Why magic is okay when used by Christians?

Hi people!

I was wondering why books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, are widely accepted in the Christian community while others like Harry Potter for example, are not?

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

Should believers be entertaining themselves with such things? Why does it suddenly become permissible when fantasy is written by a Christian author?

I don’t hide condemnation or judgment in my question, as I don’t have a clear answer to this myself. I would like to hear everybody’s comments and opinions.

God bless

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When it comes to C.S. Lewis I think you have to look at the intent. He was one of the greatest Christian apologists and wrote stories that would help children understand God and the bible better. I read 5 out of the 7 books of the Chronicles of Narnia. They didn’t focus so much on the magic but more so on love the meaning of sacrifice. Along with his more serious books his intent is very clear in what he was trying to do in his ministry.

Lord of the rings I’m more so thinking it was for entertainment purposes. I could be wrong but I never read any other books on Christianity that the author may have written. So I’m not so clear on his beliefs or intent.

When it comes to harry potter and the author her intentions are to entertain. And I see the movies and books okay for a child to read as long as they can separate reality from fantasy. If they can’t then I wouldn’t let them read or watch fantasy based books or movies until they mature no matter the authors intentions or Faith. This really has more to do with parental guidance. I wouldn’t take a child to watch the movie “Passion of the Christ” cause the beating of Christ is so gruesome that it could scare them and do more harm than good.

On the scripture you posted I personally don’t think it violates that command because we are watching a movie and not doing actual witchcraft. Now if watching the movies or reading the books convict you then by all means do not watch them or read them. Its better for you to be close with God than to walk in condemnation. But I do think this is more about personal conviction rather than it being an actual sin. Just like how a parent has to make the decision that’s best so does the individual.

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I’ve often wondered along these lines, @aschwartzman7! I remember there being a massive outcry in certain sectors of the American evangelical community when Harry Potter began to gain popularity. I found their reasoning rather bizarre, considering, like you pointed out, both Lewis and Tolkien make use of magic in their stories.

The gist of the argument (as I remember it) was that both Narnia and Middle Earth were very clearly fantastical places where magic existed, whereas the wizarding world of Harry Potter is set in “our world”…and if it’s set in our world, then it could be a sort of gateway for children into the occult. I’m open to people expanding better on this argument, but as it stands I find it a rather weak objection.

I, personally, find all three series highly imaginative and am moved by their moments of profound beauty and truth. :slight_smile:

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That’s a great question. Thanks for bringing it up. The attached article is very helpful as it points out “The difference is that these writers portray magic in the proper context and without upturning the moral order.”


I hope you will find this helpful:)

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Hi Sieglinde, thank you for the article, it was very helpful!
I would like to point out something that was said in the article that might be worth further discussion. In the 3rd paragraph, the author writes: “Essentially, the problem is not so much that magic is present in the book, but how the magic is presented.” Isn’t that a biased statement? Isn’t sorcery categorically detestable to the Lord? (see quote from Deut.)
@Luna @KMac Maybe you have something to add in this regard?

P.S.
The book by O’Brien looks like a good resource.

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Hi @aschwartzman7! I have watched LOTRs but I am currently in the first part! I hope I could finish it by this week :smile: Actually I am enjoying it so much and I love how Tolkien is navigating different storylines to deliever such a fascinating allegory to life itself! I can tell you that through the pages Jesus is manifest in each character by rotation in a way that it could be no one else but Him. I am not gonna get ahead of myself here, but there’s s lecturer named Peter Kreeft who has a lot to say about the themes in LOTR. You can find them on youtube. I don’t want to watch them until I am done with the 3 parts.
P.S Tolkien and C.S Lewis were friends and they used to gather weekely among others in book club that used to belong to Oxford university literature students called the Inklings.

As for Harry Potter, I think I have been living under rock :grin: I am planning to go for it afterwards. But I have heard that it is as well is fueled by christian allegory.
There is an interview with an author named John Granger who wrote: “Looking for God in Harry Potter” in which he talked about Rowling and Lewis saying:
“They found a way to smuggle the gospel and baptize the imagination.”
I think Rowling, years ago, admitted in an interview with Telegraph that many themes were inspired by Christianity.

About the sorcery, I think that if viewed by the appropriate age, it wouldn’t be harmful unlike other genres with heavy sexual or violent content. I have never seen any of my geek friends diving into sorcery after watching Harry Potter for the 15987th time!! But we can see many who can lose peace over horror movies, or lose purity of thought and conduct through pornagraphic content. I think it’s necessary to discern the “intent” behing what is presented. What do they want to say? That is the most important thing I guess.
An edit
Sorcery is detested by God because it represents defiance of his will but the way magic presented in these stories is just a contingency of a world where all ends are loose and everything is possible and what we can do with that.

