How can you tell the difference between psychics and prophets? Is there a difference? Do prophets even exist or are they all charlatans? On today’s The 700 Club we’re treated to Pat Robertson’s son, Gordon, stepping in and answering a question on the difference between psychics and prophets. If you want to see his answer before I challenge it, just click on this statement to check it out.
What is the difference between psychics and prophets? Some psychics claim to be Christian and pray to the Lord before any predictions are made. Also, why is it not a sin to heed the advice of a prophet, but it is a sin to heed the advice of a psychic? I’m confused. -Susan
Honestly, contrary to what Robertson claims, the confusion is perfectly understandable. Why should you believe one person claiming to have supernatural powers over another? Is one miraculous and the other fraud? In fact, what’s further confusing is why he’s giving any legitimacy to psychics.
To start refuting this bizarre claim of psychics speaking “demonics spirits” who want to “kill and steal and destroy” (actually, that middle part might be true, but there’s nothing infernal about it), I would like to introduce you to former magician and eternal skeptic James Randi, or, as he was known when he practiced stage magic: The Amazing Randi! You see, Randi has devoted much of his life to debunking claims of psychic, occult, paranormal and supernatural phenomena and exposing those who use it to prey on their fellow man.
Older readers might remember him on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson exposing people like “psychic” Uri Geller and televangelist and supposed “faith healer” Peter Popoff as frauds. In the latter case, Randi, with the help of a team, learned how Popoff was having his wife feed information to him during broadcasts to convince people that God was sharing intimate details before miraculously “healing” them of their illnesses.
For over 50 years, Randi, through the James Randi Educational Foundation, offered a monetary prize to anyone who could demonstrate supernatural or paranormal abilities. The prize began as $1,000 and grew to a $1 million before it was finally discontinued. Not a bad sum.
Unsurprisingly, no one ever claimed it. But then, why should they, when “psychics” like John Edwards, Theresa Caputo, and Tyler Henry could make millions of dollars for themselves on their own TV shows?
Rather than consulting with spirits — demonic or otherwise — psychics use methods to “read” people, such as cold reading, which is essentially spitting out a number of generalizations until people start reacting to them, then honing in and elaborating based on the reactions they get.
Some, such as Tyler Henry who is psychic to the stars, likely supplement this with hot reading, which is researching the targets beforehand. Essentially, that’s what Popoff did with his supposed ministry, by having people fill out “prayer cards” with their pertinent information before his broadcasts, which his wife then read to him through an earpiece.
In Henry’s case, it’s fairly easy to do since he works with celebrities with easily found information. He claims that he doesn’t actually know anything about these celebrities or even really know who they are, but this seems… a bit suspect — especially when the information he shares is stuff that can easily be found with a Google search. Perhaps it’s a bit harsh, but there’s a reason there are the vocal protesters out there calling him a con artist and a “grief vampire.”
If you want a more detailed explanation on how cold reading and psychics operate, I’ll let James Randi himself explain. (The psychic explanation starts around 2:50, but if you want to get his take on homeopathy and pseudoscience, by all means, watch the whole clip):
I encourage you to continue your own investigating into so-called psychics. The point is, contrary to Gordon’s claims, psychics are not speaking with the dead. There is nothing spiritual about what they do. There are no demons guiding them to destroy you. They’re called “grief vampires,” not because there’s anything demonic about them, but because they prey on people who’ve lost loved ones to make money and become famous.
Whether you believe what they do is harmless or not, is up to you.
As for prophets, be just as wary of people who claim the gift of prophecy, as Christianity is far from immune from dubious claims. As we mentioned above, Peter Popoff was an evangelist who made a lot of money by deceiving people in the name of God. Robertson isn’t wrong when he says to look for motivation. Popoff used belief as a tool to enrich himself. Sadly, he’s still a charlatan and is right back at it, once again monetizing religion to sell “holy water” as a miracle healing service in infomercials.
The problem is, when Robertson elaborates by telling you to look for “confirmation,” he isn’t exactly clear on what that means. How can witnesses back it up? By saying, “Yes, we saw this person make that prophecy?” How does that help? By saying “Yes, we received that prophecy too?” Is that how it works? And how does that make it true? Nor does Robertson mention any current prophets who have been proved true and who can be used as guidance.
His father, Pat Robertson, has actually made a number of prophetic claims in the name of God, yet none have come true. In 1980, for instance, he proclaimed that around 1982 the next major war in the world would being and it would be fought in Israel. It did not and was not. He further elaborated this to his staff that year by saying that the Lord told him that His Wrath was coming and it would end in major bloodshed.
Asked later about his prophecies, Robertson backed off of saying that God told him these things and admitted in a phone interview with The New York Times that, “I’ll tell you, in those days, under Jimmy Carter, I honest to goodness thought the end was near. I mean I really did. And I also thought that we were seeing forces coming together in the Middle East that looked like there would be some kind of confrontation over there.”
In 2006, he claimed that the Lord had warned him that strong storms and possibly even a tsunami would strike the Pacific Northwest. They never did. At the beginning of 2007, he claimed that God had warned him of a terrible terrorist attack in the coming year. It never materialized.
He said in 2012 that the Lord flat out told him that Mitt Romney would not only win, he’d win a second term, and a “flood of money” would come into the country. Obama won his second term, and after him, Trump.
Again, by all means, do further research yourself and you’ll find that of the many prophecies Pat Robertson claimed to receive from God, not a single one has come to pass. So yes, beware of false prophets. As the younger Robertson said “It’s not a sin to question it.”
As for the Bible, it’s full of miracles and prophets. Moses, Samuel, Abraham, Deborah, Miriam, Jesus, not to mention any number of nameless “divine messenger”s or “men of God.” What you believe about them as literal fact versus guiding metaphor is a matter of personal faith. These days, while we have plenty of preachers claiming to hear the divine word, we seem to be just as short on true prophets as we are on true psychics.