities/traits—capabilities they naturally possess, not powers/abilities that they are accessing or have been granted from a supernatural source (known or unknown)(explained or unexplained).

In the talk I gave in May entitled, “The Issue of Magic: Lord of the Rings vs Harry Potter” I mention how the Harry Potter series is considered “low fantasy” while in contrast the Lord of the Rings series is considered “high fantasy.” Now this might seem odd until you understand the distinction between fantasy magic and supernatural magic.

Harry Potter takes place in the real world with the fantasy parts woven into the story as a parallel society within the normal world. So even though there are many fantasy creatures and characters like goblins, werewolves, unicorns, centaurs, etc. who have mysterious and powerful abilities, they are incorporated into the setting as present in the real world but concealed from most people’s knowledge. Hence, Harry Potter is not only known as “low fantasy” but also known as a “contemporary fantasy” or “urban fantasy” because it has a modern-day setting with a fantasy spin added to it. 

In contrast…

Lord of the Rings takes place in a wholly crafted fantasy world that was created with no overlap or connection to the real world. Lord of the Rings is also a vastly complex fantasy realm, having everything from several fully established make-believe languages for distinct races to also complete made-up histories for the races, etc. Hence, the Lord of the Rings is considered “high fantasy” or “epic fantasy.”

These terms, high fantasy or low fantasy, reflect the fantasy content but not the actual use of supernatural magic within these two series. In fact, the use of supernatural magic in these two series is the exact opposite from how these books are reflected via the fantasy terms applied to them.

For instance…

Even though Lord of the Rings is considered “high fantasy,” it is low in the use of supernatural magic.

Meanwhile, Harry Potter, despite being “low fantasy,” is extremely high in the use of supernatural magic.

In other words, we really need to understand the difference between fantasy magic and supernatural magic because they are not one and the same.  A novel or movie being labeled “fantasy” does not inherently make all the magic within it make-believe. Fantasy novels and movies can have fantasy magic (purely imagined and inherent) and also supernatural magic (sourced by other forces). The genre “Fantasy” implies only that there are make-believe elements to the story, not that fantasy magic is the only type of magic including in the story.

Check back here next Monday, or subscribe for next week’s blog post on the third type of magic that we will be discussing: Supernatural Magic

Did the information in this post surprise you? Have you ever thought about the difference between what fantasy means in media versus what using supernatural magic means? 

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