Ronald MacDonald has taken what the Lovin’ Spoonful (1965) has given us and delivered it to us between two hamburger buns. Yes we believe in magic, the world wants to believe, but is that OK with you dear Christian? As I mentioned previously I read all the Harry Potter books and watched all the movies. They were great! That obviously tells you a bit of the direction I am going in, but let’s talk about why. The argument seems to go well don’t your read your Bible? Haven’t you read Deuteronomy 18:9-14
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God ,for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.
Well yes, yes I have. The question is what does this mean for us today? This seems pretty straightforward, do not practice the stuff. Do not consult mediums, do not seek out fortune-telling, do not use tarot cards, etc. This is not simply the case in the Old Testament because these practices are condemned in the New by Paul in Acts 13.
When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water they thought they were witnessing magic calling him a ghost. When the people saw the miracles performed by the disciples they may have thought they were witnessing magic, a magician tried to pay money for it. Pharaoh tried to duplicate God’s miracles with Magicians. Magic is a real thing and that is why God warns against it. There is real power behind magic fueled by the enemy. The Pharisees accused Jesus of doing his miracles by a very real but other power. Jesus then explained to the Pharisees what blasphemy is. It concerned Jesus when they equated his power with the power of Satan to say the least. The difference seems to lie in the source of power. The question becomes where is the power coming from? The Bible paints the picture of either from God or from the enemy. True enough.
So there is good power to be tapped from the Holy Spirit and evil power from the enemy. So some may ask the question about white magic versus black? The response is the Bible does not distinguish, both are not from God. God gives his own power and the enemy tries to duplicate it. Actual power, actual sources. If you are engaging in actual sources, seeking actual power then you are in violation of the Bible and you are opening yourself up to other worldly spirits. The New Testament warns us about even blaspheming the heavenly beings of which we have little understanding. (2 Peter 2:10, Jude)Do not engage them, do not seek their power or influence, they are real, but we are protected from them. Our God is greater.
OK, but what about reading a book that has it in it? Or a movie that includes it? Or playing a game that uses it as a game-play mechanic? What is that exactly, how does that work? Now that is a good question.
So how does this translate to works of fiction? Fiction creates worlds and world views and fantasy is not based in reality. For example, is the force from Star Wars demonic? Or is it George Lucas’s way of communicating a world view in which his story is framed? A different world view perhaps?”The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Ben Kenobi to Luke Skywalker aboard the Millennium Falcon. (1977).
This is essentially the main story element to the Star Wars Universe. Now this has obvious eastern philosophical thinking influences. But does that mean George is pushing Hinduism? No, he is simply creating a backdrop for telling the story of the Skywalkers. I am free to take away what I want from the story, for instances: Light sabers are cool, The Force is cool, and Han Solo is cool. The question becomes is this OK for the Christian to read, watch, enjoy? Well the answers seems obvious, no? Star Wars is fine, leave Star Wars alone! Houdini!
Jude borrows ideas from the book of Enoch. The book of Enoch is as a superstitious and magical a book as they come, there is a reason it is not included in the Cannon, but it is still useful for understanding. Paul even quotes from Greek poets and to get his point across in Acts which would be considered foolish superstitious idolatry in and of itself, but he found it useful for the gospel. So how it is used is also important
But what about other works of fiction that are not so conspicuous? Harry Potter sets up a universe where magic is real and there are witches and wizards living right under our noses. Magic in this case is simply a story telling feature that gives supernatural elements a defining and working set of rules. Magic is what describes the powers that these individuals have. It is setting up a world view where this is the norm, this is not about Satan versus God. The magic is a part of the world, simply hidden from view. It does have good versus evil, there is a difference.
Back to the Star Wars example. It is the same with science fiction. In science fiction the magic factor is how the author solved the problem that science can’t in the real world answer. Just give it some sort of future sounding technology and move along. How do you blow up a planet? The Death Star obviously. But to use a more extreme example? Super hero movies, where do the powers come from? Often from an accident or an extreme circumstance. But to push our “Christian” rote answer would be to say “Is the power from God, no? Then it is from Satan!” Therefore do not watch or read comic book hero movies. Do you see how this line of reasoning doesn’t engage the mind very well, and will never reach a culture that does?
“Some would then say well magic is different it is named in the Bible. Like I said, the point is the source of power. If in real life all actual magic comes from Satan then fine I agree. But if an author sets up magic as part of the governing rules to communicate the way his universe works, we should not equate that with Satan and God. An author is allowed to think outside the cosmological box. The author who creates gets to set the stage and decide. Now obviously an author can choose to equate magic with the demonic, that is different. But this is not often the case because even authors know what Satanism represents and often want to distance themselves from it. But even in cases when authors do use Satanism in books it is usually the easy way to communicate “Well this person or movement is just plain Evil.” They are trying to sell books after all.
So if an author uses a setting with Magic, we need to realize this is their attempt to explain something away. There is no reason to attribute this to actual evil. Even when an author does use the demonic and angelic they are typically setting up a dualism which still fails to capture the reality of magic, the world view is still different. Also for a Christian to hold rules this strict is to condemn C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. What we really end up saying is that some parts of culture simply cannot be redeemed. But the Christian should be redeeming culture as C.S.Lewis and J.R. Tolkien did to fantasy, not condemning them for using magic and wizards as a narrative tool.
What we really end up saying is people are not free to use their imagination.
What the Bible is getting at is contacting the powers behind the magic which again comes back to the source. If authors are getting rid of those sources of power and creating something else we should not force them to take up the demonic side because of our failure to engage. As Jesus reminds in Mark 9, if someone wants to do good let’s not condemn them because it doesn’t look specifically like a Christian good.
I agree with the Bible, avoid contacting the powers, and avoid pagan cultic practices, and if any of these stories do encourage you to do these then by all means cast them away. Or if in a certain case the author is trying to influence you then by all means burn the book. But perhaps it does create a temptation for you, then realize this is an example of the individuals temptation. So if they create a temptation for you then by all means distance yourself but do not condemn a brother who does not also feel tempted. But watching a stage magician or illusionist is not different from reading fiction with magical elements in it. They are both fake. The Bible is concerned with the actual spirits and powers not the mere labels of magic being added to make-believe.
This is like saying all secular music is from Satan and all Christian music is from God. A Christian needs to think in broader categories than this. There are more colors than black and white and I am not talking about the many shades of grey. The Christian needs to evaluate all his entertainment with wisdom not with rote fear. A Christian needs to properly evaluate all aspects of life, we have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bath-water on a lot of things. Maybe someone in your life has had a bad experience with this or that issue, then please, safe guard yourself. But let’s not create new laws for others in order to distance everyone from the actual commandments as the Pharisees did. Jesus always brought them back to what was written not what they believed.
Next time you are watching or reading something and start to freak out because there is a mummy on-screen or talk of the force or someone is casting a lightning bolt at a goblin pause, take a breath, and ask yourself these questions If anything, what is this encouraging me to do, me to feel? Do these violate Christian principles? Then apply as appropriate. But allow God to move differently in others as far as your temptations go.
So go out there and cheer for Gob Bluth on his merits as a magician, not just because his job does or doesn’t incorporate magic. I really believe that the Christian needs to take the time to examine what is going on in their entertainment, by critically thinking about it, not simply by running from it.
Christians should be engaging culture not getting ready for the next witch hunt.