Thankful for the Fleas

Editor’s Note: This blog is a favorite of the Church & Culture Team, and has become a Thanksgiving tradition. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

The barracks where Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were kept in the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbruck were terribly overcrowded and flea-infested.

They had been able to miraculously smuggle a Bible into the camp, and in that Bible they had read that in all things they were to give thanks and that God can use anything for good.

Betsy decided that this meant thanking God for the fleas.

This was too much for Corrie, who said she could do no such thing. Betsy insisted, so Corrie gave in and prayed to God, thanking Him even for the fleas.

Over the next several months a wonderful, but curious, thing happened: They found that the guards never entered their barracks. 

This meant that the women were not assaulted. 

It also meant that they were able to do the unthinkable, which was to hold open Bible studies and prayer meetings in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp.

Through this, countless numbers of women came to faith in Christ.

Only at the end did they discover why the guards had left them alone and would not enter into their barracks:

It was because of the fleas.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks to God for every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), but also thank Him for how He will use all things for good in the lives of those who trust Him (Romans 8:28). 

In this time of declining home values and rising unemployment, in a time when many are facing physical and emotional challenges, there can be little doubt that such a trusting prayer of gratitude will be challenging to consider.

But when you feel that challenge, take a moment and remember the fleas of Ravensbruck.

And thank God anyway.

James Emery White


Sources
     

Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place.

Good News and Bad News on Teens and Sex

(*Warning: This post contains graphic language.)

“These should be boom times for sex.”

Thus began an article in The Atlantic titled, “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?” The idea is that, in light of current cultural conditions, they should.

“The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is ‘not wrong at all’ is at an all-time high. New cases of HIV are at an all-time low. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free and the morning-after pill without a prescription.

“If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour. The phrase ‘If something exists, there is porn of it’ used to be a clever internet meme; now it’s a truism. BDSM plays at the local multiplex—but why bother going? Sex is portrayed, often graphically and sometimes gorgeously, on prime-time cable. Sexting is, statistically speaking, normal.

“Polyamory is a household word. Shame-laden terms like perversion have given way to cheerful-sounding ones like kink. Anal sex has gone from final taboo to ‘fifth base’—Teen Vogue (yes, Teen Vogue) even ran a guide to it. With the exception of perhaps incest and bestiality—and of course nonconsensual sex more generally—our culture has never been more tolerant of sex in just about every permutation.

 

“But despite all this,” the article baited, “American teenagers and young adults are having less sex.”

 

This, it would seem, would be the “good” news.  At least for those who feel that sex outside of marriage is not God’s plan for sexual expression, much less fulfillment.

 

The bad news?

 

After a lengthy examination, several suggestions were put forward as to why. None of them encouraging. But two were deeply disturbing.

 

First, what the writer calls “sex for one.” In short, the ubiquitous nature of porn has led to a retreat from sexual interaction with other people. In short, we’ve traded sex with others for masturbation to a digital image. As one observer put it, this is “a generation that found the imperfect or just unexpected demands of real-world relationships with women less enticing than the lure of the virtual libido.” This is not mere conjecture. Studies have shown that from 1992 to 2014, the share of American men who reported masturbating in a given week doubled, and the number of women tripled. Why? Pornography.

 

A second concerning reason was simply called “bad sex,” and it, too, was porn-related. As one leading sex researcher at Indiana University has had to counsel her students: “If you’re with somebody for the first time, don’t choke them, don’t ejaculate on their face, don’t try to have anal sex with them. These are all things that are just unlikely to go over well”—all things prominently featured in pornography. Young people today are simply more likely to engage in sexual behaviors prevalent in pornography. “All of this might be scaring some people off… and contributing to the sex decline.”

This is worth quoting at length:

“Painful sex is not new, but there’s reason to think that porn may be contributing to some particularly unpleasant early sexual experiences. Studies show that, in the absence of high-quality sex education, teen boys look to porn for help understanding sex—anal sex and other acts women can find painful are ubiquitous in mainstream porn… In my interviews with young women, I heard too many iterations to count of ‘he did something I didn’t like that I later learned is a staple in porn,’ choking being one widely cited example.

