14 Hard Facts about Astrology

astrology-false
Astrological chart

Astrology is an ancient practice that assumes that the position of the planets and stars has a direct influence upon people and events.

The chart that seeks to make one’s life’s pattern based on the position of the stars and planets at the time of one’s birth is known as a horoscope.

It’s not uncommon to find horoscope readings in magazines and websites, including the social media. Rene Noorbergen explains how these horoscopes are charted:

“For every personal horoscope, the moment of birth is the essential starting point. This, coupled with the latitude and longitude of the individual’s birthplace, provides the initial package for the usual astrological chart.

“While this is elementary, it is not complete; a factor known as ‘true local time’ must also be considered … Once this has been accomplished, the next step is to convert this ‘true’ time into ‘sidereal’ or star time. This is done with the aid of an ephemerus, a reference book showing the positions of the planets in relationship to the earth.” [1]

Some of these “readings” on the Internet have fascinating headings like “What does your Birth Month say about you?”

There are two popular types of predictive astrology: natal astrology and mundane astrology. Natal (or genetheliacal) astrology makes a predictions based on a person’s character, present situation or future outlook beginning with a birth date.

Mundane astrology usually makes a prediction on a larger scale for a national, civil, or political leadership future.

Many New Age teachers repackage astrology by integrating it with their particular teachings in the Aquarian Age (named after a zodiac sign). They adopt pseudoscientific jargon and hawk their books as well as astrological jewelry, charms and emblems to millions of followers who thirst for the murky waters of mysticism. [2]

Having been stumped by lack of scientific evidence of planetary influence on man, the new school of astrology has now adopted new interpretations for their practice.

Initially, “it was assumed that some kind of emanations issued from heavenly bodies to affect the characters and destinies of men. When scientists found no emanations powerful enough, sophisticated astrologers abandoned causality altogether and eagerly embraced Jung’s theory of ‘synchronicity’ – that everything in the universe at any given moment participates through that moment with everything else that shares the same unit of time.” [3]

This shifting of grounds notwithstanding, astrology is so fraught with scientific, moral, logical and theological problems that it will require those adhering to it to renounce reality, abjure reason and deny hard facts in order to follow it.

The Problems of Astrology

1. Astrology is “based on the zodiac, the path through which the sun, moon and planets move through the sky.” This celestial band is divided into 12 “signs” or constellations. [4]

But here is the big problem: this whole concept of the sun revolving about the earth assumes a geocentric universe in which the earth is the centre of the solar system.

The idea of a geocentric universe was first conceived by Claudius Ptolemy (c. 150), an Egyptian astronomer of Alexandria. But his model of the planetary system has been falsified by the heliocentric cosmology of Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei which proved that the planets revolve around the sun.

Astrology, however, is based on the the erroneous geocentric theory which destroys its reliability.

If an astrologer switches to a heliocentric solar system, new problems must arise concerning the positions of the zodiac signs which are positioned from the horizons of the earth instead of the sun.

Therefore, since the basic assumption of astrology is false, all conclusions drawn from it are likewise false.

2. Another basis of astrology is the number of planets in our solar system.

In the ancient times, predictive zodiacal astrology was limited to the planets seen with the naked eye (e.g. the sun, moon, and Mercury through Jupiter). Consequently, astrologers based their system upon the six planets they believed revolved around the earth.

But Galileo changed astronomy by using the telescope for stargazing in 1609. Other planets were later discovered: Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846), and Pluto (1930). Today, most birth charts are cast using all the planets.

One must ask, is all past horoscopy invalidated due to the lack of knowledge of real influential planets?

Here’s another problem. On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union representing 424 astronomers officially demoted Pluto and ruled that it is no longer a planet. [5]

Now that our solar system is reduced to eight planets, it raises another question, should eight or nine planets be used in astrological charts?

Each choice alters the outcome of casting horoscopes and undermines the legitimacy of past horoscopes from ancient times to present.

3. The bedrock of astrology is the idea that the planets exert much influence on the earth and its inhabitants. This claim lacks any scientific or logical proof, but is founded on pagan superstition.

