Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Were the Magi Astrologers?

I was just in San Diego, California and we did a Pastor's Appreciation luncheon there for Salem Broadcasting and got to meet a lot of pastors in the San Diego area and we engaged in a question and answer session with the pastors. One of the questions that the pastors were asking was this question about the magi and whether magi were actually astrologers, and if they were astrologers how could God lead His people through astrology.

In response I mentioned that even if the magi did practice astrology the Bible makes it crystal clear that the wise men were led by God both by means of the star which guided them to Christ and by means of the warning that kept them from returning to Herod. Contrary to the practice of astrology then, which involves divination and attempts to predict the future apart from God, the star that the magi followed was not used to foretell the future, but to forthtell the future. In other words, the Star of Bethlehem did not prophesy the birth of Christ - it pronounced the birth of Christ.

In a little booklet that I produced called Christmas Truths And Traditions I deal with many of the other traditions that have formed around the magi. While it is important to separate truth from tales when it comes to traditions which surround these magi, we must never cease to emulate their example of reverence and worship for the King of kings and Lord of lords whose birth we celebrate during Christmas.

As such, when entities like the Watchtower Society suggest that the wise men gave gifts to Christ, not to one another, we should immediately recognize that they have missed the point entirely. As Scripture makes abundantly clear, giving to others, particularly those in need, is tantamount to giving to the Lord Jesus Christ, and taking a special opportunity at Christmas to selflessly give gifts to those we love would likewise excite us, even if we have no expectation of receiving something in return.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comment on gift giving during the Christmas celebration...Many people today have no idea of the true meaning of Christmas let alone the giving of gifts...All we see is the hustle & bustle of people trampling over others trying to buy all the sale items displayed for the fill someones' wish list and hope they themselves receive in return something they've been hinting about the whole year long...Giving should always be from the heart and especially to those in need...not to expect anything in return, but to have the inner peace that comes with sharing and giving freely...

reality check said...

The American Heritage Dictionary defines astrology as; the study of the positions and aspects of celestial bodies in the belief that they have an influence on the course of natural earthly occurrences and human affairs. The Magi had the belief that the star had an influence on the course of earthly events otherwise why would they follow the star? Herod only confirmed what the already believed. Thus the Magi used astrology.

Furthermore, the American Heritage Dictionary defines divination as; the art or act of foretelling future events or revealing occult knowledge by means of augury or an alleged supernatural agency. The star was used as a sign of something coming (which is the definition of augury) or the “pronouncement of Christ”. The Magi used divination to find the Messiah. Moreover, God used the star to lead them to the Messiah and thus God used divination to speak to humanity. This was not the first time God used divination. “There was divination by dreams (Gen. 20:6; Deut. 13:1, 3; Judg. 7:13, 15; Matt. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). This is illustrated in the history of Joseph (Gen. 41:25-32) and of Daniel (2:27; 4:19-28).
By divine appointment there was also divination by the Urim and Thummim (Num. 27:21), and by the ephod.”--- Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary

My question is why are pastors not thinking for themselves and asking you, Hank, to think for them? Why do they need your thoughts concerning the Magi and the bible? You are just a fallible man like the rest of us.

Tony said...

reality check:

You make a good point, and it's obvious that you also have an axe to grind with Hank. No, people shouldn't give up thinking for themselves, which is part of your point...

...but: in pointing to Hank's fallibility, you're presuming to suggest that we should ignore your own. Why not simply counter Hank's information with your own? He's graciously given you a venue in which to disagree with him...why not just do it, and leave out the implied ad hominems?

reality check said...

Tony, let me summerize what you obviously missed. 1) The Magi used astrology 2) God used divination to lead the Magi to the Messiah 3) Hank is fallible just like any man

What is meant to be implied is that one should question Hank's answer and thus think for themselves.

Furthermore, I didn't change the subject to Hank's character, you did by suggesting that I was implying something thats not there.

Tony said...

reality check:

Thanks for your reply!

You wrote:
What is meant to be implied is that one should question Hank's answer and thus think for themselves.

I see...I think. Did you also mean to imply that one should question YOUR answer and thus think for oneself?

It seem that intellectual honesty would demand such an approach. Wouldn't you agree?


You see...I wasn't saying that you were wrong about the information. I was suggesting that you might be a teeny tiny bit inconsistent in your approach. Sure, Hank's fallible. I'm probably as fallible (if not more) than you are. Our fallibility isn't really up for debate. In pointing out Hank's fallibility, you put yourself in the position of someone who 'knows better' than those who listened to him...but painted yourself into a logical corner. Those who listen to Hank, you implied, should instead listen to you when you say that he's wrong.

Do you see the inconsistency?

Yes, we should think for ourselves. Instead of simply giving us information that showed Hank's error, you DID make your response about Hank himself...and about you as well. I thought it might be instructive to point it out.

Was it?

reality check said...

Tony, you said "Those who listen to Hank, you implied, should instead listen to you when you say that he's wrong."

I never wrote that nor did I mean to imply that others should listen to me instead. If you look at my original comment I said about Hank "You are just a fallible man like the rest of us." The usage of the word "us" includes myself. Yes, one should question my answer/opinion for themselves and make up their own mind. Moreover, I didn't say I knew better than Hank. However,in so many words I implied that I disagreed with Hank and gave reasons why. I then moved on and questioned why pastors need to ask Hank for answers since they have the God-given ability to think for themselves. Your responses have been eisegetical.

ellenh said...

How do you deal with this stuff???
Thanks for all you do. I'm a big fan and pray for you and your ministry often.