 

“If you are a young woman, and you’re having sex and somebody tries to choke you, I just don’t know if you’d want to go back for more right away.”

All to say, we’re beginning to see ever more clearly what the first generation raised on porn is having that exposure do to them.

Good news? Teen sex is down.

The bad news?

Why.

James Emery White

 

 

Sources

 

Kate Julian, “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?,” The Atlantic, December 2018, read online.

Fat in Church

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 40% of all American adults are not simply overweight, but obese. That’s more than 93 million people. And it starts young and increases with age. The CDC reports 13.8% of preschool-age children (2-5 years), 18.4% of school-age children (6-11 years), and 20.6% of adolescents (12-19 years) are obese. Most of us know that obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. But this is just obesity, defined as being 35 pounds or more overweight. When you look at the combined numbers of those who are obese or simply overweight, two out of every three people are affected. 

But then there’s what a Fox News article once called “fat in church.” Studies show Christians as a whole are heavier than the general population. This includes one-third of all pastors. As one researcher put it, “America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity and churches are a feeding ground for this problem.”   

Ouch.

When it comes to our bodies, we can either fixate, desecrate or consecrate.

A fixation with our bodies is tying them to our sense of self-worth, whether we are (or can be) loved and accepted by others. It’s making our body the essence of what we think will make us happy or whole. It’s when we’ve reduced our sense of security and esteem to how we look and, from that, have turned loose an insecurity that trivializes what it means to value others as well as ourselves. The words of Scripture ring clear: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (I Peter 3:3-4, NLT).

The other extreme is to desecrate our bodies. To desecrate something is to violate it, to take something that should be held sacred, held in esteem, and treat it with contempt. When we allow ourselves to get overweight, and particularly become obese, we desecrate our bodies. The Bible is very clear on this: “When you eat... always do it to honor God” (I Corinthians 10:31, CEV).

The call of God on our lives is not to fixate on our bodies or desecrate them. The call is to consecrate them. That’s not a word we use too much anymore, but it’s an important one. To consecrate something is to set it aside, to mark it as holy. When you consecrate something, you set it aside for a sacred purpose. And that is what the Bible would encourage us to do with our bodies: “… offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, NIV). Why? Again, from the Bible: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?... therefore, honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV).

The Bible teaches that our body is a sacred place where God dwells through the Holy Spirit. So when it comes to our bodies, we’re on holy ground. If you are a Christ-follower, you are dealing with something that God not only made, but actually inhabits. It’s not just flesh and blood—there is a spiritual dynamic that is a part of your body. So caring for it in any and every way needed is part of the management responsibility we have before God.

If we don’t, it impacts us spiritually.

Something like obesity dulls your spiritual senses. It cheapens your life and deadens the core of your being. Which is why fasting has always been a spiritual discipline. There is a relationship between what you do with your body and your relationship with God.

I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrases the apostle Paul’s advice in his first letter to the Corinthians: “You know the old saying, ‘First you eat to live, and then you live to eat?’ Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food... Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body!” (I Corinthians 6:13, Msg).

Yes.

James Emery White

 

Sources

“Adult Obesity Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, read online.

Christopher J.L. Murray, Marie Ng and Ali Mokdad, “The Vast Majority of American Adults Are Overweight or Obese, and Weight Is a Growing Problem Among US Children,” IHME, read online.

“Overweight and Obesity Statistics,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, read online.

Justin Caba, “Clergy Members Battle Obesity: One-Third of Pastors in the US Are Obese,” Medical Daily, January 13, 2015, read online.

“Fat in Church,” Fox News, June 3, 2012, read online.

Nine Ways to Change… or Die

It was a fascinating project. 

Two Danish researchers traveled to 54 newsrooms in nine countries in search of desperately needed innovation in journalism. Their motivation was clear: “When citizens of Western societies, to a deeply disturbing extent, turn their backs on original news journalism, spend less time on news on radio or television, buy fewer newspapers, and express a growing distrust of media institutions, we need to submit the core content of the news media – journalism itself – to a critical review.”

