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Magic In The Story: What’s The Big Deal?

Magic — just the mention of it can cause many a “good Christian” to draw dividing lines, take sides and ready for attack. Are we being discerning or just overreacting? Join our new series: Magic in the Story.

NarniaMagicMagic – just the mention of it can cause many a “good Christian” to draw dividing lines, take sides and ready for attack. Magic – what poison hides in this simple word that causes such a commotion and brings some to cast judgement of damnation on those who employ its use in their fiction? Are we being discerning or just overreacting?

My brother and I host an online community wherein thousands of teens interact daily in discussion forums about our books, life in general, entertainment, current events and topics of faith. Recently the topic of Narnia’s use of magic has risen to the surface for many of our young readers and the arguments on both sides of the conversation has our membership debating the value and dangers of magic. While we do not take nearly as many liberties with magic in our stories as C.S. Lewis has, the discussion has led us to start drafting our response to the growing concern over what is okay to engage in when it comes to the marriage of faith and magic.

Magic in the Story is a series of blog posts targeted at exploring the various uses of magic in fiction over the next few weeks. We’ll be heavily using references from Chronicle of Narnia series as an example because…well…it’s likely the most visible, liberally executed and well-known example of “Christian magic” in the genre. (There we go applying the label “Christian” to something again in hopes of making it sound more holy. Can I get a Grilled Cheesus anyone?)

To that end, I invite you on the journey with me.

Part 1: What’s the Big Deal?  <—you are here
Part 2: The Two Faces of Magic   (next week)

C.S. Lewis’ use of “magic” in his books is, perhaps, one of the most well known and hotly debated topics of fiction within Christian circles. To say that some Christian readers don’t like the Chronicles of Narnia because characters in his stories employ the aid of magic, astrology, mythical gods in their adventures would not be anything new or shocking. I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments before, but here are a handful of some of the bigger ones.

1) Story magic is wrong because “magic is witchcraft” and witchcraft is strongly condemned by the Bible. “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18)  How can followers of Christ/Aslan performing magic spells be okay?

2) Astrology or at the very least, medieval cosmology, is a form of idol worship and the Bible is very clear about the dangers of consulting the stars. Isaiah 47:13 – “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by.”  So how is it that Christians should go along with children reading about Prince Caspian’s mentor who predicts the conjunction of two ‘noble planets’ Tarva and Alambil and says: ‘Look well upon them. Their meeting is fortunate and means some great good for the sad realm of Narnia.”?

3) Pagan mythology and deities are mixed with allegory of faith thereby blurring the lines between true faith and mere myth. “…Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. …Understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:6-17)   So, should we be comfortable to mix the “Christ figure” of Aslan with Bacchus? Surely these elements are incompatible, for ‘what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14).

4) The appearance is evil and anything that defies God and/or the Bible or contradicts them or anything like that is, in essence, an appearance of evil.  “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22

To be sure, these are are very strong and valid points, backed by very direct and clear scripture. There is no doubt that the occult and its magic are not to be taken lightly in our world. It is a very real evil and a sin that God abhors. There is no middle ground on that. But before diving into the specific use of magic in Narnia (our running example for all of fiction) we must first ask ourselves a larger question about the use of story magic and the differences between it and the magic of real life (if there are any).

Is Story-Magic Safe in Fantasy Fiction?

For starters, we would do well to consider the genre in which the story is being written. The fantasy/fairy-tale genre, is one in which a variety of magic elements play an integral role in the mechanics of the storytelling. For example, the magic by which a goose might lay a golden egg in a land of giants is clearly a storytelling device employed by Aesop’s fables that causes us to think about our own foolish desires and the greater lesson of greed that comes from the tale. While we might all be pleased to discover a goose laying a golden egg on our doorstep, none of us expect to actually find one. Why? Because we realize it is merely a story – a fable. I contend that this kind of story-magic is not the same at all as the real-life occult magic or sorcery against which the Bible warns. The two “magics” have no common ground with each other any more than the magic of walking through a doorway to another world is possible in our world.

