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The Magic Bible

Scripture’s full of magic. What else would you call a Book whose first three chapters contain a Tree of Life, the fruit of which can cause one to live forever, a talking serpent, an angel with a flaming sword whohoudiniposter.jpg guards the Tree, and an all-supreme spirit Being Who exists in trinity and creates the universe with a spoken word? Sounds pretty fantastic to me.

Nevertheless, Christians are uptight about magic. Go figger.

Right now, much of the ire’s aimed at the release of the final Harry Potter book. The controversy has illuminated an interesting divide amongst believers. A recent article in the Washington Post entitled Christian Fantasy Genre Builds Niche without Hogwarts, Muggles, or Spells, highlights said divide:

The use of magical powers by humans is a controversial theme for Christian writers and readers. They cite this biblical verse from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”

“If God says these things are wrong, unless you don’t believe in the Bible, you don’t want to argue with God,” said Marcia Montenegro, an Arlington author and speaker who campaigns against what she calls the use of the occult in the Potter books and elsewhere in popular culture.

Many religious leaders have rejected such objections. They have said that the books have a white witch.JPGstrong moral message. Some even see Christian symbolism in them.

Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books. Catholic News Service, an entity of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has put them on its list of recommended children’s books.

Nonetheless, critics have said that J.K. Rowling’s series gives Harry Potter deity-like powers, although he has no known religion. Critics also say that the books lack a definitive portrayal of good and evil. (Harry does engage in some occasional fibbing, and his skills at deceiving adults are well honed). A few critics have said that the lightning-bolt scar on Harry’s forehead represents the mark of the antichrist.

Actually, Harry’s in good company. Both Narnia and Middle Earth have been accused of similar nasties — like advocating spells and magic, employing pagan symbolism, and corrupting the minds of our youth.

When it comes to controversies like this, a simple principle has always guided me: FICTION IS FICTION. pp-bible3.jpgThere is a fundamental difference between, for instance, The Book of Acts and The Hobbit. One is real, the other is make-believe. But both contain magic.

Sure, fiction contains ideas, beliefs, worldviews which we must decipher and weigh. But, being it is fiction, the weighing is far different than of, say, fact. In other words, it is far more important that the Apostle Paul really existed than Bilbo Baggins. . . though both slayed their dragons. This doesn’t mean we wink at Bilbo’s indiscretions (after all, those Shire folk were known for the tweed), but that we give Paul’s story far more credence. We are free to object to Bilbo’s smoking habit and still enjoy his tale. But we do not have the luxury of piecemeal obedience to Paul’s Epistle to the Galations. Why? Because one is true, the other is not.

While Scripture condemns witchcraft, wizardry, necromancy, and occultism, it also blows the doors off the human imagination. The Bible affirms a world of magic, mystery, and wonder — a universe which boggles the mind. Still, Christians are often guilty of putting God in a box. I wonder that the same believers who fret about Gandhalf’s spells and Narnia’s Jadis, the White Witch, are the same ones who reject super-naturalism as a whole. While the Bible speaks of visions, tongues, healing, discernment, miracles, words of knowledge and prophecy, these folks spend their lives nit-picking the application, or advocating the absence, of these wondrous gifts. In that case, however, they won’t be guilty of sorcery, just legalism.T304824A.jpg

The Bible I read is magic. No, it’s not a spell book. But it frames a world of mystery, where the extraordinary intersects the mundane, where hellish and heavenly beings wage fierce battle for the souls of humanity, where the world plummets toward an unspeakable Armageddon and a Great White Throne. It contains such fantastical tales as:

  • Joshua causing the sun to stand still for a day (Joshua 10:11-14)
  • The parting of the Red Sea
  • The witch of Endor summoning the ghost of a dead prophet (I Sam. 28:6-8)
  • Trumpet blasts bringing down the walls of a city (Joshua 6)
  • Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:23)
  • Elisha leaving earth in a flaming chariot drawn by fiery horses (II Kings 2:11)
  • Ezekiel’s fiery wheels and cherubim descending in a whirlwind (Ez. 1:1-28)
  • Jonah being swallowed by a whale and living three days in its belly
  • A talking jackass (Num. 22:26-30)
  • Moses turning his staff into a serpent (Ex. 7:10)
  • Saul being knocked off his horse by a light from heaven and a disembodied voice
  • Tongues of fire resting over believers’ heads
  • Philip being instantly transported to another location (Acts 8:39-40)
  • Jesus — and Peter! — walking on water
  • Four creatures covered with eyes around a heavenly throne (Rev. 4:7)
  • A City with gates of pearl in another dimension where the souls of the just spend eternity

acts6b.jpgAnd there’s so much more! But maybe the greatest of all these marvelous tales is the one of the perfect Prince Who came to earth and gave Himself for the sin of humanity, only to be executed and raised, forever, from the dead. Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, Aslan and all the Pevensies combined cannot contain the magic of that one Story.

Probably because it’s Fact, not Fiction.

So maybe we should lighten up on ol’ Harry. He may have a flying broomstick, but he doesn’t have a magic Bible.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Heather Goodman July 20, 2007, 1:59 PM

    I’m currently reading a book called From Homer to Harry Potter (can’t remember the authors off the top of my head), but I think you would really enjoy it. It talks about the true meaning of myth, which is something I’m passionate about and have posted about before, and these same sort of things that you’re talking ’bout.

  • dayle July 20, 2007, 3:56 PM

    I think we sometimes underestimate the ability of our youth to seperate fact from fiction.

    When I was a kid, I somehow, almost instinctively, knew the difference. I enjoyed fantasy and science fiction fantasy blends as an excercise of imagination. Sort of like playing cowboys and indians – except I didn’t have to come up with the story lines: There they were on the screen. ( Jedi Knights using the force – count me in. ) I didn’t believe it was real – it was play time.

    I think the movies are well made and I enjoyed them . . .

    But, let me play advocate for the other side.

    The fear is that if we continually blur the line between good and bad – this will have an effect on the impressionable youth.

    If the good guys cheat, steal, and use witchcraft, then the message will be that it’s okay to flirt with the tools of evil – just as long as you’re not as evil as the bad guys.

    This could possibly lead to a greater acceptance of relative morality. The bar of moral standards will then only have to rise slightly above the bad around us.

  • janet July 20, 2007, 6:22 PM

    I’m loving Harry Potter. Almost done with book 2 and heading for 3. I don’t feel even the slightest niggling of guilt about it either, even though some of my dear brothers and sisters would not approve. I feel the same way you do, Mike, and very much enjoyed this post– especially the question you posed: are the people making such a stink about HP the same ones who balk at tongues, healings, supernatural stuff in general? Good question. Supernatural stuff is scary for some because we can’t control it. But I’m glad I have a magical, powerful God I can’t control.

  • Mirtika July 20, 2007, 7:53 PM

    I’ve been writing a post I owed Gina for Novel Journey and you just rendered it moot, citing most of what I was going to say.

    Sheesh.

    Now what am I gonna write?

    Mir

  • Mirtika July 20, 2007, 7:54 PM

    Oh, and the journalist made an error. Dobson does NOT promote the Potter books and has written a clarification about his position that’s the OPPOSITE Of the article’s.

    Mir

  • Mirtika July 20, 2007, 8:10 PM

    The good guys do bed dames they ought not (or dudes), cheat, lie, and kill.

    Lot is called “just” by Peter, and let me tell you, he sure liked his booze and ended up so drunk he banged his daughters without knowing it. Tells me big drinking issues with the good guy there.

    And some of those named among the greats of faith in Hebrews 11 did some skanky things. David and Samson, among them. And Rahab fibbed a big one, not to mention what she did for a living.

    We’d like to think the good guys are always good, but, er, not really. That’s not how it goes.

    Mir

  • dayle July 20, 2007, 9:15 PM

    Good Timing, Mike.

