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Lecture on Witchcraft by Missionary in South Africa

LECTURE 5 WITCHCRAFT: By Paul Schlehlein | The Limpopo Bible Institute

I. From whence does evil come?

  • Common African View: God does not allow or ordain evil, thus it must come from demons.
  • Biblical View: God permits and even ordains evil, though He never sins.
    • Genesis 50:20 – As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.
    • Exodus 4:11 – Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
    • Isa. 45:7 – I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.
    • Lam. 3:37-38 – Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?
    • Acts 2:22 – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    • Romans 8:28
    • Job 34:10 – “Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.

II. African beliefs about witchcraft

  • Witchcraft is the cause of most suffering in the world.
    • Example: If someone was hit by a car while walking to work and died, or if a child fell out of a tree at school and was killed, the explanation of this in the African mind is often witchcraft.
  • Why are some people more affected by witchcraft than others? Common explanations:
    • A neighbor or an enemy may have placed a curse on us.
    • Whites are not affected as much because it is not in their “culture”.
    • This is a part of their business. They may be a witchdoctor or related to one.

III. Proofs of witchcraft

  • The common proof is the thousands of stories that are passed down from generation to generation.
  • It is debatable if these stories are true. What is not debatable, however, is that the belief in these stories is true. We must be careful to address these issues seriously, as many people wholeheartedly accept the holistic activity of the demonic world.

IV. Distinctions in witchcraft

  • Distinctions in Scripture (Deut. 18:9-14)
    • Interpreter of fortunes/omens
    • Sorcerer
    • Charmer
    • Medium
    • Necromancer
    • Diviner
  • All of these positions seem to focus on the central practice of witchcraft, though describing its different facets. Some would predict the future, others would call up the dead, some would do magic, but all would engage in some form of witchcraft.
  • Distinctions in Traditional Africa (Tsonga culture)
    • Traditional healer (Sangoma/N’anga) – uses traditional herbs and medicines to help the sick. Goes to a traditional school to learn this trade; not involved with demons, magic, or the spirit world.
    • Witchdoctor (Sangoma/N’anga) – mixes traditional medicines along with magic; specialty is placing curses on people and finding lost objects.
    • Witch (Loyi)

V. Scripture on witchcraft

  • Christians must avoid all witchcraft (Lev. 19:31).
  • Witchcraft is an abomination to the Lord (Deut. 18:9-14).
  • Those involved in witchcraft are under God’s judgment (Lev. 20:6-7).
  • Witchdoctors and sorcerers have real power, including the ability to speak to the dead (1Samuel 28)2, and mimic the power of God (Ex. 7:11).
  • Witchcraft was a common practice among the wicked kings of Israel (2 Kings 21:6; 23:24).
  • Those who practice witchcraft will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:20).
  • Witchdoctors and sorcerers will be saved if they repent and trust Christ (Acts 19:18-19).
  • There seems to be certain places on earth that have a stronger Satanic influence than other parts of the world (Rev. 2:13).
  • There will be false believers in the church who leave the faith to follow after “the deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:24).

VI. Why is there so much misunderstanding about witchcraft among Christians?

  • Poor understanding of God – many Africans believe that God has no role in evil and conclude that evil is always the result of demons or witchcraft.
  • Poor understanding of Scripture – Scripture has much to say about witchcraft, but most Africans turn to tradition and culture before they study the Bible.
  • Poor understanding of human nature – many of our problems come from our own sinful hearts.
  • The flesh is listed as the primary enemy of the Christian, not demons (Rom. 8; Gal. 5:17; Eph. 2:3). Therefore, the biblical and most successful method of battle in spiritual warfare is putting on the whole armor God (Eph. 6:11-18), not soliciting songomas or blaming the results of sin on witches.
  • Poor understanding of medicine – a baby who does not get the proper vaccinations may die. A woman who sleeps around may get AIDS. The teenager who does not watch his hands may get a disease. It is not necessary to blame evil spirits for this.
  • Poor understanding of salvation – many African churches are filled with nominal Christians who are untrained in the Word of God.
  • Poor preaching – when preachers give a heavy dose of the Prosperity Gospel, it makes sense that people who came to Christ for comfort will emphasize exorcisms and demon possession.

VII. How Must Christians Deal With This?

  • Traditional View
    • Putting a thread belt around our children (ZCC)
    • Placing a wire over the entrance of our home (ZCC)
    • Avoiding owls
    • Covering the children’s bed with “the blood of Jesus”.
    • Some divide sicknesses into African diseases and European diseases. For the first one, you go to the sangoma. For the second you go to the hospital.
  • Biblical View
    • It is debated if this was really the dead Samuel or a deceiving demonic spirit. Most likely it really was Samuel because:
      • the narrator of the story portrays him this way (2) he uses the name of the LORD seven times
      • he gives a true prophecy that his sons would die (4) he is called “Samuel”.
    • Acknowledge that Satan and his demons have real power and that witchcraft exists (e.g. from one perspective, the Devil was responsible for the imprisonment of Smyrna Christians in Revelation 2:10).
    • Pray and ask God for wisdom, patience, and prudence.
    • Do not believe that witchcraft is somehow a worse sin than others or that it cannot be forgiven. The motto: “Once a witch always a witch” is false.
    • Do not dismiss all demonic activity as foolish or false. Satan has real power.
    • Focus on the Gospel – On the cross, Jesus did more than die for our sins. Christ decisively defeated the demonic world by stripping them of some of their power and putting them to shame (Col 2:15).
    • Preach the sovereignty of God –God controls all things (Ps. 115:3) and Satan cannot do anything without His permission (Job 1-2).
    • Emphasize the ultimate source of evil:
      • Sin (Gen. 3:16; Rom. 5:12)
      • The choices we make (e.g. If we are unfaithful to our spouses, we may get AIDS and die.)
      • Scientific laws (e.g. If I tie a brick to my leg and jump in the water, I will drown. If I am lazy at work, I will be fired.)
      • The demonic world (e.g. the story of Job)

VIII. Practical Issues

  • Should pastors cast out demons?
    • Casting out demons is never commanded in Scripture.
    • The only people in all of Scripture who cast out demons were Jesus and his apostles.
    • Christians are commanded to resist (Jas. 4:7) and stand firm against the Devil (Eph. 6:10-10), never to taunt or bind him.
  • Should witches be killed or burned?
    • Between 1994 and 1996, several hundred people were killed in Limpopo after being accused of witchcraft. There were no formal accusations or trials. They were lynched by mobs of people in their communities.
    • In Europe, there were witch-hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries.
    • Pastors should strive to see those involved in witchcraft converted and reconciled to God.
  • Is there ever a time that a Christian may solicit a witchdoctor?
    • No. The above passages are clear.
    • Pastors should pray for traditional healers to be converted; this is their only hope.

* By Paul Schlehlein | The Limpopo Bible Institute

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