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What Does the Bible Say About..Speaking with the Dead?

I am sure you have seen or heard about a new cable show called "Crossing Over with John Edwards"? Well, he is like a medium or something who seems to be able to "connect" with those that have died--giving the participants information that he otherwise could not have known. I would assume that he would be lumped in with psychics and the sort, but is it possible that he really can "talk" with the dead? And, if so, is it wrong for him to do it or for me to watch it?

Answer

Your first question asked about John Edwards and his show. I do not know enough about the man to debunk his show as a fraud. I do know that people like the Amazing Randi have devoted lives to looking for proof that such people are true. Randi does it by proving them false, and I am not aware that he has looked into the claims of John Edwards.

You claim he gives participants information that he otherwise could not have known. In this day of computer espionage when almost anything, including the contents of our e-mails is available to someone with enough money, it might be hard to say that there is anything that he otherwise could not have known. The other thing to look at is whether he comes right out and gives the specific information or whether he makes a vague statement that the person fills in with information. An old "mind reader's" trick is to feed the mark just enough information that they fill in the rest. An example might be something like "I see a pet name. It starts with a B. [Noticing that that doesn't get a rise from the mark ] No maybe it is an E." He then goes on in this vein until the person says, "Hey that's right. He used to call me Elmo, after the Sesame Street character because of my red hair." I haven't cared to watch Mr. Edwards' show, but some who have say that he is a master of this old trick. Notice, then, whether he comes out with the direct information, or whether he draws it out of the people. Even then, be skeptical.

Is it possible that he can really talk to the dead? I guess, biblically, it is possible. There is a story in 1 Samuel 28 about Saul visiting a medium who called up the spirit of Samuel. A couple of points to note about that story, though. First, it was against the law of God for her to be a medium (Deut 18:10-12), and therefore all her fellow mediums had been sent out of the country. Second, she seems to have been surprised when it actually worked. Apparently this was an unusual occurrence for someone to actually talk to the dead. It seems that God allowed it so that Samuel could repeat the message that Saul's line would not continue as king and to let him know that he would die the next day. This would seem to indicate the possibility that it was a one time thing.

Should we watch such things? I admit I probably watch a number of things that I shouldn't, such as the nightly news. If he is a fraud then it would be a waste of time to watch it. But is it sinful to watch this program if he isn't a fraud? I would say that for a Jew that would require a resounding "yes." Under the Law of Moses it was clear that they were not to associate in any way with one who practices such things. For a Christian it may be a little less clear. Paul includes the practice of witchcraft (drug use, sorcery) in the sins of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Whether that includes "mediums" is not clear, and even then he says that what is wrong is the actual practice of such things. The question, then, is whether watching a show and therefore supporting the sponsors that pay the star is in itself sinful. Obviously God considers such practices an abomination (Deut 18:10-12). Paul tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thes 5:22). It appears to me that supporting such a show by watching it would be essentially the same as consulting a medium, which is wrong. Some might argue that it is just entertainment. If that is the way you look at it and if you don't believe the person has any power, it might not be intrinsically sinful, unless all waste of time is sinful. But if watching the show leads you to a belief in other powers (because the power is not from God), then it is definitely harmful.