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Cults and World Religions




This is foretelling the future with, supposedly, the aid of the dead. 204

1 Timothy 4:1-2

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.

With Saul running off to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7), it is easy to believe those who claim this is the oldest form of religious counterfeit known to man. Even earlier, Moses wrote against the spiritists (Exod 7, 8). Spiritism is the “science, philosophy, and religion” which says that life is continuous so the dead can come and talk to the living. This talking usually involves the services of a medium. A medium is an individual who acts as the intermediator between the material world and the spirit world. Spiritism does not teach physical reincarnation. 205

Modern History

Most Christians trace the source of modern spiritism to Kate and Margaret Fox in 1848. These two contacted the spirits living in their new house and spiritism was alive and well once more. The practice claimed such followers as Horace Greeley, the New York editor who made famous the saying “Go West, young man,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes author), Elizabeth Barrett Browning, James Fenimore Cooper, philosopher William James, and Episcopal Bishop James Pike. In 1960, Pike attempted to contact the spirit of his dead son.

There is a wide range of estimates on the size of this group. Martin states there are 455 spiritist “churches” actively operating in the US with a possible of membership of 200,000, while in South America the number of practioners exceeds three million. 206 Gerstner sites the formation of the Federation of Spiritualist Churches and Associations and other materials to conclude the worldwide population at 2,000,000 but places as many as 700,000 of these in the U.S. 207 Other associations of Spiritists include the National Spiritualist Association and the International General Assembly of Spiritualists. There are many smaller groups, and many “independent churches.” There also appears to be a wide fluctuation in membership based upon world events (such as wars). It seems that a large percentage of Spiritists are Roman Catholics or former Roman Catholics.

The list of those involved in this religion include witches, wizards, clairvoyants, mediums, seers, fortunetellers, soothsayers, witch doctors, shamans, and the modern psychic-hot lines. As can be seen from the list of practioners, the leap to ESP and other types of spiritual communications is easy to make.

Mediums primarily contact the dead spirits through seances. Materialization is the term used to describe the appearance of the spirit during the seance. The events of the seance are spectacular but leave no lasting effect. They include trumpet speaking and spirit rapping or knocking. On the other hand, some claim to take photographs of the spirits appearing during the seance. Spirits also leave behind ectoplasm, the substance which streams forth from the bodies of the mediums during the encounters. It is probably known better by its movie name of “slime.” There are also stories of “automatic writing,” that is, the producing of written material by the medium who is not in control of his conscious self.

But, as can be seen, all of these “proofs” can be faked and there is no true proof that the dead can communicate with the living. However, the comments of Walter Martin are important to keep in mind when dealing with the spiritist.

However, not all psychic or spiritistic phenomena can be exposed as fraudulent. There is a spiritual dimension which cannot be ignored. Authentic spiritists draw their power from the one the Bible calls “a roaring lion” who seeks “whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), who is Satan. 208


The basic beliefs of a spiritist are anti-Christian. Irvine discusses a Spirit Conference held in Rhode Island in the early 1900s when the following list of resolutions was passed:

In this old religion one can see all of the seeds of the more modern movements.

204. Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1983, 240, quoting Dennis Wheatley, The Devil and All His Works, New York: American Heritage Press, 1971, 71.
205. Some refer to spiritism as spiritualism. With McDowell I object to this alternate titlesince there is nothing spiritual about their beliefs. McDowell, Ibid.
206. Walter Martin, Rise of the Cults, Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1973, 95.
207. John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Cults, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960, 87.
208. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, 1977, 1985, 228.
209. William C. Irvine, Heresies Exposed, New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc. Bible Truth Depot,1917, 176.
210. As summed up in Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, USA: Victor Books, 1977, 1990, 168.
211. Charles S. Braden, These Also Believe, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1949, 336. Braden states this list was designed for use in classes presenting Spiritism to “new embers.”




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