Should Christians take a dim view of it?

“Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by” (Isa. 47:13–14, NIV).

In releasing the glad news of the birth of a son to Prince Charles and Lady Diana, the BBC in news programs twice consulted an astrologer for comment. A humorous gesture? This was serious business with no trace of lightheartedness. In the same week, a sales appeal of the paper The Sunday People was tied to its consultation with a famous astrologer. Predictions of the names and temperament of the young prince were to be published. (The former proved completely inaccurate; as for the latter, only time will tell.)

Astrology is big business. The Christian should not brush it aside carelessly. Fortunes are being made by prominent purveyors of the astral arts. Thousands upon thousands are coming, to use Isaiah’s metaphor, to sit by its fire. Not just elderly women, but young and old, businessmen and Eastern mystics, are warming themselves before its flames. At a conservative estimate, 175,000 part-time and 10,000 full-time astrologers practice in the United States. Britain has its own diploma-issuing colleges, apparently with an ever-increasing enrollment.

At the popular level at which most people first encounter astrology, horoscopes appear daily in most newspapers. Over 2,000 carry daily “star columns” in the U.S. And in Britain, the more popular press—including the sophisticated Nova—and particularly women’s magazines, can’t do without them. The longest-running astrological magazine, Old Moore’s Almanack (founded in 1697), has an international readership reckoned in millions.

Author Derek Parker (who felt obliged to research astrology because of his wife’s conversion to it) writes about the lines of people waiting for time with the astrologer (Astrology: A Personal Investigation). He goes on to comment that for some the astrologer has displaced priest or pastor as a counselor.

The current edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica asserts that “Newtonian physics eradicated a belief in astrology among the educated. The practice of the now pseudoscience continued among nonintellectuals in the West, gradually losing contact with its rich tradition and becoming more and more fraudulent.” If you check the writings and credentials of some contemporary astrologers, you will conclude that Britannica is premature in writing astrology off among Western intellectuals.

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It would be reasonable to assume that acceptance of Galileo’s discovery that the earth circles the sun, and is not the center of the universe, would have felled astrology on the spot. And even though it survived that which logically invalidated all the accumulated lore, the discovery of more than seven planets should again have annihilated it! Once more it survived the inbuilt illogic.

Reasons For Renewed Interest

Some years ago, Jung (of all people) claimed that astrology “knocks at the doors of the universities from which it was banished 300 years ago.” Is there an explanation for modern man’s return to an outmoded science?

Astrologers would tell us that all this is due to the rise of “Aquarius.” They claim that not only individual destinies but also epochs of history fall under the influence of the planets, and that we are now moving from the era of Pisces into different millenia.

The musical Hair gained headlines a decade ago because of its shocking display of frontal nudity on stage. But probably a more dangerous consequence was the spur it gave to astrology. (In the U.S. and continental productions, the stage company had its own astrologer predict the best time for casting the performances.) Hair’s theme song blared out to inform the public that:

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius,

When the moon is in the seventh house

And Jupiter aligns with Mars,

Then peace will guide the planets

And love will steer the stars.

Two thousand years of the dominance of the fish are almost behind us. The era of disillusionment and skepticism that began with the death of Christ is giving way to the age of faith and aspiration, and in which astrology will come into its own.

But there are more tenable explanations for this upsurge of interest. What draws the thousands of upper-middle-class, educated youth to cults such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon?

James I. Packer has written: “We know in our bones that we were made for certainty and we cannot be happy without it” (God Has Spoken). It is the apparent authority within astrology that compels. Somebody is saying something with authority—and it seems to be right. After all, astrologers can claim accuracy for some amazing predictions: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of their illustrious credits. An earlier owner of the Daily Mirror, Parker notes, was staggered, when taking the paper’s astrologer out for lunch, to witness her correctly identify the birth sign and date of the unknown waiter who served them.

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Aside from the syndicated horoscopes (often an embarrassment to more sophisticated astrologers), at a personal level of counseling and revelation—despite the fee, which can be in excess of $100—there can be uncanny accuracy to what the purveyor has to say. Some of the large, financial institutions are said to retain astrologers on their payrolls because of the value of their guidance.

