13 replies
  1. The Whyman
    The Whyman says:

    Point 1
    “…we should not reject the story outright, but take from it what was good and use it as Paul did when he quoted Greek poets at the Aereopogus to the Epicurean philosophers in Acts 17”

    Taking what is “good” from an account or idea isn’t necessarily an advocation of the work itself in its entirity. Paul quotes from the pagan poets to make a point but he didn’t endorse all their writings as being Christian just because of whatever truth that could be found in the snippet.

    Point 2
    “Magic is the furniture of the world, rather than the feature. Its the characters that infuse the magic with the moral meaning. Like money, it is amoral – that is neither right nor wrong: without morality. It all depends on the hand that wields the wand.”

    For the sake of arguement, let us accept the idea that magic is amoral; that it isn’t good or bad, but dependant on the motive of the one that uses it.
    But this is really a moot point as it isn’t magic per se that is being promoted in these books, but witchcraft itself which IS condemned in no uncertain fashion throughout scripture in contrast with the Narnian chronicles.(though personally, I am not too comfortable with some of the contents of the books.)
    Incidentally, even Anton Le Vey admitted that there is no real difference between “white” and “black” magic” as the source of both comes from satan anyway.

    Point 3
    I am not entirely sure what the point is here. I fail to see what I work with here.

    Point 4
    The thrust here seems to be that because the books contain supernatural events as opposed to the naturalistic/materialistic worldview that society is being indoctrinated with today, we should accept it is a good alternative to it.
    May I present Mormonism, Islam, Zoroastrianism or Bahai as a legitimate alternative as they also claim “signs and wonders” as past of their belief systems.
    I should hasten to point out that the antichrist will convince the world through such methods as well…

    Point 5
    “These books are well written”
    So are Isaac Asminov’s works. Intelligently written material isn’t a valid reason for acceptance as Christian literature.

    Conclusion.
    I could well be entirely mistaken, but it seems that the whole reason for promoting the Harry Potter series is because they are enjoyable entertainment with a seemingly moral theme…
    God can certainly hit straight with a crooked stick, but that isn’t to mean that He prefers to operate that way.
    Humans that are really committed to hanging onto something, have the tendancy to find anything to justify their decisions. We can poke through anything, pick out what seems palatable, wash it off and then swallow the rest regardless, or we can accept what God says on the matter.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Christians today have a deep scepticism towards the fantasy genre. I’m not saying this is true of you The Whyman, but as an general comment, I think this cautious scepticism is unjustified.

    There are exceptions of course – I wouldn’t recommend one read some literature. But Harry Potter is not one of them.

    Point 1
    Heilman only opened the door for Christians to interact with the ideas in Harry Potter. It was he that said we should “take what is good” as Paul gave us an example of doing in Acts. So now we have permission to read and think about Harry Potter, what is it we can make of the books?

    Well, I think there is quite a lot to delight in, wholly apart from the Christian worldview this series is written from within. But then you do have the Christian worldview presented, and then the significant moral meaning infused throughout, and then the anagogic symbolism on top of it all. WhyMan the scepticism?

    Point 2
    Lets not mistake the witchcraft condemned in scripture with the witchcraft in Harry Potter. There it is a caricature that is often silly and ridiculous. It is used as an artefact to point somewhere else. Real witchcraft isn’t being promoted there either. This is fantasy…

    Point 3
    …and there’s nothing wrong with imagination. Children can easily distinguish between what is real and the imaginary. And in fact, magic represents “the rags of our lordship,” – a poor reflection of the what the image of God is meant to be.

    Point 4
    But a supernatural worldview does represent a step forward from the predominant naturalistic worldview today. When the supernatural is accepted, then the question can be asked which is legitimate? And of all the cards on the table, Christianity is the Ace that beats all others.

    Point 5
    was supposed to be about the anagogical meaning. I admit I tried to cram too much information in that point and so I understand you getting lost.

