Sunday, March 26, 2017

Was Noah's flood global or regional?

Does the Bible really say the flood of Noah covered the entire earth? Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, is about 8,850 meters (29,029 feet) in height. The Bible seems to indicate the flood covered all mountains (Genesis 7:19) by 15 cubits – about 22 feet – or more (Genesis 7:20). If that is true, where did all of the water come from? And, where did it go after the flood?  Was the flood local, not global, as some assert? There are good arguments on both sides of the issue, many of which are described in this article. More importantly, couldn’t one of the people on the ark swat those two mosquitoes?

All life destroyed?
The Bible certainly seems to indicate the flood of Noah was global and destroyed all life:
“Then God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)
“I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.” (Genesis 6:17).
The Hebrew word basar (Strong’s 1320) is used in these verses – and many others - for “flesh”, defined as:       
“…the soft tissue mass of any animal; the whole body; particular parts of the body… humankind, living things…”[1]
Other verses in Genesis which use this same word basar (flesh) in reference to Noah’s flood include:  6:12, 6:19, 7:15, 7:16, 7:21, and 8:17. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, this Hebrew word appears about 270 times, normally indicating the skin and/or meaty part of a human or animal, sometimes used to distinguish from the spirit, soul, or heart. In the Old Testament, the term “all flesh” can mean “all mankind” or “all living creatures”[2], as in Genesis 6:17-19. So, it seems apparent that all land-based life was destroyed by Noah’s flood.

That’s a long time.
The Bible very specifically indicates the floodwaters remained for more than nine months (compare Genesis 8:13 with Genesis 7:11) and the people remained on the ark for one year and 10 days (see Genesis 8:14). If the flood was merely local, as some have stated, it is difficult to imagine why the passengers of the ark would need to remain on board for that length of time.

All the earth?
Upon initial reading, it seems to be very apparent the Bible states the flood covered the entire earth. It will be useful to examine the Hebrew words used in the Bible to describe the entire earth. The Hebrew word translated into English as “whole” is kol (Strong’s 3605), used by Moses around 249 times, to indicate “all, everyone, everything … any … whole … always”[3] and words with similar meanings.

The Hebrew word translated as “earth” is erets (Strong’s 776), used about 250 times in the book of Genesis and more than 2,500 times in the Old Testament. According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, this word “does not only denote the entire terrestrial planet, but is also used of some of the earth’s component parts.  English words like land, country, ground, and soil transfer its meaning into our language.  Quite frequently, it refers to an area occupied by a nation or tribe.”[4] In fact, this word erets is used in many Bible verses to describe concepts other than the physical surface of the globe. One example is given in Genesis 11:1:
            “Now the whole (kol) earth (erets) used the same language and the same words.”
Obviously, these words are not used to signify all 510 million square kilometers of the globe’s surface area, but the people of the region. Even here, we can see that humanity had not yet spread to the rest of the Earth. That happened a few verses later:
“So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth (erets)”
(Genesis 11:8)

How does one explain this verse in Genesis 41:57:
“The people of all the earth (erets) came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth (erets).”
These are the same Hebrew words used to describe Noah’s flood covering “all” the “earth”, now describing a famine during the time of Joseph. Does this mean there was a famine in Japan? And, people came from South America to buy grain in Egypt? Even though the words used in these verses could potentially be translated “all the earth”, they clearly indicate a regional phenomenon.

Other Old Testament verses, written by the same author – Moses – are indicative of local, not global, geography. For instance, in an area of Israel between Bethel and Ai (Genesis 13:3), Abram said to Lot:
“"Is not the whole (kol) land (erets) before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." (Genesis 13:9)
As these are the same Hebrew words that were used to describe Noah’s flood, should we believe that Abram and Lot divided up the entire globe for their flocks and herds? Or, is it more reasonable to believe they separated a section of Israel?

Did the wind dry up the water?
Genesis 8:1 states:
“God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.”
This is a difficult verse to explain if one believes water covered the entire globe. How would a wind cause the waters to subside? Where would the wind cause the water to go? This method of evaporation does comport much better with a regional flood.