The lesson the magic allows us to teach may, in fact, be very real, but the means by which the lesson is learned is quickly dismissed by the reader as quickly as it is consumed. Why? Because the very definition of the title “fantasy fiction” is “an unrealistic or improbable supposition”. With this in mind, the reader of such fiction should know going into the story that the words on the page bear no actual parallel to our own world at all. To be sure, the lines between fiction and reality are often blurred in these stories. What is real and what is not is not always clearly defined. But this is no different that the God-given imagination at work in a child’s mind when they are at play. In the end, the imaginary worlds are put away and we are left to live and breath in this one. The only reality by which we are judged. No explanation can be given – nor need it be.

By now we must realize that the role of magic in story is primarily symbolic. It is symbolic of power. It is a means of seeing what might be if. It is the joy of childlike wonder and imagination. These are all good things to employ when designed to shed light on truth. Christ certainly sparked the imagination and wonder of children as he told them stories.

There is also another form of magic at work in Narnia and implied in many other fictional tales. It is the magic of the unknown natural laws of God’s world. In the medieval world there was often overlap between science, medicine, faith and magic. Much of what was considered magic was merely natural cause and effect reactions of the natural world applied. What we call alchemy and astrology were actually the early precursors to modern day chemistry and astronomy. Even then, both of these disciplines of “magic” were grounded in the medieval Christian theology of the cosmos which believed the universe to be natural and supernatural forces which were held together by God.

In Narnia, as in many fantasy worlds, the “magic” is often part of the fabric of the world. It is the laws by which the worlds are held together.  Without this magic, life itself would not exist, and there is so much more to it than we will ever know. We are continually discovering new elements of this magic.

Perhaps it is better to think of it as music. The sound of music is a magic of sorts. If we were to dissect what makes music work, it would be rather difficult to do. For starters, the actual source of well written music appears to the untrained eye as little more than a confusing arrangement of  black and white dots on the on paper. To those who have mastered music, the ones who hold the key to deciphering its message, they can conjure these dots (which they know to be notes) into a melody that can uplift the spirit in a way that makes us smile. And yet, why music should even make us smile or frown is still a mystery. Even the greatest scientists in the world have never been able to understand this magic. Yes, there is much magic in the fabric of our world that is not understood.

By placing Narnia (or any other fantasy fiction world) in a medieval context, one could easily make the case that the author is able to draw on the symbolic richness of the old world without endorsing its limited knowledge of science or its checkered theology.

That is all for today’s post.

I invite you to join in the discussion and to come back next week when I further unpack “The Two Faces of Magic”

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Galadriel
Guest

Interesting…I’m sure Harry Potter will come up as something that “blurs lines”, but I’m looking forward to this series.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Oh, I only have a few views about this topic — most of them based on encouraging people actually to read and apply Scripture, rather than repeat inherited notions, myths, and even their own practice of mysticism!

One thing I’ll say for sure is that 1 Thess. 5:22 doesn’t fit in this topic. That verse may match Matt. 7:1 (“Judge not …”) for the number of times it’s been torn from context.

Matthew
Guest

127 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lordkeep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Psalm 127:1

 
So if we use Narnia like so many Christians use it (as a witnessing tool or teaching tool in sermons or of that sort). Then it would have to be inspired by God. Otherwise it would be written by a mere human which would make it undoubtadly flawed in some ways. 
Well, why would God inspire something tht consists or relys on (if you will) magic? Something that is outlawed an repeatadly forbidden in the Bible. Whether it is story magic or not. 
Are we making Narnia into something it’s not? Perhaps it is just a man’s imagination of a different view point of the gospel story. If that is so, then we shouldn’t be using it in such ways that we do.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

so many Christians use [Narnia …] as a witnessing tool or teaching tool in sermons or of that sort

In 2005 Prof. Peter Schakel from Hope College, speaking at a C.S. Lewis conference at Wheaton College, was the first person I ever heard debunk the notion of Narnia as an Evangelism Tool. That was the first of my gradual realization that some Christians, if you can believe it, had made an idol out of evangelism — and were calling many anti-Biblical practices “evangelism,” making them our Chief End.