They found that the crisis of journalism and legacy news media “is structural, and not just a matter of technological challenges or broken business models.” As a result, they found that the “news media most successful at creating and maintaining ties with their readers, users, listeners and viewers will increasingly be media that dare challenge some of the journalist dogmas of the last century.”

They walked away with nine core ideas, nine different ways (or movements) by which news media in the Western world are currently trying to “forge closer ties and stronger relations to their communities and audiences.” Here are the nine: 

  1. From neutrality to identity. Let people know exactly what you stand for, who you are and from which perspective you view the world. 

  2. From omnibus to niche. Create strong bonds with a very targeted audience. You can’t reach everyone, so don’t try.

  3. From flock to club. You aren’t after users or readers, but members who register or pay to join into a community.

  4. From ink to sweat. Quit thinking of journalism as simply a story you write or tell; create physical journalism in the form of public meetings, festivals, events and stage plays. Think “live and engaging.” 

  5. From speaking to listening. Move from a “walled-up fortress” to an open and accessible house. Personal dialogue, physical presence… have the conversation be two-way.

  6. From arm’s length to cooperation. In the name of “independence” and “neutrality,” modern journalism has kept its distance from various citizens and interest groups, not to mention public institutions and private corporations. The move now is to involve citizens directly in everything from research to delivery. Even the subsequent debate of published stories.

  7. From own to other platforms. The old idea that it weakens business opportunities and journalistic control when content is released on social media is being replaced with the idea that at least cooperation with social media has the potential to enhance and deepen engagement and strengthen journalism itself.

  8. From problem to solution. Don’t just denounce or decry, or simply reveal and relay—add a solution-oriented dynamic to the work. “They read more, they are more likely to share content, and they express more interest in knowing more about the issue when the piece has a constructive angle.”

  9. From observers to activists. Taking a campaign-oriented approach to journalism, or advocacy mindset, creates relevance. 

The researchers find no reason “to preach one particular model… for the future. All the experiments and ideas unfolding in the current media landscape… indicate that there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of different models, all of which carry a hope for the church in the future.”

The bottom line is that the church of the future will exist because of a focus on innovation and experiment. It will be founded on the courage and ambition of radical innovation. There will have to be a new understanding of the need for dramatic change and open-ended experiments. The message and intent is timeless and not to be changed, but the methods must be ruthlessly reevaluated.

Oops. Did I just write “church?” I meant “journalism.”

Or did I.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Per Westergaard & Soren Schultz Jorgensen, “54 Newsrooms, 9 Countries, and 9 Core Ideas,” Nieman Lab, July 11, 2018, read online.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be... a YouTuber

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? If you were like most children, answers would have probably included such things as being a police officer, doctor or a teacher. 

Times have changed.

What if I told you that the top aspirations of present-day children between the ages of 6 and 17 didn’t even exist when you were a child? 

A survey of more than a thousand children by the travel company First Choice found that nearly 75% now want a career in online videos. Specifically, more than a third wanted to be a YouTuber, and nearly a fifth wanted to work as a vlogger. 

It’s not about the money. The top attractions were “creativity, fame and the opportunity for self-expression.” According to Internet Matters, more than four out of 10 children are uploading videos to the web by the time they reach 15 years old.

Understandably, they want their education experience to match their career plans. The study found that they “would rather learn media studies and how to use video editing software than traditional subjects.” Instagram is ready to serve by now offering an “academy” designed to “teach teenagers how to become social media stars.” As reported by the Telegraph: “… the photo sharing app is running three days of free workshops to train would-be influencers in how to become an online success. The curriculum covers everything from camera angles to how to make your content ‘relatable.’”

It’s hard to blame the children for making this their professional desire, eclipsing becoming a pop star or famous athlete. The internet is the world in which they live and the world that lives in them. And unlike the arduous amount of work and competition for careers in such areas as medicine or law, with these aspirations there are “no barriers to entry; no exams or auditions. All it appears to take is a smartphone and bucket-loads of youthful self-confidence.” And while self-confidence may vary from child to child, we all know they at least have a smartphone.

