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by Michael Alan Cox, D.Min.
ABOUT THE WRITERMichael A. Cox is pastor of Calvary
Baptist Church of Inola, Okla., where he has served since 1996. He holds an
associate of divinity degree in pastoral ministry from New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary, and a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from
Oklahoma State University. He has also earned a master of divinity with
biblical languages and a doctor of ministry degree from Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary. This article is based on his doctor of ministry
professional project, "A Pastoral Ministry Approach for Developing a Biblical
Response to Channeling and Its Principal Tenets."
DEFINITION OF CHANNELINGChanneling, which is also
called spiritualism or spiritism, is communication with a so-called intelligent
being who promotes spiritual teachings and philosophical
discussions.1 Channeling may occur under hypnosis2 and
includes the processes of imagination, intuition, claims of inspiration, and
premonition. It is seen as the single most important and definitive aspect of
the New Age movement.3 The majority of those who channel profess
being the vocal conduit of a spiritual entity to which they have access. The
channeler is temporarily inhabited by the entity and functions as the entity's
The use of the body and, in particular, the voice of the channeler is the
unique feature distinguishing channeling from spiritism-which is communication
with human or extra-human intelligences through scrying (gazing into mirrors,
crystals, lamps, cauldrons, etc.), visions, and dreams. Channeling also differs
from ordinary mediumship-which is the practice of communicating with the
spirits of the dead on behalf of their living relatives.4 Mediums
operate through clairvoyance (seeing the departed souls in the
afterlife)5 and through rappings, movement of objects, automatic
writing (writing directed by a spirit), and other phenomena. Usually only one
entity is channeled on a regular basis6 and the message is commonly
a lecture or sermon. While not all the entities in contact with mediums and
spiritists are males, New Age author Raymond Buckland says that all the
entities channeled thus far have manifested themselves as
SYNONYMS FOR CHANNELERSThe most common label for one
acting as mouthpiece for an entity is channeler. They are also frequently
referred to as channels and spiritualists. Other terms used include medium,
wizard, witch, prophet, sensitive, and contactee. However, these terms are
technically incorrect if the entity is using the host as a voice conduit.
SOURCES FOR CHANNELERSGenerally speaking, most
sources are thought to be deceased human beings who have either completed the
cycle of incarnations or are waiting between reincarnations. These people are
said to be developing in higher realities and, from their exalted perspective,
are able to help and advise those who lack spiritual understanding.8
However, some channelers claim that their source comes from another planet or
dimension and is not human.
Sources have a myriad of names, but are often called familiar spirits,
highly evolved entities, spiritual masters, communicating guides, angels, the
collective unconscious of humankind, inner voices, the Christ, aliens,
extraterrestrials, controls, bodyguards, doorkeepers, enlightened beings or
bodhisattvas, discarnate entities, teachers, spirit associates, and the higher
power of the universe.9 Whether human or nonhuman, most are regarded
as still evolving in cosmic perspective. They work through selected human hosts
by temporarily assuming control of them-during which the host submits to a
TYPES OF CHANNELINGThere are two types of channeling:
spontaneous and induced. Both are adequately described by their names. Induced
channeling is achieved through meditation, prayer, self-hypnosis, fasting,
chanting, dancing, sleep deprivation, breathing techniques, smoking herbs,
taking hallucinogenic drugs, or yoga.
STYLES OF CHANNELINGThere are three styles of
channeling: the deep, fullbody, incarnational trance;10 the light
trance, wherein the channel is at least partially conscious;11 and
GOAL AND PRIMARY MESSAGE OF CHANNELINGThe goal of
channeling is to facilitate the transformation of the channeler's
clients.13 The primary message is threefold: the universe is
multidimensional, mankind creates his own reality, and love conquers
POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR CHANNELINGWhile channeling
claims both divine revelation and inspiration, it is clearly only a counterfeit
and presents great danger to Christianity. Attempts to explain channeling have
resulted in three propositions: mental dysfunction, intentional fraud, and
demonic activity. These propositions suggest that channeling is the product of
unstable minds, unethical conduct, or ungodly spirits.
POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS AS TO WHY CHANNELING AROSEThe
motivations for contacting a spirit are generally disillusionment with man's
worldview, a curiosity about the supernatural,15 disenchantment with
organized religion,16 and a desire to know about life after
INTENDED NEED SATISFACTION OF CHANNELINGPeople often
channel to reverse feelings of low self-esteem, powerlessness, and
guilt.17 Through messages emphasizing the creative potential of
humans, the existence of more than the material world,18 and the
assertion that each person is a god worthy of self-love and respect-people
develop the belief that they are powerful beings with nothing to feel guilty
about. These messages cater to an innate desire for redemption.19
Additionally, channeling springs from an aspiration to make the earth a better
place to live by encouraging the collective well-being.20 The most
popular reasons, however, for the popularity of channeling are an insatiable
yearning for prophecy, healing, divination, advice,21 and proof of
the continuity of life after death.22
KEY CLAIMS OF CHANNELING AND WITNESSING IN RESPONSE TO
Those who channel maintain that direct revelation and inspiration from a
deity have not ceased.23 When responding to this claim, emphasize
that the primary function of the Bible is to reveal the character, identity,
and redemptive plan of the one true God. Revelation climaxes in the incarnation
and return (not reincarnation) of Jesus Christ. Explain that Jude 3 affirms
that the genuine faith has been delivered once and for all, and that any
message contradicting God's biblical revelation is an abomination (see Gal.
Channelers also assert that Jesus was merely a channel or body God
used,24 and that He now exists on the other side with his soul mate,
Mary Magdalene.25 They believe He was the great master,26
a messenger,27 and a high teacher,28 but not the
thoroughly human and entirely divine son of God.