Was the earth completely dry?
Genesis 8:13-14 states:
“By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.” (NIV)
Other versions do not contain the word “completely” in verse 14. Nonetheless, using the reasoning that the “earth” implies the entire globe, does anyone really believe the earth was dry? Were the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans dry? If this is interpreted regionally, it makes much more sense.

All the high mountains covered?
The Bible, in Genesis 7:19-20, appears to clearly state all mountains on Earth were covered:
“The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.”
The Hebrew word used here for “covered” the Hebrew word kasa (Strong’s 3680), which can mean “to cover, conceal; to decorate; to overwhelm; … be shrouded … hide”.[5]

However, the word kasa (or kasah) can be interpreted in this passage to mean, according to Astronomer Hugh Ross, “more than twenty feet of water stood, that is, remained, over the high hills or mountains; or it could mean that this quantity of water either ran over them as in a flash flood or fell upon them as rainfall. The context gives no clear indication which of the three meanings to choose.” And, any “of the three scenarios would guarantee total destruction, no survivors.”[6] According to this interpretation, the Himalayas may not have necessarily been covered completely, but hills and mountains may have had large quantities of water running over them. Another point Ross makes is that the understanding of the earth as a large globe about 40,000 kilometers in circumference is a relatively recent conception. People of Noah’s time understood the earth to be the land, implying people and societies.[7] Whether Mount McKinley in Alaska was flooded or Aconcagua in Argentina was covered would have been irrelevant to Noah.

High mountains – globalist position:
How do those who believe in a global flood account for the problem of the incredible quantity of water needed to cover all of the high mountains? The issue involving the tallest mountain peaks, as well as the deepest ocean trenches is handled by asserting that the earth at the time of the flood was much flatter. These mountains and trenches arose from tectonic activity within the last 6,000 years, after the flood:
“Clearly, what the Bible is telling us is that God acted to alter the earth's topography. New continental landmasses bearing new mountain chains of folded rock strata were uplifted from below the globe-encircling waters that had eroded and leveled the pre-Flood topography, while large deep ocean basins were formed to receive and accommodate the Flood waters that then drained off the emerging continents.”[8]

This would answer the question of where the water came from. If all mountains were flattened and ocean trenches were raised, there is sufficient water on the planet to cover all land, making this a “water world”, similar to the (second-rate) movie with Kevin Costner. Alfred Russel Wallace wrote:
“According to the best recent estimates, the land area of the globe is 0.28 of the whole surface, and the water area 0.72. But the mean height of the land above the sea-level is found to be 2250 feet, while the mean depth of the seas and oceans is 13,860 feet… and if all the land surface and ocean floors were reduced to one level, that is, if the solid mass of the globe were a true oblate spheroid, the whole would be covered with water about two miles deep.”[9]

This solves the problem of Noah’s family requiring oxygen masks to endure the altitude of the Himalayas. However, global flood proponents also believe the rise of mountains and even separation of continents occurred within about the last 6,000 years.[10] Currently, though, Everest is rising less than an inch per year. To rise to over 29,000 feet would require an elevation increase of approximately 4.8 feet per year – a change of 57 times more than the current rate. And, one would suppose the Mariana Trench, at a depth of about 11,000 meters or 36,000 feet, developed within the last 6,000 years.

What about the promise God made?
If the flood was not worldwide, how does one explain the promise God made in Genesis 9:11 and 15:
“I establish my covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth."
“and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
God promised to Noah there would never be another flood to destroy the earth. Certainly there have been many regional or localized floods since that time. If Noah’s flood was regional, that would imply God has broken His promise many times, including at New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

On the other hand, if one understands “all flesh” in these verses as a reference to humans primarily in the Mesopotamian region, it is true that God has not destroyed all people since Noah’s flood. This makes sense because there was no reason to destroy all animal life. What would be the point of God destroying wallabies in Australia for the sinfulness of humans in the Middle East?

