Magic, Fantasy, And A Christian Worldview
Is magic “real”? I mean, can people really perform magical acts?
If a person believes the Bible (and that is the defining point in discussing a Christian Worldview from my perspective), then the answer has to be, Yes.
Let me name three examples. First, in Egypt when Moses confronted Pharaoh with the first miraculous acts God empowered him with, “Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts.” (Exodus 7:11 NASB)
In the next example, King Saul went to a woman who was a medium: “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.” He named Samuel and she brought him up: “Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?'” (I Samuel 28:8, 15 NASB)
A third example is in the New Testament. “Now there was a certain man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city, and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’ And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.” (Acts 8:9-11 NASB).
These examples seem to identify actual power, not fraud or deception. And there are others—powers demon-possessed people had—the man who was so strong chains couldn’t hold him, the girl who foretold the future.
Magic, therefore, is real, but what, exactly is it?
Are we talking about sorcery and witchcraft? Demon possession? Astrology (such as that which the Magi—the magicians from the East—used to find the baby Jesus)? How about all the divination the people of Israel did, using the Urim and the Thummim or casting lots to figure out what God wanted them to do?
I have to tell you honestly, the subject confounds me, but here’s what I believe. Supernatural beings have supernatural power. That’s it.
Not profound, is it. Oh, one more important point. No supernatural power is greater than God or His Sovereignty.
But that is only part of the picture. The Supreme Supernatural Being also has “natural” power.
Think about it. Who hung the stars in space? Who sees that it all continues to work? It’s not as if God established a set of natural laws that has gotten away from Him, that He no longer can control. Gravity exists because God created it and maintains it. As He did and does, photosynthesis. And the Pythagorean theorem, or the second law of thermodynamics. Or the law of sin and death.
OK, that last one is a spiritual law, but the point is, God rules it all, and in the ruling can suspend or countermand the rules. He can stop the sun for a day or even make it—or the earth—go backwards. He can raise the dead or come to earth as Incarnate God. He can walk on water. Change water to wine. Predict the presence of a coin in a fish’s mouth. Multiply chunks of bread. And forgive sinners. Nothing, nothing is beyond His power.
So how does this fit with magic? Part of the inexplicable is that God has allowed His enemies some measure of power (magic), and He chooses to let evil ripen before He puts an eternal end to it.
Meanwhile, Mankind—he of such little power—longs for the day of triumph, or dreads the day of disaster, even as a war rages in his soul.
Fantasy shows the longing, the dreading, the raging, with the admission that the enemy does have power, just not omnipotence.
This post is re-published from A Christian Worldview of Fiction, May, 2006, in a series on fantasy.
I went to see David Copperfield once and it made me think this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill natural magic act. Something is up with that guy. ☺
Becky, thank you so much for speaking the Truth! Magic, seeking the dead, sorcery, spells, fortunetelling, all of this is the Devil’s hand. That is the witness of scripture. But many Christians live their lives as if the demonic does not exist, particularly those of us here in the western world. Most instructive is what God tells us in Job 1 and 2. God Himself declares Satan has a “hand.” In OT parlance this means sphere of influence or, in a word, power. We are oh, so comfortable with the notion that Satan can’t affect the physical world, that “magic” really isn’t real. Think again. Satan indeed has a “hand,” and it was his hand, not God’s, that caused fire to fall from the sky, summoned a windstorm and smote Job with sore boils. God did none of these things, Satan did. Just like when Satan mimicked the power of God when he caused the Egyptian sorcerers’ staves to turn into snakes. The Hebrew uses the same words for what both God and the magicians did. If this was sleight of hand, then God is guilty of the same. No, this was as real as it gets, both from God and His enemy. Scripture further resounds with God’s condemnation of sorcery and magical practices, and the doom God pronounces upon those who partake in them (Rev. 21:8 , 22:15). Those who would deny the reality of sorcery and Satan’s hand must also deny God’s attitude toward them — a most curious reaction indeed for something not real. People who say these things are not real have never met the Devil’s hand. If you have met it, you know. If you have not, you do not. How far that hand can stretch no man can say, for God does not tell us, but He has told us it is limited by two things: Satan’s status as a created being and the absolute sovereignty of God, another lesson of Job 1 and 2. Thank you for speaking the Truth. Thank you for warning us to follow the Word of God and not the blind pratings of the world. Christus Victor!
Thanks for expanding the discussion, HG.
Satan is most definitely alive and well and prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. But when someone prowls, that’s not in the open, so it’s not really a big surprise that we miss him. He’s happy with that, I think.
I’ve been taught that Satan likes either extreme–that people don’t believe he is real or that he is behind every lost pen or forgotten jacket. In other words, if we discount him or credit him with more power and purpose than what he’s capable of.
Another point: he is not omnipresent. So chance are, Satan himself is engaging people in high places rather than Internet bloggers. 😉
Demons have some measure of power, too, as we see from the demon possessed man who could break the chains people used to try and control him. A demon gave a slave girl the ability as a clairvoyant.
But no matter. Jesus Christ is the Victor, over death and hell and the grave, over sin and guilt and the law, over Satan and the system of this world, over powers and principalities.
One more point about Satan. He has schemes, which, of course, God knows, since He is omniscient. We know from Scripture that unforgiving attitudes make usmore vulnerable to Satan’s schemes. We also know Satan lies and is the father of lies. So whether we see any of his magic or not, he’s at work in the world as part of his rebellion against God.
You are 100% correct about how Satan loves extremes. I have been blessed to fellowship with Christians in both “camps” as it were. On the one hand you have those who, as you say, see Satan in every single thing and even have their own little rituals to “cleanse” their homes etc. This is fear, and just another form of occult bondage in itself. On the other hand you have those who are so preoccupied with the sovereignty of God they see nothing else, since God is the only power in the universe. This leads to another form of blindness I call “Christian rationalism” and is just as much a tool of the Devil as seeing him everywhere. Thank you for presenting the balanced perspective here.
Christian rationalism. I like that. There are Christians who go so far as to suggest the Holy Spirit only speaks through Scripture. Of course He can use Scripture, but He also uses any number of other ways to penetrate our hearts–never in contradiction to Scripture, but sometimes by speaking into our spirits. I don’t know how else to describe it, but enough other believers have shared that experience, I don’t doubt that our omnipotent God can communicate in any number of ways.I suspect that’s too outlandish for Christian rationalists.
I have been lurking in the shadows, so to speak, and enjoying your discussion with HG very much. Particularly like the expansion on the discussion about satan being everywhere, and that God speaks through more than just scripture. Thanks for your courage, both of you!
Thanks for your encouragement, Leeann. Always nice to hear! 😀