We’re in between Wednesday writers at SpecFaith. Earlier this year, Mark Carver quietly stepped out to soft-reboot, in part because of pandemic. Earlier this month, Shannon McDermott also stepped back, at least for now, and likely for similar reasons.
So for today, you’ve got me. I thought I’d make a “filler episode” by responding to search-engine questions that led readers here.
Here are my micro-answers—at least, replying to the web queries I understood.
‘What does God think of scary stories?’
It depends on the story.
Does the story draw you closer to Christ, the embodiment and origin of all truth, beauty, and goodness?
Or does that story help push you away from Christ, perhaps into a quiet suspicion that darkness always wins and there is no hope?
Scary stories are found even in Scripture. The Fall itself (Genesis 3) is terrifying when you think of it. Before you even finish Genesis, you’ve also seen a global cataclysmic Flood, a man’s wife transmogrified into a salt pillar, and incestuous drunk-rape. Generations later, Judges 19 is a self-contained horror tale. All these true accounts can scare us, rightly, about the terrible consequences of rejecting our Creator.
These are not a great plan.
As we explore in this week’s podcast episode, God warns his people (then as now) against occultism. We must not try to act like “gods” in God’s world, pridefully worshiping idols and using “magical” means to control our own destinies.
That includes anti-Christian, occult practices: the usual stuff we imagine, like tarot cards, charms, crystals, and New Age whatnot.
Yet it also includes “Christian white magic“—the sorts of spiritual zone-defense Christians attempt, even as means to ward off paganism.
‘Ted Dekker controversy?’
Hmm. This could mean many things.
Dekker is a fascinating figure, and I’ve enjoyed much of his fiction. My favorite of his novels is actually Blink. His Thr3e likely ranks second.
We positively reviewed his novel The 49th Mystic at Lorehaven. Yet we did include more details in the Discern section:
Soft-gnostic themes and even heterodox preaching, not just shown subtly in the story but blatantly told in an introductory author’s note and concluding detailed Scripture interpretation; plus frequent attacks on portrayals of organized religion, and a Holy Spirit–like figure prefers feminine pronouns . . .
Perhaps this is the “controversy” the web-searcher was seeking: Dekker’s growing appreciation of “mysticism,” not just as some optional path for some monks somewhere, but as an essential choice to get some kind of higher, more-enlightened spiritual life.
Mike Duran also wrote more about Dekker in 2017’s “The Dangers of Christian Mysticism.”
Apart from the mysticism concerns, Dekker seems to struggle with The Church Back Home. (That’s my catch-all term for “that religious group, faction, denomination, or local gathering that gave you a lot of trouble in your childhood or career or professional ministry.”) I understand these struggles. But when someone tries to turn them into a leadership platform, and urge people to forsake the local church—and to challenge biblical gospel teaching—that goes too far. Young Christians who struggle with the pain of legalism need to hear more.
This doesn’t mean, “Don’t read Ted Dekker’s books.” Our reviews’ Discern section is about notification, not warning! Yet always, always compare any fantastical Christian-made fiction with the greater and truer narrative of the Bible.
‘Consequences of Deut. 18:10-12?’
Here’s another perfect setup for this week’s podcast episode, Should Christians Enjoy Fantasy with Fictional Magic? Part 1.
From the Scripture text, Deuteronomy 18:10–12:
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.
From the show notes:
Scripture warns against real occult practices that result from idolatry.
- For them: All these are false and blasphemous ways to seek God’s future.
- Divination: attempting to foretell the future. Fortune-telling: the same.
- Interpreting omens, sorcery, charming, summoning the dead: the same.
- If you want to know futures, you want to control reality on your own terms.
- The chief sin here seems to be a single sin: divination, fortune-telling, control.
- This is idolatry: you’re trying to be like God, stealing his authority from him.
- Even if we don’t do that stuff, we struggle with idolatry. (Cf. last session.)
- Especially in hard times, we want to know the future. We want to have power.
Notice what God doesn’t say in these passages (but do Christians say this?)
- God does not address the issue of anything else labeled “magic.”
- He does not answer if these pagan strategies actually work.
- He does not talk about whether whether they summon Satan or demons.
- Here, at least, God is not interested in these topics.
- He only gives one motive for people: their holiness in worship for his sake.
Return next week, when I just might share three-or-so more of these, with some quick responses and resources.
How would you answer any of these questions?