What about the animals?
But, doesn’t the Bible say that all animals on the earth died, not only humans? That would be the reason take animals on the ark, right? God states in Genesis 6:17, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it.  Everything on earth will perish.” And, in Genesis 7:21, “Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.” The Bible seems to be clear that not only humans, but also animals, were destroyed in the flood.

Why did Noah take animals if the flood was local?
Global flood proponents question why God directed Noah to take animals on the ark if the flood was localized. After the flood, animals from surrounding areas could easily migrate back to the flooded region, right? In response to this, Microbiologist Rich Deem makes several points:
·         Some animal species are indigenous to the Mesopotamian region.
·         Noah would have spent considerable time replenishing his herds. Whether the flood was global or regional, vegetables and fruit would not have been available for some time, making meat the only food source for Noah and his family.
·         Animal migration back into the entire region would have taken a considerable amount of time.[11] Even if the flood was not global, it was still geographically immense. Animals migrating back would have had no food source – plant or animal – for a period of time following the flood.

If local, why take birds?
Those who believe in a global flood make a good point that it would be unnecessary to take birds on the ark (Genesis 7:8 and Genesis 7:14); they could have simply flown back after the flood was over, couldn’t they? Rich Deem notes that, except for a few migratory species, most birds remain in a relatively small territory. And, since most are not designed for long distance travel, they would have drowned. Furthermore, it is difficult for birds to fly in heavy rain, meaning they would have sat in trees until water covered the trees and they had nowhere to go.[12]  

Why didn’t God just send Noah on a trip?
If the flood was regional, would it not have been much simpler for Noah and his family to travel out of the region until the flood was over? One answer has already been given as the same reason God wanted animals on the ark – to replenish fauna in the region. A second reason, offered by Rich Deem, is that God’s method of operation is to precede judgment with a warning and opportunity to repent. For example, the Lord sent Jeremiah to warn the people of impending judgment if they did not repent (Jeremiah 18:8). Also, God was rather insistent that Jonah preach to the people of Nineveh who, by the way, did repent (Jonah 3:10). Whereas Jonah spent three days preaching to the Ninevites, Noah spent 100 years building the ark. Peter explained that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness”. He went on to explain that, when they did not repent, God “brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). Peter understood the purpose of the flood:  Notice he mentioned ungodly persons were the target of the flood, not necessarily plants, animals, or the earth itself.

So what?
Noah lived more than 4,000 years ago, so what difference does it make now whether the flood was global? This is an important issue because, if the Bible states there was a global flood, but geological and other evidence proves that is not true, the Bible is discredited. As has been shown in this article, it is not an absolute requirement for belief in the Bible to necessarily correspond with an inflexible belief in a global flood. Believers may respectfully debate this issue without malice. Whether someone believes the flood was global or local is not relevant to his or her salvation.

Conclusion:  The most important point
Whether Noah’s flood was global or local is inconsequential if each of us is not on the “ark” today. What is meant by that? As with some other historical accounts in the Old Testament, the ark Noah built symbolizes salvation through Jesus Christ. 
“…in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Noah believed the ark would save him from judgment. Each of us needs to be certain we are saved from judgment by belief in the “ark”, which is Christ.

[Biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.]



[1]James Strong, John Kohlenberger, and James Swanson, The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), 1297.
[2]W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, 1996), 83-84.
[3]James Strong et. al., 1515.
[4]W. E. Vine, p. 66.
[5]James Strong et. al., 1516.
[6]Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs, CO:  NavPress, 1998), 145.
[7]Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe website, “Exploring the Extent of the Flood:  Part One”, 25 Apr 2009,
< http://www.reasons.org/exploring-extent-flood-part-one>
[8]Christiananswers.net website, “Where did the floodwaters go?” 29 Apr 2009,
< http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-floodwater.html
[9]A. R. Wallace, Man’s Place in the Universe, (New York, NY:  McClure, Phillips & Co., 1903), 225-226,
< http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/wallace/S728-3.htm>.
[10]Ken Ham and Tim Lovett, Answers in Genesis website, “Was There Really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?”, published 11 Oct 2007, accessed 2 May 2009, < http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/really-a-flood-and-ark#fnList_1_14>.
[11]Richard L. Deem, God and Science website, “The Genesis Flood:  Why the Bible says it Must be Local”, 26 Apr 2009, <http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/localflood.html>
[12]Ibid.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Did Jesus suffer in hell?