    Conclusion.
    Yes, you are mistaken – the reason for promoting Harry Potter is not only they are enjoyable entertainment with a moral theme, but also that it is a doorway into Christianity, into thinking deeply about meaningful issues, into all the classics of literature and language, and even into the history of philosophical thought. Also it represents one of very few shared texts of our generation, that no one should be without if they wish to interact with it. Also that the process of slow mining through the literature can be tremendously beneficial for enquiring and astute minds.

    Finally, I’d just challenge you’re last paragraph to see what your motivations are in rejecting so hastily an altogether masterfully made meal. It may be easy to justify a thing that is wrong, but no more easy than rejecting a thing that is right.

  3. The Whyman
    The Whyman says:

    A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still as someone wisely advised me once. So this will be the last caveat I have to offer:

    Many of the characters in the novels possess supernatural abilities such as:
    – Mind reading
    – Levitation
    – Lycanthropy (shape shifting)
    – Pre-cognitive knowledge of future events – mediumship
    -Necromancy

    Not only are these occultic practices promoted as being skills to strive after; those that do not have these abilities are labeled as ‘muggles’- not because they don’t believe these things are possible, but because they reject them… quite telling.

    A careful reading of Deuteronomy 18:9-12 clearly outline God’s final word on many of these occultic attributes.

    Rather than clearly warn to stay away from what God condemns, entertainment like Harry Potter is being analyzed for its relative merits and demerits. It is the equivalent of looking for some edible morsel of food in a dumpster of maggot-covered garbage. God says to flee these things, not try to find something positive to say about what is already off limits to believers. Too many Christian movie review sites today are not faithfully conveying what God’s Word has to say. Scripture warns us in James 4:4 that friendship with the world is enmity against God. We are not to go running to everything the world has to offer and try desperately to find some redemptive feature in material that is, on its face, rebellion against God.. no matter if the author claims to be Christian.

    Dispite the claims of the expert you quoted, I have seen what impact it has on young minds; how it has inspired them to seek after this hidden knowledge and power.
    Of course, many may well grow out of it, but do not believe for a moment that what one is impressed with from an early age does not shape what they believe later on.

    At a time of rampant biblical illiteracy, urging parents to immerse their children in the Word of God would be a good alternative.

  4. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    But a supernatural worldview does represent a step forward from the predominant naturalistic worldview today.

    I’m not so sure that naturalistic worldviews are the predominant ones today. Most people I know, while skeptical of Christian supernaturalism, are really quite superstitious. It’s only the small but vocal minority of academic atheists who take a view of thoroughgoing naturalism. Joe Normal is still spending millions on psychic hotlines and poring over the astrology section of the daily paper.

  5. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    “Translating” an outline of a book (any book) into a “Christian” theme by making characters out to be religious figures does not make the book “Christian”. You could take any novel and do this, even the blackest and most sordid of them. In my school days, we made present-day political figures the characters of Richard the III: that doesn’t make Richard the III about my country’s politics or politicians. Placing religious figures on Rowling’s characters does not make it a Christian book any more than our placing political figures on Richard the III.

    More practically, everyone knows that Rowling’s mythical creatures, etc., come from earlier mythology: she has said so herself. Even the briefest of searches would reveal this. In particular, she leans on Greek mythology, which is where the Basilisk and Phoenix come from (not ‘Sin’ or ‘Christ’).

    Greek mythology precedes Christianity and certainly J.C., so they can’t be references to either. Furthermore, some of these are represented in other cultures and religions, so again they lie outside of Christianity. (You can take some of these further back in time still, but they are best known to “the general public” as being from Greek mythology . For example, Bennu, the Egyptian firebird bird is an earlier version of the Phoenix; it is supposed to be the soul of the Sun G-d, Ra. Other people use this sort of thing to claim that Christianity is in essence a borrowing from Egyptian and other earlier religions morphed into a new form. You must be aware that by fitting your Christian figures on these older mythical figures that you are an iota away from saying that these older mythical figures are what your Christian figures “really are”.)