Most recently this trope came up again in an online discussion. A kind yet incorrect commentator was taking issue with a Certain Other Fantasy Series because it was, he said, ridiculous to Use It As Evangelism. Of course on that I agreed with him:

I’m not interested in using this story, Christian or “secular,” primarily as an Evangelism Tool. The chief end of man is not “to evangelize.” Nor should the chief end of any story, creative work, or Thing to be “to help in evangelism.”

I’m not sure whether this “if it doesn’t preach the Gospel directly, it doesn’t preach or live out the Gospel at all” notion came from. I only know that if we tried to apply this consistently, we’d have to throw out almost all — or all — of Jesus’s own stories.

Narnia and other stories (even stories authored by pagans) in fact glorifies God because it reflects beauties and truths about God, human beings, and our world.

If something also does Evangelism, that’s fine too. One may even say it’s preferable that a story includes overt Gospel reflections. But I’ve read too many books that have no literary “magic” and thus fail to glorify God, no matter how many John 3:16 paraphrases they contain. They suffer not from “preachiness,” but bad preachiness.

Elijah David
Member

One quick editing note before I respond to the post as a whole. In point four of your Scriptural responses to magic in story, the following phrase contains an important-to catch typo: “anything that deifies God”; this should read “anything that defies God” because the sentence will make more sense, and it’s pretty difficult to deify Deity. 🙂
 
This series’ topic is one I’ve wrestled with myself as a writer of fantasy fiction, and I’ve often used the “natural laws” explanation in conversation with people regarding Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and any number of other stories. I think, though, that  emphasizing the medieval context (in Narnia’s case, at least) adds more to the conversation because it meets the stories where they are (as fictional stories written by a Christian man) and not where they have been placed by many well-meaning Christian readers, writers, and interpreters (as Christian stories written by a man).*
One aspect that is often left out of these conversations (particularly with Lewis and Tolkien) is the view of myth that Lewis had. Some of the concerns listed above about myth are antithetical to that view, which emphasized Christianity’s mythical nature and (in Lewis’ terms) formed the True Myth, from which spring all others (though they often lose or distort information along the way). For Lewis, enjoying myths was not un-Christian, though worshiping them might be (I’ve never read anything of Lewis’ on the subject of worshiping myths or mythical figures, so I can only conjecture based on his reactions to a child fearing he was praying to Aslan instead of Christ). I hope that in future posts in this series you will address Lewis’ ideas about myth and what we do with them.
 
*The difference here is one Lewis himself addressed in Mere Christianity, saying that we needed more Christians writing good books rather than more people writing “Christian” books.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Yessss, a series on magic! *rubs hands eagerly*  *sits down with popcorn*  I’m looking forward to the next installment.  🙂
In my own writing I prefer to avoid magic as a kind of “force” even as part of the fabric of the world (although I am usually happy to read books like that – Narnia, Harry Potter, et al).  Magic as an outside force you can “tap into” is on the hairy edge of okay for me.  It seems a bit like conjuring demons.
However, in my own books, I sometimes like to include magical/supernatural characters, such as fairies, superheroes, wizards, mind-readers, and such.  To my thinking, if these people are born with innate abilities, that’s something God gave them, not some power they strive to attain on their own like people who practice magic in this world.
In my humble opinion:
A seer who can predict the future because of dreams or visions is okay.  Prophets did that in the Old Testament.  There is nothing intrinsically evil about seeing the future, and they couldn’t have gained that ability in their own power.  It’s clearly a gift God gave them.  (The thing is, now that the Bible is complete we don’t have prophets anymore.  But there is even a Biblical precedent for this kind of “magic”, which is actually from God.)
But a seer who uses artificial means (tea leaf reading, crystal balls, etc.) to see the future is doing evil, because they are trying to gain power by their own means, without God, and in their own human wisdom.

