Why are Christians looking up sorcery?

(Photo: Unsplash/Joanna Kosinska)

Christian Today has reported on recent rises in interest and practice in the occult. Perhaps this increase in popularity is why BibleGateway.com says it saw a 193% surge in searches for 'sorcery' on its website in 2021, compared to the year before.

This suggests there has been an increase in concern about sorcery amongst Christians and a desire to know what the Bible says about it. The website is one of the most popular Christian websites, and is often searched for Bible verses and Christian topics such as 'faith'.

Over the past decade there has been a steady rise in interest and practice of the occult, especially among the young. For example, on the social media platform TikTok, there is a large increase in people posting videos under the hashtag '#witchtok', and interest in new age ideas such as 'manifesting'. There is also an increasing interest in tarot cards.

This trend has been attributed to the decline in interest in traditional religion and Christianity. In an article entitled "Witchcraft is the perfect religion for liberal millennials," the author claims: "while some Christian denominations shame 'deviant' sexuality, expect deference from female adherents, and gives men permission to subdue and rule over the earth, witches believe that all types of sexuality should be cultivated and celebrated, that women can also be spiritual leaders, and that nature is sacred."

It goes on to quote "Maura from Chicago" who "brings meditation practice into schools": "a witch is a woman who worships herself as her own god. She is the creator of her own life, the healer of herself."

If such ideas are present in schools, it's perhaps not surprising that Christians are more concerned about it and asking what the Bible says on the subject. Bible Gateway is a good indicator of what Christians are interested in, because its website has "3 million searches per day—more than 2,000 per minute around the clock—being generated by tens of millions of people in more than 200 countries and territories in the last 12 months," according to content manager Jonathan Petersen.

"The increase in sorceries is related to heightened interest in the Greek word pharmakeia which, according to the Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament means 'employment of drugs for any purpose; sorcery, magic, enchantment' as used in Galatians 5:20," he continued.

The Bible repeatedly warns about the use of the occult. "Sorcery, the use of spells, divination, or speaking to spirits, is clearly condemned in the Bible," according to GotQuestions.org, an online apologetics ministry. "The word sorcery in Scripture is always used in reference to an evil or deceptive practice." It points out that the Greek word pharmakeia is the origin of our term 'pharmacy', related because sorcerers used to take drugs when they practised their craft.

Most church denominations also warn about witchcraft and occult practices. Pope Francis said in 2019: "How is it possible, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you go to a sorcerer, a fortuneteller, these types of people? Magic is not Christian. These things that are done to predict the future or predict many things or change situations in life are not Christian. The grace of Christ can bring you everything. Pray and trust in the Lord."

At the other end of the theological spectrum, the conservative evangelical website The Gospel Coalition also warns against the occult: "In the spiritual warfare the challenge to Christians is not that we should develop occult power, but that we should be channels of Christ's power. This means being available to do whatever he wishes us to do."

Although Bible Gateway describes a big increase in concern about the occult, its top searches are a lot more more positive. The most searched words in 2021 were love, peace, hope, joy and faith, in that order. And the most searched Bible verse was John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Bible Gateway says that these most popular words and verses don't change much year to year.