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Question and Answer

Gospel in the Stars

Question:

Several years ago I was shocked to discover the late D. James Kennedy, famous Presbyterian and Calvinist minister, giving a "sermon" where he systematically went through the 12 signs of the zodiac, claiming each to be a "prophecy" of Christ. I have since discovered that this view is not new (known as the "gospel in the stars"), being propounded over a century ago by a Presbyterian minister named Bullinger and that there are other evangelicals promoting this teaching, including Chuck Missler and George Seiss.

In light of evangelical Christians' historical mistrust of occult practices and clear prohibitions in the Scriptures against such practices as divination and astrology, how is this kind of heresy arising in the evangelical community? Not too long ago, I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (certainly well respected among many evangelicals) only to notice that he too makes reference to centaur "prophets" consulting the stars for messages and omens, portraying this in a positive light. Is this kind of belief lurking in the shadows among evangelicals far more than I thought? Please respond with anything intelligent you may have to offer in the way of reply.

Answer:

I had a similar experience to yours—listening to a Christian radio station and suddenly realizing that Dr. Kennedy was treating the Zodiac as a positive source of revelation regarding Christ rather than denouncing its use by occult astrologers.

Years ago I did run across and skim through Bullinger's book, or if not his book, then a similar one by another author.

On further reflection, several things need to be said, I believe. First, neither Bullinger (if I have the right author) nor Kennedy is advocating the occult use of astrology. Kennedy did not say that the stars and planets govern the lives of men on earth. The Lord mocks those who believe that they can predict events from the stars (Is. 47:13, in a passage which links astrology with casting spells and sorcery), and He commands Israel not to be terrified by "the signs of the heavens" like pagan nations (Jer. 10:2).

While these passages do not condemn astrology outright in the way that, say, Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns other occult practices as ""abominations," it is safe to say that the Lord has authorized his human creatures to obtain knowledge through our created five senses (general revelation) and from Him by His acts of special revelation (today, the Scriptures), and everything else is considered occult and belongs to the realm of demonic deceptions—Isaiah 8:19-22. But this is not the use which Dr. Kennedy was making of the Zodiac.

I think Kennedy's take-off point may have been Psalm 19:1-4 ("The heavens declare the glory of God ...."). His view (and that of some others I have read) was/is that this refers to specific messages God has coded (my wording) into the constellations. Appeal is also made to the Magi of Matthew 2 (probably Babylonian or Persian astrologers who interpreted, correctly, the appearance of a unique heavenly phenomenon, a "star," as revealing the birth of the King of the Jews), and they connect that to Daniel's having been trained in Babylonian astrology (Dan. 2:2,10). I applaud Kennedy for believing that God's creation reveals His glory and also for wanting to understand that message as focusing on Christ (He must have the preeminence in all things, Col. 1:18).

Note, however, several things:

(1) The Book of Daniel does not say that Daniel was an astrologer. The word sometimes translated "astrologer" is "Chaldean"—referring to those who have become experts in the Chaldean methods of occult divination (which no doubt included astrology—they invented the Zodiac!). Daniel was trained in "all matters of wisdom and understanding" demanded by King Nebuchadnezzar of those destined for court service; and this may well have included training in astrology. But Daniel himself is not called a "Chaldean/astrologer," and the amazing knowledge which he over and over displays is knowledge he received by direct revelation from God.

(2) We have no idea what the "star" was which the Magi saw in the east when it first appeared, except that it was no ordinary heavenly body (star or planet), because when they again saw it upon leaving Herod's palace, it was moving and then stopped over the place where the infant Jesus was living with Mary and Joseph. If the Magi used astrological arts to interpret the "star" when it first appeared, that was an act of great condescension by God. It does not establish the credibility of astrology in general.

(3) While the Zodiac is ancient (and, in fact, the relationships of the "signs" in their "houses" no longer fits the present heavenly configurations), it is an arbitrary human invention. It's like lying on your back looking up at clouds and "seeing" horses, trains, and daisies, or whatever. Any two people can "see" different patterns. In fact, other human cultures (ancient Meso-American, for example, and the Chinese) have grouped the stars into different patterns with different meanings.

(4) Psalm 19:1-4 is not referring to specific messages from the stars, but to the general truth that God's creation—including the stars—reveals His glory; as Paul says in Romans 1, "since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (v.20). In terms of the cultural setting of Israel among the pagan nations, Psalm 19 is, if anything, anti-astrological. While the pagans worship the sun, moon, and stars, and believe their lives are governed by them, Psalm 19 declares that the heavenly bodies are but creatures of the true and living God, servants who herald His glory, and that for clear guidance in life we need to apply ourselves the Word He has revealed to us in His Law (the written Scriptures, vv.7-14).

In conclusion, I think it is misleading concerning Dr. Kennedy to attribute an occult use of astrology to him. And therefore it is unwarranted to accuse him of heresy in this regard. On the other hand, I think he was definitely quirky, without adequate basis in God's revealed Word, and a servant of confusion when he treated the Zodiac as he did.

You also mention C.S. Lewis. Over the years my wife and I read, and re-read, his Narnia stories to our five children with great delight. However, we did see the problems to which you refer—and others besides (in the last book, sincere worshipers of Tash get into paradise along with believers in Aslan—a bit of wishful universalism on Lewis's part, yes, even heretical).

Well, C. S., for all his wonderful giftedness as a writer and for his many insights into Christian truth, was not an altogether reliable guide in matters of Christian doctrine (and, by the way, himself pointed out that he was not a trained theologian and should not be relied upon that way). We all do well to read him with a grain of salt and an open Bible. In fact we are all fallible and prone to err and needing correction from the Lord and our brethren on a regular basis.

I hope this answer is of help to you. Do feel free to ask further questions.


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