Did Jesus need to go to hell to finish the work of saving us from sin? Would God allow Jesus to suffer in hell? Some well-known Christian ministers teach that, after Jesus Christ died on the cross, he went to hell to finish paying the penalty for our sins prior to the resurrection. Is that true? If He was not in hell, where was Jesus during those three days?  

Where did that teaching originate?
Possibly the earliest reference to Jesus’ descent into hell is found in the Apostles’ Creed, which states Christ:
“was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell: The third day He rose again”.[i]
The Apostles’ Creed was almost certainly not penned by the Apostles, but was probably written only a few centuries after their time and is still used in many denominational churches today. The creed is doctrinally very sound, with the reference to hell as the only questionable point. However, the meaning of “hell” in the creed is important, as we will see below.

Two New Testament verses seem to indicate that Jesus went to hell following His death on the cross. They read in the King James Version:
“Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 2:27) This is a quotation of Psalm 16:10.
“He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Acts 2:31)

Translating “hell”
The Greek word translated as “hell” in the second chapter of Acts is hades, defined as the region of the departed spirits of the lost; the abode into which the spirits of men are ushered immediately after death. Hades and its corresponding Hebrew word sheol, used in the Old Testament, do not denote the permanent, eternal region of the lost. In the New Testament, two Greek words are translated into English as “hell”: hades and gehenna (or geenna). Hades (Strong’s 86), used ten times in the NASB version, is used to refer to “the grave, the place of the dead, ‘the underworld’”.[ii] Hades is properly understood as “the region of the departed spirits of the lost … it expresses the general concept of the invisible world or abode into which the spirits of men are ushered immediately after death … [Hades is] the intermediate state between death and the ultimate hell, Gehenna”.[iii]

What is Gehenna?
This is what we normally think of as hell, with fire and torment. The word geenna (Strong’s 1067), is rendered as “Gehenna, hell, ‘Valley of Hinnom’”.[iv] This valley was used at one time to offer child sacrifices to Molech.[v] The Valley of Hinnom was located just outside of the southern part of Jerusalem and was used as a burning pit for trash from the city. The word Gehenna is used in the Bible twelve times, eleven by Jesus and once in James 3:6. The allusion by Jesus of Gehenna as a continuously burning trash dump for condemned souls would have been very poignant for the Jews living near Jerusalem. He used described Gehenna as “fiery” (Matthew 5:22 and 18:9). The Bible indicates hades (holding place for departed souls) will cease to exist following the white throne judgment:
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14)
This makes sense if all persons will be, from that time forward, either in heaven or hell (Gehenna). Hell is the place where the unsaved will be cast in the future, after the judgment (Revelation 20:15). Jesus would not have gone to this place during his three days in the grave.

With the differences in the original Greek better understood now, a more accurate translation of the Greek words render these verses in Acts as such:
·         “because you will not abandon my soul to hades nor allow your holy one to undergo decay” (Acts 2:27) The verse in Psalm 16:10 likewise more accurately reads in the Hebrew:  “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol” , not hell.
·         “he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to hades, nor did his flesh suffer decay.” (Acts 2:31)

Statements of Jesus
Other verses concerning Jesus Christ clearly indicate that he would not be in hell (Gehenna) following his crucifixion and death.  In Luke 23:46, it is written, and Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”  If Jesus was going to suffer in hell, would He have made this statement?  Additionally, if Jesus would suffer in the fire of hell for three days, would he have said to the one thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise”?  (Luke 23:43) The Greek word translated here as “paradise” is paradeisos (Strong’s 3857), meaning either the part of hades reserved for the righteous held prior to the resurrection or some region of heaven. Paradise may be equated with heaven by Paul, who uses the same word as Luke (paradeisos) in 2 Corinthians 12:4. Two verses previous, he uses the phrase “third heaven” (ouranos – Strong’s 3772). The point is that Jesus did not say he would be in gehenna to endure more suffering later that day; rather He would be in paradeisos.

It is finished
If it was necessary for Jesus to suffer torment in hell, he would not have been able to make the statement on the cross, “It is finished.” in John 19:30.  The Greek word tetelestai means something is accomplished or fulfilled.  The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times indicating that a bill had been paid in full. Notice Jesus did not say on the cross, “It is almost finished”, nor did He wait until three days had passed to say, “It is finished”. He was the perfect, sinless lamb of God (John 1:29) and when He died, it was completed. Peter stated Jesus bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), not in hell.   

To more properly understand this issue, we should differentiate the purpose of the cross from the purpose of hell (gehenna). Hell is a future (2 Peter 3:7), eternal place of punishment, banishment from God’s presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and a quarantine for the unregenerate apart from those who are saved. The cross, on the other hand, was the final and ultimate sacrifice, of which the Old Testament animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing. Think about it – the sheep did not go to hell to suffer. That was not the point of the sacrifice. The cross and hell have very different purposes.

Where was He for three days?
If Jesus was not in hell, what was He doing between death on the cross and the resurrection? Geisler and Rhodes point out the two views concerning this issue.
1.    The Hades View. According to this position, Jesus’ spirit went to the holding place of those who had died and “He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). The Apostle Paul references this as well:  “’When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men’. Now this expression, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:8-9)
Peter states that, following His death, Jesus “went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:19).  The original Greek word rendered prison is phylake, which means the act of keeping watch or guarding or a place where someone is watched or guarded. The spirits mentioned here are described as those who were disobedient during the time Noah was preaching righteousness (1 Peter 3:20). This also likely includes other unsaved persons who died prior to the time of Christ. 

2.    The Heaven View. Proponents of this position teach that the souls of Old Testament saints ascended directly to heaven. Enoch was taken by God (Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5). The Bible states Elijah “went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, the souls of the righteous went to heaven, while their bodies awaited the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20 and Matthew 27:53).[vi]

So, what?
Why is this important? This issue probably does not involve an essential Christian doctrine. However, it relates to two significant issues:
1.    We should be very cautious when extrapolating beliefs concerning Jesus Christ or God. This is particularly evident in statements of some people who go on to say that Jesus not only suffered in hell, but also was born again. As Geisler and Rhodes state, “the Bible is clear that he was not ‘born again’ while there, nor did he gain victory over the devil at that time. Jesus was not a sinner and, therefore, did not need to be born again”.[vii]
2.    The King James version of the Bible, though a very good translation and beautifully written, contains some rendering of words which have the potential to cause misunderstandings for a 21st century reader. Jesus went to hades, which is not the same as hell.

To have the most accurate interpretation of the Bible, we should use the English version that is translated from the oldest reliable manuscripts and seek to understand the writer’s meaning in the original language. By doing this, we see that Jesus Christ did not suffer torment in hell. Nowhere does the Bible indicate Jesus went to hell or needed to be born again. Jesus Christ finished the work of atonement for our sins when He died on the cross.  


[i]Christian Classics Ethereal Library website, “Apostles’ Creed”, accessed 13 Apr 2009,
<http://www.ccel.org/creeds/apostles.creed.html>.
[ii] Strong’s, 1588.
[iii] Zodhiates, Spiros, Executive Editor, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: 1996), p. 1575.
[iv] Strong’s, 1599.
[v] “They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35).
[vi]Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes, Correcting the Cults (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997), p. 253.
[vii]Ibid., pp. 253-254.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Is Wicca compatible with the Bible? Does God approve of witchcraft?