Parents are the ones who seem unclear on how to advise their child vocationally in such matters. Not only is it a world they do not understand, it is a job they do not understand.

But offer sound counsel, they should. The sobering reality of such career dreams is revealed in the research of Mathias Bartl, a professor at Germany’s Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, who has found that “96.5% of all those trying to become YouTube vloggers won’t make enough money out of advertising to live above the poverty line.”

So while it may seem that the choice is between going to school and studying hard or putting up videos on YouTube, the latter isn’t really the viable option many young people think it is. 

Yes, as one 14-year-old put it, “Vlogging seems like the best job ever.”

Unfortunately, it’s just not one that has a very likely chance of working out.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Jacob Dirnhuber, “Children Turn Backs on Traditional Careers in Favour of Internet Fame, Study Finds,” The Sun, May 22, 2017, read online.

Tanith Carey, “Can Social Media School Make Your 16-Year-Old a Star?” The Telegraph, October 25, 2018, read online.

A Bad Answer to the Biggest Question

The posthumous release of Stephen Hawking’s new book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, playing off of the title of his bestselling A Brief History of Time, reminds us of much that endeared the physicist to our hearts and minds: his sweeping intellect, gift of explanation and simplification, self-deprecating humor, refusal to let physical challenges limit his life... and, of course, his insatiable curiosity. As Kip Thorne stated in his eulogy for Hawking at the interment of his ashes at Westminster Abbey: “Newton gave us answers. Hawking gave us questions.”

But I confess much disappointment in his “brief” answer to the biggest question of all, “Is there a God?” It’s not just that we disagree in our conclusions, but that his reasons for rejecting the existence of God are so… weak.

First, he only considers the existence of God in an impersonal sense, equating God with little more than the laws of nature. Hawking reasons that as a “law of nature,” this “god” could not exist outside of time. Taken together, this “time-bound law of nature” means that he is not even grappling with God at all. Which means he is not grappling with the “big” question at all—namely, is there a personal Being who exists outside of space and time? 

This severely curtails his attempt to answer the question at its most significant level and makes his rather glib response to whether God exists intellectually irrelevant. For example, in maintaining that whatever “god” there is must exist in time, Hawking concludes that “then there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in… Time didn’t exist before the big Bang so there is no time for God to make the universe in.” Yet the very definition of God, across almost the entire intellectual spectrum, is One who exists outside of space and time. 

(One more example of why scientists make bad philosophers and even worse theologians.)

Second, he states that the three ingredients needed in our “cosmic cookbook” for a universe are matter, energy and space. Yet none of them existed before the Big Bang, which means you have to explain how “something” came from “nothing.” Where did the energy come from? Where did the matter come from? Hawking wants to make a case that “space,” at least, was enabled through a simultaneous production of negative energy. But even if one buys into this explanation, it does not answer the questions surrounding the genesis of energy and matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the questions still remain: Where did the stuff that got “banged” come from and who “banged” it?

Third, when speaking of the laws of nature he holds to so reverently, he never bothers to ask what is arguably the most important question about those laws: How did they come into existence? This is particularly important when trying to explain how “something” could come from “nothing” through the Big Bang, which Hawking attempts to explain through the laws of physics (unconvincingly, I might add, and in a way that raises more questions than answers). As Alan Guth, one of the leading physicists of our day at M.I.T. has written, even if you could come up with a theory that would account for the creation of something from nothing through the laws of physics, you’d still have to account for the origin of the laws of physics!

In the end, Hawking admits that we now know the laws that govern what happens “in all but the most extreme conditions, like the origin of the universe, or black holes.”

Yes.

But it is precisely the questions – and mystery – surrounding those “extreme conditions” that consistently point to God. And why Hawking gives a very brief, but also very bad, answer to the biggest question of all.

And, sadly, now he knows it all too well.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Stephen Hawking, Brief Answers to the Big Questions.

Alan Guth, The Inflationary Universe.

You’ve Got Mail

Confession:

One of my favorite movies of all time is You’ve Got Mail—the Nora Ephron written and directed, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan acted, rom-com that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

There. I said it.

