Pastor Bryan Hodge joins Bone of Bones again this week in part two of our discussion on the occult. In last week’s post, we defined the occult and began delving into how we should respond as Christians to the growing practice and prevalence of occultism in our society.
Amber Ornelas: I’ve been to churches who host Halloween parties but asked participants not to dress up as devils, witches, demons, etc. Does this sort of modification wash our hands of participating in the occult or is the mere act of recognizing this holiday wrong in and of itself?
Bryan Hodge: Again, it all really depends upon the thoughtfulness of those who participate. Mindlessly participating in these things is, as said before, just an expression of our nihilistic atheism, so the church that just gets rid of some elements and expressions of the occult needs to replace them with Christian definitions and themes, i.e., Christ is the Redeemer of all things in the world, including these things. Therefore, if we merely leave an empty space by removing things without replacing them, we end up communicating a false worldview of another sort anyway, and that false worldview is just as demonic, if not more so due to its implicit nature, as the other.
AO: Piggy backing off that last question, is there such a thing as “harmless fun” when it comes to entertaining ourselves with or participating in the occult? The Harry Potter series is a good example of this sort of “harmless occult play”. Most of us know people whose parents wouldn’t allow them to read the books or watch the movies because it was glorifying satanic practices. Is that a stretch or is there credence to their caution?
BH: This one is a bit sticky because it depends upon whether one takes to heart what I said in the above answers I gave. If there is no context given to something like Harry Potter, then I do think it is a bad thing. Kids should not be spouting incantations and whatnot in order to manipulate nature. That is, in fact, practicing witchcraft, whether effective or not. However, I do think it is important for parents to teach their kids about Christ through story, and Harry Potter has a lot of Christian themes in it that make the books/movies redeemable. We can hide away from the world, or we can steal back the story it stole from us. There is only one Hero in our story, and all other stories steal and distort Him. We can just leave it at that, or we can take it back. I believe God requires of His images to take it back.
AO: Referencing the title of this blog post, the Starbucks logo upside down is in fact the goat-headed demon Baphomet—a figure at the center of Satanic worship. It could just be a coincidence but it seems to be an intentional design choice. So, apart from the over-priced lattes and burnt coffee, is the Starbucks logo a valid reason to stop giving them our dollars?
BH: Usually, I would say that the company probably just put something on their logos unintentionally, and the symbol means nothing, so I wouldn’t boycott for that reason. However, I do think Starbucks prides itself on being as antichristian as possible, and enjoys the free advertising that Christians give them when they get their goat (pun intended). Seeing as they are on a crusade against Christianity, supporting Planned Parenthood and everything Christianity stands against, I would encourage Christians to get their coffee elsewhere. If I can support a company that does not have an agenda against Christianity and get the same, or even better, product, why wouldn’t I do it?
AO: This next question is in two-parts and stems from personal experience, but I’m sure I’m not alone in seeking godly counsel for this issue. I lived in a house the world would consider “haunted”. Strange noises, unexplained figures/shadows, misplaced objects, a heaviness and sense of foreboding when entering the house. My parents’ response was to call our pastor to pray over the house and he anointed it with “holy” oil. Is this a proper response or just more mysticism/occultism? What’s the Christian’s response to what could be a demonic presence in their home?
BH: I don’t think the holy oil does much. I imagine that is more akin to the occultic use of sacred objects used to restrain demonic activity. That’s where the whole ideology of crucifixes, holy water, etc. comes in from the occultic practices of folk religion combined with Christianity. Do I believe that spirits can inhabit a home though? Yes, I do. What kind of spirits I do not know. If angels can be in the presence of believers, then demons certainly can as well. However, what casts demons out from a place, I would imagine, the most would be the giving of the household over to God through submission to Christ, prayer, and living according to His Word in love. The presence of the Holy Spirit living out the life of Christ through His people is likely not a pleasant place for a demon to be. It is also possible that some spirits of the dead who are not redeemed remain upon the earth. The Bible isn’t clear. Many people think that the dead who are not in Christ go to a place called Hades, but that word just refers to the realm of the dead in general. There may be some who are put in a holding place, and some who are not. We just aren’t told. We do know that everyone in Christ goes to be in the presence of Christ, but the intermediate state of the lost is not really something known to us. There is obviously a reason why the Bible tells people not to speak to the dead, and that mediums could/can actually speak to the dead. Again, I would think the presence of the Holy Spirit is just not a pleasant environment for any creature who does not love Christ.
AO: Lastly, interacting with the occult is often described as “opening a door” to the spirit realm. Can interacting in “harmless” occult fun or purchasing “harmless” occult paraphernalia open the door to that realm, and when opened, how does the Christian close it again?
BH: It depends upon what you mean by “interacting.” We all come into contact with occultic symbols every day, and perhaps, people who practice it. The issue is whether we are engaging in occultic activity. I’ll give a good example of this. Parker Brothers decided to take a very dangerous gateway into the occult and make it a game you can buy at a store. The Quija board is not something to play around with. In fact, almost every report I have ever heard of true demonic possession came from someone using a Quija board, and some of them a Parker Brothers’ version of it. The board is specifically designed to engage in communicating with the dead, something expressly forbidden by the Bible, so to engage in it is already to be in sin.
The remedy for all demonic influence and possession will be submission to Christ through His Word, prayer, and in some cases, exorcism if needed (although that last word conjures up a lot of Hollywood nonsense, it just refers to calling a spirit or spirits out of someone by the authority of Christ). In the end, however, it will be full repentance and obedience to Christ through faith that keeps demons away. As Christ said, it is possible to sweep up the house after a demon leaves, but many more can return (Luke 11:24-27) if the Holy Spirit does not take up residence there in the life of one who needs to live for Christ.
It should be understood that the devil and his minions are no match for God and Christ. They are terrified of God. If we understand how big the universe is, taking an unreachable amount of light years to span, filled with immense power, and understand how much bigger God is and how powerful He must be to create it, we understand why they cringe in horror at Him. The devil is a dog on a leash to Him, and can do nothing without asking first. The demons who are confronted by Christ are truly afraid of Him. All of this to say, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is a true refuge from any demonic forces who will flee in terror at the presence of His Holy Spirit. As Luther wrote in his famous hymn, “For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not His equal.”
This concludes the second part of our two part series on the Christian response to the occult. I hope this answers questions you may have had about the occult and makes you ponder your own response to these issues.
A big part of our sanctification involves rooting out secret sins in our lives—sins that may be secrets even to us. So, as we seek to draw closer to Christ, let’s examine every area of our lives. For sin doesn’t always hide in the dark recesses of our minds. Sometimes it hides in our culture— in the sunlight of our traditions.
Until next time, salutations & selah.
Bryan C. Hodge is an Elder at Trinity Reformed Church in Las Vegas. He holds a B.A. in Biblical Theology from Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. in Old Testament and Semitic Languages from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. At this same school, he also received Candidacy for an M.A. in New Testament, and achieved Candidacy for the ThM in New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.
A husband and father of nine children, when he’s not at the pulpit teaching, defending the faith, and affirming Christ through what has been historically maintained as Orthodox Christianity, he’s doing the exact same thing on his blog Theological Sushi: Theology Served Raw.