Mesopotamia has produced the oldest and archaeological evidences for ancient astrology. The Sumerian records that are inscribed on the Gudea cylinders (c. 2250 BC) provide the “earliest collection of celestial observations and their significance as omens.” [6]

This omen astrology later evolved into a zodiacal theory. The zodiac signs and houses had their origins among Babylonian priests who centered it on their polytheistic religion.

To ascribe the control of humans on earth to these celestial deities was in tune with their worship. Therefore, to embrace astrology involves an implicit acknowledgement of the pagan theology underlying it.

Many modern horoscope followers who claim to be Christians, might argue that they do not subscribe to the pagan beliefs embedded in the zodiac, but there’s no credible evidence that planets and stars emit any force or energy that could affect humans the way astrologers say they do.

Anyone claiming that nature controls your destiny is getting you into an occultic/pagan worldview.

4. Astrologers depend heavily upon the accuracy of determining the exact moment of birth in relationship to the position of heavenly bodies.

But since all hereditary factors are determined at conception, it should logically follow that these planets should begin their influence in a person’s destiny at his conception when life begins, not after his birth.

The fact is, it’s almost impossible to accurately determine when conception takes place. But if astrologers insist that the planets purportedly exert their influence on a person’s fate after birth, we need to ask:

Who determines when a child is born? Is it “Mother Nature?” More often the doctor decides the hour of birth based on his schedule, the mother’s welfare and other external factors.

Would it then be possible for a physician to thwart one’s astrological destiny by using drugs to manipulate the moment when the baby emerges?

5. Most of the predictions made through astrology are often so general and ambiguous that they can be subjectively tied to any occurrence. For example, a horoscope reading says to those who identify as “Sagittarius”:

“Jupiter, the planet of growth enters Sagittarius on November 8 bringing blessings to the home and family sector of your chart … between now and December 2019 you can expect many exciting things to happen on the home front.”

This “prediction” is so vague and mundane that it could apply to anyone at any time.

Even a 10 year old can figure out that “exciting things” usually happen in many homes during holiday seasons, so what exactly is the spectacular prediction being made here?

6. The contrasting character traits of twins, triplets and other multiple births is an insurmountable difficulty for natal astrology.

Thousands of twins are born within 4 minutes of each other – at the same time and place astrologically – yet it has been shown time and again that one or more of the siblings has a strikingly different character than the other.

Two people who are born at the same time can live totally different lives. One may turn out to be very successful, while the other one ends up a failure. The fact that twins do not live out the same lives shows another flaw in the theory. [7]

7. The problem of authority in astrology is vividly revealed when one realizes that there are many forms of astrology which are diametrically opposed to each other.

There’s Zoroastrian astrology, Egyptian astrology, Chinese astrology, Indian astrology, Graeco-Roman astrology, Pre-Columbian New World astrology, modern astrology and New Age astrology.

Many of these systems are fraught with internal inconsistencies and flawed calculations, yet its overall conflicting variables and lack of standardization presents a logical conundrum to those seeking truth in astrology.

Even in the West, some astrologers rely on eight zodiac signs rather than twelve; some rely on fourteen and even twenty-four signs of the zodiac. The implication is that predictions made by different astrologers for the same individual do not match.

Most people who follow their horoscope can get five conflicting readings from different sources all in one month!

If your calculator gave you five different answers to a simple Mathematical calculation, I can bet you’d throw it out in a garbage bag. In the same sense, why should you stake your life out on a dicey fraud such as astrology?

8. The early astronomers were not aware of procession and therefore failed to take it into account in their system. Newtonian astronomy (1687), however, showed us that the equinox is moving a full 30° zodiacal sign every 2,180 years. [8]

Each zodiac sign now takes on its preceding sign due to the equinox shifting.

Due to this change in the earth’s position in space, the dates associated with the zodiac signs no longer correspond to when the sun passes through constellations for which the signs were named.

