Magic vs. Miracles

The newest release of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series is out on the Acts of the Apostles. One of the features of this commentary series are the sidebars which highlight the “Living Tradition.” Here’s an example of one on “Magic versus Miracles.”

“The Catechism explains the difference between magic and miracles, and why magic–in the form of occult involvement, not entertainment by sleight of hand–violates our relationship with God. Unlike miracles that God works in response to faith and prayer, magic is a self-seeking attempt to manipulate occult powers:

‘All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others–even if this were for the sake of restoring their health–are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity. (Catechism, 2117)

“‘Charms’ refers not to innocent jewelry like a charm bracelet but to magical amulets worn to protect against harm or bring good fortune. ‘Spiritism,’ often called spiritualism, refers to communication with the spirits of the dead, usually through a medium. Trying to communicate with the dead in this way is forcefully condemned in Scripture (Deut 18:10-12). ‘Traditional cures,’ refers not to natural remedies like herbal teas but to cures by witch doctors, which are thought to utilize power from evil spirits. All of these practices risk opening oneself to evil spirits and are therefore dangerous. Even if some of them do not directly involve evil spirits, they may be used to deceive and manipulate simple people.” (296)


Acts of the Apostles is by William S. Kurz and is a paperback from Baker Academic. With 416 pages it sells for $22.99.

William S. Kurz, SJ (PhD, Yale University), is professor of New Testament at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he has taught for more than thirty-five years. He is the author of numerous books, including Reading Luke-Acts: Dynamics of Biblical Narrative.


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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