For over ten years now, the Tasmanian anti-Christian arts festival known as Dark Mofo has been both publicly and privately funded to the tune of over $100 million dollars. Just last year, the State Government gave $7.5 million to the festival, with the Federal Government and Hobart City Council chipping in a further $1,000,000 and $500,000 respectively. But both of those figures pale in comparison to the reportedly $41 million lost by David Walsh, the owner of MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) a couple of years ago in running Dark Mofo and associated festivals.

And yet, contrary to the comments of the Lord Mayor, Anna Reynolds, it seems difficult to discern whether Winter Fest really has changed the city of Hobart for the better. Just take, for instance, the garish neon-red crosses scattered throughout the city, replete with the billboard at the airport “Welcome to Hell”.

As if that were not bad enough, last year some of the crosses were inverted, just in case visitors to Tasmania were in any doubt as to the festival’s subversive goal. Somewhat understandably, many Christians objected to the publicly offensive display. Christopher Brohier, the Tasmanian director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was quoted in a media statement to the ABC:

The ACL calls on all Tasmanians to take a stand against Dark Mofo and their blatant agenda to bring hell to earth and for the Tasmanian government to act swiftly to reverse the growing reputation of Tasmania as the Australian state that welcomes evil.”

Is it really that serious?

But surprisingly, not all followers of Jesus understand the malevolent spiritual influence which Dark Mofo presents. For example, the director of the University of Tasmania Fellowship of Christians, told the ABC:

            “Hanging a cross upside down is like a Grade 12 art installation, so just chill out.”

Now I can understand why a ministry colleague in the same city as myself might want to call for calm. We live in a day and age of almost perpetual outrage, and the impact of social media only adds fuel to the fire. What’s more, organisations like this thrive on being shocking and provocative and so becoming upset simply gives them even more publicity.

But is that really all that Dark Mofo is? As always, context is the key here. The presence of an inverted cross is perhaps on its own somewhat innocuous. That is until you realise that Dark Mofo has included over the years everything from a ritualistic nude swim, the slaughter of a bull in a “bloody sacrificial ritual”, and a bevy of pornographic performances. All of a sudden one realises that no high school on earth would consider any of these subjects as appropriate for artistic display.   

What the Bible says about Satan

As will be seen below, a quick over-view of the Bible’s teaching reveals that the Devil is described in a multiplicity of ways:

  • The serpent in the Garden of Eden who led the first man and woman into sinful rebellion (Gen. 3)
  • An explicit condemnation of witchcraft, divination etc (Deut. 18:9-13)
  • A real spiritual being who can cause tremendous tragedy and personal harm (Job 1-2)
  • An accuser of the people of God who seeks their condemnation (Zech. 3:1)
  • To torment and destroy those who have been made in God’s image (Mk. 5:1-20)
  • To cause physically harm and death (Mk. 9:22)
  • The “father of lies” and a “murderer” (Jn 8:44)
  • The ruler of the kingdom of the air who enslaves unbelievers in their sin (Eph. 2:1-3)
  • A “schemer” who seeks to divide the body of Christ (2 Cor. 2:5-11)
  • The “god of this world who has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4)
  • The heavenly principalities and powers at work through human agents on earth now (Eph. 6:10-11)
  • The prince of this world (John 12:31)
  • The one who tempts people into disobeying God’s law (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:5)
  • The ministry of false teachers (2 Cor. 12:13-15; Gal. 3:1)
  • A powerful false teacher who can perform all kinds of counterfeit signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:1-12)
  • An adversary who continues to try and make Christians stumble (Jam. 4:7)
  • A roaring lion who roams throughout the earth seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8)
  • The figure of the anti-Christ and associated minions (1 Jn 2:18; 2 Jn 7-11)
  • To cause hatred and harm (1 Jn 3:11-15)
  • A dragon who will one day be defeated once and for all (Rev. 12:9-12)

Once all of these truths are taken into consideration, we ought to beware of spiritually naïve responses. An inverted cross is a sign of something much more sinister.

Learning from the Puritan Past

One of the best and most thorough examinations of this particular topic was by the Puritan William Perkins (1558-1602). Thankfully, Perkin’s complete works are now available through Reformation Heritage. Volume Nine contains a hundred plus page examination on the subject with the ominous title, “A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft”. 

The whole treatise is worth reading, but the first section “The Nature of Witchcraft” is especially valuable and pertinent when considering whether the presence of an inverted cross is innocuous or insidious. Perkins makes the following eight points:

First, witchcraft is an ‘art’. Not in the artistic sense that it is meant to portray meaning or beauty, but Perkins rightly understands that witchcraft follows certain superstitious grounds and principles. These rules are authored by Satan himself and transmitted to various wicked men and women who seek to learn them, but in so doing are led astray (Rev. 2:24).