Much of what I love about it is the nostalgia, and Millennials would probably feel it even more than I would. The AOL greeting when signing in, “bouquets of sharpened pencils,” an actual bookstore, The Godfather quotes… it had a little bit of everything for me. 

This made it all the more painful when some staffers at Marie Claire decided to honor the movie’s 20th anniversary by showing it to a group of their Generation Z coworkers. Painful, in that it was largely lost on them. Not the story itself, mind you, just the cultural nostalgia many of us so love.

But it’s understandable, and a good reminder of how that world no longer exists. 

The demise of small bookstores under the weight of big-box stores? Oh my. Most of the big-box stores are even gone. And the ones that are left? We’re actually rooting for them! (Hang in there, Barnes and Noble!)

Chat rooms? Really?

Rent control for $450 a month? That’s reached the point of comical.

And logging on to the internet through a dial-up connection? What does that even mean? Even the very use of AOL for email or anything else tends to mark you as over-50 (guilty!), which is why even the title of the movie is lost on younger ears. 

But that’s the point, isn’t it? Realizing how much things change. And how quickly. Even after just 20 years.

This needs to serve as a reminder to us, how the coming generations we need to reach through our churches have grown up in a very different world, and we need something different than a dial-up modem to connect with them. Why?

Because while you get “You’ve got mail,”

… they don’t.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Cady Drell and Danielle McNally, “We Showed ‘You've Got Mail’ to Our Gen-Z Coworkers and Now Feel Very Old,” Marie Claire, August 1, 2018, read online.

About Halloween

I grew up in a day when Halloween was little more than pumpkins, fall festivals, hayrides and dressing up as a pirate or a farmer to go trick-or-treating. And that’s also what it was like for my (now) very post-Halloween-age children.   

I know its history, but few celebrations in our day are free from pagan roots—almost all had a pagan heritage that was later seized and transformed by a Christian culture. So that doesn’t matter much to me. On the Christian calendar, October 31 is actually to be celebrated as part of Reformation Day, in remembrance of when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church sparking the Protestant Reformation.

So while I still hold to the childlike fun the night can hold, I no longer view the day itself as innocent. 

But it’s not because of the occult.

It’s because of the sex.

In an article in the New York Times titled, “Good Girls Go Bad, For a Day,” Stephanie Rosenbloom writes of the changing nature of women’s Halloween costumes in the last several years. 

Little Red Riding Hood, in her thigh-highs and miniskirt, does not seem en route to her grandmother’s house. 

Goldilocks, in a snug bodice and platform heels, gives the impression she has been sleeping in everyone’s bed. 

And then there is the witch wearing little more than a Laker Girl uniform, a fairy who appears to shop at Victoria’s Secret, and a cowgirl with a skirt the size of a—well, you get the point. As Rosenbloom notes, the images “are more strip club than storybook.” 

No wonder Halloween costume stores have signs out front that say: “No one under 18 allowed without a parent.”     

So my take on it all is pretty simple.

I think Halloween as an American cultural event for kids is no big deal. Dress them up as one of the minions from Despicable Me and have fun. It’s just not a big deal from the paranormal or occultic perspective on things. In my opinion, this is an area where a lot of people are majoring on the minors. 

It’s not the kids and Halloween that are the problem…

… it’s the adults.

I think Halloween, as far as the kids go, can still be something innocent. But a word to you adults who have made it “dress like a porn star and act like one” night:

You’re the ones making it dark.

James Emery White

 

Editor’s Note: While first published in 2013, the Church & Culture Team continues to find this a timely word at this time of year.

Sources

Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Good Girls Go Bad, For a Day,” New York Times, Thursday, October 19, 2006, p. E1 and E2.

Michelle Healy, “Sexy teen Halloween costumes: What's a parent to do?,” USA Today, October 28, 2013, read online.

Really Bad Theology

There has been an ongoing study of the state of American theology conducted by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research, and it hasn’t been pretty.

After examining 34 core beliefs, Christianity Today magazine titled their summary article, “Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy…”

There was much to lament.

A majority of U.S. adults (59%) say that the Holy Spirit is a force, not a Person.

