Quick quiz for a slow summer Thursday: what do the following things have in common?
- The Harry Potter series of books and films.
- Pictures of the devil or creepy creatures.
- Finery in religious worship services.
- “Rock and roll” or pop music.
- The “Magic 8-Ball” toy.
They’re all things that have — or that some Christians have argued have — pagan origins and therefore should not be messed with, or at best are suspected to have some kind of latent evil “stuff.” Many such Christians have good intentions behind these beliefs, and rightly claim that other professing Christians aren’t on their guard against stuff that can cause temptation or acceptance of untruth. And as before in this series, I don’t want to question their hearts.
Yet I will question whether these kinds of Christians have considered the implications of this practice. Is this a Biblical view? Again we see that thinking through the Harry Potter issue, beyond just the fiction questions, can help us learn to discern in other ways …
9. Because those who try to avoid bad Things like “magic” in stories may themselves fall into practicing magic and mysticism.
I don’t have a copy of the minutes from Hell’s conference dungeons. But if I were the Devil, or at least an undersecretary in the Lowerarchy, this would be among my top plans for world domination. It seems to be one of the most ingenious conspiracies, so he must be behind it:
- Exaggerate my powers. God still owns the world, even under the curse of sin, so let’s help humans forget that little truth so they think God is weaker and I’m stronger.
- Let humans assume their own hearts are okay, or at best “neutral” even after Jesus saves them. Instead let them fear mainly books, movies, songs, or other Things.
- Keep some of the worst actual Satanic occult stuff deeper in the dark.
- And, maybe even better, let other mystical stuff be hidden in plain sight! Infiltrate the Church’s pews, bookstores, and blogs with un-Biblical notions that can only be tantamount to the actual practice of wrong witchcraft.
Such notions can include more-obvious things like televangelist healing crusades, or those silly paper “prayer rugs” that come in the mail. But better still are other seemingly harmless notions that people use to try to avoid all evil influences or to try to control their own lives.
What better broad definition of actual witchcraft is there than a desire to control one’s own life or avoid bad Things? All “real” “magic” is made up for that goal. It’s the appeal of real-life Wicca, I’m sure, but frankly also any other religion centered on man.
Sinful humans are surely able to abuse even discernment in mystical ways to try to control. For example, with Harry Potter, the Magic 8-Ball, or yoga, some Christians may worry that any of these Things might somehow contain evil. Optimally he would best check to see if Scripture truly supports the idea that Things can contain some kind of spiritual residue, like germs, or else know his own gifts, history, and limitations and use that to choose what to avoid. But instead, a Christian may base his belief about the Thing’s nature on the testimony of a pagan or the Thing’s supposed history, or even worse, act as if he can avoid the evil, taboo Thing and thereby prevent evil’s influence and protect himself.
Either way, kazam, the demonic (or fleshly!) deception is complete. Even while trying to avoid supposed magic and evil influences, the Christian has just practiced a form of “magic” himself. Moreover, this kind of thinking is notorious among sincere Christians:
- Based mostly on Middle-Ages representations of demons as beings who resemble bats or made-up creatures, some Christians believe it’s always wrong to be exposed to such images. Thus an emotional response, that’s creepy, becomes a basis for “discernment,” instead of God’s revealed Word.
(Oddly enough, these Christians may believe it’s often okay to show bad stuff. Example: one popular tract artist. But he also spreads myths about the Harry Potter books and other superstitions, based partly on that’s-creepy reasons.)
- Some Christians act as though trappings of traditional or contemporary worship (yes, I’ve heard this applied to choir robes and electric guitars) have “pagan roots” and will corrupt people. Thus a Thing is shunned because of its supposed origin.
- In fall 2010, seminary president Al Mohler said something that cloistered secularists found suddenly outrageous: that Christians aren’t too thrilled about bringing yoga into the Church. Yet in many of his defenders’ haste, they failed to clarify for the Church and the world that Christians aren’t afraid of Things like breathing patterns or stretches, but of how they can be abused in ways that displease God. Thus Things are assumed to be evil, rather than objects to be abused.
All these amount to methods of control-my-life-style witchcraft! And whatever you think about Harry Potter or any of these things specifically, a Thing’s supposed pagan origins or “obvious” evil could be far less dangerous than the “angel of light” tricks the Devil (and our flesh!) uses. Christians who only warn against “obvious” mysticism may themselves act like superstitious shamans who shun supposed evil objects. Meanwhile, anti-God mysticism may go through the back way, directly into our hearts, even while we have illusions of safety.
And I haven’t even gone into other frequent ways Christians may, with good intentions, practice “divination” to seek secret things only God can know. (For more, read this guy.)
Rather, it’s enough to recall that sin is sneakier than we think and can infiltrate our lives from within; and that the Devil is not powerful enough to control us through Things, but is likely not so stupid only to make his assaults using obvious means that we could easily avoid.
Next Thursday: how did some Biblical saints handle actual bad stuff? And what about the “someone else used it to sin” objection, or “weaker brothers,” or personal preferences?