Therefore, someone claiming to be “Libra” might actually be “Virgo” or “Scorpio.” Those who think they are born under Taurus the Bull (April 20 May 20) are actually born under Aries.

So if a horoscope is cast for a Taurus born in April, technically, it would be meaningless since his real sign is Aries.

9. If the theory of influence of planets is valid, it must be true for all people in all places or astrologers must explain how their theory remains true if exemptions exist.

Astrology begun in latitudes relatively close to the equator and made no provision for the possibility that no planet may be in sight in the higher latitudes regions for several weeks in a row. [9]

This means certain populated northern regions like Siberia, Sweden, the artic regions, or Alaska where the sun never crosses the horizons during these times have no “sun plane” or “zodiacal plane,” as astrologers call it.

Now, since these time periods lie completely outside of astrological charting, the people born in those times and places are exempt from astrology. This is another fatal blow to zodiacal astrology as it unreasonably exempts people born above or below the 66th latitude.

10. The zodiac signs are said to give clues to a person’s character. But this facile assumption is scientifically untenable.

Some studies have been conducted to determine the link between astrology and character traits, and the results found it completely lacking substantiation.

A friend once said to me, “You know, I’m Virgo, and Virgos are compassionate and sensitive,” to which I replied, “I see, but your birth month has no link with your character: your inherited genes and environment mainly determine your character. You would still have those qualities even if you weren’t born in September.”

People who have the same birthday do not have the same traits or life experiences! This can be checked out by anyone.

That’s why astrology conditions people into prejudice, because they judge a person’s behaviour and character by a set of assumptions. People born at various months of the year can all experience the same fortune or face a similar dilemma. The stars foretell nothing.

11. Astrology is basically a fatalistic system. It fosters a predetermined worldview where human moral choices and responsibility are eliminated.

Some modern astrologers even appeal to the Hermetic/occult principle of “as above, so below.” This posits that humans are a miniature mirrored image of the greater planetary macrocosm in the universe.

Now, if everything is predetermined in conjunction with the zodiac, how then can the astrologists get outside of that fatalism to accurately observe it? There is no way they can prove their system if they are pawns in that same system.

Since astrology is fatalistic in its approach, it leaves mankind as a cog in the cosmic machinery – a view of reality that is at odds with Scripture and the ethical virtue of moral responsibility.

Aside from the complete absence of free will from the history of astrology (with its attendant ethical consequences), the system lacks the objective authority necessary to explain our own world. Thus, astrologists are victims of their own system.

By contrast, as Christians we can test our own world view because Someone, Jesus Christ, has come from outside the “system” to tell us, objectively, what our system is like.

12. Astrology is opposed to the Christian world view and any attempt to graft one onto the other must pose a logical dilemma. The Bible forbids God’s people from learning the ways of the heathen, which includes astrology.

“Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them” (Jeremiah 10:2).

Bob Larson explained this succinctly:

“The underlying philosophy of astrology declares that one’s destinies can be found in the stars. In contrast, Christianity teaches that the events of life are determined by a combination of God’s sovereign will and man’s personal moral choices.

“Astrology, on the other hand, attempts to destroy man’s accountability to God. Horoscope devotees may think they can fall back on blaming the stars for their actions. But the Bible teaches that someday all mankind will stand before God to be judged (Rom. 14:12). Man is responsible for his conduct and the Lord will not take into consideration the lame excuse that certain stars and planets were in the wrong conjunction.” [10]

13. Astrology often claims a succession of successful predictions, but what is largely ignored is the number of failures.

One of the most popular astrologers in recent years was the psychic Jeane Dixon, but even she had one failed prediction after another. If astrology is based on a natural force, it should harmonise with science and have a high degree of predictability like other natural forces, but it lacks this.

If it’s based on a supernatural force, it should have a remarkable high success rate, but it also lacks this as well.

Therefore, we are left with a conclusion: astrology is an occult art based on demonic forces that weave the webs of darkness around those who follow them.

14. Many pagan nations sought the counsel of astrologers for centuries and it held them under the spiritual bondage of fear, deception, superstition, retrogression and demon worship.