Six in 10 Americans agree that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion [and] not about objective truth.”

Most Christians believe that people are basically good (52%), that God accepts the worship of all religions (51%) and that Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father (78%).

Okay, the Holy Spirit is a Person. Religious belief better be about objective truth, or it’s about nothing at all. People are NOT basically good. God does not accept the worship of all religions, particularly when those religions don’t even recognize who He is. And Jesus was created?

A little church history.

The Arian controversy of the fourth century is widely regarded as one of the most significant in all of Christian history. A man named Arius (who lived between 250-336) argued that the scriptural titles for Christ, which seemed to point to Christ’s equality with God, were merely courtesy titles. In truth, Arius said, Christ was to be seen as a creature—although the first among all creatures. So, while the Son is not like any other creature, Arius argued that He is a creature nonetheless. He even said that the Son was a perfect creature and outranked all other creatures, but was indeed created. Hence the phrase of Arius, “There was once when He was not.”

So much for the Trinity.

Arius was attempting to draw on a number of biblical passages. In John 14, you have Jesus saying that the Father is greater than He is. In Mark 13, Jesus says that no one knows when the second coming will be – not even Him – only the Father. So Arius and his followers maintained that Jesus was similar to the Father in nature or essence, but not the same as the Father in nature or essence.

This received a swift and hostile reaction from many within the church who were able to marshal an impressive number of biblical passages to combat his ideas and point to the fundamental unity between the Father and the Son. Also, the passages that the Arians used were shown to be misinterpreted, missing out on the subordination of the Son to the Father during the incarnation, and how His language reflected that state of subordination. In other words, in His incarnation, Jesus filled a different role. 

It was also argued that the divinity of Christ was of central importance to the Christian idea of salvation. If what Arius was maintaining was true, Christ could not save anyone – no creature can save another creature. Only God can save and even Arius seemed to agree that, according to the New Testament, salvation was meant to come through Jesus.

Sorry for such a stiff drink. But let’s be clear: Jesus was God Himself in human form, the second Person of Trinity.

Any other view is quite simply heresy.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Jeremy Weber, “Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey,” Christianity Today, October 16, 2018, read online.

More Witches than Presbyterians

The news story couldn’t have been more direct: “There may now be more Americans who identify as practicing witches… than there are members of mainline Presbyterianism.”

Oh my.

Even worse:

“… Wicca has effectively repackaged witchcraft for Millennial consumption. No longer are witchcraft and paganism satanic and demonic… it’s a ‘pre-Christian tradition’ that promotes ‘free thought’ and ‘understanding of earth and nature.’”

Now for the worst of the worst:

“Despite biblical warnings against the practice of witchcraft, the Rev. Valerie Love, who describes herself as a practicing Christian witch and an ordained minister of spiritual consciousness, is insisting that there is nothing wrong with Christians being witches and has recently launched a school to help Christians tap into magic.

“‘Stop thinking you can tell people how to worship. Stop thinking you can tell people how to connect with the divine. I could tell you how many people have told me, “You can't be a Christian witch” but here I am. See, you can’t tell me how to worship. You cannot tell me how to connect with the divine. That’s between me and God. You cannot tell me how to pray,’ a defiant Love declared in a recent rant on Facebook.”

I think it’s time for some biblical theology. 

As mentioned in a previous blog, one of the marks of the world of the occult is any attempt to gain and master paranormal power in order to manipulate or influence other people into certain actions. This would include all forms of witchcraft and the casting of spells.

Yes, this includes Wicca.

When you think of a witch, or classical witchcraft, you think of one who uses black magic, a process of working harm through contact with an evil spirit or, more specifically, Satan. That was a deeply medieval concept of witchcraft. Today, witchcraft is more commonly seen under the title of Wicca. Don’t get me wrong—people can and do dabble in the direct attempt at black magic by purposefully invoking the powers of Satan or a demon. But most are into witchcraft another way.

Wicca is among the fastest-growing religions in the country. Almost half a million people practice it in the United States alone. A book titled Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation sold more copies for its publisher than any other book in its 95-year history. Websites devoted to Wicca have been cited as the most visited religious websites on the internet. 