When replying to these allegations, it is important to stress both the full
humanity and absolute divinity of Christ. His full humanity is plainly
demonstrated in that He was tempted to sin (see Matt. 4:1-11), hungered (see
Luke 4:2), had a human will (see Luke 22:42), sweated (see Luke 22:44), grew
weary (see John 4:6), thirsted (see John 4:7), bled (see John 19:34),
identified with man (see Heb. 2:17-18), and died (see Matt. 17:23; Mark 15:37;
Luke 23:46; John 19:33).
Also illustrate that He is wholly divine in that He forgives sin (see Mark
2:10), is self-existent (see John 1:3), is equal with God (see John 5:17-30),
is unchangeable (see Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8), is omnipresent (see Matt. 18:19-20;
28:20), is omniscient (see Matt. 9:4; Luke 6:8), is omnipotent (see Matt.
14:25; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 24:31; John 20:14), and nothing came to Him by way of
an intermediary source.29 It is important for them to understand
that the incarnation of Jesus is the unique and final revelation of God's
nature to mankind (see Col. 1:19; Heb. 1:1-4), and that He alone provides
salvation (see Acts 4:12). There is only one mediator between God and man, and
that is Christ Jesus (see 1 Tim. 2:5). Any belief system that denies Christ
must be rejected. It is worth noting that every counterfeit system rejects
redemption by the blood of Christ.30
People who practice channeling do so out of a belief that contact with
spirits is beneficial.31 The Bible affirms that demons (evil
spirits) are real (see Matt. 8:28-34) and that evil spirits can inhabit a
person. The possessed host may tell fortunes, but his information will be a
dangerous mixture of truth and error when under the influence of spirits (see
Acts 16:16-19). Highlight the Bible's warnings against all forms of divination
(see Lev. 19:26) and its commands that people not turn to mediums or spiritists
because of the harmful nature of their messages (see Lev. 19:31). God's people
are warned not to imitate the detestable practices of other peoples such as:
child sacrifice, divination, witchcraft, omen interpretation, sorcery, and
consulting with the dead (see Deut. 18:9- 12). This is because God wants people
to consult Him, not mediums or spirit guides. In fact, King Saul lost his
kingdom and his life after consulting a medium rather than the Lord God (see 1
Spirits are subject to Christians, but that authority over them is nothing
to boast about (see Luke 10:20). The spirits are first subject to Christ, and
it is He who gives believers this empowerment. The New Testament teaches that
the gods of heathen idolatry are actually demons- not helpful souls roaming the
afterlife (see 1 Cor. 10:19-20). It is important to realize that departed
Christians are in Christ's presence-neither hovering about nor available for
comment (see 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23).32 Unbelievers are confined in
a place of great suffering, and are likewise unavailable for communication with
the living (see Luke 16:19-31).
Satan masquerades as an angel of light and intentionally deceives whomever
he can (see 2 Cor. 11:14). Satan's ambition was not to become a monster, but
rather, to become like God most high.33 In order to do so he and his
fallen angels actively promote heretical doctrines such as spiritism-doctrines
claiming to be true and godly which are actually lies (see 1 Tim. 4:1). In the
last days more people will believe these falsehoods. Forms of godliness that
deny the power of God will appear and practices such as divination and
channeling will become commonplace (see 2 Tim. 3:1-5). Demons, working through
people, will perform signs-however, their work will be without fruit (see Rev.
16:14). And the unrepentant sorcerers that they use will be included in the
roll call of the damned (see Rev. 22:15).
End Notes1 John P. Newport, The New Age
Movementand the Biblical Worldview: Conflictand
Dialogue (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 154.
2 Sylvia Browne and Antoinette May, Adventures of a Psychic, rev.
(Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1998), xiii.
3 Newport, 11.
4 Ibid., 154.
5 Raymond Buckland, Doors to Other Worlds: A Practical Guide to
Communicating with Spirits (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1997),
6 Ibid., 209.
7 Ibid., 211.
8 Browne and May, 23.
9 Shakti Gawain with Laurel King, Living in the Light: A Guide to
Personal and Planetary Transformation (1991; reprint, New York: Bantam
Books, 1993), 15.
10 Browne and May, 143.
11 Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer, Opening to Channel: How to Contact With
Your Guide (Tiburon, CA: H. J. Kramer, 1987), 29.
12 Mary T. Browne, LifeAfter Death: A Renowned Psychic Reveals
What Happens to Us When We Die (New York: Ivy Books division of Ballantine
Books, 1994), 36.
13 Newport, 11.
14 Buckland, 211.
15 Newport, 154.
16 Ibid., 170.
17 Ibid., 190.
18 Ibid., 163.
19 Ibid., 148.
20 Ibid., 171.
21 Ibid., 193.
22 Raymond Moody and Paul Perry, Reunions: Visionary Encounters with
Departed Loved Ones (New York: Ivy Books division of Ballantine Books,
23 Newport, 151.
24 Ibid., 149.
25 Browne and May, 129.
26 Mary T. Browne, 174.
27 Claire Graham, "Good, Gooder, and Goodest: An Interview with New Age
Channeler Claire Graham," Areopagus 6, no. 1 (1993): 24.
28 Roman, 21.
29 Newport, 149.
30 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Motive and Methods, rev. ed.
(1919; reprint, Grand Rapids: Academie Books by Zondervan Publishing House,
31 Newport, 182-3.
32 Biblical exceptions include the deceased Samuel informing King Saul of
his impending death (see 1 Sam. 28:7-19), and Moses and Elijah appearing on the
Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus (see Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:9-10).
33 Chafer, 67.
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