What is Astrology?
We must be careful not to confuse astronomy and astrology. God placed the stars in the heavens [Gen.1:14-19] and there is nothing wrong with studying God’s creation or even giving names to certain groups of stars.
A number of books have been written about the Gospel in the stars. Just as Jesus used many practical illustrations and parables, there is nothing wrong with this, but we must be careful not to take it too far. For instance the Companion Bible builds much on the fact that the twelve signs of the zodiac are divided into three groups of four.
The first represents Jesus’ first coming, the second His work and resurrection, and the third His second coming. Much of the symbolism is far fetched and it has been confused by the fact that we now have a thirteenth constellation.
Even though I feel this type of teaching is far fetched, it is still not astrology, but rather astronomy plus the Bible. Astrology is different and evangelical Christians believe it is shown in Scripture to be wrong.
The actual word ‘astrology’ comes from two Greek words, astra meaning star and logos meaning word, thus it actually means ‘the word of the stars.’ Astrology is the study of the relative positions of the various heavenly bodies in order to predict how these will affect the behaviour of human beings.
Astrologers believe that there is a direct link between the combination of these heavenly bodies at the time you were born and your behaviour and destiny while you live on the earth.
Astrology claims to have its roots in Mesopotamia some 5,000 years ago. Archaeologists also say that the Tower of Babel, mentioned in Genesis 11, was a ziggurat; an astrological pyramid shaped monument. There is evidence of an abundance of astrologers in most other major ancient civilisations, including the Egyptians, the Incas, the Greeks and the Romans.
Some say that modern astrology actually began with Ptolemy, a Greek living around AD 150. The history of the zodiac, the twelve divisions or houses of the astrological world, appears to have first come into being in Mesopotamia around 2100 BC
Different Levels of Involvement
- Newspaper Style
Found in many national newspapers and magazines – most people claim they do not take this type seriously.
- More Detailed
Next some people obtain a more detailed prediction using their particular birth sign.
Finally an individual can receive a personalised prediction for their date and place of birth. It is normal for people who get this far to check their horoscope before any major decision. Well-known personalities have been reported in this category.
Is Astrology Scientific?
Some will clearly claim that astrology is scientific:
‘Astrology was the first science known to man and the present age is beginning to realise that it is the greatest, the parent of them all.’ – A to Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator, Llewellen George, 1977, p.9.
We must be careful with the terms we use. ‘Science’ as we understand it today, is different from the natural philosophy of past generations. This is even more the case when we consider the development of this thinking in the ancient world.
As already stated, astrology claims that the positions of various heavenly bodies give information about personality, actions, and choices affecting individuals. It can indeed be argued that drawing such charts is a science; take for instance the mathematical calculations that are necessary.
However the science of drawing a chart showing where the planets were when someone was born is just the beginning. The non-scientific part of interpreting those positions to show how it alters the life of a certain individual, is the main work of astrology and, as such, we see that it is not scientific.
When a chart is drawn, several factors are considered. Of primary significance are the zodiac signs showing which area the sun is in. In observing the sign rising above the horizon, which zodiac sign each planet is in, and then the relationships between the planets, certain angles are considered favourable, others not.
The interpretation of the planets showing most prominently can now begin. This is based on the ancient myths and legends relating to that particular character or god related to the planet. Referring to ‘Jupiter’ does not mean the actual planet but the legends that refer to the god Jupiter and his relationships with others.
For instance Jupiter and Venus are assumed to be favourable whereas Saturn and Mars are not. Similarly zodiac signs refer to a group of stars but the interpretation is based on legends that could not stand the test of time and critical inquiry! What you read this morning therefore is not what the stars are saying today but what the myths said hundreds, thousands of years ago.