While they do not deny they are practicing witchcraft, Wiccans say that theirs is a harmless magic. Many come to Wicca after reading a history of the faith, its teachings and its rituals called The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess; a book that was written under the name Starhawk, who is actually Miriam Simos, a California witch. 

In her book, Simos claims that the religion of Wicca began 35,000 years ago and that its early adherents worshiped a female god and lived for thousands of years in societies that were egalitarian, attuned to nature and focused on women. Then invaders swept across the region, introducing warrior gods and a male-dominated society. That was followed (she says) by Christianity, after which religious and secular authorities began (she claims) a 400-year campaign to kill what she calls “the old religion.”

Now none of that is historically accurate.

Even respected mainstream secular journals such as the Atlantic Monthly and others have revealed that not a single element of the Wiccan story is true. Scholars have concluded that Wicca is a 1950s concoction influenced by Masonic ritual and the world of the occult. It was actually created in its present form by Gerald Gardner, an English civil servant and amateur anthropologist who died in 1964.

But the power of the movement remains.

Those who practice it talk about the tie it gives them to the earth’s cycle of birth and growth, and that it brings a sense of the spiritual to their life. Rather than a blatant worship of Satan, though they don’t rule out worshipping anything or anyone, most Wiccans follow a nature-oriented belief system that is polytheistic—believing in many gods and many goddesses, built around the worship of the Great Mother Goddess. In a similar vein to the earlier New Age movement, Wiccans believe that all things in nature – plants, rocks, planets – have a spirit. If you want a really good popular presentation of this worldview, just watch Avatar.

The philosophy is simple: There is no such thing as sin, only the need to elevate the self—the “god within.” When they cast spells, they claim that none of those spells are harmful or manipulative. They say they practice two kinds of magic: low magic, which tries to improve their everyday life, and high magic, which they use to try to change themselves.

They don’t deny that magic can be misused for wrongdoing – though they don’t exactly define what they mean by “wrong” – just that they don’t do those kinds of spells. There is even a priesthood, which is entered into through various sexual rites that I don’t need to go into here. 

Because the term “witch” has historically been so loaded with bad press, they originally chose to use the term “Wicca” or “Wiccans,” that comes from the word “witch,” and means one who works with natural forces in order to shape or bend them. Some refer to themselves as neo-pagan, which simply means new pagans. But now that it’s become more mainstream, more and more people are just calling themselves witches.

So what does the Bible say about this?

The Bible talks about witchcraft in all of its forms, whether it’s “black magic” or Wicca. Because no matter its form, the dynamics are the same. And the Bible speaks to those dynamics. It speaks to those who engage in sorcery, those who try to use magical formulas, or incantations and those who try and exercise control over the world or themselves through some type of paranormal power.

This is very dangerous because there is no “power” floating around out there. There’s God or Satan, there’s heaven or hell, there’s good or evil. And all forms of witchcraft are strictly forbidden in the Bible as being tied to the occult and the work and world of the evil one.

For example, in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, the Bible says: “Let no one be found among you who... practices... sorcery... engages in witchcraft or casts spells... Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, NIV)

And in the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes these words in his letter to the Galatians: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality... idolatry and witchcraft... I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21, NIV)

Let’s have remorse there are more Wiccans than Presbyterians.

Let’s regret that culture has made witchcraft so mainstream.

But let’s repent that there is even a hint that any of this can be considered Christian.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Brandon Showalter, “Witches Outnumber Presbyterians in the US; Wicca, Paganism Growing ‘Astronomically,’” The Christian Post, October 10, 2018, read online.

Leonardo Blair, “Christian Witch Claims Christ Followers Can Practice Witchcraft, Despite Biblical Warnings,” The Christian Post, October 19, 2018, read online.

“How many Wiccans are there? Estimates for the U.S., Canada, etc.,” Religious Tolerance, read online.

According to hitbox.com, the website is “The Witch’s Voice” found at Witchvox.com

The Atlantic Monthly, January, 2001.