Ghanaians are generally deeply religious, indeed they are even superstitious. A good number of Ghanaians own a Bible, but the truth is, not many of them read it regularly.
Some might read it in times of distress, and there are others still who will read it just to arm themselves with quotations for advancing arguments.
There are Ghanaians who practice astrology. They know their Zodiac signs and they read them regularly to help them take major decisions.
There are Ghanaians who believe in the Bible and practice astrology at the same time.
In this write-up, I intend to initiate a discussion on the subject.
I will attempt to do an analysis of the subject and the Bible’s position on astrology and then attempt to draw some conclusions.
The subject of astrology when viewed within Christian cycles is both interesting and controversial. It is so because just like any other difficult subject in Christianity, there are different opinions and perspectives about astrology.
Subjects like numerology, (which is related to astrology), prosperity, marriage, divorce, healing and deliverance, tithes, the role of science in life, the Trinity and so on have become thorny issues among Evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic and Orthodox Christians as well as non-Christians.
Depending on what any group wants to achieve, the subject in question could be held to be biblical or not.
What is astrology?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, astrology is “The study of the positions and aspects of celestial bodies in the belief that they have an influence on the course of natural earthly occurrences and human affairs.”
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 6th Edition, defines it as, “The study of the positions of the stars and the movements of the planets in the belief that they influence human affairs.”
Other definitions say that astrology is the study of the alignment and activity of planets and stars, based upon the belief that these alignments have a bearing on human lives and can be useful in predicting the future.
Astrology is an ancient practice that assumes that the position of the stars and planets has a direct influence upon people and events. Supposedly, one’s life pattern can be charted by determining the position of the stars and planets at the time of one’s birth. The chart that attempts to accomplish this is known as a “horoscope”.
Rene Noorbergen in his book “The Soul Hustlers” published in 1976 explains how one’s horoscope is charted:
For every personal horoscope, the moment of birth is the essential starting point. This, coupled with the latitude and longitude of the individual’s birthplace, provides the initial package for the usual astrological chart. While this is elementary, it is not complete; a factor known as “true local time” must also be considered.
This “true” time is arrived at by adding or subtracting four minutes for each degree of longitude that your birthplace lies to the east or west of the center of your time zone of birth. Once this has been accomplished, the next step is to convert this “true” time into “sidereal” or star time.
This is done with the aid of an ephemeras, a reference book showing the positions of the planets in relationship to the earth. Checking this star time in an astrological table is the last formal move, for in doing so, the theme of the individual’s “ascendant” -the astrological sign that is supposed to have been rising on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth -is revealed.
Once you have developed this data -these simple steps are no more difficult than solving a seventh-grade math problem -then you are ready to “chart” your horoscope.
This means you align the “ascendant” with the nine-o’clock point on the inner circle of the horoscope, and from there you are prepared to “read” the various zodiacal “houses” that control your life and fortune.
The Zodiac in astrology
In astrology, there is what is known as the Zodiac. The Zodiac is an imaginary belt in the celestial sphere, extending about 8° on either side of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun among the stars.
The width of the Zodiac was determined originally so as to include the orbits of the Sun and Moon and of the five planets, (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) that were known to the people of ancient times. The Zodiac is divided into 12 sections of 30° each, which are called the Signs of the Zodiac.
The following are the 12 Signs of the Zodiac; Capricorn the sea goat, Aries the lamb, Taurus the bull, Gemini the twins, Cancer the crab, Leo the lion, Virgo the virgin, Libra the scale, Scorpio the scorpion, Sagittarius the archer, Pisces the fishes and Aquarius the water carrier.
The earliest known astrological records available date back to Babylon around 1645 BC and the earliest horoscope was recorded in 410 BC.
Astrology’s origins can also be traced to several other locations and cultures, including Egypt, which developed sophisticated timekeeping and calendar science; Greece, where Ptolemy authored influential astrological and astronomical texts; and Rome, where many of the most learned men-including two emperors-were astrologers who wrote laws and counseled citizens based on the Stars.
The Bible to all Christians is the word of God. It contains 39 Books of the Old Testament and 27 Books of the New Testament.
But the problem as always has been with interpretation. What a specific and particular biblical text is saying or means has always been the source of contention among believers of the Bible.
That notwithstanding though, there are some difficult issues about which the Bible is authoritative.
