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Damage control: Bethel Church’s statement about the ‘Christian Tarot card’ controversy leaves many questions unanswered

Bethel Church in Redding, California, last week, responded to the “Christian Tarot card” controversy that has created a buzz in the Christian media.

Apparently, church leaders could no longer ignore reports that people closely associated with the church — including students from their school — have used the controversial decks of cards known as Destiny Cards. And members of their pastoral staff have defended the use of the cards. One, Theresa Dedmon, even developed her own set of Destiny Cards. These reports seem to have damaged Bethel’s reputation given the fact that they felt the need to respond with a formal statement — something they don’t do often though the church is no stranger to controversial news.

Here’s the statement they posted on their website on January 5. It’s fairly lengthy. In short, it states that Bethel has no formal affiliation with Christalignment, the organization at the center of the controversy. Yet it goes on to defend Christalignment’s use of the cards as a legitimate form of evangelistic outreach to New Agers. In contrast, critics of the cards, including myself, have argued that the cards are being used, essentially like Tarot cards — i.e., as a tool for divination. Divination is condemned in Scripture.

Bethel’s statement about Christalignment is clearly intended to put to bed concerns about the cards. Ironically, it raises more questions than it answers.

Questions raised by the ‘Bethel Statement Regarding Christalignment’

1). If these Destiny Cards don’t cross a line, what would? Bethel leaders suggest Christians are narrow-minded if they oppose creative means of evangelism. This, of course, assumes that using Destiny Cards is no problem. So, in defending Christalignment’s controversial method, Bethel apparently knows something that critics do not know — their own (extrabiblical?) criteria for making that decision. What practices would Bethel be willing to repudiate? For example, if a group put together a Christian version of a Ouija board — but called it a Destiny Board and said they were using it through the power of the Holy Spirit so that people could have an encounter with God — how would this be any different? Where would Bethel draw the line and why there?

2). How does Bethel teach its people discernment? What guidelines do they provide? What biblical support for them? Is their flock expected to trust all discernment to Bethel leaders? If not, how are they being equipped to exercise mature discernment?

3). Why not simply deny affiliation with Christalignment and leave it at that? This looks like a defense of the practices of Christalignment.

4). If some Christians take exception to what the group is doing, then they must (notice the imperative) go directly to the group with their concerns, according to the statement. Why? My guess is that they might appeal to Matthew 18:15-17. But this passage does not address how to deal with false teachings and false practices in the church. Rather, it addresses how individuals in the church should deal with private sins that other individuals have committed against them. Unfortunately, Matthew 18:15-17 is often misused by church leaders to silence criticism of their teachings, as I wrote about in my post titled Naming Names.

5). Does Bethel know that legal action has been threatened against site owners, including myself, who have shared photos of the Christalignment cards and photos of their teams doing “readings” with the cards — despite the fact that this sharing of the photos falls under the fair use rule in copyright law? The Hodges have also tried to silence their critics by demanding retractions of their articles and apologies. What do the Bethel people think about that?

6). Why would the Bethel people include the letter from Jenny Hodge in their statement? Her description of how the Destiny Cards are being used is alarming and it’s rather remarkable that Bethel would include it. The cards are being used for revelatory purposes, if not for telling the future. They presume to know a lot about a person through the use of these cards.

7). How, again, are Destiny Cards different from Tarot cards? The only real difference, it seems, is what they are being called. The cards are clearly meant to resemble Tarot cards. They may also function as Tarot cards, even if they have different images. Difference in their appearance makes no difference to their (intended) function. Putting a picture of Jesus on some of the cards does not magically sanctify them. Bethel and Christalignment have yet to explain how the Destiny Cards are not being used like Tarot cards.

8). How do the Bethel people explain Christalignment’s own description of their cards as being similar to Tarot cards? Bethel never acknowledges that the Christalignment website actually used the word “tarot” in the description of their Destiny Cards. After the controversy broke, the Christalignment people altered the site, removing the word “tarot” along with other concerning statements about their cards. See the original statements, with screen captures of the website before it was altered, in my post here. So what does Bethel make of the original descriptions? And, in light of those descriptions, how do they explain Jenny Hodge’s claim that the cards “are not tarot nor remotely similar to tarot”?