Even today, many witches and satanists rely on their knowledge of astrology to invoke demons for their  spells since they also have their own astrological categories.

We are not to look at the stars, however. God has given us His Son, and we are to follow Him. Only Jesus knows the future, and only as we are in union with Jesus do we have confidence about the future and God’s purpose become clearer to us.

Notes

[1] Rene Noorbergen, The Soul Hustlers, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976, p. 176.

[2] Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden, The Kingdom of the Occult, Thomas Nelson: TN, 2008, p. 271.

[3] Anonymous, “Astrology: Fad and Phenomena” in Time magazine, March 21, 1969, p. 58.

[4] The Encyclopedia of World Religions. Revised Edition. DWJ Books, 2007, p. 51.

[5] San Francisco Chronicle, August 27, 2006, E-2.

[6] Samuel Hooke, Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, 1953, Creative Partners p. 91.

[7] Josh McDowell and Don Stewart The Occult, Here’s Life Publishers, 1992, p. 47.

[8] Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and You, Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1977, pp. 124-125.

[9] Michael Gauquelin, The Cosmic Clocks, Chicago, IL: Henry Rwgnery Co., 1967, p. 78.

[10] Larson’s Book of Cults, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL: 1983, p. 259.

 

 

On Exorcism and Rome’s Authority

Exorcist-rite
Exorcism rite is based on Rome’s authority

In previous articles, the authority of Rome has been examined in the light of the Bible, its history, doctrinal and institutional consistency, and its Petrine office (its presumed succession from apostle Peter, infallibility and moral credentials).

The spiritual credential of the Roman Catholic institution, specifically in the context of its exorcisms, has also been engaged previously.

After reading The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio (Doubleday: 2009), it dawned on me that more needs to be said on this rite, as it had been sensationalised and overrated in popular culture.

I will quote mainly from Baglio’s The Rite to highlight my arguments that even in this rite, the legitimacy of Roman Catholicism is shown to be patently undermined.

The Vatican issued a decree which says:

Among her sacramentals, the Catholic Church, in obedience to the Lord’s Prayer, already in ancient times mercifully provided that through pious prayers her people may ask God to liberate the faithful from all dangers and especially from the snares of the Devil.

In a truly unique way, exorcists were established in the Church who, in imitation of Christ, could cure those obsessed by the Evil One, even by commanding demons in the name of God, so that they might depart, lest for whatever reason they do further harm to human creatures (Decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship of the Faith, Nov. 22, 1998).

This establishes that exorcism is a sacramental in which the exorcist imitates Jesus in liberating the faithful from the powers of the devil and commanding demons to depart.

This presupposes an authority that comes from Christ and is exercised uniquely by Rome. The Catechism of the Catholic Church brings this out more clearly:

When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism … Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.” (par. 1673).

From this, it can be inferred that the rite of exorcism is based on:

1. The authority of Jesus Christ
2. What Jesus taught and did
3. Having the same results that Jesus had.

On a flip side, if this rite is based on the authority of an institution, or prevalent superstition, if it’s not based on how Jesus and the apostles expelled evil spirits and the results seen conflict with what was obtained within the pages of the New Testament, then the authority of Rome is dubious and the Jesus it appeals to is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Before I elucidate on these arguments, I want to point out that not everything stated or described in The Rite is actually false or misleading. There are parts of it that are quite revealing, though not in the way the author supposes.

For instance, it correctly draws the curtain on the existing tension between a religious institution that is blinded by its rigid structures, elitism and skepticism and the European culture which in the past relied on it for its dictates.

It quotes Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII (Pope John XXIII Community Association), that “about 25 percent of Italians, or about 14 million, are involved in some way or another in the occult.” (p. 16) Note: about 83% of Italians are Roman Catholics.

Whilst many European Catholic priests and bishops scoff at the existence of the devil and demons, Tarot card readers congest the late-night cable channels hawking their divination wares and “lucky” amulets.

It was also estimated that “as many as 8,000 satanic sects with more than 600,000 members exist within Italy” alone.

