Mediums and the Occult

There are those who have spiritual experiences outside of Christians circles. Some of these are Satanic. But as there is a difference between Astronomy and Astrology so we should be careful to not presume to place all spiritual experience which is outside of Christian circles as being Satanic else we end up denying things which are true, or at least being viewed as those who suppress truth as even Galileo was suppressed by the inquisition from publishing his scientific observations. All truth is God's truth. By this I am not saying that everything which people claim to be true is God's truth. But rather everything which is actually true is also true to God and should be celebrated by those who claim to be children of the truth.

Occultic practices of Astrology, Tarot card reading, Palm reading, and the like are not based upon truth but upon superstition. Consulting these things for direction in life is a rejection of God and God's truth. Consulting mediums to call up the dead for advice replaces God's word with the word of the dead.

Leviticus 20:6  "I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people."

Deut 18:10,11  "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, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead."

These occultic practices were developed for the godless to obtain guidance in life and are contrary to the practice of Biblical Christianity. However I would like to take special note of mediums.

John Edward's "Crossing Over" Program

Due to his media exposure, increasingly popular today is the medium "John Edward." Despite the skeptics, most anyone who views his "readings" over a period of time concludes that indeed he is communicating with the dead. Though one could just as easily conclude that fallen angels are feeding him information. But nonetheless there is the appearance that something supernatural is going on. His readings primarily consist of providing detailed facts known by the dead person and the audience member which he himself couldn't have known, for the very purpose of providing validating evidence. Already I've gotten email from a Sunday school teacher whose students are being affected and as to how to respond to such information coming out of his program. How should Christians respond?

The normal Christian response these days is to run away or to outright deny the facts without examining them and end up slandering others. I don't know if these are particularly an improvement over the "burn him at the stake" mentality of earlier days. Such responses don't seem to glorify God as they don't deal with the facts in a fair an objective manner. As it is many Christians can't even deal with the creation/evolution debate objectively, let alone life after death experiences.

Should we interpret the commands above to mean that we are not allowed to investigate the claims of those who practice the occult or the claims of mediums? That is not the spirit of what was written. The spirit of what was written was not to seek from those involved in the occult what should be sought from God alone. Notice the applications of the commands have to do with consulting the dead for guidance.

1Chron 10:13,14  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, and did not inquire of the LORD.

2 Kings 21:6  (Ahab) sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

Isaiah 8:19  When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

But to deny investigation altogther in these matters is to deny scientific inquiry in all matters. That was in fact the application for many Christians in ages past. To eliminate apologetics is detrimental to the gospel itself in that the gospel affirms the idea of proof through miracles. To eliminate apologetics is detrimental to non-Christians in not providing them as much convincing arguments as they could have to help them come to faith in Christ. To eliminate apologetics is detrimental to Christians in that the immature can get ensnared into deviant ideas if not provided with a way to reason themselves out of it.

What should we say of John Edward? If in fact there is something supernatural going on there seems no way to distinguish whether he is communicating with the dead or with demons, deceitful spirits who are merely portraying themselves as the dead.

But let us suppose that his "readings" are in fact communications from beyond the grave. When it comes to the advice of the dead, like Isaiah says, "Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?" He doesn't deny that it's possible to consult the dead, as Saul did of Samuel in 1Samuel 28. But why bother? The dead are just as ignorant as the living in many cases. Indeed in Edward's readings the dead seem not much different than when they were alive, though they feel better and physical impediments have been removed. In fact in his readings the dead don't tend to give much advice at all. After providing proofs of validation, their message is mostly just that they are there, they are OK, they are watching over their loved ones, they want their loved ones not to be consumed with grief, they forgive those who wronged them, or they ask forgiveness. None have expressed any bitterness or hatred or resentment. And the message that John himself gives is primarily to get along with those around you in this life, particularly in your family, so that you won't have to go to mediums to try to reconcile relationships with others when they pass away. An interesting note also is that babies who had been miscarriaged also come through, which kind of affirms the pro-life position. These are the things which the society is hearing and which Christians should be prepared to respond to. But are these facts contrary to the Bible?