Conclusion
(It may seem unusual to place the conclusion first, but this contains the most critical information, answers the questions in the article title, and many readers may not stick around until the end.) Wiccan beliefs (also those of Paganism and witchcraft) differ significantly from Christianity as described in the Bible in several key areas:
1.    Nature of God. Wiccans typically believe in one primary Goddess and a minor male horned God named Pan. The Bible specifically indicates there is one God and His Son Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Timothy 2:5) and God is separate from the creation (Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11).
2.    Human nature and sin. There really is no concept of sin in Wicca. The Bible is very clear that all people are sinners (Romans 3:10, 1 John 1:10, Ephesians 2:1).
3.    Salvation. Because there is no sin consciousness, there is no need for forgiveness or a savior, as the Bible clearly teaches (Romans 5:8, 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Corinthians 15:3).
4.    Satan. The existence and role of Satan are diminished or non-existent in Wicca. The Bible mentions Satan as our enemy in numerous places (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8).

This may sound absurd at first, but Wiccans and witches would find much appealing in true Christianity. However, one must separate any perceived wrongs committed by the Christian church from the true God and His Son Jesus Christ. First, the God of the Bible is personal (John 17:21, Romans 8:38-39) and this can be appealing to those who have become accustomed to an impersonal spirituality. Second, the Bible is very affirming of women (Esther 9:29, Judges 4:4, Genesis 3:20, Galatians 3:28). Third, the Bible informs that God admonished humans to care for the earth (Genesis 2:15). Rather than a counterfeit (Colossians 2:8), God graciously offers real power (Acts 1:8, Luke 10:19) and His Spirit (Luke 11:13) in our lives.

What does the Bible say?
The Bible clearly condemns many of the practices of Wicca and witchcraft. But, many people (including this writer) ask, “Why?” Here are Old and New Testament references regarding this topic. In the next section is found an explanation concerning the reasons for God’s warning against these practices. Note here that the Lord does not merely condemn witchcraft in general, but mentions specific actions:
·         "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
·         “He (Manasseh) made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him to anger. (2 Kings 21:6)
·         “You shall not … practice divination or soothsaying.” (Leviticus 19:26)
·         “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them.” (Leviticus 19:31)
·         “As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” (Leviticus 20:6)
·         “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)
·         “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions…” (Galatians 5:19-20)
·         “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Revelation 22:15)
·         Also see Acts 8:9-22, Isaiah 47:12-15, Acts 13:6-11, Exodus 22:18 and 1 Samuel 28.

Precisely what does the Bible mean by “sorcery”, “witchcraft”, or “divination”? The Greek word in Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21 and 18:23 translated as sorcery or magic arts is pharmakeia (Strong’s 5331).[1] According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary:
“pharmakeia “primarily signified ‘the use of medicine, drugs, spells’; then, ‘poisoning’; then, ‘sorcery’”.  Furthermore, “’sorcery’, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.”[2]
We can see that, even in the original Greek, the demonic and occult were part of sorcery.

But why?
So it’s not surprising that the God of the Bible disapproves of witchcraft - another in a list of “Thou shalt nots” forced on us by a judgmental, patriarchal God and hypocritical Christians, right? But, why does He disapprove of these practices? First, the simple fact that God warns against these should be reason enough. As a loving Father and our Creator, it makes sense to trust Him. Nonetheless, as inquisitive creatures, we want to know why. The primary reason is that witchcraft brings people into contact with demonic spirits which have rebelled against God and are actively working to destroy God’s greatest creation – us. The Apostle Paul states:
·         “in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”. (1 Timothy 4:1)
·          “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
·         “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
·         “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
·         Jesus said, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” us (John 10:10).

Someone may say, “That’s ridiculous. I’m not worshipping Satan or demons. Wiccans don’t even believe in them.” First, my disbelief has no bearing on their existence, one way or the other. But, think about it. If there is power in Wicca or witchcraft, from where does that power originate? If this power emanates from some mysterious force in the universe, where did that come from? On the other hand, if the power is derived from within the Pagan practitioner, what evidence does one have as a basis for that assertion? Evil spirits will attempt to deceive us into thinking we have access to some spiritual power other than the true God. God warns us about these things to protect us!


Barna survey
A survey conducted by The Barna Group found the following regarding practices and beliefs:
“Wicca is a faith system that has no central organization or theological belief system defined for all of its adherents. It may be best understood through its typical practices, which include performing magic and sorcery, casting spells and engaging in witchcraft. It is a ritualistic faith based on a loose set of pagan beliefs that are generally pantheistic in nature. Those who are involved commonly go through initiation rites for membership, teaching and leadership. Contrary to a widespread assumption, however, Wicca is not synonymous with Satan worship. Wiccans most frequently worship gods and goddesses that are found in nature. Wicca generally embraces the notions of karma and reincarnation, and promotes a laissez faire form of morality.”[3]

Somewhat unique characteristics of Wicca make it attractive to some people, particularly those who are younger and female:
·         the highly individualistic nature of the faith
·         sensitivity to nature and the environment
·         movies, television shows, and books that feature appealing characters
·         value placed upon personal experience rather than adherence to a strict ideology
·         the fascination with casting spells, performing magic
·         the growing determination of Americans to tolerate and accept worldviews, philosophies and religious practices that stray from those of the traditional or widely-recognized religions[4]

What is Wicca?
Is Wicca the same as witchcraft or Paganism? Is it a form of witchcraft? Can someone be a Christian and a Wiccan? This article is not a rant against witchcraft, but rather is intended to provide useful information about the God of the Bible to those involved in Wicca. Christians will also find information here concerning Wiccans with the hope that we can reach out with respect and love. First, we need to define some terms. Wicca is a form of witchcraft and oftentimes the two are synonymous, but clearly Wicca is not Satanism. In fact, most Wiccans (or modern witches) would deny Satan even exists, claiming he is an invention of the Christian religion. Wicca is a neo-pagan, nature-based religion which was popularized in 1954 by Gerald Gardner from Britain. The adherents, known as Wiccans, practice forms of witchcraft such as performing magic, sorcery, and casting spells.

“Wicca is a neo-pagan religion based on the pre-Christian traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Its origins can be traced even further back to Paleolithic peoples who worshipped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess.”[5] Catherine Sanders, a writer who has experience with The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, World, The McLaughlin Group, and others, spent a year researching Wicca and Pagan spirituality. She defined it as “Neo-Pagan witchcraft practiced as a spirituality or religion.”[6]

Many of those involved claim Wicca had its roots thousands of years ago, before Judaism and Christianity. Some aspects likely have been borrowed from ancient times; however, many current practices were developed by Gardner much more recently. Sanders informs:
“It was Gardner who, in the middle of the twentieth century, gathered together all of these themes and created what we know today as Wicca.”[7]
A paper was published by Gardner in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which “disclosed that Garner took the magical resources he acquired in Asia and a selection of Western magical texts and created a new religion centered upon the worship of the Mother-Goddess.”[8]

What are the beliefs of Wicca?
Because Wicca is not a monolithic religion and has no single defining doctrine, particular core beliefs are difficult to specify. Having said that, here are some major - though not comprehensive - beliefs accepted by most Wiccans:
1.    Belief in the Mother Goddess. She may be referred to in various names, such as Aphrodite, Diana, Artemis, and Gaia mother Earth most efficiently combines goddess worship and environmentalism.
2.    Rites harmonizing with the rhythm of nature. These include eight seasonal festivals, known as Sabbats such as the Spring and Fall equinox, Summer and Winter solstice, and four additional.
3.    Practice of magic: casting spells, divination, clairvoyance, astral projection, and others.
4.    The Wiccan Rede, which states, “That ye harm none, do what ye will.”[9]