The book appealed to an occult expert, Fr. Aldo Buonaiuto, a member of the Pope John XXIII Community Association, who admits the prevalence of many hardcore satanic groups in Italy.

He classifies them into “Youth Acid” (consisting of mostly young people involved in the physical trappings of Satanism), “Power Satanism,” (those seeking power and riches from Satan) and “Apocalyptic Satanism,” which has as its goal, the total destruction of life as we know it (p. 45).

These startling realities have been fuelled, in part, by a traditional church that has failed to provide spiritual succour and a sound moral template to souls hungry for God and His intervention.

Roman Catholicism has lost much of its respectability in the West. While drowning in the cesspools of clerical concubinage, pederasty and paedophilia, it can’t be griping about satanic ritual abuse perpetrated by satanists without being hit by an irony of shame.

By whose Authority?

There are several guidelines that are laid down by Rome on how exorcism must be conducted

The Ritual itself has undergone several adjustments over the centuries and the one currently used is the 1998 Revised Ritual.

Guideline 13 of the Ritual stipulates that only a priest found worthy and nominated by a bishop of a diocese can perform an exorcism.

If a priest doesn’t have the express permission of a bishop, he can’t cast out any demon. His prayers “wouldn’t have the same effect on the demon because essentially the exorcist would be praying the Ritual in a state of disobedience and the demon would know it,” writes Baglio (p. 58).

But from the NT, it’s evident that every disciple of Christ had the authority from Christ to cast out demons. Jesus spelt it out:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons” (Mark 16:17).

This was why the early church had no officially appointed “exorcists” since it was generally known that every Christian has received power to cast out all evil spirits.

Paul and Silas didn’t need any permission from a bishop in Philippi in order to cast out a demon from the diviner following them in Acts 16:18.

It now gets fuzzy when Baglio writes, “Not everybody has to be a Catholic, or convert to become liberated, though some do.” He appealed to the authority of Fr. Gabriele Amorth who “has exorcized Muslims and Hindus on rare occasions, but mentions that he will pray the Ritual using the name of Jesus Christ. ‘I also ask them to fulfill their spiritual duties. For example, Muslims have the obligation to pray and so I tell them to do so'” (p. 149).

So even if a person doesn’t submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, he/she is still supposedly liberated using Christ’s authority. Quite intriguing isn’t it?

Again, Jesus clearly stated that demons are expelled using His name, but this rite appeals more to the authority of Catholic icons of veneration and religious objects.

In the prologue of the book, Baglio recounts an exorcism in which the demon speaking through Anna describes seeing “St” Gemma Galgani, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II and Mary the Queen herself joining the exorcists in the spirit to cast him out (pp. 7-8).

Quite a scintillating conference of spirits. But that’s not all. Baglio also informs us:

“Many exorcists invoke Mary during the Ritual. ‘The demon is so terrified of her that he will never pronounce her name. He’ll say ‘that woman’ or ‘she destroys me,’ says Father Amorth. ‘The Marian prayer, especially the rosary, is a very powerful weapon in the fight against Satan,’ explains Father Bamonte. ‘That is why [Mary] insists so much that we pray the rosary; the rosary is a prayer that really whips the demon into a frenzy’.” (p. 137)

It would seem to us that these demons are rather excited that the exorcists are perpetuating the very deception they wish to plant in the minds of many Catholics. Baglio adds:

“For the Church, these sacred objects (holy water, blessed oil, a crucifix) possess a kind of “power” because they carry the blessing of the Church (p. 119).

In plain terms, this rite is not essentially based on the authority of Jesus Christ. It’s based on the authority of an institutional hierarchy, Mary, saints, objects and like the case of Silvia recounted in the book, the promise of a demon (p. 147).

How Jesus expelled Demons

Without missing words, Jesus never performed an exorcism and was not an exorcist. Exorcism is not even biblical; it was an old Jewish ritual that was observed by the sons of Sceva – who had their clocks cleaned in return (Acts 19:12-16).