9). How, exactly, does Bethel define “evangelism”? The Bethel statement makes it sound as if the Christalignment cards are being used as a tool to lead to a presentation of the gospel. Yet Jenny Hodge said, in a video posted to her Facebook page, that her teams do not present the gospel when they do card “readings,” but rather lead people to an “encounter” with Jesus. Take note, in the video, the type of encounters she says people have had when using the cards, including one young man who saw his future family.

10). How does Bethel teach its people to properly interpret Scripture? The exposition of Acts 17, in defense of Christalignment, is appalling. The apostle Paul’s reference to an unknown God, in Acts 17:23, was part of his argumentation for the veracity of the gospel. His argumentation included biblical truths, sound reasoning, and the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. He was presenting the gospel using logical persuasion, not leading people to a spiritual encounter through a tool used for revelatory purposes.

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Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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17 Responses to “Damage control: Bethel Church’s statement about the ‘Christian Tarot card’ controversy leaves many questions unanswered”

  1. Luke Says:

    As a charismatic myself, I am completely ashamed of the majority of charismatic Christians who continually make excuses for all sorts of error and deception in the church.

    I have seen people make these excuses for all sorts of clearly spiritually dangerous and unbiblical behaviors under the guise of “reaching people” when there is nothing that approaches the gospel being presented. What then are people being “reached” with? Rather, those in the church are being stretched further and further from the gospel of salvation into erroneous practices- all while thinking they are more spiritually elite than those who try to stand firm in the word of God.

    Again, as a charismatic myself, I am open to both the power of God and the fact that He does not always do things the way we as people expect. But there is no excuse for the excesses and error that continue in places like Bethel and other various NAR offshoots without any sort of accountability or correction ever occurring.

    The sin of partiality (James 2) is in full effect over this entire incident, where apologies and protection have arisen to defend those involved and leadership because of personal connections or the status of the men and their platform. It is shameful.

  2. Ron Rilee Says:

    This is in line with Bill’s belief that God created New Age and occult, and that the devil stole them. BethHell is just taking them back for “christian” use.

  3. bill (cycleguy) Says:

    IMHO if it walks like a duck, acts like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck. This kind of garbage needs to stop. We don’t need more shysters and tricksters. Get real Bethel and call and ace an ace and a spade a spade. This is an ugly mark on the face of Jesus.

  4. David Mitchell Says:

    Just curious if anyone who has gone through the different photos of this group have noticed: They are peddling their wares for a profit. $10 a reading in one photo.

  5. Andrew Says:

    Out of curiosity Holly, where does this discussion of divination/tarot/etc land in regard to the practice of casting lots? We see the casting of lots connected with determining God’s will many times in scripture. As an example, I was reading in Acts 1 this morning where the remaining apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas (v26), but we also see this practice condoned and/or commanded throughout the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 24:5, Jonah 1:7, 1 Samuel 10:20-24, et al). Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” What is it about this specific practice that placed it outside the prohibition on divination… because to me it sure seems to be the same at heart.

  6. Holly Says:

    Andrew, that’s a good question. The casting of lots was a practice that appeared to be authorized by God, for a season at least, to be used by the priests in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament. The use of lots by the pagan sailors in Jonah was descriptive of what they did, not prescriptive for what we should do. The Proverbs verse teaches that there is nothing that falls outside of God’s providence, even things we would attribute to random chance. Proverbs doesn’t instruct us to make decisions in this way; rather the entire book teaches principles for making wise decisions. In short, divination involves seeking forbidden knowledge in an unauthorized manner.

  7. Andrew Says:

    I certainly agree that the Proverbs verse wasn’t written to be prescriptive in nature. My follow up question is: what differentiates “forbidden knowledge” from any other knowledge? Where do we look to find what types of knowledge are authorized or unauthorized?

  8. Holly Says:

    Andrew, God has ordained certain sources for acquiring spiritual knowledge, especially Scripture and general revelation. Because of the reality of a spiritual world (including demonic beings), it’s possible for people to obtain knowledge through other non-ordained means (i.e., occult methods, like mediums and psychics). But knowledge of things God has not chosen to reveal (and thus must be obtained through non-ordained means) is forbidden. Here’s a link to an article that I think does a good job of addressing these matters: http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue82.htm

  9. Stephanie14 Says:

    Does anyone know what “prophetic art” is, and how much it is related to Destiny Cards? I know Destiny cards have pictures on them by four “prophetic artists”, but does that mean that prophetic art may not be good either?

