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Can Christians believe in astrology?

ARE you a dragon? A horse? A Gemini? A Librian? Astrology uses these signs to describe you by judging the positions and qualities of the stars and planets according to their influence on events or human personality – in fact, upon all areas of life, including the future.

Astrology sees our world as a miniature mirror of the world up above – a microcosm of the macrocosm. It works on the premise that, if you can understand what the stars and planets mean, you are better prepared to deal with life. As human beings, we often feel the need for such reassurance.

Astrology is based on various predictors. In Western systems it depends upon 12 star constellations called the zodiac (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces) and their interaction with the seven planets – traditionally seen as revolving around the earth.

In Chinese Ming Shu, the 12 animal signs and their pairing as yang/yin were originally configured from the 12-year cycle of the planet Jupiter. Time is the central factor in making predictions from these, usually starting with the moment, hour, and date of birth within one of the signs. Whatever an individual’s horoscope calculates on this basis then determines not only personality but also such things as career, family, wealth or sickness.

For Christians, there is something wrong here. Where is God in all this? Surely the love and protection which comes from the Father, the reassurance that He is eternally present in our lives, is the far greater power. Isn’t this enough to doubt what astrology proposes to offer? Unfortunately, for many it is not enough.

What better arguments for Christians, then, against believing in astrology than a theological one? Or the Bible itself? And Christians even have science on their side.

First of all, astrology is based on determinism. Its predictors claim to shape life and personality in binding constraints.
Could someone born under the sign of Gemini, or the year of the Rat, for example, become other than a teacher? Yet, theologically speaking, our Lord granted us free will, freedom of choice. That is one of the bases for our belief, even though the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, knows what that choice will be. And through prayer the Lord has granted us the power to change – to heal, to receive wisdom towards making the right choices, to lead others to become disciples of Christ – even to perform miracles.

Moreover, astrology is a human, not a divinely inspired system. To look at its methods more closely uncovers many errors, prejudices, superficialities – problems Thomas Aquinas pointed out in his Summa Theologica eight centuries ago, when the first heated debate over Christianity and astrology began.

We are often so human that we are willing to compromise.

Scientifically speaking, the notion of a geo-centric universe is false. Planets do not revolve around the earth, the system upon which astrology depends for its predictions.

An Italian astronomer named Copernicus in 1480 theorised that our world was actually helio-centric – that the earth and the other planets revolve around the sun, a fact proved by Galileo with his invention of the telescope in 1550.

Consider, too, the notion of celestial influence on human personality. That notion has clearly been superceded by the discovery of DNA. Cell biology is capable of tracking as well as predicting individual and family characteristics, even through many generations. Thus, for example, it can account for two people born on the same date but with very different personalities, or why several family members born on different dates still share common traits and appearances.

Can Christians believe in astrology? The Bible provides the ultimate answer – “no.”

Several proscriptions against astrology clearly demonstrate its ineffectiveness against the word of the Lord. In Daniel 2, 5, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers are all ranked together as being unable to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The prophet in Isaiah 47:13 proclaims, “Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month… they cannot predict the disasters to come, they cannot save themselves.”

And although Matthew in 2:1-12 describes the wise men as finding Bethlehem and the birth of the Christ child through following a star, he also says that they were warned against returning to King Herod not through their knowledge of the stars, but rather by a dream sent by God.

What, then, should guide our lives and determine our future? There is a hymn which answers this question best:

“Praise to you, O Christ, our Saviour, …
You are the Word who calls us out of darkness,
You are the Word who leads us into light, …
You are the One who speaks to us today,
You are the One who leads us to our future,’
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ!”

A longer version of this article was presented at Trinity Theological College as part of its 55th Thanksgiving Celebrations from Oct 3-6, 2003.

Dr Laurel Means is a Lay Member to the Annual Conference, Discovery United Methodist Church, in Chaska/Chanhassen, Minnesota. She visited Singapore recently with her husband, Dr Gordon Means. He is the son of the late Rev Dr and Mrs Paul B. Means, pioneer Methodist Missionaries in Sumatra and Singapore