I believe that even six years after the final novel and two years after the final film, the Harry Potter controversy matters to Godly fiction fans. And this still matters to all Christians who want to discern based on God’s Word, not untruth and even possible mystical views.
Here are seven reasons why this topic still matters.
1. Many Christian critics don’t know what they’re talking about.
It amazes me how stupid some so-called Christians are. How can films about the occult speak to us as believers. The author of this book needs to have a reality check when it comes to the Bible. This notion about studying the Bible through Harry Potter films as as [sic] justified as claiming that one could learn more about Christ by doing a Bible study on the scenes from The Exorcist. The evil one must love foolishness like this.2
All I can do is sigh, try not to be legalistic (in return?), and write something like:
So, you didn’t actually read the book then. This is not much of a “review” then, is it mate?
My guess is that you haven’t read the “Potter” series either, or seen the films — or, as an absolute minimum related study requirement, seriously exegeted passages such as Deut. 18 and what occult notions they actually ban God’s people from believing or practicing, and His reasons why. I say this not to shame you, brother, but to challenge you.
No, if you haven’t read a book, that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss it or believe rightly about it. (I’ve discussed The Shack even though I’ve not made it through the first chapters — out of boredom.) But if anyone comes to you and claims, “Actually, you’re wrong about that book, and let me tell you why,” you only have two options: stop talking about the issue until such time as you’ve checked the claim, or check the claim.
That, er, reviewer clearly didn’t do his homework. Neither have many Christians. Christ is glorified and His people blessed when His people practice truthful discernment.
2. We must seriously exegete passages such as Deut. 18.
Our critic tossed out the “witchcraft isn’t Biblical” reason as if that’s it, argument made, close the book. In person, I’d prefer taking the time to build a relationship before giving a rebuttal (as opposed to writing that quick online comment). Either way, I would challenge the critic to read through all of Deut. 18, not just the occult-related verses in 9-14, then ask:
- What exactly does God forbid the Israelites from doing? Answer: Child sacrifice, and attempts to predict the future by omen interpretation or contacting the dead.
- What have these practices in common? Answer: trusting these instead of God as a means to manipulate one’s world and control one’s life. (This is the goal behind any real occult/witchery attempts, including the infamous “prosperity gospel” heresy.)
- Why exactly does God forbid these? Answer — found in the first and last parts of the chapter that form the context of the occult verses — because God alone was to be the Israelites’ only source of revelation. To communicate, He had appointed priests (verses 1-8) and even better, a final Prophet greater than Moses (verses 15-22).
- What should Christians take into consideration regarding the New Covenant, which must put some form of interpretive difference on how we read the Old Testament?
- Where exactly in the Harry Potter series is that kind of child sacrifice and divination exalted?3
3. Some don’t know the difference between “real” and made-up magic.
I first asked this in part 1 of the Harry Potter and the Issues Beyond Fiction blog series:
Do the following concepts fit inside the Biblical category of actual witchcraft? Or do they originate from popular culture, historic folklore, or perceptions of “magic”?
- Whimsical flying broomsticks.
- Cauldrons and potions with magical effects.
- “Wizards” who wear pointy hats and dress in long, shining robes.
- Disappearing from one place to appear almost instantly in another.
- Creatures such as werewolves, trolls, basilisks, centaurs, elves, goblins, and dragons.
With care, I would suggest that if you, even subtly, consider these things as exactly the same as Biblically defined practice of pagan occultism, you may have accidentally bought into some pop-culture notions yourself — and then read those back into the Bible.
4. Christians target “Harry” while endorsing actual devilish evils.
I mentioned that we must “practice truthful discernment.” If we repeat lies about anything, even Harry Potter, we are repeating the work of the father of lies (John 8:44).
For too long the very name Harry Potter has carried a unique stigma. But what about Star Wars, Disney films, the aforementioned “prosperity gospel” preachers (whose spell-casting far out-darks Harry and friends), and moralistic Christian-esque children’s programs? All of these require discernment to sort light from dark, good and bad. Harry is not exceptional.
5. It’s a great conversation-starter.
One of the most-shared featured articles on Speculative Faith — by me, anyway — is Ten Wrong Ways To Discern a Story. Naturally Mr. Potter makes a cameo appearance, under the subhead “spreading lies about stories.” Pick any issue related to art and faith, storytelling and truth, and especially fantasy, and you can get there by talking about Harry Potter.
6. The series offers great stories that glorify God to discerning fans.
A spinoff conversation after The Magical Worlds of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Left Behind’ focused on whether Harry Potter had enough literary magic to join the ranks of Narnia or even Gandalf. In response to one reader who called Rowling’s novels comparative “junk,” I said:
Not junk. Certainly “Potter” isn’t junk. In fact, many rank Rowling’s story and plotting and mythological significance on equal terms with Lewis and Tolkien, and I believe this is fair. […] I love Lewis and Tolkien, but there are other gold-standard, did-what-they-set-out-to-do authors out there. Even Christian speculative ones. Surely Lewis and Tolkien themselves would encourage taking their work and then exploring further, including the literature worlds they wanted to tribute.
7. Because a six-item list would be bad; seven items is better.
Also, Harry Potter has seven books, which makes it spiritual. It is true because: numerology.
- Disclaimer: Of course Jared Moore is a friend, and we just finished our series about Teaching Story Transitions. Also of note: Moore’s perspective is not the usual “squeeze ‘Biblical’ principles out of the cool rock of pop culture” notions behind many “The X Bible Study” materials. ↩
- “Review” by “Predikuesi” (whose name ironically sounds like a Harry Potter charm), dated March 2, 2013 on Amazon.co.uk. ↩
- Slightly savvier Harry Potter critics will point to Harry’s divination class, introduced by that name in the third book/film, or the ghosts throughout the series to whom Harry and his friends talk. However, the ghosts are not contacted by occult procedures and never reveal the future, and Rowling nearly cheats us out of “divination” objections by keeping vague the source of the series’s central prophecy and also allowing characters to mock the supposed discipline of divination. ↩