“What About the Witch of Endor Calling Up Samuel’s Spirit?”

I just read the Animism article. It states that Christianity specifically teaches against the existence of ghosts (spirits of dead people) in the world, and that dead people cannot communicate with the living and vice versa. What about the passage in I Samuel 28 with Saul and the witch of Endor? She calls up Samuel’s spirit to communicate with Saul.

The incidence in 1 Samuel 28 is one of two exceptions to the “no crossing over” boundaries in scripture, both highly supernatural miracles. The witch of Endor had no power to truly conjure up the spirits of dead people; that’s why she screamed in terror when Samuel actually appeared. It was God at work, not the witch or even the departed prophet responding to the summons. Samuel gave the word of the Lord to Saul, and his prophecy was fulfilled shortly thereafter.

The other miracle was when Moses and Elijah appeared along with a transfigured Christ to Peter, James and John (Matt. 17). The disciples did not summon the spirits of these dead saints; they were sent by the Father (probably to encourage the Lord Jesus).

The fact that there are two biblical exceptions, both of which required divine intervention to send departed spirits into this world, does not affect the truth that there is a “great gulf fixed” between the living and the dead (Luke 16:26). That’s the point of miracles: they are God-powered exceptions.

Hope this helps!

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries

“What About Crossing Over’s John Edward?”

I was watching TV and happened upon “Unsolved Mysteries.” It aired a segment on “Edgar Cayce.” I’m a Christian so this segment troubled me, prompting me to search on the internet for something on this man. I found several sites, but I zeroed in on yours. I was impressed and satisfied with what I read. [Webservant’s note: See our article, “The Worldview of Edgar Cayce”.]

I also found where several people had written in (most were furious with you), and one of them said that Cayce’s ability was indeed a gift from God. I agree with you that the Bible is very specific about avoiding dabbling in these kinds of “gifts” (that word used in connection with the devil is almost comical), and I think that God wouldn’t warn us like that if those kinds of “gifts” weren’t really out there. I said all that to say this…Cayce is just one person but not “one of a kind.” John Edward of TV’s “Crossing Over” is another, and it seems that the times are beginning to be absolutely FILLED with these people.

My problem is this, I have a sister that is very dear to me. She has gotten interested in John Edward and began wondering whether his ability was really from God. She went to her PASTOR (remember that word), and I was shocked at his reply to her. He said that he’d “put it this way….all gifts from God aren’t listed in the Bible.” I nearly fell over when she told me that. So now she believes that John Edward might be operating within God’s will. How do I answer her and compete with the pastor she thinks so highly of?

Thank you for writing Probe Ministries. Although I do not know a great deal about John Edward, my own position would be much different than that of your sister’s pastor. From what I understand, John Edward claims to have the ability to communicate with the dead. This, of course, is something expressly forbidden in Scripture. For instance, in an extended passage from Deuteronomy 18:9-15 we read:

When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.

Notice that v. 11 specifically forbids consulting the dead. God also prohibits the Israelites from becoming mediums or spiritists, which is essentially what John Edward is. In v. 9, such things are referred to as “detestable ways.” And it was because of such detestable practices that the Lord would drive the Canaanites out of the land (v. 12). Although these nations consulted the dead, and practiced sorcery and divination (v. 14), the Lord did not want His people to do so. Instead, He promised to raise up a prophet in Israel to whom He expected the people to give heed. Although this refers generally to all the genuine Old Testament prophets, it ultimately has special reference to Jesus Christ (see, for example, Acts 3:19-26).

But why does God forbid communicating with the dead? Although we may not know for certain, I think there are some important clues in the Bible. In the first place, genuine communication with the dead may (as a general rule) simply be impossible. The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 may indicate this. Although some may point to Saul and the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28, it’s important to keep in mind that (1) this practice was prohibited and condemned by God (as already cited); (2) Saul had been rejected by God for his disobedience (e.g. 1 Sam. 28:6, etc). Indeed, this was just another act of Saul’s unfaithfulness to God. Thus, it is not an example for us to follow. And (3) some believe the spirit of Samuel may have been a demon masquerading as Samuel. Although that is not my view, I suppose it is at least possible. [Note: also see the Probe article “What About the Witch of Endor Calling Up Samuel’s Spirit?“] There is definitely clear New Testament evidence linking demonic activity to divination (Acts 16:16-18), for example. But even if it really was Samuel (which I believe) the text does not encourage us to communicate with the dead (and other texts expressly forbid it — see, for instance, Isaiah 8:19-20, etc.).