The astrological world was thrown into confusion in early 1995 by the discovery of a thirteenth constellation, Ophiuchus. The new accurate zodiac was outlined by Dr. Jacqueline Mitton in the six-part BBC television series on popular astronomy. The Daily Telegraph reported on 20th January 1995:
‘Between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago the dates on which the sun appeared in the different constellations were worked out by apportioning one twelfth of the sky to each constellation. Those dates are still used by astrologers for their predictions. Because the stars are only visible during the night most people have to take the astrologers’ word for it when they talk about being ‘in’ a particular star sign: that is when the sun is in front of a particular constellation. Unfortunately for astrologers, the constellations cover different sized areas of the sky, according to the International Astronomical Union. ‘Some constellations cover much bigger areas than others,’ said Dr. Mitton. This means that each zodiac sign should, in reality, cover a different number of days. Worse still, in the intervening years the direction of the earth’s axis has been slowly changing. This causes the seasons, and thus our calendar, to shift with respect to the star’s positions.’
The result of all this is that many people who have been following their horoscopes were actually born under a different star sign and so the predictions could not be accurate.
Doubt is cast over the credibility of astrology by several unexplained questions. These include,
- Near the Poles there are weeks when no planet is visible and for part of the year the sun is not visible either. How can those born here have a horoscope?
- The outer planets – Neptune, Uranus and Pluto – were only discovered comparatively recently. They are now included in charts but there has not been sufficient time for a scientific evaluation of their influence. How do we know their character?
- Why do identical twins often live quite dissimilar lives? Astrologers usually only quote those rare cases where there is remarkable similarity.
- The light that astrologers are seeing today left the planets many hundreds of years before! This means that the star is no longer in the position it is being plotted in, yet no allowance is made for this.
- Why is it that only the constellations of the Zodiac affect man, when there are other constellations of greater importance?
- The Zodiac that astrologers use today has moved an entire house (several degrees) during the last 2,000 years. Surely this means that all calculations are false.
- Why is the hour of birth so important and not the hour of conception?
Power – Where From?
Most astrologers would clearly say that the source of their supernatural power is definitely good. Many would further say that it is from God [without necessarily defining exactly what they mean by the term].
Some go as far as to say that the Bible encourages astrology. For example, the Magi were inspired to seek Jesus by studying the stars. However there is a clear distinction between astronomy – the studying of the stars and astrology – the interpretation of the stars. God has nothing against astronomy because here we are simply studying His creation.
Evangelical Christians believe that God has made His opinion of astrology clear. He warns against it in Bible passages such as:
‘Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have laboured from your youth; perhaps you may be able to succeed; perhaps you may inspire terror.
‘You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons make known what shall come upon you.
‘Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!
‘Such to you are those with whom you have laboured, who have done business with you from your youth; they wander about, each in his own direction; there is no one to save you.’ (Isaiah 47:12-15)
Consultation with the stars – those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons make known what shall come upon you – is compared with, ‘your enchantments and your many sorceries.’ Finally, the Lord says such people can’t even deliver themselves, much less those who consult them. ‘No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!’ There is no benefit to be had from this fire.
‘Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity.’ (and Jeremiah 10:2) [two Scriptures out of the many that could be quoted.]
God’s warning comes because He is aware of the heartache that easily follows trying to see the future, without the love and safety He alone gives. Just as jumping off a 30-foot building is liable to hurt us physically. Jumping into the supernatural world of myth and legend is liable to hurt us spiritually and eternally.
Which Source of Supernatural Power?
This leaves the question, ‘if God condemns astrology and yet occasionally supernatural power is present, where does it come from?’ There are only two sources of supernatural power, God and Satan. If God condemns astrology then we are left with no alternative but to conclude that this power is from the demonic realm.
We can hear the protests now – Christian bigots, who do they think they are? However, we did not write the rules and man has no authority to change them. God has promised to take care of our future as we commit our lives to Him. Yet He has also warned us of the dangers of trying to have supernatural experiences that are not of Him.
Many, when they want to be free of the bonds of astrology, find out just how hard and dominant a task master Satan really is. This is not bigotry it is the loving expressions of the Creator God who put all the stars and planets there in the first place.
Who will we trust with our lives, the ancient writings of men who tried to make gods’ of the planets or; the loving creator God who is behind the design of the universe in the first place, knows everything, and has our best interests at heart?