    Why get in such a dither about a kids anyway, for goodness sake. The over-arching themes are shared similar because they are long-established cultural themes, esp. for Western cultures.

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Heraclides,

    No one is saying these symbols weren’t acquired from other places. The point is they were acquired, especially by medieval artists, and have a long tradition of representing certain ideas and figures in Christianity because of it. For the general populous, we only recognise the mythology that preceded Christianity, but that does not mean Rowling was ignorant of the medieval traditions and chose to deliberately use those symbols again in her work.

    The ‘long-established cultural themes’ in Harry Potter are for the most part because of Christianity. The debt western culture has to the bible and Christianity is enormous, and its doubtful anyone truly recognises the full scope of it.

  7. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The WhyMan

    Its a pity that was your last caveat. That was the type of comments that encourage thinking and challenge opinions. So I could just turn your first line back to you. :-)

    To your arguments.

    Many of the characters in the novels possess supernatural abilities such as:
    – Mind reading
    – Levitation
    – Lycanthropy (shape shifting)
    – Pre-cognitive knowledge of future events – mediumship
    – Necromancy

    Not only are these occultic practices promoted as being skills to strive after;

    I think again you are confusing the witchcraft that is a part of the real world and condemned in scripture, with a fanciful representation of so-called witchcraft that is in the the land of make believe.

    I think you haven’t read the books. Mind reading (Legilimency) is a skill possessed by only the Dark Lord, Snape and Dumbledore (our Fatherly figure) though its a question mark if he ever uses it. Snape only uses it when teaching Harry, our ‘Every-man,’ how to defend himself against the Dark Lord attacking his mind, and on Dumbledore’s orders. So the skill is only associated with the evil characters who no one aspires to. But the skill of protecting the mind is sought after and preferred.

    Lycanthropy is more specific to werewolves. The one werewolf who isn’t aligned with the enemy is Lupin, whose ‘condition’ is more like a manageable disease. James Potter and Syrius Black both become anamagus so they can run with Lupin through the forest to keep him company each full moon. In a world where werewolves are less than human and ostracised because of it, this is a fine picture of friendship that overcomes commonplace bigotry and predjudice. Also, their animal forms are extensions of their own personality, vital for the story and the development of the symbolism that Rowling is working with. Harry’s father James becomes stag, itself a picture of Christ but with an added reference to the Father of our ‘Every-Man’. Syrius is mistaken for a Grimm, an omen of death. It turns out Harry has nothing to fear from him, and the omen of Death once feared becomes a loyal friend.

    Mediumship is widely regarded throughout the novels as fruitless nonsense, but the genuine thing is called ‘Prophesy,’ and respected and treasured greatly.

    Necromancy is not a feature in any of the books. It is clear there is life after death in Rowlings created world, but it is continually made clear that one can’t communicate with the dead.

    Levitation is the only one left on your list. It is stripped bare of all demonic and religious connotations and is something everyone learns to do. It may represent a faded image of God left on man, who is meant to take authority over the environment and rule over the created order.

    those that do not have these abilities are labeled as ‘muggles’- not because they don’t believe these things are possible, but because they reject them… quite telling.

    This I think is misreading the world of Harry Potter books. ‘Muggles’ in the books simply means ‘non-magical folk.’ It is in the popular culture Muggles has come to mean simplistic and narrow-minded. The attitudes to Muggles is varied, but the overwhelming message, and opinions of the most admired people like Dumbledore is that Muggels are people just as much as witches and wizards, prone to same kind of mistakes and prejudices everybody is. Still they are to be respected and treated fairly, and with kindness.

    And far from being Muggels because they ‘don’t believe,’ ordinary people are invited into the wizarding world to participate and share in it with them. Especially family members like the parents of the children at Hogwart’s. Those who are blind are the ones that reject the idea of magic, though it be right in front of them.