Meanwhile, just as there are different denominations and sects all claiming to be Christians or believers in God, so also there are different kinds of Bibles.
For the followers of Judaism, who also believe in God, but do not accept the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, there is the Hebrew Bible or Tanach, which contains three sections.
These sections are the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch; Nebiim, referred to as the Prophets; and Ketubim which they call the Writings.
To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Bible is The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
There is what is also known as The Catholic Bible which contains the Apocrypha and for adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Book of Mormon is the scriptures.
To most Christians however, “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. And all scripture in this case means the Bible as accepted by a majority of Christian groups.
What does the Bible say about astrology?
It is not possible to find what could be considered a clear and conclusive doctrine of the Bible about the subject of astrology. The word astrology cannot be seen in the Bible. But there are references to astrologers.
Some people say it was astrology when Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:18-19). Fishes represent Pisces a sign of the Zodiac.
There are some proponents who claim that one can see or tell the gospel story from the stars or Zodiac signs. They argue that the virgin birth can be seen in Virgo, the Lamb of God concept from Aries, and the miracle of the fishes and loaves reflect Pisces.
In the late 1800’s two books were written, The Witness of the Stars by E.W. Bullingers and The Gospel in the Stars by Joseph A. Seiss to support the idea that the gospel story can be seen in the stars. Some modern day proponents claim that God’s whole plan of redemption can be found in the Zodiac and that the history of mankind and Christ can be understood from the constellations.
Most of those who promote this idea however, admit that the gospel can’t be seen in the stars themselves, but that the view comes from a “Christianized” interpretation of the signs of the Zodiac, which were assigned by the ancient peoples to apparent groups of stars, called constellations.
Does the Bible condemn or justify astrology?
According to Bob Prichard an Evangelical author, astrology is a practice based upon the belief that the pattern of the stars in the sky at the time of a person’s birth greatly influence, if not determine his destiny.
Millions of people consult their daily horoscopes (predictions based on astrology) to plan their activities.
Although popular, astrology is not based on scientific, rational, or biblical principles. It is simply pagan superstition, which has its roots in the practices of the Babylonians of 4,000 years ago.
Sometimes confused with astronomy, which is the scientific study of the stars and celestial bodies, astrology has absolutely no scientific basis, and has no place in a modern society.
And he quotes the following biblical texts to support his position:
“Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame” (Isaiah 47:13-14).
“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them” (Jeremiah 10:2).
God commended good king Josiah for destroying the places of worship to “Baal and to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven” (2 Kings 23:5).
Pritchard suggests, using a text from Galatians that the Apostle Paul has condemned sorcery, idolatry and witchcraft, which includes astrology, warning that those who practice these things “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21).
In the said texts astrology is not listed among the sins mentioned and yet this author chose to include it.
Another author Daniel Jarvis has this to say about astrology; “The Bible emphasizes the grand purpose of the heavens. Unfortunately, astrology draws people away from this purpose…causing them to look to the stars for answers about life, rather than the One who made those stars!”
“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name…” Isaiah 40:26 (NLT). Jarvis’ argument is that humans should look beyond the stars and to the creator of the stars for the answers to their problems.
Josh McDowell a popular Evangelical author and speaker, writing in the Handbook of Religions argues that the Book of Daniel gives us a comparison between the astrologers and those dedicated to the true and living God.
According to him, Daniel 1:20 reveals that Daniel and his three friends would be ten times better in matters of wisdom and understanding than the astrologers because they served the living and true God rather than the stars.
When the king had a dream, the astrologers could not give an explanation for it, but rather God alone had the answer, for it is only He who can reveal the future (see Daniel 2: 27, 28).
In McDowell’s view the Scriptures make it clear that any type of astrological practice is severely condemned by God, for it attempts to understand the future through occultic means rather than through God’s divinely inspired Word.
The fatalistic approach of astrology, which says our lives are determined by the stars, is contradicted by Scripture, which holds us responsible for our destiny. Astrology and Christianity are simply incompatible, he says.
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, an observer of clouds, or a fortune-teller, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or one who calls to the dead.
For all that do these things are an abomination to Jehovah. And because of these abominations Jehovah your God drives them out from before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
And he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom. He also practiced secret arts, and used fortune-telling, and used witchcraft, and dealt with mediums, and with soothsayers. He did much evil in the sight of Jehovah in order to provoke Him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:6).
