This column doesn’t seek to give all answers to the question, but to seek answers. The fact is, most Speculative Faith readers have already wrestled with many fiction-related issues: the magic, worldviews, portraying sin without tempting others (such as the Bible does), and so on.
Yet how do such readers discuss these matters with our brothers and sisters in Christ who have very different views?
For example, tonight at midnight, thousands of viewers will flock to theaters to see the latest film installment about You-Know-Who, and I don’t mean a Dark Lord: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One. (I will not be among them, only because I need to work on Friday — my wife and I will likely see the film on Friday night.) Many have long since settled their beliefs about Harry Potter, with good and bad reasons offered on either side. But then there’s this:
On July 8 at midnight, bookstores everywhere were stormed by millions of children to obtain the latest and fourth book of the series known as “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” These books were taken into homes everywhere with a real evil spirit following each copy to curse those homes. July 8th was also the 18th day (three sixes in numerology) from the witches’’ sabat of midsummer. July 8th was also the 13th day from the signing of the United Religions Charter in San Francisco.
This blogger, writing on July 18, 2005 under the name “Journey 2 Wholeness Ministries,” claims to have been a paganism practitioner and even a witch. But it seems clear from that paragraph alone — to say nothing of the rest — that she hasn’t yet gotten past old superstitions.
Not all Christians who reject or just don’t care for Harry Potter books take that level of careless reasoning, or even plain mysticism: bringing “numerology” into the issue, imagining all manner of evil date connections, or supposing some bizarre insider-demon-trading information about which demons are assigned to infest which objects (Biblical proof, please?).
But even if Christians do descend to that — how can we best love and reason with them?
Love in questions and discussion
God-honoring fiction can certainly illustrate better ways of engaging with the world and false beliefs, but the greater battle lies on the nonfiction front.
I mentioned that our blogger has carried things over from her former religion (which by the way I need not assume is a false claim, though some Christian leaders have lied about “Satanic” backgrounds). What she’s carried over is not demons, but un-Biblical beliefs.
And from what I’ve read from many Christian critics of fiction itself, such beliefs aren’t just used against any particular book. They may be behind critics’ statements such as “fiction is not useful” or “the Devil can too easily deceive us through fiction.”
Thus one might ask, likely after knowing this person and showing God’s grace in other ways:
- Who is in charge of the world: Jesus or the Devil? To Jesus the Devil lied on a mountaintop, trying to bribe Him to worship him, by claiming “[the world] has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will” (Luke 4: 5-7). But God’s Word specifically says “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1, also cited in 1 Cor. 10:26), and that includes all the world’s kingdoms and governments (Romans 13). Whose claim should we believe?
- Is God sovereign? What has He said about His power to preserve His people for His Name’s sake and for their good, out of his love? Or is He helpless against some evils?
- Similarly, do people really sin without knowing it? Or is sin, whether from Christians or non-Christians, intentional — and not based on some external source, but our own sinful hearts? Jesus’ statements in Mark 7 about sin’s true source are crucial to understand and believe here.
- If it’s true that “high level witches believe that there are seven satanic princes” and that “in coven meetings, [the last prince] is called ‘the nameless one,’” (just like Voldemort, she says), why should we believe the bad guys? Theirs is a made-up religion. And even if they do get this from the Devil, he is a deceiver. He makes things up — such as claiming that he owns the world. Similarly, how can anyone say for sure that “‘Azkaban,’ ‘Circe,’ [sic?] ‘Draco,’ ‘Erised,’ [?! That is ‘desire’ spelled backward!] ‘Hermes’ and ‘Slytherin’ … are names of real devils or demons”?
- Even if that is how demons operate, is that really the context of Rowling’s presentation of the evil Lord Voldemort? Moreover, even if she were drawing (even knowingly!) from an actual fact about the demonic world, doesn’t it mean something that she applies this to the bad guy? Voldemort is also pictured with an evil serpent that obeys his will, similar to how the Devil acted through a serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). But again, he is clearly the stories’ villain.
- “Warner Brothers (the producers of the Harry Potter movies) claimed the first movie was an accurate portrayal of witchcraft.” Witchcraft is certainly a sin, but so is being careless with facts and deceiving others. Where is this quote? Moreover, for someone claiming to be so well-versed in actual witchcraft practices, is it accurate, and honoring to the God of truth, to claim that the Harry Potter books, regardless of other flaws, are “training manuals for the occult”?
- The Apostle Paul warned against treating Things as sinful just because pagan practitioners use them to commit sin (Romans 14, 1 Cor. 8-10). Any caution about Christian discernment that doesn’t include this caution the other way has presented a truth imbalanced with other truths — which can quickly become a lie. Finally, Paul himself read pagan poetry about Zeus (Acts 17:28).
Next week: Biblical verse-hurling and arguments alone may not convince even a more-grace-minded fiction legalist. So in what other ways might we love them in Christ?