ESP and the Bible

When it speaks of the gifts of the Spirit and such, doesn't the Bible endorse things like ESP and other psychic abilities?
ESP or extrasensory perception is also called the sixth sense because of a claimed perception of data, information or knowledge that is allegedly gained through the mind and not the normally recognized physical senses (hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching). Under this rubric we often hear of clairvoyants (the ability to perceive activities or things taking place in elsewhere), precognition (the ability to see into the future), and telepathy (the ability to read other people’s thoughts or minds) as well. These things are very much a part of our culture. [1]

Many who work in this in this field, such as fake mediums, spiritualists, or use crystal balls, ouija boards, and tarot cards, etc., use trickery, deceit, and common interview techniques to gain information. Indeed, they often engage in numerous schemes to baffle the gullible. The vast amount of information that can be gained by a quick Google search is absolutely amazing and nearly instantaneous. And when you answer a question for a trained interviewer, you are giving away far more information than merely the words you convey; the tone of your voice, hesitancies and, if an interview is being done in person, your body language. Besides all this, there is the way you are dressed, your jewelry, and how you are groomed as well. As a former homicide detective who thoroughly enjoyed the interview process, I can promise you that you are being read like a book! When properly read by an expert, all these clues help build your story. And after your interviewer reads you, there comes a further appeal for more dollars.

Now, what about those who have a genuine type of ESP ability? From this perspective, ESP can be supernatural in nature. And the supernatural has only two sources; God who is sovereign over all (Isa. 46:9-10; 48:3, 5-6) and Satan.

God, of course, is all-knowing or what we call omniscient. He fully knows the past, present, and future. Not only does God have complete knowledge, he at times shares some of it. While this knowledge shouldn’t be termed as ESP, some people in the Bible had what we call divine abilities from God and were called prophets (cf. Deut. 18:18-22) or seers (cf. 1 Sam. 9:9; 1 Chron. 21:9-14). Others saw and interpreted visions (cf. Daniel chapters 2; 7; 8; 9; 10-12) or were even said to have the utterance of knowledge or discerning of spirits (cf. 1 Cor 12:8-10). Even Scripture itself came supernaturally (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).

As these and other texts clearly reveal, ultimately, the ability to predict the future does not come from humans, but is limited to God alone. Moreover, God’s gift is always and unequivocally 100% accurate! But IMO these gifts have now passed away. (Please see “Do all Christians speak in tongues?” below.)

On the other hand, though not sovereign (cf. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Luke 22:31-32), the Great Pretender, Satan (2 Cor. 11:14; cf. Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:3), through astrologers, diviners, fortune-tellers, magicians, mediums, spiritualists, witches, and the like (cf. Exod. 22:18; Deut. 18:10; Lev. 19:31; 20:6; 1 Sam. 15:23; 1 Chron. 10:13; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isa. 8:19; Acts. 8:9; Gal. 5:19-20; Rev. 21:8, etc.), does empower some people with unreliable empty comfort (cf. Zech. 10:2; 2 Thess. 2:9-10). And when combined with deception, trickery, and deceit, those displaying such powers from the kingdom of darkness can occasionally guess what is correct. But they never are 100% right (cf. Deut. 18:22; Jer. 28:9), and they never inform you of their thousands of mistakes.

ESP's roots are not in God but in the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the thief who comes but to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Satan is not divine and can’t be trusted. He is not all-knowing but is instead a defeated being (cf. Col. 2:13-15). And while he can’t read minds, he does have a lot of experience reading and deceiving people. And his ultimate purpose is to devour them (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8).

This said, all Christians do have access to Someone who at times gives them something akin to a sixth sense per se (cf. 2 Cor. 2:16-18). His name is Holy Spirit. As Paul says, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). However, the “natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14) but the “spiritual person judges all things” (1 Cor. 2:15) because they “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). And he imparts wisdom, “although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away,” but he imparts a “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor. 2:6-7, 9, 10). This is not ESP. Rather, this is life as a Christian. This ability is free; in varying degrees all Christians possess it.

ESP and genuine Christianity vastly differ. ESP has its origins in the occult, while life in the Spirit is from God alone. ESP and its related occupations are based upon deception, trickery, and deceit while the Spirit of God is grounded in and only speaks the truth. ESP is often related to greed, while that which comes from the Spirit is concerned with life. Occult knowledge digs downward towards hell and knowledge gained by it will ultimately fail, while “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (Jas. 3:17).


[1] The 2002 Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report” directed by Steven Spielberg uses precogs as a story line. Some other movies that reveal the popularity of ESP abilities are, “The Gift” with Cate Blanchett and Kim Dickens, the 1975 film “Escape to Witch Mountain,” and the 2018 movie, “London Fields” with Billy Bob Thornton and Amber Heard, etc.

Related Topics

Do all Christians speak in tongues?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).