In the Christian community there are widely differing views of what life after death is like for Christians and non-Christians before the resurrection. And everyone thinks that their own particular viewpoint is the Biblical viewpoint. That kind of gives you a clue that the Bible is not too clear and explicit about this matter. On the cross Jesus told the thief beside him that that very day he would be with him in paradise, thus advocating life after death even before the resurrection, and so also in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus of Luke 16. And Paul teaches:

"But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.  For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you." Php 1:22-24

"We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." 2Cor 5:8

(The Philippians passage nullifies the "soul sleep" idea by the way, in that Paul sees his options as either fruitful labor here or being with the Lord. This as opposed to viewing his options as being between fruitful labor here and soul sleep until the resurrection.)

These all concern true believers in Christ, but concerning the parable of Lazarus Jesus portrays life after death for those two men at that time as one is which a sort of paradise and hell are separated by a gap, and some are on one side and some on the other. But whether he is portraying what life after death is really like now is subject to interpretation. The main point of the parable is found in the last verse which says, "If they donít listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead." Inevitably there will be people thrown in the lake of fire on the day of judgement, but was Jesus saying that the unrighteous go immediately to hell even before the judgement day, or was he using some poetic license to make his point? Hell and the fear of going to hell is certainly central to his gospel. But as for the details, the parable could be read in the sense "if it were true that rich man went immediately to hell and then hypothetically made such requests on behalf of his brothers, yet if they didn't listen to the Bible to begin with, no miracle will bring them to saving faith."

Often the Bible doesn't tell us as much as we may think it does. It could be also that it is true that some go to hell, as the rich man, to await the day of judgment as one would hold the guilty in prison awaiting sentencing. But such may not be the case for all the unredeemed. Another possibility is that the senario represents the situation before Christ' resurrection and ascension. And there are different speculations as to the present scenario. When he "let the prisoners free" (Is 42:7) did he release the redeemed from Paradise to enter Heaven? And/Or did he release those in hell to dwell in paradise for a time until the resurrection? In 1Peter 3:19 it says he did go to preach to spirits in prison who had formerly rebelled in Noah's time, but there is much speculation as to whether he's speaking of humans or demons, nor does it give the content of his message, nor the results. So it doesn't tell us much. As such it is not too difficult to correlate the information gained from Edward's readings with the many possible Biblical senarios concerning life after death.

Many, if not all, of his readings are from the unredeemed (if not from demons).  None that I've heard have mentioned Jesus Christ or give warnings of the judgment to come. Though all seem to be in a sort of paradise situation, they all seem ignorant of the future judgment day. But what should we expect of the unredeemed anyway? If they don't know God or God's program now, why should they be any closer to knowing God having died? And though God may mercifully allow them a time in paradise, that doesn't mean they will escape judgment when the day comes. After all many non-Christians enjoy a good life, are wealthly and healthy here in this life, does that mean they will escape the wrath to come? Certainly not. But can people be saved in the afterlife before the judgement day? Probably not. The Bible seems to indicate that death has a certain finality to it with respect to judgment. "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" Heb 9:27

The problem is that many will go away with a distorted view of life after death. They go away with a lack of the fear of God. The reason people should fear death and prepare for death is because of the judgement. But there is no message of judgment from the readings. So now we see the problem with consulting the dead. Even though the dead may really be communicating, yet if you base your viewpoint of life after death on such readings alone, you may end up in hell reminiscing on what the afterlife used to be like and kicking yourself for being so presumptuous. John Edward himself admits that despite his years of readings he really doesn't know much of the afterlife. He only has a window with a very limited view and doesn't presume, as some of his followers may, that he has the whole picture.

On a positive note Edward will influence the atheistic materialists so predominant in the culture today to realize that there really is life after death and the people are more than just chemistry. If we Christians can then complete the picture and induce the fear of God in such people in view of the judgement to come, that'll bring them close to entering the Kingdom. And Jesus' miracles and resurrection would appear more feasible and less fiction to them. But one last time let me stress that the primary needful thing that people lack today is the fear of God.

Verses quoted from the NIV
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources