When Christians Practice Witchcraft
Christians condemn witchcraft, right? In word, yes, but in practice, not always. I believe there are many Christians who engage in what can be called Christian witchcraft. Let me explain.
Witchcraft is an attempt to control, manipulate, or engage with the spirit world through various practices such as spells, incantations, and rituals. Typically, in the Christian world, witchcraft is viewed as delving into the demonic realm and therefore something to be avoided. Scripture levies several warnings against witchcraft:
- Leviticus 20:27 prescribes the death penalty for those who are mediums or necromancers.
- 1 Chronicles 10:13 says that God put King Saul to death for consulting a witch for guidance.
- Galatians 5:20 lists sorcery among other damnable sins.
There is also no doubt that the Bible teaches the existence of spirit beings, both angels and demons. God forbids attempts to connect to the spirit world through any other means than by himself, and more specifically, through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Therefore it should come as no surprise that Christians virtually unanimously denounce witchcraft and generally steer clear of it.
Except that I’m not so sure that really is the case. As I see it, many Christians have their own version of witchcraft that they practice. It doesn’t involve ouija boards, candles, horoscopes, crystal balls, tarot cards, and the like. But just because it doesn’t look the same doesn’t mean it’s not real.
In an interesting article, Kelsey Munger tells her story about growing up in a Christian family that was obsessed with the spirit realm. Her parents, both very devout Christians, had many different routines they practiced in order to combat what they perceived to be demonic attack. This included rubbing canola oil in the shape of a cross on their home’s doorpost, pouring canola oil in a barrier around the family property, praying over jewelry before wearing it, avoiding imported products for fear they were made by pagans and could carry demons, praying specific phrases repeatedly, and even scouring the backyard for objects that might have been placed there by a witch to curse the family.
You know what those practices are? They are not Christianity. They are witchcraft. They are attempts to control the spirit world through object-oriented rituals.
Some Christians might not go to quite that extreme but still demonstrate a similar pattern of thinking. They tend to blame everything on demons: headaches, a fender bender, lost car keys, a criticism at work, or a financial crunch. They might pray the demons out of a new car or new house. They tend to automatically assume the hippy next door is demon possessed. And they believe that rock music is from the devil.
Here’s why this is so problematic—there’s no Scriptural support for any of it. These are all beliefs and practices that find no basis in God’s Word. Instead, it is the result of taking the witchcraft mentality and applying it to Christian belief. It bears a closer resemblance to superstition than to biblical Christianity.
Back in 2014, a video made the rounds online of a Christian woman explaining why Monster energy drinks are of the devil. She points out that the Monster logo has some symbolism that can be interpreted as being references to the occult and the anti-Christ. At the end she concludes “this is how clever Satan is, and how he gets into the Christian’s home and the Christian’s life, and it breaks God’s heart. Jesus said, ‘My people perish for a lack of knowledge.'”
Let’s be clear: this is utter foolishness. This is Christian witchcraft. Satan does not enter people’s lives through energy drinks. He does so through sin and through unbelief. And though Jesus did say that people perish for a lack of knowledge, he didn’t have demonic symbolism on aluminum cans in mind.
This kind of obsession with the demonic is unhealthy and counter-productive. It does not lead to a life of godliness and fear of the Lord. It leads to a life of paranoia and fear of the devil.
Don’t get me wrong. Satan is real. Demons are real. The spirit world is real. Scripture says so and therefore we Christians ought to believe it. However, the Bible does not dwell on the spirit world the way we sometimes do. It does not emphasize it to the point where we should be on the lookout for demons everywhere we go. In fact, the pattern of the Bible is that overt demonic activity is at its most prevalent during the gospels and Acts, when Christ was on earth and the early church was just getting rolling. Contrast that with the entire Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament, where mention of demonism is very limited.
Although there is no doubt in my mind that Satan and demons are active in the world, and that they can and do manifest themselves in physical ways, that seems to not be the norm. In fact, it is the norm mostly among people who are already looking for it. Missionaries working in very pagan and spiritual cultures might encounter this more often. Those Christians who are obsessed with demonism are more likely to experience strange shadows on the wall. But this does not seem to be what Scripture paints as normal Christian experience. Satan and demons primarily work through deception, doubt, accusation, and the like. (Read an article I wrote about Satan’s tactics here.)
Some Christians will push back. You’re acting like Satan doesn’t exist! If you don’t guard yourself you will unintentionally invite demons into your life! To which I would ask, where does Scripture teach that? Where does it give such warnings? Yes, the devil is a prowling lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but what is his access point to my life? Is it through the fortune cookies at the bottom of my Chinese takeout? Is it through the skull and bones on my child’s toy pirate ship? Or is it through my lack of Bible reading, my unconfessed sin, and my proud heart?
Far too many Christians focus on the former things while neglecting the latter ones. When believers begin to focus on material things as if they carry spiritual power, we are acting like pagans more than Christ followers. We have abdicated Scripture and become superstitious. And ultimately we will divert ourselves from the God to be glorified and the mission to be accomplished.
My point is this: when Christians find themselves constantly thinking about the devil and what they can do to ward him off, they have fallen into the trap of Christian witchcraft. They have taken their focus off of Christ, which is where it rightly belongs (Hebrews 12:2). They have begun to believe that power against demonic forces resides in rituals or objects and not in Christ alone. Recall that when demons encountered Jesus they trembled in fear and needed to ask for permission even to speak (Matthew 8:29, Luke 4:41). Christ rules over the spirit world, and since Christians are united to him by faith, he is the only weapon we need to face off against any forces of darkness that may oppose us.