Thursday, July 18 2024 - 1:30 PM

Sharing Scripture — June 8, 2024

Spiritualism Exposed

 

For use: June 2 – 8, 2024
Texts: Matthew 10:28; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Isaiah 8:19-20; John 11:11-14, 21-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 16:13-14; Matthew 24:23-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

The name Harry Houdini is synonymous with the term “escape artist.” His incredible exploits are still so famous that even today, nearly 100 years after his death, any person or animal with a penchant for evading capture is called a “real Houdini.” What’s less known about Houdini, though, is that he spent the last years of his life working to expose the fraudulent trickery of spiritualist mediums. He even went to the U.S. Congress in 1926 to argue for legislation banning mediums from practicing their deceptions on the public.

He wasn’t always so antagonistic toward spiritualists—he featured some spiritualistic acts in his earlier vaudeville shows. When his beloved mother died, he turned to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) and his wife, Jean, a practicing medium, to try and contact her from beyond the grave. Jean Doyle produced a five-page letter purporting to be from Harry’s mother. This attempted deception enraged Houdini when Mrs. Doyle drew crosses on the top of each page. His mother was the wife of a Jewish rabbi and would never put crosses on a letter to a rabbi’s son.

During the congressional hearings, spiritualists charged Houdini with attacking the American precept of freedom of religion. Spiritualist leader Jane Coates stated, “My religion goes back to Jesus Christ. Houdini does not know I am a Christian.”

Houdini shot back, “Jesus was a Jew, and he did not charge $2 a visit.”

As to the charge that Houdini himself practiced the art of deception in his escapes and illusions, he confessed, “It takes a flim-flammer to catch a flim-flammer.”

Before his death, Houdini promised his wife that, if spiritualists really can communicate with the dead, he would send coded messages to her from the afterlife. She held séances every Halloween (the anniversary of his death in 1926) for the next decade to try and establish that connection. She gave up in 1936 when that attempt failed, like all the others.

The deception that the dead communicate with us from some spirit-filled netherworld goes back to Satan’s first con in the Garden of Eden with the claim that we humans “will not surely die.” God has sought to correct that error through the Scriptural teaching on the state of the dead and warnings about Satan’s continuing fraud.

It can be hard to refute the experience of those who believe that they’ve seen apparitions of their deceased loved ones, or that they’ve seen heaven and the afterlife during some near-death encounter. In fact, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 reveals that God even sends strong delusions to those who persist in believing such lies.

Our only safeguard is in knowing the Scriptural evidence against spiritualism and clinging to that evidence, no matter how strong Satan’s delusions appear.

For Reflection

 

Connecting: Have you ever experienced some psychic phenomenon that you struggle to explain? Share what you can with your group.

Sharing: Some Christians share stories of near-death experiences that include visions of the afterlife to prove that heaven is real. What is your best explanation for these reports?

  1. These are drug-induced, or oxygen-deprived hallucinations
  2. I find it interesting that no one ever reports that they went to hell
  3. They are all the fabrications of attention-seekers and charlatans
  4. 4Satan has greater access to the minds of those who are open to these beliefs, and can conjure up these images through the power of suggestion
  5. Since they want to believe those stories in the face of biblical evidence to the contrary, God sends them powerful delusions to believe the lies
  6. Other:

Applying: Many people are comforted by the thought that their loved ones are enjoying life with Jesus in heaven. How can you broach the subject of the state of the dead with them? Are there times when it’s inappropriate to reveal this biblical truth to them?

Valuing: Do you personally find comfort in the biblical teaching that your deceased loved ones are resting in the grave, rather than in heaven (or, God forbid, burning in hell)? Take time this week to reflect on the true beauty of the biblical doctrine of the state of the dead and the promise of the resurrection.

~ Chuck Burkeen


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