Thus, my overall opinion of John Edward (and those like him) is this: to the extent that he is truly receiving information from the spirit world, I tend to think it is probably coming not from deceased human beings, but from demonic spirits. As always, their desire is to deceive the unsuspecting and lead them away from considering the biblical command to repent and trust Christ for salvation (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, etc.).

In light of all this, if your sister respects the Bible as the word of God, I would simply bypass the pastor whom she respects. Rather than directly disagreeing with him, gently point her to what God’s word says. Remind her that even pastors can be wrong, but God never is. And His prohibitions are given with our welfare in mind.

Hope this helps,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries

“What’s a Biblical Description of Witchcraft?”

I was just curious if the Bible has any description of what witchcraft is or what characteristics of a person make them a witch?

First of all, here are the biblical references to witchcraft and other occult practices:

When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.
For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so.

LEVITICUS 19:26-28,31
You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying.
You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.
You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.
Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

In her excellent book Lord, Is It Warfare?, Kay Arthur provides this glossary of terms used in these passages:


1. Casts spell: the act of charming; “tying up” a person through magic; used in the sense of binding with a charm consisting of words of occult power.

2. Divination: the act of divining sorcery; soothsaying; pagan contrast to true prophecy or prophesying; man’s attempt to know and control the world and future apart from the true God using means other than human; foretelling or foreseeing the future or discovering hidden knowledge through reading omens, dreams, using lots, astrology, or necromancy.

3. Interpret omens: a type of divination; seeking insight or knowledge through signs or events.

4. Medium: necromancer; one who foretells events or gains information by conversing with spirits of the dead; conjurer.

5. Necromancer: one who calls up the dead; medium.

6. Spiritist: familiar spirit; one who has esoteric knowledge through non-human means; diviner.

7. Soothsaying: witchcraft; observing clouds for augury; foretelling future events with supernatural power but not divine power; interpreting dreams; revealing secrets.

8. Sorcerer: magician; conjurer; enchanter; one who practices magic arts, sorcery, charms, with an intent to do harm or to delude or pervert the mind; one who claims to have supernatural power or knowledge through (evil) spirits.

9. Witchcraft: soothsaying; practice of witches; the use of formulas and incantations to practice sorcery; act of producing extraordinary effects by the invocation or aid of demons; the use of magic arts, spells, or charms.

Hope this helps!

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries

Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Message

The High Priest of Pop-Culture

In this article we will begin an examination of someone who most people do not know, but who is considered by many to be the first father and leading prophet of the electronic age, Marshall McLuhan. A Canadian born in 1911, McLuhan became a Christian through the influence of G.K. Chesterton in 1937. He wrote his monumental work, one of twelve books and hundreds of articles, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, in 1964. The subject that would occupy most of McLuhan’s career was the task of understanding the effects of technology as it related to popular culture, and how this in turn affected human beings and their relations with one another in communities. Because he was one of the first to sound the alarm, McLuhan has gained the status of a cult hero and “high priest of pop-culture”.{1} This status is not undeserved, and McLuhan said many things that are still pertinent today.

His thought, though voluminous, is frequently reduced to one-liners, and small sound bites, which sum up the more complicated content of his probing and rigorous examination of the media, a word that he coined. Concerning the new status of man in technological, and media-dominated society, he said:

If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?{2}

In statements like this, McLuhan both announces the existence of a global village, another word he is credited for coining, and predicts the intensification of the world community to its present expression. All of this was done in the early 1960s at a time when television was still in its infancy, and the personal computer was almost twenty years into the future.

McLuhan is announcing what Lewis H. Lapham says is a world of people who worship the objects of their own invention in the form of fax machines and high speed computers, and accept the blessings of Coca-Cola and dresses by Donna Karan as the mark of divinity.{3} The fact that more people watch television than go to church is nothing new to us, but it was one of the tell-tale signs of a cultural shift in history for McLuhan; a shift which has been imperceptible to most, and devastating to all. If anyone doubts McLuhan’s warning that “we become what we behold,” he should reflect on the consuming desire of many average teenagers to be like Michael Jordan, Madonna, or Britney Spears: a desire that has resulted in a culture of plastic surgery and drive-by shootings to obtain tennis shoes.