  10. Holly Says:

    Stephanie14, producing prophetic art is a NAR practice in which an artist believes their art mediates prophetic revelation and the power and Presence of God to those who view it. Here’s a description of prophetic art from a practitioner: http://www.theworshipstudio.org/what-is-prophetic-art/ It’s problematic as a number of NAR teachings undergird the practice of producing prophetic art, as you can see in the description in the link I provided above.

  11. Jeffrey Hicks Says:

    Andrew, We look to the Scriptures for knowledge not what isn’t in them. Never did the early church have casting lot meetings nor minister to people by casting lots. Taking one example out of Acts 1 is like taking the one example out of Acts 28 and making a doctrine that Christians are to practice holding poisonous snakes.

  12. Donald Bate Says:

    Thank you Holly for another excellent article. I think it is ironic that this follows your previous post about Bill Johnson’s mandate to live by Jesus’ words in the Gospels.. the “Red Letter Revival”. I fully agree with obeying the Lord’s words to the letter, and teaching others to do likewise (Matthew 28:20), but not the way Johnson teaches it. No surprise then that Bethel must be grossly twisting “words in red” if they really believe Jesus taught card-reading. I can’t even think of which of His teachings they would twist, so obvious is it that the Lord would never do it!

  13. Richard T. Says:

    Hearing from God does not equate to setting a time limit. Gifts and/or revelation does not operate on demand, but as the Holy Spirit is willing. Setting up these moments of our place and choosing shows impatience, pride and shortcuts the true revelation of God. Casting lots when time is of the essence and there is no clear indication from God may be the exception but using cards or any other shortcut to try and put the Holy Spirit in a corner is only likely to result in the demonic realm showing up and taking advantage of the situation. Making matters worse, when you open up to this realm, it may block or at least cause confusion when the real guiding of the Holy Spirit comes. It now has to work through all this garbage that you tried to conjure up and you are putting so much at risk. I would not even suggest ever reading a horoscope or even as much as a fortune cookie. Why impede God even in some small way just for a bit of fleshly entertainment concerning your future? Thanks Holly and others for calling some Bethel followers out on the use of cards.

  14. David Alligood Says:

    Hi Holly,

    I love’d to see some commentary on Mr. Shawn Bolz. He claims ‘words of knowledge” from God at his talking events; however, my anecdotal review of about 15 videos shows all the ” facts” are easily ascertained on social media- usually FB.

    I really appreciate your efforts, your professionalism and non-inflammatory commentaries.

    Respectfully,

    David

  15. Holly Says:

    Thanks for your encouraging words, David.

  16. Mark Scott Says:

    I was notified about Theresa Dedmon and the Christalign issue while on facebook. After carefully reading all articles concerned and viewing Christlaligns website this is the conclusion I came up with. There is nothing Christian about Christalign these are spiritualists and New Age people who are trying to be on the fringes of Charismatic movement. They are not even close. The response by Theresa Dedmon defended Christalign and should have renounced their occultism. This is the most disturbing issue is that a person in leadership would seem to defend their position.
    The issue about destiny cards being tarot cards or a type of tarot card was secondary as they could be used innocently as a tool and I am not in a rush to judgement on this. At the same time why are so called Christian churches mimicking New age non-sense? The leadership at Bethel should have asked Ms. Dedmon to step down because her defense of spiritualists should have been alarming. This type of misguided loyalty is not New Testament leadership. Ms. Dedmon needs to restore her credibility by strongly coming against these clowns from Australia as they pose a danger to the body of Christ. I am still waiting for a strong statement from this person and until this is done I will not be able to take anything from Bethel seriously

  17. Dag Aspli Says:

    Hi,
    I am an earlyer Carismatic/W.O.Faith “victim” following your efforts from Norway.

    First i would like to loan thes words:

    “I really appreciate your efforts, your professionalism and non-inflammatory commentaries”.

    It makes the hwole ting usefull in my effort to try to winn back my friends from this movement.

    Also,
    Have you ever considered that the hwole pentecostal/charsismatic thing may have had its “start-spark” in the Roman Chatolic Church. Hwo also have a large charismatic part.( find sutch documentary films om You Tube)
    This have som interesseting implications i think.
    It may be a plan behind the hwole thing in order to bind things togeter.
    Your taughts on that?

    Thanks again.

    Dag Aspli

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