Moreover, the mechanistic approach to explain the universe is overplayed. Too many questions go unanswered if this is a closed system admitting no supernatural, greater-than-life powers. So, many now find reason to “thank their lucky stars” for comfort and seek out from them direction for their future. Here are controlling factors to which they can appeal. There are plenty of soothsayers who can interpret and speak positively—more in Paris, for example, than Roman Catholic priests.

Astrology Past And Present

Astrology claims to be able to forecast earthly and human events by observing and interpreting the fixed stars, the sun, moon, and planets at the time of birth. Great importance is attached to knowing exactly when and where one was born. Astrological lore, with its origins in antiquity, was built on the presumed revolving of the sun around the earth. Its orbital circle is divided into 12 parts, called houses, each of 30 degrees. The signs of the zodiac are assigned to these houses.

Variations in our time and place of birth allow for infinite differences in the nativities or horoscopes that the astrologer will draw up for his client. The macrocosm (the universe) affects the microcosm (man). Astrologers apply their knowledge of the vast array of astrological lore to producing the horoscope. One nativity by a dedicated astrologer can take a couple of hours to piece together.

Although the origins of astrology are lost in antiquity, astrology and Babylon are linked historically. In the account of the building of the Tower of Babel, our King James Version of the Bible seems to suggest that men were trying to build a tower that would penetrate heaven itself. More accurately, the objective was to build a high platform for sun and moon worship (Gen. 11). Here an ancient civilization exhibited its faith in planetary bodies: worshiping what was created rather than the Creator and meriting divine censure as a result.

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Later, in the book of Daniel, Babylon’s astrology connection is again recorded. Daniel, one of several talented Hebrews to benefit from a royal scholarship, was immersed in the learning for which the city was famous. But he emerged untainted by astrological dogma. King Nebuchadnezzar’s alarming dream, which he could not recall on waking, led him to summon the court astrologers, magicians, enchanters, and sorcerers. When the astrologers proved incapable of providing either dream or interpretation, Daniel was able to pacify the king—not by resort to their lore, but as a result of seeking revelation from his God (Dan. 2:27–28). Daniel knew that God’s law disallowed the practice of the astral arts.

In Egypt the great pyramids have significance not only as royal funeral parlors; they are also astrologically important. The sphinx, close by the Giza pyramids, provides a key. The term sphinx means to join together. The sphinx has the head of a woman and the body of a lion. It links together the first house of the zodiac, Virgo, and the last, Leo.

From the Middle East the influence of astrology moved eastward to India and China and westward to Italy, and ultimately to Europe and the Americas. Medieval Europe was bathed in astrology. No royal household was complete without its astrologers. The influence of Doctor Dee over Elizabeth I is well known. Even popes had their own astrologers.

The pyramids outside Mexico City, like their counterparts in Egypt, were erected in honor of the sun and moon gods. The Spanish conquest of Mexico, bringing Roman Catholic missionary priests, merged, rather than purified, religious practices.

More recently, both World War II leaders Roosevelt and Churchill are claimed by some to have been patrons of astrology. Adolph Hitler had more than a passing interest. Karl Ernst Krafft, who exercised some influence over him, warned in October 1939 of an attempted assassination. This took place in Munich the following month. Krafft unwisely claimed credit for an accurate prediction. Imagine the uncomfortable hours he must have spent with the Gestapo after his arrest, seeking to persuade them that prediction of an event and involvement in its fulfilment were not necessarily related!

There have never been more astrologers than there are today.

The Bible Denounces Astrology

But how is the Christian to regard it? The froth can be blown away. The daily horoscopes primarily demonstrate the gullibility of the public. But it cannot all be dismissed as a harmless diversion.

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The Bible records the existence of astrology, but denies its validity. The Hebrews were exposed to astrology as practiced by the Egyptians. When Moses seems absent on Mount Sinai an inordinate length of time, Aaron, at the request of the people, fashions a golden calf. It is Taurus the bull that “emerges” from the flames after the smelting process (Exod. 32:24). So grave is the danger that Moses has the image ground to powder, and imposes dire retribution.

Throughout the Pentateuch, and interspersed in the ministry of the prophets, stern, unqualified warnings are given against the practice of astrology. One reason the Hebrews were forbidden interchange with the existing tribes in Canaan was that their religious practices were infected with the astral arts.

When the godly young Josiah instituted a reformation, he threw out all the astrologers’ paraphernalia. “The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. He did away with the pagan priests … those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts” (2 Kings 23:4–5, NIV).