Objects of Desire

In our continuing examination of Marshall McLuhan, the patriarch of media criticism, we will explore the totalitarian techniques of American advertising and market research on the unsuspecting consumer.{4} How this is accomplished, and the effects it has, were outlined in The Mechanical Bride, first published in 1951. The book dealt with the influence of print media on the male and female psyche. The objective of advertising men, said McLuhan, is the manipulation, exploitation, and control of the individual.{5} If this is true, then who, one might ask, was doing the controlling, and what was the desired effect?

The advertising companies were doing the controlling, and the desired effect was nothing loftier than selling products to unsuspecting customers. Making women into objects of desire by men, and then in turn selling the women the products to help them achieve the effect of desirability, accomplished the entire enterprise. The advertising men succeeded in creating a market where one did not previously exist. The purpose here, and earlier for McLuhan, is not to vilify the advertising industry, rather it is to provide insight into how media functions. One such insight is McLuhan’s description of the contemporary mindset of a woman under the influence of advertising geniuses. He said:

To the mind of the modern girl, legs, like busts, are power points, which she has been taught to tailor, but as parts of the success kit rather than erotically or sensuously. She swings her legs from the hip . . . she knows that a “long-legged girl can go places.” As such, her legs are not intimately associated with her taste or with her unique self but are merely display objects like the grille on a car. They are date-bated power levers for the management of the male audience.{6}

What McLuhan correctly ascertains is not the fact that women try to look attractive for men (presumably women have been doing this for a long time), but the idea of “polishing” each and every part for a kind of optimal performance. The modern woman has been taught through advertising bombardments that every feature of her physical makeup can be enhanced for the specific purposes of gaining a husband, a promotion, or just getting a door opened.

As one might suspect, there is a male counterpart to this advertising bombardment. The overwhelming superwoman, the possessor of beauty and grace in degrees hitherto unimaginable, demands an impossibly high standard of virility from her male counterpart. The result says McLuhan, are men who are readily captured by the gentleness and guile of women, but who are also surrounded by a barrage of body parts. The man is not won over, but slugged, and beaten down in defeat.{7}

Technology as Extensions of the Human Body

In our continuing look at Marshal McLuhan, the man who coined the term “global village” and the phrase “the medium is the message,” we will reflect on what he had to say about the various ways human beings extend themselves, and how these extensions affect our relationships with one another. First, we must understand what McLuhan meant by the term “extension(s).”

An extension occurs when an individual or society makes or uses something in a way that extends the range of the human body and mind in a fashion that is new. The shovel we use for digging holes is a kind of extension of the hands and feet. The spade is similar to the cupped hand, only it is stronger, less likely to break, and capable of removing more dirt per scoop than the hand. A microscope, or telescope is a way of seeing that is an extension of the eye.

Considering more complicated extensions, one might think of the automobile as an extension of the feet. It allows man to travel places in the same manner as the feet, only faster and with less effort. In addition, this extension enables one to travel in relative comfort in extreme weather conditions. Most individuals already understand the concept of extension, but many are unreflective when it comes to what McLuhan calls “amputations;” the counterpart to extensions.

Every extension of mankind, especially technological extensions, have the effect of amputating or modifying some other extension. An example of an amputation would be the loss of archery skills with the development of gunpowder and firearms. The need to be accurate with the new technology of guns made the continued practice of archery obsolete. The extension of a technology like the automobile “amputates” the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence. These are a few examples, and almost everything we can think of is subject to similar observations.

McLuhan believed that mankind has always been fascinated and obsessed with these extensions, but too frequently we choose to ignore or minimize the amputations. For example, we praise the advantages of high speed personal travel made available by the automobile, but do not really want to be reminded of the pollution it causes. Additionally, we do not want to be made to think about the time we spend alone in our cars isolated from other humans, or the fact that the resulting amputations from automobiles have made us more obese and generally less healthy. We have become people who regularly praise all extensions, and minimize all amputations. McLuhan believed that we do so at our own peril.

The Dangers of Over-extended Technology

We have discussed the idea of extensions and amputations caused by new technology, which is introduced into society. The automobile was previously mentioned as an extension of the foot. The car allows one to travel, just as the foot does, only faster and with less effort. The amputations which result would include loss of muscle strength in the under-utilized legs, and the reduction in the quality of air we breathe.

