Greg explains why the source of a supernatural experience matters and gives advice for how to respond to a “Christian” friend who dabbles in the occult and claims to have premonitions.
Caller: I have this friend who claims to have premonitions of bad things that are going to happen to her. I’m not sure if it’s a spiritual thing or if it’s just weird coincidences. She’s not very close to God, though she claims to be a Christian. She’s very much involved in witchcraft. She’s into the LGBT community. So, I take her claim to be Christian with a very big grain of salt.
Greg: I don’t want to be overly critical, but if you have a person who says they’re Christian, and they’re involved in witchcraft, which is explicitly forbidden in the Scripture, along with same-sex behavior, and she’s kind of probed both of those, and both of those in the Old Testament Law resulted in a death sentence—not that we should do that today, but what it does is communicate the gravity from God’s perspective of those crimes—then to say at the same time, “But I’m a Christian,” this does not compute. It’s an odd mix, and I believe “Christian” is more just a title. She shows up to church and youth group, but beyond that I don’t see much.
Caller: I don’t want to specifically call [the premonitions] satanic, because, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s just, she gets a bad feeling. Something bad happens, but it’s not like that’s causing the bad thing. Maybe this is a sign from God. Maybe it’s something worse. Neither of us can figure out what it is. I’m wondering if you know of anything like that? What do you think it might be?
Greg: What you just said was she gets a bad feeling and something bad happens. So, that’s very general. I’m not sure what “a bad feeling” means and what “something bad happens” is, because something bad happens every day, and people have all kinds of different feelings, and to try to connect the dots as if there’s some connection, as if her feelings cause it, but rather a genuine connection, that she is having a premonition about something that will actually happen, it’s hard to know. It’s hard to say with any confidence that that’s the case.
Now, one thing I can say with confidence is Deuteronomy does condemn divination. Divination is foretelling the future. So, if a person is saying, “This bad thing is going to happen,” and it happens, that is foretelling the future. A divination usually entails a technique in which people read tea leaves, or they read cards, or something like that. Now, of course, you have people in the Bible that are godly people that have something like that too, and they’re called prophets. So, the same kind of thing that can happen, a very similar kind of thing on either side of the equation. So, then, the question becomes, is there a genuine foretelling, a more precise premonition of a precise event that comes to pass? Then what is the source of that?
To me, there’s no question in this case. I don’t doubt that people who are not Christians and have no connection with God can manifest some kind of supernatural behavior, and even a foretelling, or a premonition, or something like that. I think it’s possible because there are forces and powers in the world other than God, and Scripture warns us of that, but it also warns us not to be pursuing certain types of those things. I’m looking at Deuteronomy 18. There are a couple of things here. “There shall not be any found among you who makes his son or his daughter pass through fire”—that would be child sacrifice—”who uses divination, who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer.” So, there it is. Deuteronomy 18:10–11. “Or one who casts a spell, or a medium or a spiritist, or one who calls upon the dead.” There’s a lot of things in there, and many of them sound akin to your friend’s experiences, her dabblings, and what she is experiencing by way of premonitions.
Now, this doesn’t look good. I don’t doubt that there may be something supernatural going on. That could very well be. I’m not affirming it. I’m just not doubting it. But this isn’t something that’s good, because she’s involved in activities—or affirming them or practicing them—that are directly prohibited by God. Deuteronomy 18:10–11. In fact, I could go on to one more verse, verse 12: “For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable things, the Lord God will drive them out before you, but you should be blameless before the Lord.” So, here, spiritism, broadly construed, is prohibited. God is making clear this is one of the things he drove the people out of the land for and he doesn’t want the Jews to participate in at all. Are they spiritual powers? Sure. I have no doubt about that. But are they God’s spirit? The answer is no. That’s why they’re forbidden.
Caller: She claimed that she prayed that these [premonitions] would go away, and she wasn’t taking part in them. So, she was like, “Well, let’s see how I can use them,” since they weren’t going away.
Greg: Amy and I had a discussion about somebody who is dabbling in the occult, and when they started dabbling in witchcraft, all of a sudden, really ugly things began happening to them—terrifying dreams. Then, they’d wake up from the terrifying dreams in which there was a powerful evil presence before them in the dream, and the sense of the powerful evil presence was right there before them. Now, they didn’t want that. They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t bargain for that. They didn’t sign up for that, but what they did do is dabble in the occult, and when you dabble in the occult, there’s a door that gets opened, and these things come marching in on their own accord. So, the fact that [your friend] says, “I didn’t want them, and I tried to pray them away,” to me, is not evidence that she’s exonerated from having the experiences, if her own occult involvement in the past has opened that door. That makes sense.
What I think she should be told is, “What you’re experiencing does not seem good, and even though you may, in some sense, identify as a Christian, you have another identification. You are dabbling in witchcraft.” She has some involvement in witchcraft, and all you need is a little bit to make yourself vulnerable to some uglies. This might be what’s going on. This is the time for her to turn completely to Christ and to renounce all those things that are not biblical and sound, to renounce those things that are offensive to God. Now, I don’t know if she’s going to be interested in doing that, but I think that it’s fully legitimate to speak clearly to her, not in an unkind way, but certainly in an honest and direct way, “What you’re messing with is dangerous. This is dangerous, and sooner or later it’s going to get the best of you. You’re already having experiences that you don’t like, and you’re trying to pray them away. That’s a good impulse, but the best thing to do is get rid of these things. Renounce them, and put your confidence and trust fully in Christ. He’s your only rescue.
There’s an account in the book of Acts—there’s a man who’s demon-possessed, and there are some Jews that are exorcists, and there’s seven of them, and they go in there kind of with their religious mumbo jumbo to try to cast the demon out of the man. They were using the name of Jesus as a magic talisman to control the demon. They weren’t Christians. They weren’t there in the name of Jesus—that is, by his authority representing him. They were just using the name of Jesus as if the name itself had power, and what they said to the demon-possessed man was, “I adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” So, they had the right Jesus, the one that Paul preached, but they were not representing Christ. They were just trying to invoke him magically, and the demons said, “We recognize Jesus, and we know about Paul, but who are you?” And then [the demon-possessed man] beat him up and threw him out, and the seven of them left bleeding and naked, the text says. So, this guy had some really strong spirit, but notice that just using these words didn’t make a difference. The thing that made a difference was the organic spiritual connection to Christ, so that “you go in his name” means not just saying the name, the words, the J-E-S-U-S, but going in the power of the one who is with you and according to his authority. That’s what that means.
[Your friend] is not in that place, obviously. She is being, it sounds like to me, taken advantage of by demonic powers, and so far it’s not been too bad. It just troubles her, and she gets these premonitions, but now’s the time to cut it off, to break the tie, to cut the umbilical cord or whatever and embrace Christ. There’s this thing Jesus talked about, these demons that get cast out of the house, and the house gets swept and cleaned, but then there’s nobody else there, and so they come back, and they say, “Hey, the house is still empty. It’s all cleaned up. Let seven more come in.” Now, I think that was a depiction of, get rid of the demons, but if you don’t fill the house with the Holy Spirit, one is vulnerable to have the demons come back, and that’s why Jesus is the only one that can rescue her from this, and it might be a good idea to talk with her about that.