Kessie Carroll
Member

The more I read of fantasy, and the more I learn of God, the more it befuddles me that people have to have this discussion at all. The occult of the real world–rebellion against God–is what the Bible warns against. After all, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry.”
 
In fantasy books, most of the time, the heroes are using magic–usually not the occultic kind, it’s more like levitation, teleportation, accelerated healing, and setting things on fire–to save the world. Very seldom have I read books where magic actually came from somewhere evil, and those are usually from Christian authors. Magic’s just there, like gravity or radiation.
 
So, mixing up Bible verses–which warn stringently against dabbling in the occult, because evil spiritual forces want to deceive you, ruin you, and kill you–and using those verses to preach against fantasy magic–mostly consisting of superpowers– is a non-sequitur.
 
Fantasy magic’s fine, because we couldn’t tell certain stories without magic. Aladdin wouldn’t be the same without the magic lamp, the magic ring, the flying carpet, and all the other trappings. Or Sleeping Beauty without the fairies. Or even the more mundane talking animals of Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks.
 
Without magic, we’d be reduced to reading books about fat children exercising in foreign schools, or diagrams of grain elevators.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

mixing up Bible verses–which warn stringently against dabbling in the occult, because evil spiritual forces want to deceive you, ruin you, and kill you–and using those verses to preach against fantasy magic–mostly consisting of superpowers– is a non-sequitur.

Amen. And it’s another kind of superstition, actually, and a mystic superstition: that whatever is called “witchcraft” in any story is the same as the witchcraft the Bible condemns. Sorry, the Bible condemns these for a reason, and that reason is not that reading about flying brooms, potion-making, or wand-waving is spiritually deadly.

Without magic, we’d be reduced to reading books about fat children exercising in foreign schools, or diagrams of grain elevators.

Ha ha!

Alas, that is what many well-meaning Christians seem to want. Worse, they wrongly conclude that we should want this because they seem to think Scripture is just that sort of book. Yet even that position is better than a more-usual suspect argument, that “Scripture is sufficient, so why fiction?”. Problem is, the very Scripture that is, indeed, sufficient for its purpose never lays out such an argument. So such people in making the argument prove one or two things:

  1. They themselves rely on extra-Biblical notions for faith and practice.
  2. They aren’t really taking Scripture that seriously.

This is what happened when I challenged one critic of a Particular Secular Fantasy Series to address my Biblical arguments about what occult practices God condemns and why, and how Christians are actually commanded to discern. So far he hasn’t responded — which, alas, only reinforces my perceptions and doesn’t help me learn.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

