Reprinted with permission of Charisma News Services.

An internationally respected theologian has sparked a major controversy bysuggesting that Christians use tarot cards to share the gospel with NewAgers. Professor John Drane says that despite their strong occult links, thecards can be an effective way to get those who read them to "consider theclaims of Christ."

Director of the Centre for Christianity and Contemporary Society at theUniversity of Stirling in Scotland, Drane defended his explosive theory inthe latest issue of the U.K. magazine "Christianity and Renewal" (CR).Although a specialist ministry not for everyone, if used properly it couldbe "an effective evangelistic tool in relation to today's spiritualsearchers," he said.

Drane, who is also visiting professor at Fuller Theological Seminary inCalifornia, said that many tarot illustrations were from Bible stories,covering "all the significant ideas of Scripture." He believed that "anyChristian who knew their Bible well could easily share the gospel using[them]."

Tarot cards were originally created for playing games and were only laterused for divination, he said. The occult use of tarot cards was not"dominant" today; they were often used in therapy and counseling. The cardscould be seen as one of today's "altars to unknown gods," as the apostlePaul had spoken of in sharing the gospel in Athens.

In assuming the New Age was a"no-go area" for God, Christians could be notonly limiting evangelistic opportunities but also adopting "a veryunorthodox stance," he wrote, "for, if this is God's world, how can there beplaces from which God is excluded?"

Marcia Montenegro, a former professional astrologer who now runsChristians Answers for the New Age (CANA), said that she applauded Drane'sdesire to reach out to those involved in the New Age movement but hadreservations about what he was advocating. She said she was concerned thatsome Christians might be drawn into exploring the occult nature of the tarotand that some New Agers might see Christians' using the cards as anendorsement.

"God can use anything, but I don't know if it's a good idea to go afterthings in the occult as the basis for an evangelistic tool," she said."Whenever you get into any of that you are opening a door for deception fromSatan. He uses these things to deceive people."

Richard Abanes, founder of the Religious Information Center and anauthority on the occult, was more blunt in his assessment. Drane's approach"if it were not so spiritually damaging and dangerous would be hilarious,"he said.

Abanes said that Drane's understanding of the tarot's history and use was"flawed," and he was concerned that Christians might be encouraged to getinvolved with them. He said he had found New Age Web sites listing a bookDrane had written on the topic as proof that tarot card reading was, "OK andcool, anyone can do it, and it won't conflict with their religious beliefsystem."

Drane co-authored "Beyond Prediction: The Tarot and Your Spirituality"with two Australian Christian leaders from whom he first heard of the use oftarot cards in evangelism, one of whom heads a ministry to New Agers.