Astrology [Greek: astron (star) + logos (discourse) = “discussion on stars”]
Astrology is an ancient method of divination and forecasting, premised on the belief that there are meaningful connections among astronomical events, the human mind, and the world around us.
Originally developed in Mesopotamia (Babylonia and Assyria) for the benefit of ruling kings, ancient Hellenistic culture popularized and individualized the practice.
The ancient Chinese and Indians practiced astrology and astronomy, which from classical to medieval times were mostly indistinguishable. Indian astrological writings first appeared around 100 CE, presumably from the influence of Greek astrology.
English translations of the Old Testament appear to condemn astrologers quite often. But only in one instance is the translation definite (Isaiah 47:13-14). Contemporary astrologers often note that the Three Wise Men who came to honor Jesus were also stargazers, and their visit was predicated on their interpretation of the night sky.
Early Muslims also practiced a kind of holistic astrology and astronomy, without any clear-cut distinction between the two but by medieval times a sharp distinction appears. Astrology is described in the Koran as sorcery, a practice that apparently renders prayers ineffective for 40 days.
The prominent Saudi scholar, Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen (1925-2001) said that astrology deals with illusions instead of fact.
Astrology is a kind of sorcery and fortune-telling. It is forbidden because it is based on illusions, not on concrete facts. There is no relation between the movements of celestial bodies and what takes place on the Earth.¹
Ptolemy and Kepler both studied astrology. Although frowned on by the Catholic Church, astrology persisted during the Renaissance. In 1549 the Protestant John Calvin wrote a “Warning Against So-Called Judicial Astrology” and in 1586 Pope Sixtus V officially condemned all forms of divination.
Astrology continued, however, until about the 17th-century, at which time it was effectively marginalized. Never to fully vanish, it reappeared in postwar North America in various mass media, such as the daily newspaper.
In 20th century Japan, astrological beliefs influenced birth rates. Birth rates actually lowered in 1966 as the Japanese hoped to avoid having babies during an inauspicious year.² Contemporary Hindu marriage ceremonies often summon astrologers to determine the most auspicious hour for the performance of the matrimonial ceremony. 21st century online astrologers like Jonathan Cainer combine proven business methods with astrology to increase traffic to their websites.
A possible contemporary critique of astrology would be that it places too much emphasis on the visible universe at the expense of our mysterious God, whom many have reason to believe is beyond the observable universe. Beyond yet immanent, that is. And this immanence is said to give the Lord a power far greater than any astronomical event.
In fact, theists argue that the immanence of the Lord could override any other kind of influence, be it psychological, sociological, or astrological. But pantheists who see God as “The Universe,” probably won’t get this. They’ll likely think this kind of critique is narrow-minded,³ when arguably it’s the other way around. Many people say the universe is about as big as a handbasket, figuratively speaking, in comparison to the Lord.
Again, that’s hard for some folks to comprehend. How could infinity be a big as a handbasket? But those who apparently have been given true belief or claim to have experienced revelations from the Lord say exactly that. And they also say that some will not understand unless they, too, take the next step and God grants them true belief or, perhaps, a revelation or series of revelations.
¹ Islamonline.com cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_astrology
³ In fact, some folks are so narrow-minded that they don’t even read up on or consider ideas if they happen to contain standard philosophical and/or theological concepts. The result? They limit their intellect to some of the New Agey pop fluff that’s out there today.
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