I had issues with this mindset growing up. Here are some of my thoughts on what I saw. Some Christians think things like:
 Books have magical powers.  It’s the difference between “I don’t like the glorification of violence in video games,” and “Video games cause violence.” More specifically, it’s assuming that people can be influenced by books in spiritual manners. Reading critically won’t help; just reading the book can open the door to temptation or demonic influence. In extreme cases, just having the books in the house can do it.
The irony in this is that it’s ascribing totemic powers to them. Books become like the Necronomicon, in Lovecraft’s books; forces for influence. This also makes us a bit helpless too; if it’s spiritual, it bypasses all our attempts to read and guard ourselves rationally. I don’t think this is good because at times it ascribes power to things that are powerless. If anything, some of the stuff is ridiculous
There is this thing called the occult. Ask a Christian about it some time. They’ll usually say something like “Well, it’s New Age.” If you press them on this more often then not they will have little idea what it actually is. The more astute would point to real things like Tarot cards, or Ouija boards.
And yeah, I’d be very wary of a book where a Christian used Tarot cards to tell the future, or walked around using a dowsing rod to find water. Or if they used a magic system like Voodoo. But a lot of fantasy stuff has no real analog to something to be wary of, or practice that can be emulated in the real world. So you have this thing called “the occult” which becomes this weird catch-all thing. There is no real-life system where people can wave wands, and chant things so they can fly in the air. Even things which do have real-world analogs may not be able to be practiced. I watch anime, but I’m not in danger of rushing to Japan to become an onmyoji.
I don’t mean to minimize this, but I think the prohibitions against magic in fiction are only effective with things a person can actually, realistically practice. When people talk about how books glorify sex and violence, they have in mind real consequences. But fantasy and stuff is fiction; usually the magical systems have no real-world counterpart to glamorize, just this weird nebulous thing called the occult which influences people. We’re worrying about glorifying things no one can really do.
I also think of this verse:
“Israel is like a thief who feels shame only when he gets caught. They, their kings, officials, priests, and prophets— all are alike in this.
To an image carved from a piece of wood they say, ‘You are my father.’ To an idol chiseled from a block of stone they say, ‘You are my mother.’ They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble they cry out to me, ‘Come and save us!’
But why not call on these gods you have made? When trouble comes, let them save you if they can! For you have as many gods as there are towns in Judah.” Jer: 2-26-28
I wonder if sometimes we overrate the power of even the things people do try and follow. Even the realistic stuff in the end are pieces of wood and blocks of stone. 
But this is really a tricky subject. Especially with me. I remember the C.S. Lewis quote about both disbelieving in devils and having an unhealthy belief in them being equal errors. I think I lean to the former.
On a related note, it looks like I have to add tags to get proper spacing between words in Google Chrome. Any chance of fixing?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Great thoughts, D.M., thank you! Here I shall use them to support several Challenge Questions for those who worry about fictional magic. Really, fantasy fans must outdo such critics by encouraging not less, but more fidelity to what Scripture says:

Books have magical powers. [… A]scribing totemic powers to them [… as] if it’s spiritual, it bypasses all our attempts to read and guard ourselves rationally [… this view is that] it ascribes power to things that are powerless.

Challenge 1: Is this how the Bible views objects, or how a pagan views them?

If the Bible, where is the proof passage? If pagans, why are we listening to them? And is it not then the fantasy critic who has actually accepted pagan religion?

A lot of fantasy stuff has no real analog to something to be wary of, or practice that can be emulated in the real world. […] There is no real-life system where people can wave wands, and chant things so they can fly in the air.

Challenge 2: If Scripture forbids occult practices primarily because they are a) useless, b) ways to try to predict the future and control life that reject God’s Word and sovereignty (as in Deut. 18), why do we keep adding to those lists and reasons?

From where comes the idea that wand-waving or chants actually have evil spiritual power over the Christian — from Scripture alone, or from added pagan beliefs?

Finally, the most important reply:

On a related note, it looks like I have to add tags to get proper spacing between words in Google Chrome. Any chance of fixing?

No, I’m afraid Chrome prefers its own way (though somehow it’s fixed for me).

Lacee Hogg
Guest

Good thoughts, especially about the lack of equivalent in “real life.” Growing up, I was always confused why people were afraid fantasy books would move people toward the Occult. To me at least [and I am one of those that knows little about the Occult besides tarot cards and quiji boards], there seems to be little resemblance. I certainly wasn’t tempted to look into it. 🙂 

Teddi Deppner
Guest

Lots of good thoughts here, and many things already covered that I might have said myself. There’s one thought I can perhaps add to the discussion.

Christopher wrote (emphasis mine):

By now we must realize that the role of magic in story is primarily symbolic. It is symbolic of power. It is a means of seeing what might be if. It is the joy of childlike wonder and imagination. These are all good things to employ when designed to shed light on truth.

I do not universally condemn the use of magic in stories. Much of what shaped me as a young person came from the Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings books, and other sci-fi and fantasy stories containing magic galore. I have gone through my phases of utter rejection of ALL magic-related books. And I’ve recovered. I’ve studied and struggled and in some ways, I believe that’s the key.

As a reader, as an author, we have a responsibility to account to God for what we read, what we write.  Are we taking fire into our bosom? Embracing things of darkness and filling our hearts with them? Pouring darkness into our stories? If we aren’t examining ourselves and facing our own conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, then we have failed.