Something occurs when a medium like the automobile, used for transportation, becomes over-extended. The resulting amputations such as muscle atrophy, smog, and high-speed fatalities increase at a rate that challenges the benefits initially gained. Automobile fatalities, lung disease, and obesity caused by modern transportation begin to outweigh the benefits of getting to our destinations quicker and with less effort. The final movement is the reversal of the benefits. McLuhan said:

Although it may be true to say that an American is a creature of four wheels, and to point out that American youth attributes much more importance to arriving at driver’s-license age than at voting age, it is also true that the car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound.{8}

To this observation might be added the fact that we train children from a very young age to stand within a few feet of high-speed vehicles without being afraid. Less than two hundred years ago a screaming locomotive or a high speed automobile would have caused a person to flee in terror for their lives. We have slowly conditioned ourselves to not be afraid of something that is in fact extremely dangerous. Similarly, we know that speed limits of twenty miles an hour would almost certainly eliminate most car fatalities, but we also consider the advantages of getting to our destinations quicker to be worth the resulting death rate. Proof of this casual acceptance of the disadvantages of the car could be imagined if one were to consider the fate of a political candidate who ran on a platform of reducing the national speed limit to twenty miles per hour. We know the advantages, even before implementation, but we choose to accept the disadvantages because there is a privileging of all types of technological extension, even deadly and horrific forms.

We are now prepared to consider the specific types of extensions realized by the television, mobile phone, and computer. If we take McLuhan’s lead then all of these must be simultaneously considered as extensions with both positive and negative amputations of previous technologies.

Four Questions Applied to Media

We are concluding our considerations of Marshall McLuhan’s pertinence with an examination of ideas found in his last work, The Global Village, published in 1989, twenty-five years after his monumental Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In his early works McLuhan focused on the rapid change in the five centuries since the development of the printing press and movable type, and the especially rapid developments of the twentieth-century. McLuhan died in 1980 and was beginning to see the first fruits of the television generations as well as the fulfillment of some of his predictions. He was deeply concerned about man’s willful blindness to the downside of technology, yet McLuhan was not an irrational alarmist.

In his later years, and partially as a response to his critics, McLuhan developed a scientific basis for his thought around what he termed the tetrad. The tetrad allowed McLuhan to apply four laws, framed as questions, to a wide spectrum of mankind’s endeavors, and thereby give us a new tool for looking at our culture.

The first of these questions or laws is “What does it (the medium or technology) extend?” In the case of a car it would be the foot, in the case a phone it would be the voice. The second question is “What does it make obsolete?” Again, one might answer that the car makes walking obsolete, and the phone makes smoke signals and carrier pigeons unnecessary. The third question asks, “What is retrieved?” The sense of adventure or quest is retrieved with the car, and the sense of community returns with the spread of telephone service. One might consider the rise of the cross-country vacation that accompanied the spread of automobile ownership. The fourth question asks, “What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?” An over-extended automobile culture longs for the pedestrian lifestyle, and the over-extension of phone culture engenders a need for solitude.

With the radio and television we have simultaneous access to events on the entire planet. However, television culture diminishes, or amputates, many of the close ties of family life based on oral communication. The simple act of turning on a television can reduce a room of people to silence. What is retrieved is the tribal or interrelated view of man. What it becomes or returns to is the global theater, where people are actors on a stage. One need only witness the event status of an airplane crash or weather disaster.

On McLuhan’s gravestone are the words “The Truth Shall Make You Free.” We do not have to like or even agree with everything that McLuhan said, but we should nevertheless remember that his life was dedicated to showing men the truth about the world they live in, and the hidden consequences of the technologies he develops.



1. 1969 interview in Playboy magazine originally titled “A Candid Conversation with the High Priest of Popcult and Metaphysician of Media,” pp. 53-74, in The Essential McLuhan, Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone (ed.), (New York: Basic Books, 1995), pp.233-69.

2. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994), p.61

3. Lewis H. Lapham in the introduction to the thirtieth anniversary edition of Understanding Media (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994), pp.xx-xi.

4. See McLuhan’s work The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (New York: Vanguard Press, 1951). This is an intensive examination of the effects of advertising and comics in producing new perceptions about what we should and do desire, as well as why we believe these things will bring us happiness.

5. “The Mechanical Bride,” in The Essential McLuhan, Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone (ed.), (New York: Basic Books, 1995), p.21.

6. “The Mechanical Bride,” in The Essential McLuhan, p.24.

7. Ibid. p.25.

8. The Essential McLuhan, p.217.

©2001 Probe Ministries.