An internationally respected theologian has sparked a major controversy by suggesting that Christians use tarot cards to share the gospel with New Agers. Professor John Drane says that despite their strong occult links, the cards can be an effective way to get those who read them to "consider the claims of Christ."
Director of the Centre for Christianity and Contemporary Society at the University of Stirling in Scotland, Drane defended his explosive theory in the latest issue of the U.K. magazine "Christianity and Renewal" (CR). Although a specialist ministry not for everyone, if used properly it could be "an effective evangelistic tool in relation to today's spiritual searchers," he said.
Drane, who is also visiting professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, said that many tarot illustrations were from Bible stories, covering "all the significant ideas of Scripture." He believed that "any Christian who knew their Bible well could easily share the gospel using [them]."
Tarot cards were originally created for playing games and were only later used for divination, he said. The occult use of tarot cards was not "dominant" today; they were often used in therapy and counseling. The cards could be seen as one of today's "altars to unknown gods," as the apostle Paul had spoken of in sharing the gospel in Athens.
In assuming the New Age was a"no-go area" for God, Christians could be not only limiting evangelistic opportunities but also adopting "a very unorthodox stance," he wrote, "for, if this is God's world, how can there be places from which God is excluded?"
Marcia Montenegro, a former professional astrologer who now runs Christians Answers for the New Age (CANA), said that she applauded Drane's desire to reach out to those involved in the New Age movement but had reservations about what he was advocating. She said she was concerned that some Christians might be drawn into exploring the occult nature of the tarot and that some New Agers might see Christians' using the cards as an endorsement.
"God can use anything, but I don't know if it's a good idea to go after things 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 from Satan. He uses these things to deceive people."
Richard Abanes, founder of the Religious Information Center and an authority 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 get involved with them. He said he had found New Age Web sites listing a book Drane had written on the topic as proof that tarot card reading was, "OK and cool, anyone can do it, and it won't conflict with their religious belief system."
Drane co-authored "Beyond Prediction: The Tarot and Your Spirituality" with two Australian Christian leaders from whom he first heard of the use of tarot cards in evangelism, one of whom heads a ministry to New Agers.