And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst of it, and I will destroy its wisdom. And they shall seek to idols, and to the enchanters, and to the mediums, and to the future-tellers. And I will shut up Egypt into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, says the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts. (Isaiah 19:3-4).
2 Chronicles 33:5-7: “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.”
Some Biblical justifications?
Lori Eldridge has created a Web site called “Astrology and the Bible” and she has written several articles in response to the usual comments one hears from Christians about how scripture supposedly condemns astrology.
In those articles she attempted to show from scripture that God put the stars in their courses (orbits) Himself, and named all the stars (the names of the stars relay the Gospel message when read in the right order). He set the constellations (the Zodiac) in the sky, and He also stated we were to use them for signs.
She also claims that the Magi or three wise men were astrologers, which means God chose astrologers to announce the birth of His son to the world.
And she quotes the following texts to support her position that the Bible justifies astrology.
(Genesis 1:16); God created the stars. God himself named the stars, not man (Isaiah 40:25, Psalm 147:4); God placed the stars in their constellations/Zodiac (Job 38:31-33); and in their own courses/orbits (Jeremiah 31:35, Job 38:33); God told us to use the stars for signs and seasons (Genesis 1:14) and God set the Jewish festivals to occur on the Full or New Moons (Passover occurs on the first month of the year at the Full Moon–which just happens to be the sign Aries–with its symbol the Ram which is sacrificed on the Passover (Exodus 12).
It is even argued that Jesus Christ knew and practiced astrology and the following texts are used to support the view.
Matthew 16:1-4 “And the Pharisees came to him (Jesus) to test him, and they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. But answering them he said, ‘When it is evening you say “the weather will be fair for the sky is red.”
And in the morning you say, “it will be stormy today, for the sky is red and lowering.” You know how to read the face of the sky, but cannot read the Signs of the Times.’”
“There shall be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars.” – Luke 21:25
Reasons why we must not believe in astrology
Josh McDowell raises the following issues with astrology and argues that Christians must not believe in it.
He reports that the claims that astrologists have made have drawn severe criticisms from the scientific community.
In September, 1975, 186 prominent American scientists, along with 18 Nobel Prize winners, spoke out against “the pretentious claims of astrological charlatans,” saying, among other things, that there is no scientific basis whatsoever for the assumption that the stars foretell events and influence lives.
He puts across the following as some of the reasons why the practice of astrology must be rejected as both unscientific and unbiblical.
The problem of authority
Astrologists are victims of their own system. They cannot have the objective authority necessary to explain our own world. If everything is predetermined in conjunction with the Zodiac, then how can the astrologists get outside of that fatalism to accurately observe it?
What if the astrologists themselves are predetermined to explain everything by astrology? There is no way they can prove their system if they are pawns in that same system.
By contrast, as Christians we can test our own world view because someone, Jesus Christ, has come from outside the “system” to tell us, objectively, what our system is like.
The problem of authority in astrology is graphically revealed when one realizes there are many systems of astrology which are diametrically opposed to each other. Astrologers in the West would not interpret a horoscope the same way a Chinese astrologer would.
Even in the West, there is no unanimity of interpretation among astrologers, seeing that some contend for eight Zodiac signs rather than 12 while others argue for 14 or even 24 signs of the Zodiac.
With these different systems employed by astrologers, an individual may go to two different astrologers and receive two totally opposed courses of behavior for the same day!
This is not only a possibility, it is also a reality, for a simple comparison between astrological forecasts in daily newspapers will often reveal contradictions.
Astrology is based upon the premise that the planets revolve around the earth, known as the “geocentric theory.” This theory was shown to be in error by Copernicus, who proved that the planets revolve around the sun, not the earth. This is known as the “heliocentric theory.”
Since astrology is based upon the refuted geocentric theory, its reliability is destroyed. Since the basic assumption is false, all conclusions, even if feebly reinterpreted by today’s knowledge and drawn from this assumption, are likewise false.
One of the major misconceptions that is the basis of astrology concerns the number of planets in our solar system. Most astrological charts are based upon the assumption that there are seven planets in our solar system (including the sun and the moon).
In ancient times, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were unobservable with the naked eye. Consequently, astrologers based their system upon the seven planets they believed revolved around the earth. Since that time, it has been proven that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the solar system and that three other planets exist in our solar system.
According to the astrological theory, that the position of planets has a definite influence upon human behavior and events, these three previously undiscovered planets should also have an influence upon behavior and must be considered to cast an exact horoscope.