Some additional neo-Pagan primary tenets:
1.    All is one – Humans have no special place, are not made in God’s image, and are part of a pantheistic belief that all of nature is of the same value.
2.    You are divine – Wiccans believe they are gods or goddesses and possess divine power.
3.    Personal power is unlimited – there is no deity limiting their abilities
4.    Consciousness is altered through rite and ritual – for example, casting of spells taps into the power of the spirit world.[10]

Why do people turn to Wicca?
Sanders provides four primary reasons particularly describing why many Wiccans have turned away from the Christian Church:
1.    Concern for the earth. The church has not typically been strong on the issue of care for the environment. (Environmentalism is one of the two primary drawing points for those involved with Wicca.)
2.    Empowerment for women. (Feminism is the second primary drawing point for Wiccans.) Sanders states that a significant number of women who have left the church for witchcraft did so because they felt wounded and felt as if they had been treated as second-class citizens by the church.  
3.    Frustration with the consumer culture. This concerns the perceived political viewpoint of the so-called Christian Right.
4.    The draw of the supernatural. Many people today are spiritually hungry and this is where some turn to satisfy that hunger.

Deification of nature
The Wiccan belief system elevates nature to the status of deity. In fact, famous Wiccan Starhawk described Wicca as beginning more than 35,000 years ago when the “gifted shamans” believed in “the Mother Goddess, the birthgiver, who brings into existence all life …”[11]
In her research as a journalist, Sanders found that:
“Most practitioners worship, experience, or invoke the Mother Goddess. They call her male consort the Horned God. Both are believed to be imminent deities who manifest themselves in nature. For instance, the moon, with its monthly cycle of waxing and waning, is perceived to be female and is considered a symbol of the Mother Goddess. The earth itself is also a symbol of the Mother Goddess because it gives forth fruit, vegetation, and life that sustain and nurture us.”[12]  

As George Mather and Larry Nichols point out:
“Wiccans deify nature in such a way that both God and nature are identified as synonymous. Further, since divinity lies in nature and in the cosmos, it also resides within each person. Here it can be observed that wiccan thought closely parallels Hinduism and other Eastern paradigms.”[13]

While it is admirable to respect nature and care for the environment, the earth is a creation of the one true God (Genesis 1:1, Ephesians 3:9, Revelation 4:11) and was made for humans (Genesis 1:27-30).

How should Christians speak to Wiccans?
Some good advice was provided by a non-Christian, practicing Pagan on a popular witchcraft website:  www.witchvox.com. Below is a condensed version of some of the main points:
·         Don’t attack. Many Christians and their writings called Wicca “evil” and Wiccans “devil-worshippers”, warning those involved must repent or be doomed to hell.
·         Get your facts straight. To be successful in reaching Pagans, Christians need to have a proper understanding of what they actually believe.
·         Admit the dark side of Christianity, such as:  Destruction of other cultures by Christian missionaries, intolerance of other faiths, The Inquisition, and denigration of women. 
·         Treat Pagans as people first. We should not befriend a Pagan solely for the purpose of conversion, then cast him or her aside if they fail to convert.
·         Treat Pagans the way you would want to be treated if approached by someone of a different religion.[14]

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]



[1]James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), p. 1651.
[2]W. E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), p. 587.
[3]The Barna Group, “Survey Reveals Americans’ Feelings About Wicca”, 01/26/09, < http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/16-survey-reveals-americans-feelings-about-wicca>
[4]Ibid.
[5]Magic Wicca website, accessed 5 Apr 2009, <http://www.magicwicca.com/wicca/definition.html>
[6]Catherine Edwards Sanders, Wicca’s Charm, (Colorado Springs, CO:  WaterBrooke Press, 2005), p. 219.
[7]Sanders, p. 60.
[8]J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (New York:  Garland, 1986), 212, cited in George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), p. 315.
[9]Mather and Nichols, p. 315-316.
[10]Sanders, pp. 5-6.
[11]Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, (New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1999), p. 27.
[12]Sanders, p. 10.
[13]Mather and Nichols, p. 317.