    Friendship with the world is enmity against God, Yes. But Harry Potter is not the world. It is an imaginative work of fiction that reflects a creativity and purpose which is God-given. We are called to be in the world but not of the world. We find redemptive features and extract the good while dividing the bad, as well as create and work and live like what we do will be represented in the Kingdom. Entering into the ‘magical’ world in Harry Potter is analogous to entering that Kingdom.

    At a time of rampant biblical illiteracy, urging parents to immerse their children in the Word of God would be a good alternative.

    I agree totally. But John Granger makes a good point. He says, like the parable of the sower Rowling scatters seeds, but its not her responsibility what the ground that receives it is like. To the ‘well ordered mind,’ like The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the analogy is obvious, but to the secular mind, this could be used as preparatory work for the reception of the gospel or it could be misused. After all, anything, even the Bible, can be misused and abused.

  8. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    You’re missing (or side-stepping) my main point: placing Christian figures on a plot outline doesn’t make the book “Christian”.

    “No one is saying these symbols weren’t acquired from other places. “

    The extended quote you supplied did. It tried to replace the actual mythological figures that long preceded Christianity with Christian figures to try “make” the story Christian. In doing that, it denies the actual origins of those mythical figures, and that in preceding Christianity they can’t be references to Christian figures.

    You are also trying, as I guess apologists “just need to”, to make everything “about” Christianity, even to the point of re-writing history where it suits. Greek myths are Greek. That’s why its called Greek mythology, not Christian mythology. Others might say your reply a fine example of later religions “stealing” from earlier stories to claim them for themselves. In fact, it would be fair to consider the whole of this “the Potter books are Christian” is an example of this, too.

  9. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    “After all, anything, even the Bible, can be misused and abused.”

    Even the Harry Potter books can be misused and abused ;-)

    Food for thought.

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Even the Harry Potter books can be misused and abused

    That is precisely my point.

    I’m confused as to why you would choose to weigh in on this particular issue given your philosophical commitments to atheism. Nevertheless, this is a good point you raise.

    placing Christian figures on a plot outline doesn’t make the book “Christian”.

    First, I don’t think John Granger would say these books are ‘Christian novels.’ My thoughts are, and I think he’d agree, is they are excellent novels that can be enjoyed by everyone, and when viewed as texts worthy of close study, can be a doorway into Christianity.

    Second, the symbolist school of literary criticism is apparently not considered serious scholarly work, because most think you can read into the text whatever you want. But its hard to maintain that line of reasoning when you consider Rowling’s works seriously. There are some obvious illusions to Christianity such as the article referenced in footnote 7. Elsewhere the symbols she chooses, such as in the Christian Morality play at the climax of Chamber, may seem doubtful for anyone not intimately familiar with Christian story or the symbols heritage in medieval western art. However, once pointed out they no longer remain esoteric, but jump off the page as obvious, as well as carefully selected for her chosen purposes.

    Finally, there is no denying the symbols origin in ancient myth. It is referencing the symbols acquired meaning from the tradition in Christian art. Rowling is deliberately investing the past’s mythical creatures with Christian meaning as was once done in the middle ages. For instance the Phoenix, because it was ‘born again’ as a new bird in the pagan myth predating Christianity, was acquired by Christian artists who used it as a symbol to represent Christ, who is the resurrected one.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] wrote a five point explanation of why Harry Potter is edifying reading titled ‘Muggle Matters – is Harry Potter a Doorway to the Occult?‘ I think articles like that, which despite their understandably poor grasp of Potter/Rowling […]

  2. […] Thinking Matters, an online Christian publication in New Zealand, ran a lengthy article on Potter – Muggle Matters: Is Harry Potter a doorway to the occult? I have to agree with the Hogwarts Professor in saying that it’s nice to see that, on the […]

  3. […] wrote a five point explanation of why Harry Potter is edifying reading titled ‘Muggle Matters – is Harry Potter a Doorway to the Occult?‘ I think articles like this, which despite their understandably poor grasp of Potter/Rowling […]

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