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@aschwartzman7 I do believe true occult practices are detestable to the lord and that’s why we don’t practice them. There is a difference between the fantasy genre and the actual occult. For example, dragons and faries are of the imagination while blood sacrifices and the scaring of skin in the name of pagan gods and killing of children are of the occult. That’s why it’s detestable. It’s idolatry. Things of the occult always lead to death and the drifting away from God. If any thing causes you to drift from God then it’s a problem even if it shows itself to be a good thing.

If the movies are showing true occult practices and the gore of the result of the practices then I wouldn’t watch it or show it to children. I don’t watch Harry Potter or read the books. Because it’s a personal conviction but I don’t think it’s a sin. Everyone has limits and you have to be wise and ask God for guidance on what is and isn’t okay for your mind and spirit.

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To my knowledge the christian community is fairly accepting of both christian and non-christian fantasy books, movies and games.

Should Christians be entertaining themselves with these?
Well, if I personally answer that question with a yes it’s because I seek to be aware of the cultural mindsets and theme of the movie. Yes it may be entertaining, but I’m not just sitting there soaking in the occult doctrines and world view. I’m gaining a perspective to better understand what’s being taught through the story lines.

For example, In the Harry Potter movie that says “There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” I think it’s useful to understand that many people are seeing the world from this perspective, and that the movie is further propagating it. For this reason I wouldn’t put my children in front of it unless It was a discussion about the views of the occult.

On the other hand you won’t find this kind of occult messaging in the work of CS Lewis even though his works still include elements of fantastic powers in his portraits of truth, reality and the battle of good and evil. I can’t fully defend the works of CS Lewis nor can I fully condemn every principal laid out in the George Lucas movies. I appreciate the potential they have to make us think.

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Books, movies and music are expressions of humanity and we have such a variety! The author, producer or musician may be expressing their own worldview, they may be experimenting or in discovery, working at what makes a buck, or just looking to a way to articulate their gifting. Just last week my son and I were discussing how we wondered if the reference to the Nephilim in Genesis inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth. As you mentioned @aschwartzman7, the Bible makes it very clear that magic is a grave offense to God. If watching a movie causes us to want to practice something that we know is sin, we should turn from that type of movie. I love the Mission Impossible movies, but I don’t want to be an assassin. When I see the LOTR series I am reminded of an “oughtness” in choices while confirming significant consequence for choosing poorly. For me the series endorses courage, teamwork, sacrifice for others, perseverance, and finally a very distinct definition of good and evil. That’s why I enjoy LOTR. But if I thought that watching them encouraged me or my family to participate in sorcery, I would have to turn it off. That is a choice that each individual must observe and make.

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@aschwartzman7

It’s a very interesting question Arthur… thanks for bringing it up. If I may, my thoughts below are even broader than your original question, so forgive me (and ignore me) if I’m a little off topic.

I think we have to say that there is a difference between reading about (or watching) something and actually partaking in the activity. But certainly if one is easily persuaded or swayed in their thinking then they should be absolutely careful in what they absorb.

I am someone who, when reading fiction, mostly reads science fantasy… and I watch any number of genres with Movies and TV. But I have certainly had to check myself sometimes on what I allow myself to read and watch, with the thought “I know it’s wrong and won’t be affected by it, therefore it’s ok for me to watch”. But I have wondered on occasion whether I am too liberal and tolerant of my own actions.

I think of this verse from Philippians:

Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Are we reading or watching things that are for the benefit of our minds and characters? I think that is a VERY difficult question. I agree with those above that there will be some form of conscience call on what we allow ourselves to watch, but I think there are also some things that we shouldn’t.

I’ll say (although without judgement to anyone else’s view or opinion) that I bought Game of Thrones, Season 1 when it first came out without first watching or hearing anything about it or even read the books… I’m a science fantasy fan and was very excited by the prospect. 15 seconds in (or whatever it was) it had to be turned off and is still one of the only DVD’s I have ever got rid of because I don’t consider it a proper thing to have in my household.

Different people’s limits may be different… but I would be interested if we turn on the TV or open a book with the thought beforehand ‘Is this going to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely or admirable?’. I’m trying very hard not to think how I would react to that question, because I’m currently thinking that I would come up a bit short and have to rethink some things.

When I had children I had to rethink some of the things that were seen and heard in the house because there are things that I obviously do not think they should see or hear. Now… can I add to your question from above… if I don’t want my children to see or hear it, should I watch it myself? Maybe that’s a little broader than this topic is about.

