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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 23

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 23.—Why We Repudiate Arts of Divination.

35.  For in this way it comes to pass that men who lust after evil things are, by a secret p. 547 judgment of God, delivered over to be mocked and deceived, as the just reward of their evil desires.  For they are deluded and imposed on by the false angels, to whom the lowest part of the world has been put in subjection by the law of God’s providence, and in accordance with His most admirable arrangement of things.  And the result of these delusions and deceptions is, that through these superstitious and baneful modes of divination many things in the past and future are made known, and turn out just as they are foretold and in the case of those who practise superstitious observances, many things turn out agreeably to their observances, and ensnared by these successes, they become more eagerly inquisitive, and involve themselves further and further in a labyrinth of most pernicious error.  And to our advantage, the Word of God is not silent about this species of fornication of the soul; and it does not warn the soul against following such practices on the ground that those who profess them speak lies, but it says, “Even if what they tell you should come to pass, hearken not unto them.” 1806   For though the ghost of the dead Samuel foretold the truth to King Saul, 1807 that does not make such sacrilegious observances as those by which his ghost was brought up the less detestable; and though the ventriloquist woman 1808 in the Acts of the Apostles bore true testimony to the apostles of the Lord, the Apostle Paul did not spare the evil spirit on that account, but rebuked and cast it out, and so made the woman clean. 1809

36.  All arts of this sort, therefore, are either nullities, or are part of a guilty superstition, springing out of a baleful fellowship between men and devils, and are to be utterly repudiated and avoided by the Christian as the covenants of a false and treacherous friendship.  “Not as if the idol were anything,” says the apostle; “but because the things which they sacrifice they sacrifice to devils and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” 1810   Now what the apostle has said about idols and the sacrifices offered in their honor, that we ought to feel in regard to all fancied signs which lead either to the worship of idols, or to worshipping creation or its parts instead of God, or which are connected with attention to medicinal charms and other observances for these are not appointed by God as the public means of promoting love towards God and our neighbor, but they waste the hearts of wretched men in private and selfish strivings after temporal things.  Accordingly, in regard to all these branches of knowledge, we must fear and shun the fellowship of demons, who, with the Devil their prince, strive only to shut and bar the door against our return.  As, then, from the stars which God created and ordained, men have drawn lying omens of their own fancy, so also from things that are born, or in any other way come into existence under the government of God’s providence, if there chance only to be something unusual in the occurrence,—as when a mule brings forth young, or an object is struck by lightning,—men have frequently drawn omens by conjectures of their own, and have committed them to writing, as if they had drawn them by rule.



Comp. Deut. 13.1-3.


1 Sam. 28, comp. Ecclus. 46.20.


Ventriloqua femina.  The woman with a familiar spirit to whom Saul resorted in his extremity is called in the Septuagint translation ἐγγαστρἰμυθος.  See 1 Sam. 28.7.


Acts 16.16-18.


1 Cor. 10:19, 20.

Next: Chapter 24

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