The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is There Danger in Practicing Magic?
‘THE air tingles with the aura of magic. Suddenly, a drumroll breaks the silence. All eyes fix intently on two uniformed men carrying muskets. Raising their firearms to the shoulder, they take aim at an elaborately robed Chinese magician. He holds a china plate in front of his chest. The muskets roar in a flash of fire. Instantly the magician falls to the floor, bleeding heavily. The bullet-catching illusion turns to tragedy.’ A faulty mechanism in one of the muskets caused the bullet to discharge and penetrate the magician’s chest. So relates the book Henry Gordon’s World of Magic.
What a waste of the gift of life—all for the sake of the suspense, thrills, and entertainment that go with that type of magic. Is that how you react? Or do you feel that it is just part of the risk associated with staging such a performance? Whatever your response may be, when this illusion failed it was deadly dangerous. It prompts us to ask: Is there a more subtle danger associated with the practice of magic? For an answer, let us look at the roots of this ancient art.
Magic’s Influence Throughout History
From the dawn of history, man has been intrigued and manipulated by the mystery of magic. The word “magic” is derived from the name “magi,” an ancient Persian priestly caste that specialized in cultic activities. In its most basic sense, magic is an effort to control or coerce natural or supernatural forces to do man’s bidding. Egypt of the 18th century B.C.E. employed magic-practicing priests. Magic also played a prominent part in the religion of the ancient Chaldeans of Babylonia in the eighth century B.C.E. (Genesis 41:8, 24; Isaiah 47:12-14; Daniel 2:27; 4:7) This influence prevailed among the ancient Greeks and Romans down through the Middle Ages and right into our 20th century.
The different forms of magic may be classified in several ways. Robert A. Stebbins in his book The Magician groups magic into three categories.
Three Forms of Magic
Mystical magic is “an expression of the occult.” It claims that “events or processes that contradict common-sense knowledge or scientific knowledge” are “true or valid.” Stebbins further explains that “mystical magic is the handmaid of sorcery, . . . witchcraft, alchemy, and, under certain conditions, religion.”
With exploitative magic, “practitioners manipulate or exploit the onlookers’ perception of reality for their own aggrandizement.” They know they are deceiving the public, but according to Stebbins, “they encourage those who witness the magic to believe otherwise—to believe that, as magicians, they have supernatural powers or special connections with beings who do.”
Entertainment magic aims to inspire wonderment through intriguing deception. It falls into five basic and overlapping methods: “stage magic, close up, sleight of hand, illusion, and mentalism.”
Is There Danger for Christians?
Let us first look at mystical magic. Mystical magic is invoked in various ways. For example, Satanists exist who practice both “black” and “white” magic. “Black” magic involves the casting of spells, special curses, and the evil eye to bring harm to one’s enemies. “White” magic, on the other hand, is intended to produce good results by breaking spells and canceling curses. Yet, both are expressions of the occult or the mystical. On occasion mystical magic is even called upon to attempt to get a good harvest or to win an athletic contest. Nevertheless, concerning this type of spiritistic magic, the Bible speaks frankly: “You must not look for omens, and you must not practice magic.”—Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Acts 19:18, 19.
Where does the danger lurk in exploitative magic? Palm readers, fortune-tellers, and faith healers, to mention a few, apply exploitative magic to advance their own interests. Are they not living a lie by their profession? God’s Word says: “You must not deceive, and you must not deal falsely anyone with his associate.”—Leviticus 19:11.
The Encyclopedia Americana states: “In some instances, magical actions may serve to compel spirits.” Do we want to invite trouble from the demon spirits by even indirectly dabbling in such a sphere? Given the opportunity, the demons can and will take advantage of us. They look for ‘convenient times’ and are relentless in their efforts.—Luke 4:13; James 1:14.
The master in the art of deception and illusion is none other than Satan the Devil. He has been practicing this art ever since his first performance before a human in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:1-19) What Christian would want to be like him? Instead, Christians are counseled to “become imitators of God” and to “subject [themselves] . . . to God; but oppose the Devil.”—Ephesians 5:1; James 4:7.
Most people, however, associate the word “magic” with entertainment. A person might create illusions with his hands (sleight of hand), having in mind that the hand is often quicker than the eye. There may be no Biblical objection to this. However, if there is a pretense of occult magic, would a Christian ever want to give the impression of possessing some supernatural, unexplainable power? Or if others are given the wrong impression by the “magical” performance, would a Christian not want to forgo such entertainment so as not to stumble others? (1 Corinthians 10:29, 31-33) In addition, there is the potential danger of a person’s being tempted to go further, into the deeper magical arts.
Therefore, when it comes to magic that is clearly connected with spiritism, true Christians wisely avoid practicing it. Beyond that, in all aspects of a Christian’s life—whether involving employment, recreation, or entertainment—he would want to “hold a good conscience,” a conscience that permits no offense against God or man.—1 Peter 3:16; Acts 24:16.
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