The zodiac—regularly found in the horoscope section of many magazines—features both ancient astronomy and astrology. In historical astronomical terms, the zodiac was the separation of the sky into 12 divisions that follow the path of the sun as it circles in its orbit throughout the year. It also includes the orbits of the moon and planets.
Astrology, on the other hand, combines knowledge of the stars and constellations with a magical understanding of the world. It had its beginnings in Babylon almost 3000 years ago, when Chaldean priests read the entrails of animals to foretell the future. In astrological terms, the divisions of the zodiac were called “signs,” from which the term “star signs” is known, even today.
Ptolemy, an ancient mathematician and author of several scientific treatises, wrote about the zodiac back in the second century A.D. In his work Tetrabiblos, he combined astronomy with astrology, thereby laying the basis for the system of horoscopes still used today. It’s a system that imputes to the constellation of stars an influence over every human being on earth. Thus, a fortune-teller wants to know your birthday, and sometimes even the time of your birth, to determine which stars influence your life.
As convincing as horoscope predictions can seem today, there are several problems the so-called astrologers have failed to address.
Distance. The impact of the moon on this world is readily seen in the tides of the oceans. However, stars, infinitely more distant than the moon and with no appreciable effect on our oceans, are believed to affect humans. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that on the same day and at the same time, different stars are supposed to affect different people differently!
Changes. Not all of the major stars and planets are used in predictions made by astrologers, especially planets discovered in the recent past. These include Pluto (which has been reclassified as an ice-dwarf planet), Uranus and Neptune. There are also stars closer to earth than the ones cited in the zodiac, but these aren’t included in astrologers’ calculations. Why not? If stars and planets are meant to affect our lives, surely we need to include all of them.
Another problem with giving the stars any control over our lives today is that when the zodiac system was introduced thousands of years ago, nothing was known of axial precession—the movement of the constellations in relation to the movement of the earth as it “wobbles” on its axis in a cycle of approximately 26,000 years. Over time, this has brought a shift in the positioning of the constellations in relation to the sun, and many who believe they are under the sign of one star could now very well be under the sign of another.
Unanswered questions. Why do astrologers calculate from the moment of a person’s birth and not from the moment of conception? Maybe the baby isn’t affected so long as it’s in the mother’s womb. If babies are born inside buildings, would the moment of birth be affected by stars so far away? And how can the position of the sun and planets arbitrarily defined as “starsigns” at the time of one’s birth affect one’s personality?
The reality is where we’re born and the family into which we’re born influence our lives far more than the stars in the sky. If you were born in an African village with poor parents, obviously your life would be different from if you were born into a rich family in the Western world.
Our own choices in life will also affect our health, our vocation and our future.
God and the future
Only God knows the future. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles consulted the stars for direction; they always sought the God of heaven for direction (Matthew 26:39; Acts 5:29).
The God of the universe reserves the right to be supreme, and He refuses to share His prerogatives (Isaiah 42:8).
God has revealed our future and our salvation through His prophets, not through the positioning of any stars (Amos 3:7).
Jesus, when tempted by the devil, said, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10).
Paul, when on a ship that was facing shipwreck, did not consult any horoscopes. He declared plainly that “an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me” (Acts 27:23).
The Christian counterclaim
So if the stars don’t control our lives, does anything? There are a number of reasons why Christians believe that God knows the future. Let me cite some.
God said so. Isaiah 46:9, 10 says, “I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.”
Prophecy. God reveals the future in the Bible. The book of Daniel foretells the future of the world from Daniel’s day (around 600 B.C.) to the second coming of Christ. It happened like this: King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that even his royal astrologers could not explain (Daniel 2:10). But God gave the explanation to Daniel—a young Jewish man who was serving in the king’s court. He predicted that Babylon, then the most powerful empire in the world, would collapse. He also foretold the collapse of the three great world powers that followed Babylon: Media-Persia, Greece and Rome. He also told the king that after Rome’s demise, its territory would break up into 10 kingdoms, which we today know as the nations of Western Europe. The lesson from this is that God, not the stars, is in control of the world’s history.
The story of Jesus. Jesus commanded His disciples to take the story of His life to the world (Matthew 28:20). The story of Jesus and His resurrection made such an impact on His disciples that their lives were transformed. From cowering cowards who fled when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56), they became outspoken witnesses of His story—even to the point of martyrdom. They were fearless before government and religious officials (Acts 5:29), and they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6, NKJV).* The impact of Jesus and His earliest followers is still being felt today, all around the globe. The words of Jesus have been the guiding light for His followers—never the stars!
For the Christian, therefore, the answer is clear:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs” (Isaiah 58:11).
It seems safer, more logical and more comforting to have your life cared for and led by the God who created this world—and us—than to rely on guidance from some stars light-years away.
While people may think they’ve discovered some coincidences in the predictions of fortune-tellers or by reading horoscopes, so many more testify that a loving God cares for His children and leads them in their lives, giving them happiness and peace.
Maybe these words from the well-known shepherd’s psalm would be worth remembering again: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. . . . Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:2–4, 6).
He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13: 5).
If He is with us and for us, no-one can be against us (Romans 8:31).
He promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
His hand will guide us and hold us fast (Psalm 139: 10).
He has great plans for our future (Jeremiah 29:11).
He will give us strength when we are weak (Isaiah 40:29–31).