By Steve Wallace
It is amazing the publicity presently being given to psychics in our society. One commercial asks, “Have you called those other psychic lines only to be left with an empty feeling? Well, you deserve better. Call the ‘Psychic Readers Network’ and speak to a psychic who really cares.” Another one asks, “Why are so many people calling Walter Mercado’s psychic hotline?” Then, after some testimonials from people who say they have financially profited from the insights offered by the advertized psychic, it says, “Need help making money? Join the ‘circle of vision’ by dialing the number on your screen.”
What then is a psychic, and what kind of activity do they engage in?
Webster defines the word psychic: “1. A person who is supposedly sensitive to forces beyond the physical world.
2. A spiritual medium” (New Uni- versal Unabridged Dictionary 1954). Concerning the works they claim to perform, the above cited commercials made claims that their psychics could foretell the future and interpret dreams. Another asserted ability of psychics is seen in the recent news stories about the first lady’s alleged contact with Eleanor Roosevelt. In downplaying the incident, a White House staffer said, “To describe it as a consultation with psychics is to try to put it in the wrong frame” (Stars and Stripes, June 24, 1996). Hence, we see that our society views contacting the dead as a work of a psychic.
The question that concerns God’s people is, “What does the Bible say about consulting psychics?” Let us now turn our attention to it.
The Old Testament: Deuteronomy 18:10-11
In the above text God’s Old Testament people are warned about various secret arts and practices. Please note the meaning of each word from this text below:
A. Divination: Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB, hereafter) simply has “divination” (890); Webster defines the word: “the act of divining; the act or practice of trying to foretell future events or the unknown by means of the occult” (Ibid., 538)
B. Observer of times: “practice soothsaying . . . but original meaning dubious” (BDB, 778); possibly “reading and interpretation of cloud patterns” (Theological Word- book of the Old Testament [T.W.O.T.] II:685). The meaning of this word is uncertain.
C. Enchanter: “practice divination, divine, observe signs” (BDB, 638).
D. Witch: “practice sorcery” (BDB, 506); “practice magic” (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament VII:361).
E. Charmer: “v. tie magic knots, charm. . . . n. spell” (BDB 287-288).
F. Consulter with familiar spirits: “consult” is used of inquiring of the Lord (1 Sam. 23:2; 30:8); BDB defines it, “necromancer” (15).
G. Wizard: from “know;” “is also used of one’s relation to the divine, whether acquaintance with other gods . . . or with Jehovah. . . . ‘to know’ . . . is esoteric knowledge not available to the ordinary person.” (Hebrew word for ‘wizard,’ sw] always occurs parallel to [witch]. It may be a description of a [witch] or it may be the masculine counterpart,” T.W.O.T. I:366-367).
H. Necromancer, two words: “to seek, consult, inquire of” (BDB, 205); E.g., “enquire of God” (1 Sam. 9:9; 1 Kgs. 22:8); “to die” (BDB, 559). Hence, “consult the dead.”
As one can see, these words are very similar in meaning and we should expect the works of those involved in the practice such things to be similar. That this is so can be seen from 1 Samuel 28:6-11 where Saul consulted the witch at Endor: The woman is said to have a “familiar spirit” (v. 7); Saul asks her to “divine” for him (v. 8), and “bring up Samuel” (v. 8) (necromancy); the woman speaks of herself in connection with “wizards” (v. 9). When we compare the above definitions with the claimed activities of psychics we can see that their work would have caused them to be condemned under the Old Testament.
The New Testament
1. People involved in “psychic-like” activities.
a. The wise men (Matt. 2:1-2). The word magus rendered “wise men” is defined, “a wise man and priest, who was expert in astrology, interpretation of dreams and various other secret arts” (Arndt and Gingrich 484).
b. Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-11). The meaning of sorcery is, “magic, magic arts” (Ibid., 484).
c. Those who used “magical arts” (Acts 19:13-20).
Defined as “of things belonging to magic” (Ibid., 646).
All these people confessed the superiority of Christ.
a. Gal. 5:19-21, “sorcery.” This word is from the Greek word pharmakeia. It is defined, “sorcery, magic, magic arts” (Ibid., 854). William Barclay says that the word took on “the meaning of sorcery and witchcraft. It is, for instance, repeatedly used of the Egyptian sorcerers and charmers who competed with Moses when Pharaoh would not let Israel go (Exod. 7.11, 8.18; Wisd. 7.12; 18.13)” (Flesh and Spirit 36).
b. Rev. 21:8, “sorcerer.” This word means “mixer of poisons, magician.” (Arndt and Gingrich 854).
c. 2 John 9. One who looks to a psychic for information is sinning because they are looking to a source other than God for guidance. In the Old Testament, God said his people were to “hearken” to him and not to the sources listed under our first point (Deut. 18:14-15).
The warnings in these verses should cause everyone to see the sinfulness of psychics and their work.
Deuteronomy 18 shows that such activities as psychics are involved in are the works of godless people (vv. 9, 12, 14). This is a comment on psychics and those in our society today who consult them. They are godless and their works are the works of darkness. Let us all join in pointing people to the Bible as the only source of information on spiritual things.