From conversations I’ve had, my impression is that many Christians get rattled by reports of supernatural events in other religions.
As a gut reaction, this makes a certain amount of sense. But this is yet another example of how our intuitions lead us astray.
In fact, there is generally no reason at all for Christians to worry about pagan supernatural claims. And I don’t mean that we should dismiss them or disbelieve them. Quite the contrary. We should expect supernatural events to occur in other religions. At least some of the claims you hear will be true, and ought to be true, if the Bible itself is true.
Indeed, contrary to our gut reaction, we should be rattled if such claims and events did not occur. This is because the Bible both illustrates and predicts genuine supernatural occurrences in other religions—well outside the boundaries of faithful service to God.
1. Pharaoh’s magicians
In Exodus 7:11, 22 and 8:7, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate the first three signs by their own secret arts. This appears to be legitimate sorcery rather than trickery—certainly Moses gives no indication that he thinks they are faking. Only in 8:18 do their arts fail.
Later, in Exodus 12:12, God tells Moses that as he goes through Egypt striking the firstborn, he will also execute judgment on their gods. This squares with places like Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 10:13, 20; John 12:31; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12 where we see that God has handed over the nations to lesser spiritual beings, which the Bible also calls gods in a non-ironic way. The power of these gods explains the power of Pharaoh’s magicians, and also at least part of Yahweh’s judgment on them during the Passover. And it continues to explain the power of many practitioners of black magic today—this is something of an interest of mine, and there is very credible evidence that some magic is both legitimate and alarmingly powerful.
2. The witch of Endor
In 1 Samuel 28, the witch of Endor summons Samuel for Saul. Apparently there was a reasonable expectation that this would work—which in turn demonstrates that God didn’t make divination a capital offense just because it was an act of faithlessness. Rather, it had real power to communicate with the spirit realm, and was therefore a violation of the realm distinction which is so important in biblical theology (cf Genesis 6:1-4; Jude 6).
3. The girl with a spirit of Python
In Acts 16:16, the apostles encounter a girl with a spirit of divination. Luke’s account seems to affirm straightforwardly that she was able to foretell the future, at least to a great enough extent to make serious dime off it, and that her power came from this spirit. When it was cast out, she lost the ability (Acts 16:19). Simon the Magician in Acts 8 may be a similar example of “demonic energization,” though he doesn’t seem to have been possessed.
4. The antichrist and his ilk
In the ultimate expression of non/anti-Christian worldview, we see that false messiahs will perform such great signs and wonders that they risk even deceiving the elect (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; cf Deuteronomy 13:1-3). Since this is where pagan, demonic religion naturally culminates, we should expect that these worldviews will claim supernatural events—and that many of these claims will actually be true.
Quite the opposite of causing us to doubt the truth of Christianity, this is actually confirmation that the Bible accurately depicts and predicts the world.
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