Since they usually are not considered, the astrological theory breaks down, for no accurate horoscope could be charted without considering all the planets and their supposed influence.
In any case just recently, the group of astronomers who have the authority to designate a planet have removed Pluto from the planetary system because it is too small in size to qualify for a planet.
A constant source of embarrassment for astrologers is the birth of twins.
Since they are born at exactly the same time and place, they should have the same destiny.
Unfortunately, this is not the case, for experience shows us that two people who are born at the same time can live totally different lives. One may turn out to be very successful, while the other ends up a failure. The fact that twins do not live out the same lives shows another flaw in the theory, he said.
A serious problem with astrology is its limited perspective. Astrology was born in an area close to the equator and did not take into consideration those living in latitudes where the Zodiac signs do not appear for the same periods of time.
As Michel Gauquelin points out in his book, “The Cosmic Clocks”, published in 1967, “Astrology, begun in latitudes relatively close to the equator, made no provisions for the possibility that no planet may be in sight (in the higher latitudes) for several weeks in a row.”
This means those living in the higher latitudes in places such as Alaska, Norway, Finland and Greenland have no planetary influence in their lives, for it is almost impossible to calculate what point of the zodiac is rising on the horizon above the Arctic circle.
Since this is the case, one of the basic pillars of astrology now crumbles, as Michael Van Buskirk points out in “Astrology – Revival in the Cosmic Garden”Astrology can hardly be scientifically based on its own premise that the microcosm reflects the influence of the macrocosm, when one of the microcosms (man) above the 66th latitude is left uninfluenced by the cosmos.”
No scientific verification
Probably the most damaging criticism that can be leveled at astrological prediction is the fact that its scientific value is nil. Paul Couderc, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory, after examining the horoscopes of 2,817 musicians concluded thus, “the position of the sun has absolutely no musical significance.
The musicians are born throughout the entire year on a chance basis. No sign of the Zodiac or fraction of a sign favors or does not favor them.
He concludes his findings by saying, the assets of scientific astrology are equal to zero, as is the case with commercialized astrology. This is perhaps unfortunate, but it is a fact. The statistics to support the predictive claims of astrologers are simply not there.
Incorrect time of reckoning
Another major problem with astrology concerns the fact that horoscopes are cast from the time of birth, not from the time of conception. Since all the hereditary factors are determined at conception, it should logically follow that the planets could begin influencing the person’s destiny immediately after conception.
The problem is, of course, trying to accurately determine when conception took place, which is nearly impossible. However, if the planets do exert an influence over a person’s fate, it should start at the time of conception rather than the time of birth.
The shifting constellations
Astrology is unscientific because of the fact of the precession or the shifting of constellations. Kenneth Boa another Evangelical writer elaborates on this problem: The early astronomers were not aware of precession and therefore failed to take it into account in their system. The twelve signs of the zodiac originally correspond with the twelve constellations of the same names.
But due to precession, the constellations have shifted about 300 times in the last 2,000 years. This means that the constellation of Virgo is now in the sign of Libra, the constellation of Libra is now in the sign of Scorpio and so on.
Thus, if a person is born on September 1, astrologers would call him a Virgo (the sign the sun is in at that date), but the sun is actually in the constellation Leo at that date.
So there are two different zodiacs: one which slowly moves (the sidereal zodiac) and one which is stationary (the tropical zodiac). Which zodiac should be used?
Furthermore, no constellation ever recurs. As Kurt Koch points out in “Christian Couselling ad Occutism”, “The most weighty factor is the astronomer’s objection that no constellation in the sky ever recurs.
Hence, astrological interpretations lack every basis of comparison. Hence, solstitial horoscopy rests on presuppositions which are scientifically untenable”
Finally, if the argument can sufficiently be made that astrology is evil and not pleasing to God, as the Bible states categorically about other practices that are contrary to God’s will, such as idolatry, witchcraft, necromancy (talking to the spirit of the dead), sorcery and so on, then it will not certainly be acceptable for believers to indulge in the practice.
In any case, while it remains obvious from the discussion that there is no clear-cut biblical position on the subject of astrology, and there is also no scientific proof to the subject’s authenticity, would it not be safer to steer clear of the practice?
But for many Ghanaians though, these issues are better left to the judgement of the individual, because each one has the freedom to choose what to believe.
Authored by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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