Second, witchcraft is a wicked act which will incur the judgment of Almighty God. To practise witchcraft is an act of spiritual rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23) and is to follow the lusts of the sinful flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). As such, no one who practises these things will inherit eternal life.

Third, witchcraft produces genuine, but false, signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:1-12). Perkins poses the question, “Why are we inclined to desire to follow Satan?” And the answer he provides is, because ever since the Garden we have wanted to usurp God and take His place for ourselves. This is manifested in two ways:

  1. When we seek material riches by the Devil’s means, short-circuiting God’s providence (Matt. 4:8-9). Interestingly, Perkins notes that “Certain popes attained the papacy by this means, hazarding their conscience as well as losing their souls.”
  2. When we become overly curious, searching out truths which God would have kept secret. Hence, one receives ‘knowledge’ or ‘fame’ which one wouldn’t have normally received through natural means.

Fourth, witchcraft is practised with the assistance of the Devil. The spiritual power or efficacy of witchcraft is through a “mutual confederacy” with Satan. Thus, Perkins says, “The power effecting such strange works is not in the art of witchcraft itself, nor does it flow from the skill of the sorcerer—be they either a man or a woman—but is derived wholly from Satan.”

Fifth, all true wonders are from God alone. Anything which is truly a ‘miracle’, that is, something which is created and did not occur before, can only be done by the sovereign power of Almighty God.

Sixth, false wonders are a perversion of God’s creation. In direct contrast to the previous point, Satan can only twist, distort and pervert the ways of God rather than create anything new. For example, in Exodus 7-8 we read how the Egyptian magicians can only magnify the plagues (more blood and frogs) rather than stop or alleviate them. As Perkins says while “they can alter the ordinary course of nature” they cannot create, abolish or change what is. What’s more, the Devil is able to perform these “strange works” in four ways:

  1. Since Satan is a spirit and not bound by flesh and boundaries, he can “search more deeply and narrowly into the grounds of things than all corporal creatures”. As such, the Devil is a creature “of great understanding, knowledge and capacity”.
  2. The Devil is an ancient spirit. For at least 6,000 years he has had the opportunity to observe the nature and property of things, even truths which have long been forgotten. This has given him the opportunity to observe and learn a great deal.
  3. The Devil is a spirit “of wonderful power and might”. As such, he can shake the earth and confound creatures’ inferior to him in nature and condition.
  4. Due to his spiritual nature, the Devil has an ability to convey himself (and even other creatures) to far distant places. He also has the ability to enter into the substance of another creature “without penetration of dimensions”. Whenever he does, he can take over their faculties.

Seventh, the nature of the Devil’s wonders are both illusory and real. Perkin’s observations here are intriguing and he makes two major distinctions.

  1. On the one hand, there are ‘illusory’ deceptions. This is a work of Satan whereby someone is deluded or deceived. Outwardly, this can happen through a corruption of the senses (e.g. the eyes, brain) or by altering the air (e.g. fog, smoke, drug induced hallucinogen). Note the specific use of “betwitched” by Paul in Gal. 3:1. Or another example is that of the “appearance” of Samuel to Saul by the summons of the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28) which Perkins says was not really Samuel but a counterfeit copy.
  2. On the other hand, there are ‘real’ delusions which the LORD permits the Devil to perform while not being above or beyond the power of nature. For instance, in the opening chapters of the book of Job, Satan is responsible for calamities as varied as fire from heaven, a mighty wind, murderous thieves and horrible sickness. As Perkins explains, “Satan understands how the physical properties of God’s creation works such that he can apply “creature to creature” in achieving his destructive and devilish will”.

Eighth, witchcraft exists under the sovereign justice of God. All of this occurs under the Sovereign Hand of God for both the “trial of his children or for the punishment of the wicked” (Deut. 13:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:10-11). Perkins says it is crucial to understand that the Devil doesn’t have free reign but can only do what the LORD allows (i.e. 1 Kgs 22:22; Mk 5:12-13; 1 Sam. 16:23; Job 1:12; 2:6).

The Real and Present Danger

When seen in the light of everything else Dark Mofo celebrates, the choice to erect inverted crosses throughout the city of Hobart is seeking to make a nefarious point. David Walsh and his artistic director Leigh Carmichael are artistically expressing the spirit of ‘Anti-Christ’. And as such, this is something definitely not to “chill out” about but to be deeply concerned by.

This is even more so the case this year as Dark Mofo has promoted a pornographic program involving the figure of Christ. Even more alarmingly, as the website itself explains. “Explore the territory of female archetypes inside this demented dollhouse. You can’t just be a voyeur. You must participate.”

This is why we must warn people of the real and present danger they are in. For while these kinds of festivals might be financially lucrative—it is estimated that Dark Mofo alone generates $50 million in tourist revenue each year—they are spiritual destructive and damaging to one’s soul. As the apostle John writes:

Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. And such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 Jn. 7-11)

– Mark Powell