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Tuesday, 08 January 2008 04:33

Religious And Non-Religious Spirituality In The Western World 'New Age'

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Gospel Message via Tarot Cards

A provocative way of presenting the gospel in New Spirituality festivals is via tarot cards.  John Drane, Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson have developed this approach.  Understandably, most Christians will baulk at the idea because tarot cards have occult connections.   To properly argue why tarot cards could be used as a device for communicating the gospel would require a lengthy paper.  A few basic points may be summarised, but readers should consult the literature listed below for more details.  Many popular books by New Spirituality seekers and by Christian apologists on the subject of tarot present false historical data about their origins and purpose.


  • Tarot cards originated in Renaissance Italy as an ordinary card game known as "Triumphs." 
  • The earliest surviving decks have portraits that show figures dressed in late medieval costumes, with the religious symbols of the Church.   Many of the cards’
    symbols are traceable to illustrated manuscripts of the Book of Revelation.
  • Scholars have shown that the tarot cards reflect late medieval society with a threefold symbolic message conveyed by the pictures: "know your place in society,"  "practise Christian virtues"  and "trust in God." Ã‚   Some of the tarot characters appear in Cervantes’ Man of La Mancha " “ Don Quixote.
  • Tarot imagery appears to be influenced by church art and Dante’s Inferno.
  • The association of tarot cards with fortune telling occurs in nineteenth century France.   The appropriation of the cards for divination does not disqualify the history of the cards’ symbols originating from Christian sources " ” just as the misuse of the Bible to justify apartheid, slavery, and the heresies of Jehovah’s
    Witnesses does not invalidate the Bible itself.
At the Mind-Body-Spirit festival, Clifford and Johnson have created an innovative and incarnational method of sharing the gospel through the use of tarot cards.  They note, "We always indicate that divination from the cards is clearly contrary to Scripture, but that the classic A. E. Waite deck is full of biblical images." Ã‚  Ross Clifford briefly explains how in a conversation he pointed a seeker to Christ via the cards:

A conversation began with Sharon, who shared something of her own spiritual journey from fairly normal Catholicism to a commitment to Wicca.   We discussed how upbringing, education, and external spiritual experiences had influenced her views on life and faith.   I then shared about the influences that might colour my perceptions.   Sharon, during the telling of her story, indicated that she appreciated Jesus, but her understanding of life was centred on reincarnation.   She then briefly outlined some of her concerns about the church.   She asked me, "Do you believe in reincarnation?" Ã‚  I said, "I believe in its understanding that there is more to life than death, but I find the message of the Resurrection more empowering." Ã‚   I then shared the strand ofcircumstantial evidence for the Resurrection, based on the testimony of changed lives.   She listened to my story and others, including that of the apostle Paul, that linked their transformations to the resurrection of Christ.  In the course of this apologetic discourse, Sharon indicated openness to the holistic character of the Resurrection. Unlike the denial of the body inherent in reincarnation, the resurrection of Jesus encompasses mind, body, and spirit.

At the Community of Hope stall, we were also interacting with tarot readers and devotees.   Sharon and I discussed how the cards mimic archetypes and symbols that reveal our common search for meaning. She had a real interest in the tarot.   I explained that many of the images on the cards are taken from the Bible.   The "Lovers"  card (Genesis 1 and 2) depicts Adam and Eve before the "CosmicMountain"  and "Cosmic Tree,"  in harmony with themselves, the world and the numinous.   The "Devil"  card is where we confront the dark lord in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Star Wars’ Darth Vader or Jung’s Shadow and it shows the same couple now in bondage to the devil,but still with fruits of the "Cosmic Tree"  (image of God), though removed from the "Cosmic Mountain"  (God’s presence).   The "Death"  card shows us that, whether king, pope, or child, we will confront the Grim Reaper and there appears to be no path to the eternal celestial city depicted on the card. The "Judgement"  card portrays the archangel blowing the trumpet at the end of time and people rising from their graves in joy and on the pennant connected to the angel’s trumpet is a red cross, which is a universal symbol of hope and healing.   I said, " ˜Sharon, the image on the card is one of resurrection, not reincarnation.’

The "Magician’s"  card is more than the Jungian archetype of the wise man, because above his head is the symbol of infinity, which shows we need help from one beyond us.  The dual sign of the wand in the magician’s hand raised toward heaven and the left hand pointing to the earth, is known as a source of grace drawn from above. The key card is the "Fool"  which Campbell and Roberts (authorities on myth and New Spirituality) observe clearly symbolises the dying and resurrected sun god.   The "Fool"  is also an archetype for the sage or medieval jester, who is not a "natural"  fool but an "artificial"  fool, who by his antics disturbs the court of human arrogance and self-interest.  It is by the dying and rising Christ, "Fool,"  that one returns to the "Lover’s"  paradise.  " ˜Sharon, this is our universal story.’

After a pause in the conversation there was a short dialogue about the other circumstantial evidence " ” in particular the fact of the empty tomb.  Sharon quizzed me about the "swoon"  theory.   She then said, "but the account of the resurrection of Jesus is in your New Testament Gospels that are really pretty average stuff.   Haven’t Barbara Thiering and Bishop Spong basically shown that?" Ã‚   I replied, "Sharon, you are not meant to ask such a cognitive question." Ã‚   She laughed.   The discourse then turned to the evidence for the Resurrection, including whether it had any historical and legal standing and whether the New
Testament narratives could be trusted.  The "stories"  (testimonies of the apostles John and Paul) were highlighted.  A basic historical " ” legal apologetic for reliability of the New Testament accounts of the Resurrection was fully outlined. Sharon was particularly interested in the role of the women in the Resurrection brief.   Her response was to share again something of her own personal hurts and spiritual search.  She asked for prayer for faith and healing and for further information on Jesus.   She took a pamphlet that set out a list of recommended churches.  Not an atypical apologetic discourse had taken place.

For further discussion see

Ross Clifford, "Reframing a Traditional Apologetic to Reach " ˜New Spirituality’ Seekers,"  in Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach, edited by Irving Hexham, Stephen Rost and John W. Morehead II, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 193-208.

John Drane, Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, Beyond Prediction: The Tarot and Your Spirituality, (Oxford: Lion, 2001).

Read 2999 times Last modified on Thursday, 08 January 2009 04:36

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