SPOILER ALERT: This post is more of a “What-do-you-think-about-this?” kind of post versus one that offers some closing point and life application. In fact, this post could stir up a bit of controversy. I’m not here to pass any judgment on fellow Believers who hold different views or to accuse any brothers or sisters of being less holy. Rather, this is me openly admitting I don’t have everything figured out, and sharing where I’m at in this process. Okay, now that we’re clear on that…
Something that I’ve been wrestling with for about a year now has been to what extent, or even if, Christians should be involved with, consume media containing, or generally approve of magic. I have witnessed or read/heard about people who fall on various points on this spectrum over the years, and I have been a part of the inconsistent crowd that rejected Harry Potter but embraced Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I have to admit, I always felt a bit stupid trying to justify why one magic-based series was fine and another wasn’t. Maybe if someone wrote a book about finding Christ in Harry Potter, many in the Evangelical church would welcome in the boy wizard from Hogwarts as they did Gandalf the Grey and look for veiled Gospel allegories.
For many years, the LOTR/Hobbit saga and Narnia series have been among my favorite books and movies. They are epic in the most literal sense of that word. They are exciting and fun to watch as good triumphs against all odds over seemingly overwhelming evil. Furthermore, my kids have grown up, as I did, relishing Disney cartoons with magic-wielding characters from mice to long-haired damsels to blue singing genies.
The theme of magic has not been one that elicited any substantial spiritual revulsion on my part until recently. There are a few parts in some of the aforementioned movies that caused discomfort, particularly in the Hobbit films, where incantations and other dark languages were being spoken (even by the “good” guys). Initially, I suppressed those feelings because I didn’t want to begin to consider what implications they might have for my continued enjoyment of the rest of the movies. Then, about a year ago, I believe the Lord led me to a passage of Scripture I had not read in quite some time.
One of the things God addressed with the Israelites as He was preparing them to enter into the Promised Land of Canaan was essentially what we might sum up in one word as “magic.” He said in Deuteronomy 18: 10-13,
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.
“Well, that’s the Old Testament,” some may argue. Others I’ve spoken with have said, “Well, sure, but that’s not ‘innocent’ stuff like ‘good magic’ or Disney.” But is it really? How are we to know where the line is between what’s acceptable or not to the Lord? If all the things listed in those verses above are “an abomination” (hated, disliked) by God, then is it ok for us to willingly fill our minds and expend our resources via books, movies, toys, theme parks and other mediums that promote and glorify them? If God hates something so intensely that He set forth death as a punishment for those who practiced them, should we not flee from that thing, whatever it may be?
My response, my choice that I have made for my family is that we will not watch, read or otherwise support movies and books that condone magic. It has not been easy. We constantly run the risk of offending friends who don’t share similar convictions, and my kids sometimes have to suggest other movies when with a group of kids choosing what to watch. Maybe I’m wrong, and in time God will reveal that to me. But, maybe I’m not. Since I don’t know for sure, I’ve decided to err on the side of caution. I realize this could sound very legalistic, and I understand that completely. However, legalism is when we obey a man-made restriction or requirement that either takes something God said to an extreme or is something above and beyond what the Bible says. In the case of magic, God actually has said something about it; but, our culture has said something completely different about what’s acceptable. So, let me ask, is abstaining from magic books and movies really legalism, or does it only seem so because of how counter-cultural it is (even within Christian culture)?
The way I see it, magic is counterfeit supernatural. We long for manifestations of the supernatural, I think, because a reality exists beyond our typical comprehension that is supernatural and to which there remains a faint echo. Magic is counterfeit because it’s intended to satisfy a longing that can only be truly filled by the wonders of God and the new creation that awaits those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
There’s also the fact that Jesus’ miracles (and those of the Apostles) can seem to children like magic, which they are not. They are demonstrations of the power of God. Magic is but a counterfeit. One of my children asked me a few months back to explain how what Jesus did was different than what a wizard or magician can do. I suspect they are not the only child who has questioned the difference. Consider as well the “magic” of Santa Claus and how many attributes he supposedly shares with our omnipotent, omnipresent God. Santa is yet another widely embraced and celebrated supernatural counterfeit (and one that many parents lie to their children about and then eventually have to explain how God is real and Santa isn’t).
There’s no lack of YouTube videos of people warning of the Satanic dangers of Walt Disney (who some say was a 33-degree Freemason and promoter of witchcraft), Harry Potter and other magic books and movies. Are some of these people kooky? Sure. Are some of their beliefs fringe? Absolutely. Does that mean everything they say is false? No.
So, what do I do with all this information? How can I strike a proper balance? Can I reject some of Disney’s movies and enjoy others? Can I read C.S. Lewis’ books about God and theology even though he might be largely to blame for making magic acceptable to Christians? Here’s one for you: I am sinful. Does that mean you should never read any of my blog posts?
I guess it really comes down to seeking God’s leading and discernment through His Holy Spirit and doing what Paul admonishes us to do in Romans 12:9 – “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Maybe God will reveal to me someday that I have needlessly withheld fun entertainment from my family. Then again, maybe someday I’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” At the worst, our lives are not very magical. At best, we are drawing nearer to the heart of the God.
What are your thoughts?
2 thoughts on “Magic – to shun, or not to shun?”
Thanks, brother, for being honest and setting your face toward Jesus… I’m interested in hearing what other folks in your purview think about this…
I really agree with you about the longing in our hearts for spiritual things…. but I suspect that most of the supernatural things that pop culture is pointing to aren’t as God “facing” or parallel… Most of it would be very humanistic and “man” facing.
Our family will continue to struggle through this topic as well…
David, I was excited to find your blog today. I posted on the same topic this morning. I admit that I’m a little more black and white. (Some people don’t think that’s a virtue!) I believe there is a danger in participating in divination, and many Christians seem to be ignorant of that fact. You can check out my post, “Do You Believe In Magic?” Thanks for posting on this topic. Blessings!