And I believe the New Testament teaches that there are some areas where things aren’t “black and white”. When it came to eating certain foods, believers were encouraged to eat according to their conscience. If a Jewish-born believer ate pork and felt guilty about it because of his deep conviction (via his upbringing) that pork was outlawed by God, then he was told to STOP. Don’t violate your conscience. Same went for what days you worship. Some things that were condemned in the Old Testament were not universally “wrong” for all believers.

Back to Christopher’s comment that magic is symbolic of power. Exactly. What is magic, except something unexplained by the laws of the natural world we’re familiar with? What did Jesus Christ do when he changed water to wine? Fed 5,000+ people with a handful of food? Cured a man who was born blind? We only call it a “miracle” because we believe God did it.
 
“Magic” carries an implication that something other than God is at the source of the miracle. It is either innate ability of the person doing it, or they are calling on other spiritual beings to perform it.

For myself, I search the Scriptures and look for patterns. I seek to have stories that match or mirror the patterns I see there, because I believe the Scriptures give us insight to the world around us, help us to discern what is God-sourced and what is not. I’d rather pour out stories that reflect the Truth (as I understand it) than ones that only entertain. That’s just my personal mission, something I’ve worked out between Him and I. I don’t expect or require other authors to do the same.

I also enjoy the great mystery of life on earth, and how God has not chosen to tell us everything. There are many things unexplained and marvelous. So even in my stories, I like to leave room for wonder and imagination and endless possibilities. 

Lex Keating
Guest

There exist in this world, all at the same time, three realms. They are connected, but separate, and the boundaries between each one are not easily discerned by humans. The Physical. The Supernatural. The Imagined. Now, you and I could share the same imaginings, or I could read one of your books and let it become part of my imagination, but the Imagined (or fantastical) is a very murky place to make your home. It’s very easy to argue “but the imagined is a reflection of the supernatural” or, for those who don’t want to see God in every bit of fairy dust, “this supernatural is nothing more than your desperation to see in real life the things you imagine.” God gave us the gift of imagination, I firmly believe. But not so we could rewrite reality.
 
We tend to have this intense need for things to make sense in this world, and to throw away ideas that don’t fit our understanding of the natural order. This applies as much to believers who like scifi as to athiests who can’t be bothered with fiction. There are a lot of people who don’t like the supernatural. Some of them are Christians, some of them are not. But just because something appeals to our imagination, that doesn’t give it the place we want for it in the supernatural.
 
A few people have mentioned the appeal of power in stories with magic. This, I think, is the great truth and the horrible danger of fantasy stories. We want the power to do something extraordinary, to be special in a world bound by small, simple rules. God calls us to the extraordinary. At the same time, Satan also whispers we were made for more. As long as we’re in pursuit of being “more”, rather than spending more time in the presence of God, Satan’s job is done. He can use our imaginations in ways that we don’t understand. Don’t want to acknowledge, often, because the accountability that awaits might mean rethinking our views on favorite passtimes.
 
Do I like Narnia? Yes. Do I approve of the pagan elements therein? No. Do I like having to adjudicate over what I see as a blatant disregard for God’s sovereign right to be the only “first” in my thoughts? No. Lewis may have made it fairly clear to his readers (young and old) that Aslan’s “magic” isn’t the occult that we are warned of in the Bible, and that the witches and hags who practiced their “magic” served a fundamentally different lord and deserved the deaths they received. What he didn’t do was give all readers and writers an outline of what is or is not acceptable in “Christian fiction.” That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Which will allow for different standards of peace in different hearts.
 
And the Lord may permit magic your realms of imagination. But my realms of imagination have very thin walls between the physical and the supernatural. I have no fear of the supernatural, and wander into it when others stay safe in the physical. For myself, God does not give me permission to freely allow any imagining into my realm of imagination, because some of them are incorrect or based from a flawed worldview that He deems unfit for my consumption. I am on a tight leash in the realm of imagination, and may only pour out things that match with my experience in the supernatural. That’s more than enough fantasy for the average reader. If I want to read more fantasy, my supernatural experience had better be up to speed. But, honestly, the more time I spend in the supernatural, the less appeal fantasy has, because when has it ever been better to fabricate vain powers when I could be exercising real ones? 🙂

Paul Lee
Member

I respect the fact that you are not condemning people who have different personal standards than your own, and I would not think of arguing against your own conscience.

