Astrology has been called ‘the foolish daughter of a wise mother – astronomy’. Astronomy is the scientific study of the stars, planets and galaxies. Astrology is a superstition with occult connections that can lead to fatalism.
Today, those who write and publish astrology earn a great deal of money. Horoscopes are seen in newspapers and magazines, they are part of media presentations on radio and television and there are whole shelves full of astrological books in most bookshops. It has been said that astrology ‘enjoys a popularity today unmatched since the decline of Rome’. Researcher, Bernard Gittelson has calculated that the circulation of newspapers and magazines carrying astrological columns in the U.S.A., Europe, Japan and South America is over 700 million.
A 1975 poll in the U.S.A. indicated that 32 million Americans believed ‘that the stars influence people’s lives’. In 1984 a poll among 13-18 year olds revealed that 55% of American teenagers believed in astrology. More disturbingly a poll in 1988 indicated that 10% of evangelicals in the U.S.A. believe in astrology.
It is estimated that there are over 10,000 full-time astrologers and 175,000 part-timers in the U.S.A. Today there are over 100 magazines devoted to astrology in the West, millions of books in print, and since 1960 the annual production of new titles has doubled every ten years. Apparently every area of human experience can have astrology applied to it: there are horoscopes for dogs, cats, fish, babies, teenagers, cooking, diet and health, finance, sex, medicine, earthquake prediction, politics and so on. Over 80% of American newspapers carry horoscope columns and the names of those who consult the stars include members of the Royal Family, actors like Robert Wagner, Roger Moore and previously Steve McQueen, actresses like Joan Collins, Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda, Olivia Newton-John, Goldie Hawn, Lauren Bacall, Jill St. John and many more. Former White House Chief of Staff, Donald T. Regan in his book For the Record, wrote that the influence of astrology during the Reagen administration extended to ‘every major move and decision’.
Courses on Astrology are offered in some schools and colleges and it is possibly as much as a one billion dollar a year industry. CNN, an American news network, reported that at least 300 of the Fortune 500 companies use astrologers in one way or another.
1. WHAT IS ASTROLOGY?
Astrology is the belief that the stars and planets in some mysterious way influence our own planet and the lives of people. Astrology teaches that this influence begins at birth and continues through a person’s life. Thus it is believed that the macro (universe) affects the micro (human beings).
Astrology has its roots in the ancient times when men worshipped the heavenly bodies as gods, but it reached its modern form around 140 A.D. under the guidance of Ptolemy. He assumed that the earth was the centre of the universe and concocted a complex system based upon the sky as it was visible in his day.
Though extremely involved, astrology is made up of three main factors: the signs, the houses and the planets.
The signs are called the Zodiac signs or sun-signs. These are the divisions of a belt of sky into which the ancients built imaginary human and animal figures. There are twelve signs such as Libra, Gemini, Pisces, and each one corresponds to one twelfth of a year.
The houses are twelve sections of the Zodiac which symbolize aspects of life. For example the first house may represent personality, the second money, and so on.
The planets move through these houses and are significant for their position at the time of birth.
To picture this we need to imagine a clear glass globe, with a small marble in the middle which represents the earth. Around the globe is a thin white belt representing the Zodiac and divided into the 12 signs. From the marble come twelve sections or houses and it is through the sections that the planets are supposed to move.
In addition, the ‘aspect’ is important and this is determined by the angles between planets. All this is plotted on a chart or map, which is called a horoscope, and from this your life and future can be plotted when such a chart is given at birth. Birth is the significant time and so astrology’s vital need for information is the horoscope at birth.
The Greeks and Romans adopted this system and it developed in popularity during the Middle Ages. The rationalism of the 18th century and the scientific/industrial development of the 19th and early 20th century reduced interest in astrology to a very low ebb. However, it has not only survived but become an integral part life in the last part of the 20th century and into the 21st century. How it has managed this in our sophisticated society remains one of the wonders of the modern world.
2. REASONS FOR THE POPULARITY OF ASTROLOGY
‘History has shown that astrology thrives best in times of religious decline and of social unrest’, Seattle Daily Times, Sept. 1975. This seems to be true for when Rome was in decline citizens turned to astrology, while the turbulence and darkness of the Middle Ages led people to seek for answers and hope in astrology. The fear and uncertainty of our own days encourage many to seek meaning in the stars.
Other reasons are as follows:
i. Publicity given by horoscope columns in newspapers. This constant forecasting has persuaded many that the stars influence human destinies.
ii. People have a basic need to believe in something. In our generation the certainties of spiritual and moral truth are being questioned, so people use astrology as a substitute for true faith.
iii. Astrology is firmly rooted in eastern, mystical religions and these have infiltrated very deeply into Western society, leading to increased interest in astrology.
iv. Astrology appears to offer a unity of meaning, an explanation in a world which seems to be falling apart and increasingly confused.
v. Astrology relieves people of accountability. It teaches that a person is what he is because of the influences of the planets and stars. This is set at birth and his subsequent life is on a preordained course. Such a belief is called fate.
vi. A growing fear that science, politics, education, religion and government do not have the answers.
vii. A horoscope seems easy to grasp in comparison with science or even some religious concepts.
viii. Astrology is usually vague and general in its predictions and can be open to a number of interpretations, any one of which may satisfy an individual.
ix. An astrological chart seems very impressively worked out and even appears scientific and this may encourage many to believe that it is true.
