|Covert Power: Unmasking the World of Witchcraft|
|Source: Jubilee Centre; Cambridge Papers: Towards a Biblical Mind, Vol. 19.4, Decemer 2010|
|Paper - Abstract|
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Is witchcraft real? What do witches think they are doing when they engage in witchcraft? Why does the Bible have so much to say about witchcraft, and how does it apply to the typical Western materialist1 who doesn't believe in witchcraft anyway? Witchcraft is often present in society because it expresses something deep-seated in our broken humanity, namely, our desire to carve out a space where we can make things happen apart from God. The seriousness of witchcraft tends to be overlooked both in materialist societies, such as the UK, that pretend spiritual activity doesn't exist and in societies that actively collude with supernatural powers, such as South Africa. The Bible presents a challenge to both sorts of worldview because it recognises there is a spiritual world — but one which is subject to Jesus Christ's authority. Sections
The biblical worldview presents a challenge both to societies which believe it is possible to access and manipulate supernatural powers, and those that don't, because the biblical worldview occupies the ‘middle ground' between spiritism and materialism3. In parts of Africa, for example, it means being much more open regarding the prevalence of witchcraft in society, including among African churches, whilst in the British context, for example, it means realising that, as we lose the protection of Christianity, we are in danger of re-entering an age of overt witchcraft. Because witchcraft is real, we need to beware of increasing witchery in our society, and to watch out for unconscious indirect involvement, such as attempts to ‘soften' people towards such manifestations; as well as reaching out to those who have become involved, either through curiosity, or by genuinely seeking after spiritual things. Unmasking witchcraft means exposing the spiritual insecurity that lies behind the attempts to create fear, the petty forms of control and the shallow manipulations. Against the life of the people of God, witchcraft cannot hold a black candle: Moses' luminous skin, Elijah's fiery chariot, Peter's miraculous healings, the visions of St. John the Divine and, far above all else, the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the, dead, in the power of an endless life — a gloriously unique event in the history of the present age, but the destiny of every Christian. We turn, unmasked, from fear, death and shadows to intimacy, life, and light. Jonathan Burnside, a guest contributor to Cambridge Papers, is Reader in Biblical Law at the School of Law, University of Bristol. This paper is written in his personal capacity and does not represent the views of the University of Bristol. His most recent book, God, Justice and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible (Oxford University Press, USA) appeared in 2010, and is accompanied by a website Link (Defunct). Jonathan previously worked for several years at the Jubilee Centre and is currently one of its Trustees.
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