Monday, January 26, 2015

Are You Practicing Christianity or Witchcraft?

Christians don’t think much about witchcraft or magic these days. The idea conjures up images of ladies who come out at Halloween with crooked noses, warts and black hats. When we think of magic, it’s more likely to be along the lines of what a Disney princess can do than anything the Bible talks about. There are times when the idea of witchcraft as dangerous rears its head – as with controversies over the Harry Potter books (which my son is reading right now) several years ago. The main idea we get when we think of witchcraft is that it is make-believe, maybe even a fun escape from the real world we live in right now.
But as Christians, we know there is much more to the universe than what we can simply see; we know there has been a God who is constantly acting to keep the world together, and who has in times past acted in miraculous ways to bring about his ultimate purposes. This was most perfectly seen when God himself became man, lived among us, died and was resurrected from the grave. A Christianity without a God who sometimes miraculously intervenes is no Christianity at all. Now, this doesn’t mean a Christian must buy all claims of the miraculous that people, even fellow Christians make. It simply means that we know God has acted miraculously in the past, and that he has the ability to do so again if he so desires.
But we need to be careful how we understand this, because if we’re not we will conflate the miraculous work of God with little more than witchcraft. If you have a wrong conception of who God is, then you may very well be practicing sorcery instead of Christianity. Let me give you an example that has shown up in my Facebook feed a couple of times in the last couple of days.

Say this slow … you are not practicing Christianity if you do this, you are practicing witchcraft. When we turn God into the kind of God who can be manipulated by our simple word choices, and who must act in particular ways if we do particular things, then we are treated him like nothing more than a magic spell. Say the incantation right, and it will work every time! The problem with this kind of thinking – at least one of the problems - is that it treats God not like a real person, but like a supernatural entity, a “genie in a bottle,” waiting on just the right words said in just the right order at just the right time with just the right sincerity, so that it may act in a particular way. This is garbage, and it must be rejected by every person who calls himself a believer in Christ.
One of the ways I think we have come up with this idea is by reading actual things that Jesus said, and completely misunderstanding them or intentionally misrepresenting them. When Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” that was not a command to ask for what you want, tack “in Jesus’ name,” on the end, and then wait for your reward. Jesus is telling his disciples to ask for the things they want, so long as they are in accord with his character, in line with his will, and will ultimately bring glory to the Father. It’s a dangerous thing to take God’s name in vein, you know. That command is about more than cussing. Your request for a new Mercedes may very well fall into this category. And the reason you haven’t gotten it is much likely because you don’t need it than it is because you haven’t said the right words in the right way and really, really meant them.
Now, you may not actually think like this, but that doesn't mean you are beyond danger. You need to ask yourself - Do I treat God as a means to an end, or the end in himself? Your chief job as a Christian is to glorify and enjoy God forever, not just enjoy his gifts. It's the difference in a man loving his wife because of the person she is, or because she cooks him dinner every night. It's the difference between loving God, and loving the perceived benefits that God has given you for following him. 

So this is a call for wisdom and self-examination – does your faith look like the kind of faith Jesus actually talks about and commends, or is bordering on witchcraft – using God as a cosmic power who grants all your wishes and desires if you really mean it? The first is Christianity. The second is witchcraft. And the Biblical denunciations of such practice apply to you.