I think if I had a shorter answer for you (it takes me a long time to get to a short answer) I would say that each to their own would have to make a call on what is going to be edifying for them in their walk with God. But I would caution all of us to be honest with ourselves that we are not just being lenient because it’s something we want, but are actually seeking to honour God in all we do.

Thanks again for the question… really thought-provoking.

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Love it!! :slight_smile: Me too… but I would love to do some of the stunts he does, just without the whole breaking-my-leg thing.

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I know! Every time I watch those movies I’m thinking, “I need to work out more…”

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Just to be clear, what I am saying here in my response are my thoughts. And, I welcome any correction. I do not learn or grow without correction🙏🏼

I have to admit, I have not watched all the Harry Potter movies nor read the books. I have read (in audio book fashion) all the chronicles and watched the movies as well. That is why I read so much commentary and gave you what I felt was most helpful for me. And I felt he was fair in explaining the difference by the quote I posted,
—The difference is that these writers portray magic in the proper context and without upturning the moral order.”— and ( I’m paraphrasing here) that —“children should never practice magic and when they do, there are consequences and lessons learned in having to make things right.— But, if the “magic” is practiced by humans, there is an evil that is unleashed and it is beyond our control. Perhaps it’s the word “magic” that trips us up. In C.S. Lewis’s writings, I see “magic” as an adjective, modifying it, taking it up higher in its description and putting it in its proper context. But I could be wrong.

On a personal level, I have 3 acquaintances who practice witchcraft, voodoo, etc. All three of them have changed their names. One practices divination. I had to cut communication with him because I realized, there were times in our conversations, I was not talking to him but to someone or “something” else. I witnessed to him as much as I could but there was a stronghold on him. I see it in the other two as well. They don’t see it. They don’t recognize it and it is unnerving. I have asked them, “who is the entity behind your magic” to which one replied “no one, it is a power I have acquired through practice.” Really I asked? Do you really believe that? I cautioned them, warning them that they are tapping into an entity and it is not a good entity but a deceptive entity.
And that is how I view the message in the Chronicles and why I see a difference. As a lesson that “magic” belongs in the Heavenly realm with God. And maybe, C.S. Lewis used “magic” to help kids understand the Supernatural???
I wish I had a clever argument for you but I would have to dig deeper and do more research. I might end up with a different opinion and agree that both are wrong, I don’t know.

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As an avid lover of The Chronicles of Narnia, I would say that when the book talks about “magic” it is rather referring to supernatural power than mere “magic.” Aslan has “magic,” but his magic is always good. The witches have “magic,” but theirs is always bad. In order to be aligned with the power of Aslan has some characters are, one has to ask for his action and obey him, just as Chistians only have power when walking in obedience to Christ and asking for his assistance.

Magic has the assumption that we can make the higher power do our bidding. But nowhere in The Chronicles is this ever encouraged; actually quite the opposite. In The Silver Chair, this is addressed specifically when Eustace and Jill are trying to get into Narnia:

“Do you mean, do something to make it happen?”
Eustace nodded.
“You mean we might draw a circle on the ground–and write queer letters in it–and stand inside it–and recite charms and spells?”
"Well, said Eustace after he had thought hard for a bit. “I believe that was the sort of thing I was thinking of, though I never did it. But now that it comes to the point…I don’t think he’d like them. It would look as if we thought we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him.”

The God of the Bible cannot be deceived or manipulated. And that is how Aslan is portrayed as well.

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This is a wonderfully thought-provoking topic to explore. Thank you!

I wholeheartedly jumped in with the Lord of the Rings series even though I’m strongly—no passionately—opposed to the occult due to an experience with an Oija board as a teenager. But I believe that Tolkien’s and Lewis’ transparency about their faith in Jesus Christ and their obvious efforts to portray the message of Christ’s love and the diametrically opposed nature of good and evil are reasons why I found their books to be inspiring rather than troubling.

On the other hand, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the fact that Harry Potter books promote witchcraft; the books’ main characters are children who are wizards and witches in training. Unlike Lewis main character Aslan, Rowling’s main character is not overtly good or noble. Also, sorcery, casting spells, and efforts to gain power through these skills is front and center in each Rowling’s book. Lastly, Rowling’s reasons for writing her books was economic rather than inspirational. For these reasons, I have never been supportive of Harry Potter books but still see merit in Lewis’ and Tolkien’s work.

