“IT IS WRITTEN IN THE STARS”
by Alexi Markovic
"For the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine,
but according to their own desires,
because they have itching ears,
they will heap up for themselves teachers;
and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim 4:3-4).
Various horoscopes are published in newspapers everyday, and in the popular magazines you can buy from the local newsagency and supermarket. It is common to hear people say that they don't really believe in them, and think them to be fun. Some also think 'what harm is there to just read what is in store for your sign of the zodiac, after all I don't take them seriously like some people do'.
Did you know that the horoscope is an occult practice? Many claim not to believe in it, but when the day that the horoscope just happens to come true they may not be so doubtful. Have you ever wondered why astrology, along with palmistry, witchcraft, numerology, tarot cards, crystal charms, aroma therapy, and other forms of the occult are so popular today? Perhaps chapter four of the second letter of Timothy answers this question.
Have you noticed that people are now being introduced as belonging to a star sign and not as Christians? It seems that people would rather associate themselves with the constellations in the heavens than with God the Creator. How many times have we heard people say 'No! I am of God and not of the zodiac'?
Astrology has been around for a long time, but does it work? Is it really harmful? Is there anything wrong with casually reading your horoscope? What does the Church say about it?
Astrology was in practice around 5000 years ago when the Chaldeans of the Babylonian Empire observed the influence of the sun and moon on the earth. They concluded that the planets and stars were potent gods whose decrees can be changed through supplication and liturgy. They believed that the stars depicted divine will (like a road map) and their prime purpose was to inform the king of impending events.
There is much scientific evidence that shows that astrology does not work. Astronomers (who study the galaxies) relegate astrology to the ranks of superstition and foolish. They point out that astrology developed when people thought that the universe revolved around the earth, and is at its foundations thus based upon erroneous concepts. They also point out that the earth has an uneven wobble as it spins on its axis. As a result, the zodiac has shifted. The constellations today rise at different times of the year than they did centuries ago, when the present astrological charts were finalized, and thus the characteristics of each star sign will not apply to the months they have been assigned to. This means that the horoscope is out by a factor of 30 days for a start.
Another consideration is that there are numerous versions of the horoscopes with differing predictions throughout the world and yet they use the same reference points (the position of the stars). The question must be asked, 'why are they different in their predictions'?
The Orthodox Church and the Prophets before Her have preached against astrology for thousands of years.
The first Biblical reference to astrology is probably in chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis, which describes the destruction of the tower of Babel and the dispersion of mankind throughout the earth. One of the purposes the people built the tower of Babel (in Babylon) could have been so that they could survey the sky, seeking to discover their 'destiny' in the stars rather than trust in the will of God.
When the children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land, God commanded that no one was to imitate the ways of the nations there. He told them not to sacrifice their sons or daughters in the fire, and not to practice divination or sorcery, interpret omens (astrology), witchcraft, cast spells, be a medium or consult the dead. God then warned that, "Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD …" (Deu 18:9-13).
Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork". This Psalm points out that the purpose of the heavens is to declare the glory of God; yet astrology emphasises the material nature rather than God's nature.
The Prophet Isaiah, lamenting for the Babylonians said, "Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming soon upon you" (Isa 47:13).
Jeremiah recording God's words said "Do not learn the way of the unbelievers or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the people are worthless" (Jer 10:2-3).
Daniel when speaking with the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar said, "No wise man, enchanters, magicians or astrologers can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in Heaven Who reveals mysteries" (Dan 2:27-28).
Christ said that we should "take no thought" for what might happen in the future (Matt 6:25). He assures us that the necessities of life will be provided by God the Father if we seek Him first. We do not need to know what lies ahead of us in time if we have trust in God.
The Orthodox Church's Canon 36 strictly prohibits people from believing in astrology. The canon instructs us to cast out of the Church people who make, sell, buy or wear zodiac signs.
The Church Fathers also speak out loudly against astrology. St. Gregory the Great writes, "Man was not made for the stars, but rather the stars for man; and if a star can be called the ruler of man, then man must be considered the slave of his own servants".
St. Augustine considers astrology a religion of fate which is vehemently condemned by the Church. He feels that anyone who believes that our loving God would give power to stars in order to direct and govern our lives, offends God's justice and love.
St. John Chrysostom sees belief in astrology as a foolish disbelief against God's omnipotence and creativity, which implies that God is subject to the power of the star's. He also points out that if we are directed by the stars then there is no such thing as good or evil, because we do what we do under the direction of the stars. "This means that God's commandments, that man shall not sin or that man shall do good, comes down to nothing but foolishness".
St. Gregory of Nyssa, summing up the essential aspect of human dignity, rightly says that if we are the instruments of heavenly rotation then we don't have free will. "And if man loses freedom, he loses everything", and is no longer a man.
So the answer to the question "is astrology bad?" is a definite yes, it is a sin against God. We sin when we do things that keep us away from Christ, because we do not live in Christ. We sin when we do not live up to our goal to be like Christ, i.e. to be Christian. We sin when we allow the configuration of the stars guide us and not God, Who created the universe. We sin when we open newspapers or popular magazines to look up our horoscopes, rather than to seek the wisdom and learning from the Bible. We sin when we do or fail to do things because astrologers say so, and close our ears to God's commandments. We sin when we pray to God and simultaneously take an interest in astrology.
We are not children of horoscopes; we are children of God who pray "God's will be done".
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
PUBLICATIONS BY ORI