All things belong to the Lord. He’s clear about that. And inside of that reality, he still gives limitations. Scripture condemns witchcraft for instance, and yet there are times in biblical history where God’s people are commanded to do things that would seem to the modern reader to be very “witchcrafty.” For instance, God instructs his people at one point to look at a statue of a snake on a stick in order to be healed. Moses is asked to strike a stone to produce water out of it, and turns his staff into a snake that literally eats the snakes the palace sorcerers produced. There are many, many other examples in the Bible where God commands the use of things that are also used in witchcraft. (see Splankna book for more details). So the question is this: if God condemns witchcraft but commands the same structures in his own contexts, what is really the important boundary line? How is a particular act identified as witchcraft?
I had to tackle this confusing question for the writing of my first book, “Splankna; Redeeming Energy Psychology for the Kingdom of God.” What I found was this: what defines “witchcraft” as God condemns it is not any particular behavioral structure (like drawing a circle on the ground or using a meaningful object, etc.)
What defines witchcraft is the heart’s posture of rebellion against
the sovereignty of the Lord by demanding special knowledge
or special power.
There were several ways the people of Israel (and modern folks as well) pursue special knowledge or special power.
- “Third Party” access.
Whenever we pursue a “supernatural” third party, such as a dead loved one, an “ascended master,” a demon, an angel, etc. we are stepping out of God’s boundaries. Third parties who are thought to have supernatural knowledge or power are idols. God intends that we acknowledge and seek him alone as the source for knowledge and power. In acknowledging that he is the only true source of all things, we also acknowledge that he is sovereign to give us both the gifts and limits of knowledge and power he so desires.
Divination is the attempt to gain special knowledge or decision-making by means of contrived human meaning structures such as tea leaves or taro cards. In the Old Testament, people would come up to an important decision, usually something like, “Should we go into battle with the so-and-so-ites?” In order to “divine” their answer, they would “consult the liver.” They would slaughter an animal and watch how the liver and intestines would spill out. They had constructed all sorts of meanings for what could happen. For instance, if the liver was brown, it means such and such, but if the liver was spotted, it meant something else, etc.
We do this today with things like Taro cards and tea leaves and horoscopes. We contrive whole meaning structures to interpret the order the cards come up or the design of the tea leaves. These man-made meaning structures fall into the category of witchcraft because it is a way we are pursuing special knowledge, prediction, all wisdom, etc.
Another form of witchcraft is pursuing special power by means of things like curses, spells and hexes. Voodoo is a modern day example of this sort of practice. The individual believes that by the use of special words, objects or behaviors they can control circumstances supernaturally. When this heart’s posture is adopted, it is fundamental rebellion against the sovereignty of God (as is all witchcraft), so it invites/allows the enemy’s involvement. Subsequently, people employing these practices often experience powerful results because of the demonic empowerment going on (whether or not they are aware that the source is demonic).
- “All Potential” Teaching
The subtlest form of modern day witchcraft is the teaching in new age circles that within the human being lies all potential. You hear this in things like “The Secret.” The teaching is that if you just learn to tap into it, you have within your own being (usually the subconscious) all knowledge and all power. You can “manifest” any life you want if you just focus on it. You hear mantras like, “If you want to find God, look within.” New age purports that people like Jesus (and all the other avatars) were no different than you. They just figured out how to tap into their full potential. This thinking is just another example of rebellion against the sovereignty of the Lord who says that he is the only one with all knowledge and power.
We are created beings who are fundamentally limited. We are not offered all knowledge or all power. God is clear throughout scripture that we cannot be equal with him and any attempt to do so aligns us with the enemy’s own attempt. It didn’t go well for him, and it won’t for us either. In every way, we need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, accepting gratefully that he is the one who has unlimited knowledge, power and love for us.