In the end each of us must do as our consciences dictate. I have to say this discussion has made me somewhat uncomfortable with Tolkien’s Gandalf. I’ll need to think and pray more about the matter.

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If fantastic powers are fitting (and possibly inherent) to fantasy stories for the purpose of conveying a moral (or morals) in the story. I’d hope we’d ask ourselves what are those morals? and are they true??

Christian writers try to use of fantasy to allegorize parallel principals of biblical good and evil. Whether or not the writers hit the mark is as much up for discussion as if it were a non-fantasy christian movie (but that’s a different conversation).

Non Christian writers portray fantasy to allegorize principals which cast a different set of beliefs and assumptions, world views… etc. Much of which follows the occult.

But, what about superheros? The Marvel comic AVENGER movies popular today are portrayed as “good guys”. From what I’ve seen of them they don’t have outright occult themes (or do they??). I’m not sure what to make of it yet. I mean… we all saw superman wield his “magic” powers as the good guy in line with the Motropolis government and we didn’t classify that as being occultist… I lean toward thinking superheros fit into a third category that involves political themes. :thinking:

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Hi, @khooks03! I’d like to respectfully push back on this a bit. :slight_smile:

I have been told by a couple of people who consider themselves to be writers that ‘writers write because they have to’. That is, they don’t necessarily write to inspire; they write because they are inspired. The stories (or ideas) are there in their mind and they must be written. I don’t see anything negative about making a living off writing. I’m sure both Lewis and Tolkein were glad that their books sold so that they could have something to live on; same with Rowling. I don’t fault her for having real human needs or for creating something that has made her very wealthy. I am amazed at both the worlds she (and Lewis and Tolkein, etc.) dreamt up as well as her (and their) insight into the world we live in.

And, actually, a question for you and others… Like you’ve mentioned, the draw of power is a very front-and-centre theme in Harry Potter (and Star Wars…and Lord of the Rings, come to think of it), but isn’t HP more about the characters developing and learning how to wield/use/corral/manage the magic they inherently possess in a ‘good’ way? The power does not seem to be outside of them; it resides in the witches/wizards. Unlike in Tolkien’s LOTR, where the hero hobbits possessed nothing extraordinary. I guess I’m just curious to explore how the magic is used in each story… :slight_smile:

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In light of what you said, I have to point out Gandalf (@khooks03 thanks for bringing it up). He was clearly a wizard, and unlike what you said about the hobbits who are creatures, what can be said of Gandalf’s magic? Is it also inherent? According to the story he was also resurrected - by what power did he do such a thing?

…and this is where the fantasy-christianity subject becomes thorny in my opinion. Is everything permissible to the imagination here?

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This made me think of Paul in 1 Corinthians:

“All things are lawful”, but not all things are helpful. [6:12 and 10:23]

Ha! Certainly lots of things are possible for the imagination, but perhaps not all things are beneficial. :laughing:

On the heels of writing my post above, I found myself thinking on a larger level about magic alongside spiritual power and mysticism and witchcraft and paganism in history. I don’t think I can coherently express all of them here (:upside_down_face:) , but I was just really struck by what is meant by ‘magic’ in whatever context it is used.

Specifically, I recalled that Lewis referred to the ‘Deep Magic’ that ruled Narnia, so I googled it (naturally!) and came across this paragraph from SparkNotes.

Aslan’s resurrection is the backbone both of the literal plot of the novel and the Christian allegory. The breaking of the Stone Table signifies the shattering of old, severe traditions. A new age dawns as literally the sun rises in the book. Lewis consistently refers to spiritual and mystical experiences as magic. Using the idea of magic, Lewis couches the story of Christ in terms that children can easily grasp, and he makes the story more vibrant and accessible.

I understand less of the existence of magic in Middle Earth, and I’ve not thought much about Gandalf’s own death and resurrection. But it seems that Tolkein was less bothered by ‘magic’ and more concerned with the idea of ‘power’ and its beneficial form as well as its corruption…the ‘ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL’ and what not. Does anyone on here understand the history of Middle Earth and Sauron, the Dark Lord? Saruman used to be considered ‘the White’ until he was corrupted by Sauron. Gandalf ‘the Grey’ then takes his place as the White. (Where’s Stephen Colbert when you need him?!)

Ultimately, I agree with the idea that @timotto expressed above.

Narnia, Middle Earth, and the Wizarding World of HP are all fantastical places, and I do believe that it is fitting and inherent that fantastical ‘powers’ and creatures exist in them. I would contend, similar to what Tim said, that we need to be more concerned with how good and evil are portrayed rather than whether or not magic (or witches or wizards) exist in the story. :slight_smile:

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