Modern exorcisms are marked by rituals, incantations, formulas, liturgies along with incense, holy water, and crucifixes. Sometimes they are interspersed with candle lighting. None of these things can expel demons.

A Roman Catholic publication says:

‘‘Elements of the rite include the Litany of Saints; recitation of the Our Father, one or more creeds, and other prayers; specific prayers of exorcism; the reading of Gospel passages and use of the Sign of the Cross’’ (Matthew Bunson, 2004 Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Almanac. Indiana, 2004, p. 137).

When we compare this complicated Roman ritualism with the simplicity and demonstration of authority with which Jesus and the apostles expelled demons, a striking contrast is seen.

For example, in Mark 1:25, ‘‘Jesus rebuked a demon, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’’’ and he did at that instant.

Again in Mark 9:25, Jesus said, ‘‘I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’’ The ease and brevity with which Jesus dealt with evil spirits is far from what is being practiced in the rite of exorcism.

The New Testament contains great resources for the believer’s spiritual warfare: the Saviour’s victory at Calvary (John 12:31, Rev. 12:11). The promise of overcoming (1 John 5:4-5; Rev. 21:7). The intercessory ministry of Christ (John 17:15, 20). The knowledge of Satan’s tactics (2 Cor. 2:11). The believer’s spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-17). The Holy Spirit’s indwelling power (1 John 4:4). The believer’s prayers (Matt. 6:13; Eph. 6:18-20; Mark 9:29). The instructions for defeating Satan (James 4:7-8) and the stripping of Satan and his ranks of their powers at Calvary (Col. 2:15).

Having abandoned and rejected these spiritual weapons that are mighty through God to deal with the powers of darkness, Roman Catholicism has as substitutes, carnal weapons, religious paraphernalia, fetishism and rituals that are rooted in medieval mythology and ethnic folklore.

Such traditional rites were known in the time of Christ, He simply didn’t acknowledge them.

Jesus refused to endorse their superstition and cryptic formulas because it has always been the work of devil to complicate things that are otherwise simple – especially receiving spiritual freedom.

The Jews in the time of Jesus believed demons dwelt in crumbs so Jesus had the apostles gather up the leftover bread to enjoy it.

The Jews believed demons dwelt on unwashed hands, but Jesus did not insist on ceremonial hand washing.

The Jews believed that demons prowled in deserted places, but that is exactly where Jesus goes to enjoy
communion with God the Father.

They believed that demons infested Samaria, so Jesus boldly went there. He intentionally negated these rules because they are based on human wisdom and devoid of spiritual value (William Alexander, Demonic Possession in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980, pp. 28-29).

On the other hand, Rome’s belief in the “power” of the Eucharist, rosaries, medals, “holy” water, incense and images of the Virgin to vanquish demons are vestiges of older folk or sympathetic magic as well as subjective demonic manifestations.

Rome’s failed experiments

If the exorcist is actually representing or imitating the Jesus of the Bible, then the results of these exorcisms should match what we see in the Gospels.

In The Rite, Baglio makes at least seven references to fruitless exorcisms (all emphasis mine):

• A group of Catholic charismatics in Italy who tried to cast out an evil spirit from a man. “Without warning, the demon turned on them saying, ‘Who are you?’ Then he launched a bookcase at them, sending them all
to the emergency room with injuries.” (p. 63)

• A demon possessed nun named Janica who has been exorcised for 9 years without a headway (pp. 99-102).

• A statement credited to Fr. Amorth, the late Vatican foremost exorcist: “I have people that I’ve been exorcising for twenty years” (p. 130).

• A statement credited to Fr. Carmine: “the hardest thing is that the liberation never happens right away. Sometimes you need years and years, and this methodical perseverance is not only very tiring, but the demon takes advantage of it…’” (p. 134).

• Giovanna who “had been undergoing exorcisms for more than forty years, and her case was considered one of the most severe…” (p. 142).

• Beatrice who had a “grueling two-year battle involving weekly exorcisms” (p. 151). The evidence offered in support of her liberation is as deluded as her visions during the rite itself.