    Check this out. http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=49750&cl=3404567&ch=49799&src=news

    Church of England releases a Harry Potter book to help bring children closer to Jesus.

  • Ame July 21, 2007, 5:36 AM

    oh, gosh, you’re not gonna tell me to quit believing in Santa Claus, are you?! 😉

  • Mike Duran July 21, 2007, 1:27 PM

    Thanks for all the great comments! Heather , ever since I read Lewis’ preface to George MacDonald’s Phantastes I’ve been fascinated with the subject of myth as well. Only later did I realize that some Christians immediately hedge at any connection between Christianity and myth — even if it means the “completion” of that myth. However, if God loves the pagan and longs to reach them, if He’s put “eternity in their hearts” (Eccl.), it only stands to reason that the stories emerging from our ranks will reflect that God-hauntedness. Could such myth be found in Potter? Why not?

    Dayle, I agree with you about “the ability of our youth to seperate fact from fiction.” This idea of “flirting with the tools of evil” is important. However, the Bible is not always clear about such distinctions either. For instance, we are told that murder is wrong — but David murdered. We are told that lust is wrong — but Samson lusted. We are told that lying is wrong — but Jacob lied. We are told drunkenness is wrong — but Noah got drunk. And these stories are in Scripture! Obviously, the fact that a person, real or fictional, commits evil, does not immediately render their life and actions — or God’s work with them — moot. This goes for Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling. We’re all a bundle of contradictions that only God can untangle.

    Bottom line: We must affirm, intuit and discern truth and its application on a daily basis. This is a far bigger issue than what kinds of books / movies we let our kids consume. It is a discipline, a lifestyle, a paradigm for living. In fact, books and movies are precisely the crucible for applying their discernment. An “impressionable youth” who is properly “impressed” by their parents will not need to be told that David’s adultery was wrong, just like they won’t need to be told that broomsticks don’t fly.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • dayle July 21, 2007, 5:06 PM

    Mike, I think there is a difference between overcoming your sins and using your sins.

    The heroes of the Bible had to overcome them and they always paid a price for them. They accomplished great things because they allowed God to work through them – but there was always a price when they faultered.

    Once again, I’m justing playing advocate for the other side here.

    But if our pop culture heroes use their sin to accomplish their good or glorify their sin while accomplishing their good – that is different than accomplishing great things through God despite your sins.

    God would not have allowed our Biblical heroes to use witchcraft to accomplish their heroics. They always acknowledged that God was the source of their power.

    And, I do believe that this is the crux of the anti-Potter crowd.

  • Gina Holmes July 22, 2007, 8:50 PM

    Mir, I’m glad to know it’s at least still on your mind. I’m very much looking forward to that article and the fact that you and Mike were using the same arguments simply proves great minds think alike.

  • pawnbroker June 4, 2011, 3:46 PM

    There’s a huge difference between obedient miracles and rebellious witchcraft ! the bible is full of both Good and evil… the choice is ours to follow our own path or His path. II Sam says rebellion is witchcraft and believe with me it’s very very real, however it’s just cracker jack prizes that lead to hell where obedience and repentance lead to true power. alot of people are unaware of the stories of the fallen watchers of the book of enoch and the book of jasher. I must omit when I googled” giant bones” I about fell off my chair to see bones of 40 ft giants myself.

    Many think just belief in Christ will get you to heaven but in james 2 it says even the devils believe In Christ and faith without works is dead which means to obey and repent is a key to power.Belief ON Christ is power. Another thing most people have no idea of is the 5 STRONG powers Christ gave us ALL who just believe in His name (Using it ) just before He assended into heaven along with the spiritual gifts of true believers of the true Christ that returns AFTER the antichrist shows up to fool many II thess, corinth, matt 24, luke 21, mark 13, rev. By the way what do you think happened to all those angels satan fooled before physical elements were made? We’re them! of course nonbelievers will use the term alien hee hee. 🙂

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