Salvation Army Soldiers sign a ‘Soldier’s Covenant’ which includes a promise to abstain from ‘the occult and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.’
Christians recognise that having given allegiance to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, they have taken sides in a war against 'wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers of this dark age'. (Ephesians 6:12)
'The occult' refers to the study and practice of supernatural phenomena and powers, and in this context particularly those practices associated with non-Christian, evil or illicit spiritual activities. A common factor is that they all purport to provide a 'spirituality' or a means of appropriating spiritual knowledge or powers beyond or outside those promised in the New Testament to believers in Jesus. They all involve an attempt to gain ‘control’ over the spiritual realm.
Forms of occult practices encountered in contemporary New Zealand society include the ouija board, seances, channelling and other means of divination of spirits, palm reading, numerology, fortune telling, crystal ball gazing, tarot cards, astrology, black magic (not to be confused with 'sleight of hand' illusionist entertainment), witchcraft, and satanism. There is also a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices which are sometimes described as 'New Age'. Some have tenuous connections with non-Christian religions, while others are synthetic cults of western origin, sometimes masquerading as 'scientific' in their approach. These range from the seemingly harmless (but still to be avoided) to the decidedly dangerous.*
Dangers associated with occult practices are that:
The Christian standard is to avoid becoming involved in anything associated with the realm or influence of Satan, following Scriptural example and command (Deuteronomy 18:10-11, NIV; Leviticus 19:31, NIV; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, NIV; Acts 19:18-19, NIV; Revelation 22:15, NIV).
Salvationists will be careful not to give unwitting support to the occult by use of charms, attributing powers to crystals, reading horoscopes or other similar practices.
The best safeguard against straying into such practices is a well-informed and active Christian spirituality within a healthy Christian community.
(*) Some children’s books, games and activities are sometimes held to be likely to mislead young people into these areas. A distinction may be drawn, however, between the above and children’s fantasy stories, about which Christians as individuals may hold differing views. Fantasy is an integral element in children’s intellectual and emotional development.
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