• Stephanie who was said to have been sexually abused by her father and was demonized. She and her husband, Chris, “searched for other priests who might be willing to help them but had been turned away each time” (pp. 170-177). They eventually didn’t receive any help.

• Maria, a twenty-seven-year-old originally from Honduras, who had been seeing demons and hearing them tell her, “You belong to us!” After the exorcism, her mother told Fr. Gary that “her daughter’s reaction to the prayers had been similar to the [pagan] exorcism in Honduras, this time it was much more intense.” (pp. 177-178). That gives little or no hope.

Neither Jesus nor the apostles spent months or years in expelling demons from people. Yet the diary of the Catholic exorcist is laden with clients who struggle fruitlessly for decades to be free from defeated foes.

In a bid to offer a convenient excuse for these failed experiments, Baglio says God “does permit it [demon possession] for some good purpose (similar to temptation).”

He cements this with a quote from John Chrysostom, “Possessed persons can obtain a twofold benefit from their condition. In the first place they can become more holy and good; secondly, having paid the debt for their sins here on earth, they can present themselves pure before the Lord.” (p. 47).

This is a colossal tragedy. Imagine being told week after week by a religious system you trust that God who sent Jesus to deliver the oppressed and destroy the works of the devil relishes your demonized state of suffering and this is how the debt of your sins will be cleared!

This is a doomed religious vessel; a destructive cage that every truth-seeking Catholic must escape from.

This work is not how exorcists are made, it’s how deceivers are schooled and the deceived are groomed.

 

 

Are Christmas Trees Idols?

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One of the arguments presented by Christians who oppose Christmas celebration is that Christmas trees are idols.

I think the first material where I encountered this teaching was one of the Alberto series titled “The Force” published by Jack Chick. In it, Alberto Rivera, a self-acclaimed ex-Jesuit priest, said without a shred of documentation:

“As time passed, all over the world on the 25th of December, the sun was worshipped by these various names: Tammuz, Horus, Osiris, Sol, etc. It was a time for orgies, sacrificing of babies to Baal, drunkenness, and merriment. Semiramis ordered trees to be decorated with little balls representing the sun. God fought this evil holiday by forbidding the Jews to decorate trees as the heathens were doing (Jer. 10:1-4).” (The Force, The Crusaders Vol. 15 by Jack T. Chick, 1983, p. 26).

You don’t have to be a scholar to see how groundless these statements are. All you have to do is enter the names of these idols into a search engine and you will realize that there were no specific fixed dates on which they were worshipped, much less on December 25th.

The hackneyed tale of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz often tied to Christmas by some religious groups is not my issue here. I’ve addressed that hypothesis in my article, The Mirror Image Syndrome.

Also, if you need more info on the yak milk and powdered sparrow eggs being put out by Chick Publications, you can read this. My main concern here is that Bible passage often trotted out, Jeremiah 10:1-5 (KJV):

“For one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree…”

Using the principles of sound Biblical interpretation, here are reasons why these Bible verses do not refer to Christmas trees:

1. One of the ways to properly interpret the Bible is to cross reference, to examine parallel passages. It’s dicey to build a doctrine on just one verse of the Bible, especially when other passages go in an opposite direction.

For instance, the passage says, “One cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman.”

Reading this, one would picture a lumberjack going into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree, but this is not the intended meaning.

When you read the entire chapter, you will see that this “workman” was one who took material—in this case the wood from a tree—and formed it into an idol.

Later in this passage, the “workman” is portrayed as plating an idol with silver and gold. He was clearly not a lumberjack; he was fashioning a “graven image… they are all the works of cunning men” and they are “the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth” (vv. 9-14)

In a parallel passage, we read, “The workman melteth a graven image…”

Then he makes an idol with wood from a tree:

“He… chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image…” (Isa. 40:19, 20).

Therefore, the “workman” was an idol carver. The Hebrew word is “charash” meaning “an engraver” or “artificer.” And we all know images of idols were fashioned out of wood, gold, silver, brass or adorned with them.

2. One of the ways to have a good understanding of the Bible is to read it in a clearer and more accurate modern translation.