The word constellation is equivalent to the signs of the zodiac. Jerusalem had become a center for astrology, directly violating the teachings of the Mosaic Law (Deut. 18:9–12).

Ezekiel’s account implies that the signs of the zodiac had been inscribed on the Jerusalem temple itself: “So I went in and looked, and 1 saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel” (Ezek. 8:10–11).

Jeremiah delivers perhaps the most powerful denunciation in the Old Testament of dabbling in the astral arts: “At that time, declares the Lord, the bones of the kings and officials of Judah, the bones of the priests and prophets, and the bones of the people of Jerusalem will be removed from their graves. They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens, which they have loved and served and which they have followed and consulted and worshiped” (Jer. 8:1–2, NIV).

The craft that went up in flames as a result of Paul’s preaching at Ephesus was apparently of astral importance (Acts 19:19). The New Testament clearly calls on the Christian to resist determinedly the evil forces ranged against him (Eph. 6:12).

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Pathetic attempts to show that the prophets were old-time astrologers are not backed by one shred of evidence. In close contact with the living God, these men warned the people against the occult. Predictions they made from time to time came from their contact with the Lord who sovereignly disclosed his intentions to his friends. The claim that the wise men were astrologers is nonsense. They made no references to any conjunctions of the planets, horoscopes, or readings of the zodiac. Possibly they were Gentile converts familiar with the prophecy of Numbers 24:17. They depended not on charts, but on guidance from the Lord God (Matt. 2:12).

Advocates of biblical Christianity have opposed astrology in any form. Augustine denounced it as mankind’s most stupid delusion. Savanarola preached against it in Florence. And Luther reckoned it to be a shabby art.

Four Biblical Criticisms

First of all, despite denial by modern proponents in the West (as contrasted to Hindu astrologers in the East), astrology is basically polytheistic. Its obscure origins stem from the worship of the starry hosts. Such polytheistic worship was a basic reason that God allowed the Hebrews to be carted off into captivity in Babylon. Allusion to “the shrine of Moloch” (representing the sun) and “the star of your god Rephan” (Saturn) is but one illustration (Amos 5:26; Acts 7:43). It is a prostitution of revealed religion, a violation of the first commandment.

Second, astrology paradoxically locks us into a totally mechanistic universe. If we are controlled by the stars as revealed through our horoscopes, whatever will be will be. If time and location linked to the zodiac are determinitive factors behind our temperaments and our careers, we are not responsible for our bad luck if the omens happened to be unfavorable. Some modern astrologers have tried to get around the dilemma by saying that the horoscopes impel but do not compel—mere juggling with words. Human responsibility and choice do not fit into the astrological system.

Third, astrology presents us with an impoverished doctrine of man. The biblical statement presents man as the apex of creation reflecting the image of God, with a mandate to subdue the earth and live for God’s glory (Gen. 1:27–28). The gospel of astrology reduces man to the level of a pawn. The real forces and powers, the main pieces on the chessboard of the universe, are the planets. Astrology purveys no good news, nothing to bring man into harmonious relationship with his Maker and cause deep-seated peace.

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Fourth and gravest, astrology is immersed in the occult. This may not be obvious when more sophisticated astrologers are interviewed. But the more widely one delves, the more apparent it becomes that the inspirational forces are the apparatus and thought processes of spiritism and witchcraft: check the advertisements in magazines devoted to astrology, replete with the trappings of sorcery—lucky charms, jewelry of the zodiac, talismen, cartology. So also is information on the whereabouts of witches’ covens with their so-called black and white magic.

The person who dabbles in astrology, even in its apparantly innocent forms, endangers his spiritual health. That is why it is so heavily censured in the pages of the Bible.

Contemplation of the heavenly bodies should cause men, in recognizing their own creatureliness, to entrust themselves to the God of the universe. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:3). Planetary bodies, far from controlling the destinies of man, reveal the splendor of the Lord God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). Job puts it categorically: “He [God] is the maker of the Bear and the Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the South” (Job 9:9).

What a perversion, when the natural revelation of God is transformed into a complete system that deflects man from the path that leads to God. Astrology will not direct the inquirer to cleansing from sin, repentance, and forgiveness at the cross of Christ. As Isaiah warns, the astrologers and stargazers cannot save themselves; none but the reckless should sit by their fire.

So far as astrology is concerned—the Bible says No!

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