3. INCONSISTENCIES WITHIN ASTROLOGY
Inherent in astrology are many inconsistencies:
i. Conflicting Systems: there are many systems of astrology that are often diametrically opposed to each other. There is a great gulf of difference between interpretation of horoscopes in the West and those of Chinese astrologers. Even in the West there is no agreement as some astrologers see eight, or fourteen, or even twenty-four zodiac signs as opposed to twelve.
ii. Geocentric Theory: this was the original idea that the earth was the centre of the solar system. However, in 1543 Copernicus discovered that the sun and not the earth is the centre of the solar system, with the earth and planets revolving around it. This means that the reliability of astrology is destroyed, as the basic assumption is false and all conclusions are likewise false.
iii. Missing Planets: in ancient times the astrologers had to view the sky with the naked eye and based their systems upon seven planets (the sun and moon were included). Since then three other planets have been discovered: Uranus in 1781, Neptune 1839 and Pluto in 1932. Since all the planets are supposed to influence human life the system breaks down as these three are not usually considered.
iv. Twins: a constant problem to an astrologer is that people born in the same place and at the same time can develop widely varying lifestyles.
v. Birth only: there is no logical reason why birth should be the significant moment for astrology to influence a human life. Why not conception? No doubt the reason is that conception is extremely difficult to particularize.
vi. Opposition of Science: in 1975, 186 leading scientists including eighteen Nobel prize winners publicly disavowed astrology. Scientific opinion seems to be unanimous: ‘There is no evidence that astrology has any value … and there is not the slightest reason for believing that … events can be predicted by astrology’. (American Society for Psychological Research.)
vii. Shifting Constellations: this is a process called precession. The signs which correspond to constellations 2,000 years ago cannot be the same today, as the constellations have shifted 30 degrees, thus the constellation of Virgo is in the sign of Libra and so on.
viii. Prediction Failure: many times astrological predictions have been proved wrong.
4. DANGERS WITH ASTROLOGY
i. It can be very expensive to buy all the paraphernalia and to pay for consultancy when astrology is taken seriously.
ii. Astrological advice on investments, spending and purchasing is often wrong and can be costly.
iii. Astrology is deterministic and can lead to a fatalistic view of life, which can induce real depression.
iv. It can be life or health threatening, as when women refuse medical advice to induce a baby because they want the child to be born under a later sign.
v. Most seriously of all astrology is strongly linked with the occult. Sybil Leek in her book, My Life in Astrology, states, ‘Astrology is my science, witchcraft is my religion’. Most occultists use astrology and many astrologers practice other occult arts. ‘Astrology is essentially a magical art’, Richard Cavendish. Astrology is ‘found virtually everywhere occultism is to be found’, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery.
vi. Astrology is sometimes seen as ‘soft’ occult, relatively harmless in itself but providing a gateway for people to enter into ‘hard’ occult. It encourages superstition, creates receptiveness in the mind to other occult influences and generally weakens people’s desire for and appreciation of God.
5. THE BIBLE AND ASTROLOGY
Nowhere in the Bible is there support for or encouragement given to the practice of astrology. In fact the opposite is the case. In Deuteronomy 17, verses 2-5, the seriousness of worshipping the heavenly beings or being involved with astrology called forth the death penalty. Isaiah 47. 8-15 reveals that for all the predictions the astrologers and all their advice the judgement of God will surely come and they will be quite helpless to prevent it. God is not subject to the movements of planets or the laws of nature, but is free to act as He wants. Thus, astrology is an inadequate substitute for true revelation from God.
Other warnings against astrology are given in Jeremiah 10. 2 and Deuteronomy 4. 19, while Daniel 2 exposes the astrologers as ridiculous, futile, false and evil.
The early church opposed astrology, encouraging converts to burn their astrological equipment, as in Acts 19. 18-20. The church council in 345 A.D., held at Laodicia, declared astrology forbidden. Augustine who had believed in astrology before he was converted, on becoming a Christian disavowed and opposed astrology. Protestant reformers followed this position and in Protestant countries astrology was forbidden by law and condemned by the church.
Today, Christians need to be very wary. Astrology must have no influence over us, but in opposing the practice of astrology we must be very careful to demonstrate the compassion of Christ. It is not a crusade against astrology that we need today, but a Spirit-anointed proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This alone will show the empty and valueless nature of astrology and reveal the deep fulfillment that Christ can give.
6. ONE FINAL POINT
Some astrologers have argued that the wise men mentioned in Matthew chapter 2 were astrologers and found their way to the child Jesus by means of a horoscope.
In response we can point out five factors. Firstly, it has to said that there are no astrological allusions in this passage.
Secondly, the star was not a conjunction of planets as it moved, appeared, disappeared, reappeared and remained stationary. This is hardly the behaviour of a planet or star and was most likely a phenomenon put there supernaturally by God.
Thirdly, it is highly possible that these men were Gentile converts to Judaism and were familiar with Numbers 24. 17, ‘A star will come out of Jacob’. This prophecy was always seen as referring to Messiah.
Fourthly, King Herod didn’t view them as astrologers for he called, not his own astrologers, but scholars in the Old Testament to determine where Christ should be born.
Finally, the wise men didn’t use astrology to determine Herod’s evil intentions. They were warned by an angel of God, Matt. 2. 12. Thus there is no mention of horoscopes in the passage.