For instance, the tool the workman uses is called an “ax.” Though the word ax (or axes) appears 18 times in the King James Version, the Hebrew word here (maatzad) translated ax is a different word.

It is not the ax that a lumberjack would use to cut down a tree, but is a carving tool or tong. The workman would use this tool to form an idol from the tree already cut down.

Some translations, more correctly, use the word chisel: “…they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel” (NIV).

3. Just quoting a Bible passage isn’t enough, we must look to see if the passage actually describes what we are saying. Otherwise, we are unfairly reading our preconceived notions into it.

The idol described in Jeremiah 10, was carved from the “stock” of a tree (margin: “wooden idol,” vs. 8). Positioned “upright as a palm tree,” it was fastened with “nails and hammers” so it would not fall over (vv. 4, 5).

While this could be true of a Christmas tree, what is described here is a wooden idol in a standing position. Being lifeless, it cannot stand on its own, and must be fastened down to avoid falling over.

4. Reading the preceding and proceeding verses of a passage is vital to Bible interpretation.

When we take a look at the whole of Jeremiah 10, it’s contrasting the Living God who made the heavens and the earth to man-made idols that “cannot speak…have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”

It speaks of “the living God and the everlasting King” and derides man’s idols “for his images are false, and there is no breath in them” (vv. 5, 10, 14 RSV).

The prophets commonly pointed out the foolishness of believing in “idols…the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not” (Psalms 115:4-7).

The idols Jeremiah described, “speak not”— implies a mouth, but no speech. This would make no sense if Jeremiah was speaking of a Christmas tree— after all, no one expects a Christmas tree to talk!

These idols apparently had legs, yet could not walk. They must be carried, “because they cannot go” (Jer. 10:5).

Had Jeremiah’s subject been a Christmas tree, his whole argument would break down at this point since everyone knows a Christmas tree must be carried—no one expects a Christmas tree to walk.

5. The idols that Jeremiah was describing were dressed in clothing: “…blue and purple is their clothing” (Jer. 10:9).

A Christmas tree may be decorated, but no one puts clothing on it—not blue, purple, red or any other colour of clothing.

The fact that he even uses the term “graven [carved] image” (v. 14) to describe them is proof that he was not referring to a Christmas tree but an idol carved in the likeness of a man.

Isaiah described the same thing (Isa. 44:9-15). Though the wood from a tree can be carved into the shape of an idol resembling a man, it is merely a lifeless idol. “There is no breath in them” (Jer.10:14).

Again, the subject could not be a Christmas tree – no one supposes a Christmas tree has breath! (cf. Hab. 2:18, 19).

It has been documented that the custom of decorating with a Christmas tree, as we know it, extends back 500 years to Europe, especially Germany. But the custom originated among Christians.

They were not apostates trying to inject paganism into the church. Fruit or round decorations placed on the tree, to them, spoke of the fruit on the Tree of Life in Scripture. The traditional star at the top represented the star that guided the wise men to the place of Jesus’ birth.

While the Bible condemns worship of trees and fertility deities (such as Baal and Asherah) under green trees, it also shows us that trees were created by God. There were trees in the garden of Eden and even trees in the New Heaven.

Yes, we need to guard against pagan influxes, but at the same time, we also need to guard against extreme and fanatical teachings that see paganism behind every wall, shadow and everything God has created. That mindset is not typifying freedom but spiritual bondage.

That a Christian decorates a tree doesn’t imply idolatry unless he/she is worshipping or praying to it. That I have pictures of a dozen birds in my room doesn’t mean I worship birds or I’m a sorcerer.

I don’t know of any Christian that bows to Christmas trees or looks up to them as a conduit of sympathetic magic, so what is this false accusation based on?

Come to think of it, if Christians regarded these decorations as deities would they be throwing them out in the trash after a while?

The true Christian conduct is to avoid passing judgement on issues that are disputable. If you believe Christmas trees defile your faith, fine, don’t buy one, but then, don’t judge others doing so as idolaters.