I was watching TV and happened upon "Unsolved Mysteries." It aired a segment on "Edgar Cayce." I'm a Christian so this segment troubled me, prompting me to search on the internet for something on this man. I found several sites, but I zeroed in on yours. I was impressed and satisfied with what I read. [Webservant's note: See our article, "The Worldview of Edgar Cayce".]
I also found where several people had written in (most were furious with you), and one of them said that Cayce's ability was indeed a gift from God. I agree with you that the Bible is very specific about avoiding dabbling in these kinds of "gifts" (that word used in connection with the devil is almost comical), and I think that God wouldn't warn us like that if those kinds of "gifts" weren't really out there. I said all that to say this...Cayce is just one person but not "one of a kind." John Edward of TV's "Crossing Over" is another, and it seems that the times are beginning to be absolutely FILLED with these people.
My problem is this, I have a sister that is very dear to me. She has gotten interested in John Edward and began wondering whether his ability was really from God. She went to her PASTOR (remember that word), and I was shocked at his reply to her. He said that he'd "put it this way....all gifts from God aren't listed in the Bible." I nearly fell over when she told me that. So now she believes that John Edward might be operating within God's will. How do I answer her and compete with the pastor she thinks so highly of?
Thank you for writing Probe Ministries. Although I do not know a great deal about John Edward, my own position would be much different than that of your sister's pastor. From what I understand, John Edward claims to have the ability to communicate with the dead. This, of course, is something expressly forbidden in Scripture. For instance, in an extended passage from Deuteronomy 18:9-15 we read:
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.
Notice that v. 11 specifically forbids consulting the dead. God also prohibits the Israelites from becoming mediums or spiritists, which is essentially what John Edward is. In v. 9, such things are referred to as "detestable ways." And it was because of such detestable practices that the Lord would drive the Canaanites out of the land (v. 12). Although these nations consulted the dead, and practiced sorcery and divination (v. 14), the Lord did not want His people to do so. Instead, He promised to raise up a prophet in Israel to whom He expected the people to give heed. Although this refers generally to all the genuine Old Testament prophets, it ultimately has special reference to Jesus Christ (see, for example, Acts 3:19-26).
But why does God forbid communicating with the dead? Although we may not know for certain, I think there are some important clues in the Bible. In the first place, genuine communication with the dead may (as a general rule) simply be impossible. The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 may indicate this. Although some may point to Saul and the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28, it's important to keep in mind that (1) this practice was prohibited and condemned by God (as already cited); (2) Saul had been rejected by God for his disobedience (e.g. 1 Sam. 28:6, etc). Indeed, this was just another act of Saul's unfaithfulness to God. Thus, it is not an example for us to follow. And (3) some believe the spirit of Samuel may have been a demon masquerading as Samuel. Although that is not my view, I suppose it is at least possible. [Note: also see the Probe article "What About the Witch of Endor Calling Up Samuel's Spirit?"] There is definitely clear New Testament evidence linking demonic activity to divination (Acts 16:16-18), for example. But even if it really was Samuel (which I believe) the text does not encourage us to communicate with the dead (and other texts expressly forbid it -- see, for instance, Isaiah 8:19-20, etc.).
Thus, my overall opinion of John Edward (and those like him) is this: to the extent that he is truly receiving information from the spirit world, I tend to think it is probably coming not from deceased human beings, but from demonic spirits. As always, their desire is to deceive the unsuspecting and lead them away from considering the biblical command to repent and trust Christ for salvation (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, etc.).
In light of all this, if your sister respects the Bible as the word of God, I would simply bypass the pastor whom she respects. Rather than directly disagreeing with him, gently point her to what God's word says. Remind her that even pastors can be wrong, but God never is. And His prohibitions are given with our welfare in mind.
Hope this helps,
About the Author
Michael Gleghorn is a research associate with Probe Ministries. He earned a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University and a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Before coming on staff with Probe, Michael taught history and theology at Christway Academy in Duncanville, Texas. Michael and his wife Hannah have two children. His personal website is michaelgleghorn.com.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
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