Well-known theologian Stephen H. Webb released an article a few days ago calling on Christians to come to some reconciliation with occultic practices. His article entitled “Healing the divide between Christianity and the occult” rolls out a defense of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (aka LDS or Mormons), who was known to participate in witchcraft, séances, magick, and other pagan/satanic practices. Here are some of Webb’s assertions in the article:
1. “I think Joseph’s world had not yet differentiated between magic and religion as separate and opposed social spheres… because I think the Bible does not display a clear demarcation between the two. …the Bible…treats seer stones, for example, in a matter-of-fact manner (Numbers 27:21 and 1 Samuel 28:6).”
2. “The occult is a loaded word, weighed down with sinister associations of black magic and demonology. Esotericism is a better term, but the occult has a stronger hold in general usage. It literally means hidden or secret religious knowledge and has the connotation of a methodical and even scientific approach to the spiritual realm. …The antagonism I am talking about is the one between Christianity and the occult. Since the occult can be said to have pagan roots, and Christianity made its first missions, after the Jewish community, to pagan society, rethinking the relationship between Christianity and the occult can open up new avenues to getting at the very essence of the Christian faith.
“The occult is more than just paganism, of course. It is as much an heir to Christianity as it is to ancient Greek and Roman rites and beliefs.”
3. “… for decades many Christians have been struggling to learn from Eastern religions. … Many young people follow the cross but also find healing in Tibetan singing bowls. It is time then for a renewed Christian encounter with the occult. … A first step toward healing the divide between Christianity and the occult, then, should be a careful evaluation of what Mormon theology can contribute to conventional Christian attitudes toward the relationship of spirit to matter and the human potential to transform the physical world into the kingdom of God.”
In point 1, Webb’s statement isn’t true that the world in Joseph Smith’s time did not make a distinction between magic and religion. The fact that there was a distinction is the reason why there were Salem Witch Trials 138 years before Joseph Smith started LDS and people in his day knew the history of those witch trials. Webb also assumes in the scriptures he mentions that the “Urim” of the high priest’s breastplates were like the seer stones used by fortune tellers. The truth is, no one knows what the Urim really were, but the word is Hebrew for “lights.”
His claim that the Bible does not distinguish between magic and religion is also false. The Bible speaks against sorcery, witchcraft, divination, observers of times, enchanters, charmers, consulters with familiar spirits, wizards, and necromancers in both the Old and New Testaments because God wanted people to seek his counsel on what the future held.
In point 2, Webb is trying to diminish the meanings of the words in order to make the occult seem harmless. But by acknowledging occultic practices are pagan, it proves the harm of the point he attempts to make. He desires to unite Christianity, Mormonism, and paganism (including the occult) into one world religion. Essentially, Mormonism is paganism and his point is promoting the spirit of antichrist. Paganism is based on hidden, secret doctrines of devils that are supposedly revealed to ascended masters of pagan orders. Christianity is based on God’s truth which he has expressed openly for all to embrace without an ascended master, but through the Holy Spirit who teaches all believers. Jesus told us not to seek him in “secret chambers” (Matthew 24:26). Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:2 that those in godly ministry “have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully,” which is the opposite of what the occult does.
The third point further highlights how Webb is pushing spiritual compromise. Since some Christians accept teachings from Eastern religions then they might as well reconcile and unite with the occult, according to him. But this is blasphemous. There is no reconciliation between God and the devil. Mormonism cannot contribute to Christian attitudes toward spirit-matter interactions. That’s what God’s word and our relationship with him is for. Webb falsely believes human potential brings about the kingdom of God because he most likely, like Mormons and other pagans, believes man can become god. However, no one can come to the Father unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) and the Father draws them only through Jesus (John 14:6) because God establishes his kingdom not by (human) might, nor by (human) power, but by his spirit, saith the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6).
Source: Stephen H. Webb. Healing the divide between Christianity and the occult. Oxford University Press blog. September 21, 2013.
Harry A. Gaylord