There exist in this world, all at the same time, three realms. They are connected, but separate, and the boundaries between each one are not easily discerned by humans. The Physical. The Supernatural. The Imagined.

For me, marking down these three “realms” is not useful.  Defining a hard difference between the “Supernatural” and the “Physical” is really a modern-day invention.  There is certainly some truth to it; science can’t explain things of a spiritual nature.  But God created all things, and I think that all things must be equally “natural” to Him, whether spiritual or supernatural.  Importantly, the supernatural is not inherently more holy than the physical, because God created both.
 
It’s certainly true that our imaginations are often vain; at the best of times, our best suppositions are inherently flawed, because none of us are perfect, none of us possesses a special imaginative inspiration.  But to me, imagination and fantasy is not a reflection of the supernatural as much as it is a reflection of the totality of reality that lies beyond human comprehension.  For me, imagination is an expression of faith, of abstract truth that cannot be distilled any other way.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Defining a hard difference between the “Supernatural” and the “Physical” is really a modern-day invention.  There is certainly some truth to it; science can’t explain things of a spiritual nature.  But God created all things, and I think that all things must be equally “natural” to Him, whether spiritual or supernatural.

Brother, you drew out a thought I had far back in my head, but hadn’t considered in that way. ‘Tis a very good point, that. Indeed, a Biblical worldview would put far fewer barriers between “supernatural” (or “spiritual”) and “physical” than we would.

Paul Lee
Member

That’s what I took from Chritopher Miller’s article when he wrote:

In the medieval world there was often overlap between science, medicine, faith and magic. Much of what was considered magic was merely natural cause and effect reactions of the natural world applied. What we call alchemy and astrology were actually the early precursors to modern day chemistry and astronomy. Even then, both of these disciplines of “magic” were grounded in the medieval Christian theology of the cosmos which believed the universe to be natural and supernatural forces which were held together by God.

Who are we to say that there isn’t “magic” in God’s cosmos?  We define the academic disciplines — science, philosophy, theology, etc., but those are human definitions based on our human perspective, and that perspective has changed over time.
 
I’m trying to defend the act of “seeing God in every bit of fairy dust,” as Lex put it.  We live in the Shadowlands.  We know that we were made for another world, and our imaginations can offer a view of the world that is more real than this one.  The time will come when all things will be exposed to the Light, and everything that refuses to come into the Light will be cast away eternally; but in the meantime, we stand in the middle between truth and error, good and evil, light and darkness.  Only, we don’t see what is true and what is false.  Even with Scripture, everything is murky and uncertain.  There is hypocrisy everywhere.  Fantasy worlds like Narnia show good and the evil coexisting through the fantastic.  Therefore, it shows a reality that we can’t understand without fantasy — and magic is often part of it.
 
Granted, it’s useless to attempt to insert a God-likeness into everything.  I used to be a cheap allegory theorist myself.  Also, I know that just because everything can point to God does not mean that everything is good.  It’s probably more true to say that almost everything is evil.

Kirsty
Guest

A few thoughts:

In one of the books by John White (maybe The Sword Bearer) there is a character who is a very typical magician/wizard. However he prefers to call himself a ‘seer’ and tries to explain the difference between ‘magic’ and ‘miracles’ in a way which I think is quite helpful. The good guys do attempt to do some real ‘magic’ but while it sort of works it doesn’t have the desired result, and also backfires. (Not that I object to magic in stories either, if that’s how the story world works.) Often the essence of magic is us trying to control things ourselves. Of course humanistic self-sufficiency and trust in science is really the same thing.
“…Magi from the east came to Jerusalemand asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 🙂

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