THE TAKE AWAY
Should Christians watch or read magic-based fiction?
By Kersley Fitzgerald
When it comes to magic, the Old Testament is clear:
Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:31So reading palms is on a level with child sacrifice. That's pretty straightforward.
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. Deuteronomy 18:10-12
The New Testament repeats the warning:
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Revelation 21:8With this firmly in mind, what does it mean for fictional stories that use some element of magic? Should Christians completely avoid them, or is there room for discernment?
I think magic is one of those things that needs to be taken in context. In this world, and the world of the Bible, there are two sources of supernatural power: God and demons. When people are allowed to use God's supernatural power, we call that a miracle. When people use supernatural power that is not of God, that power comes from demons. There is no other source. So it is not the use of supernatural power, per se, that is sin, but the fact that in this world, non-God-derived supernatural power comes from interacting with demons, which is incredibly dangerous, harmful, and against everything God tells us about how to live.
So, in a fantasy world, we need to determine where the power comes from and how it's used. In Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles, magic is a gift granted by Wulder — the allegorical God-figure of that world. In that case, you can see the young wizard Kale's use of magic as somewhat of a fantastical spiritual gift. Of course, the bad guys use magic from the allegorical demon characters, and that's allowed because we know they're bad and, to my mind, they're allegorical. That is, they are characters meant to be a metaphor for the spiritual warfare we face; they do not represent real demons.
In Tolkien's books, the wizards and, to varying degrees, the elves are magical because that is the way their races were created. Their power comes from the characteristics of their race mixed with the background of their genetic line and the amount that they have studied (e.g.: Galadriel is older and has a purer line than Legolas). So, in this case, magic is like a dolphin jumping — how high a dolphin can reach depends on what type of dolphin it is and how much it has practiced jumping. Aragorn is a Numenorean, a descendant of a noble race fathered by Elrond's brother Elros. What magical power Aragorn has comes from his bloodline and from his position as rightful king of Gondor.
I would personally say that the Harry Potter books fall into this category. Magic is just a genetic trait that you're born with (or not) and can be increased through practice. In this case, magic is neutral, and the character of the person determines if it's good or bad. But it's still just an ability, like running or doing math in your head.
And the Scarlet Witch from the latest Avengers movie? Similar. Her ability came from scientific experimentation, not supernatural forces. Even the Inhumans just got their power from alien experimentation.
Where we get into trouble is when the magic more closely resembles the supernatural powers of our reality. When fictional witches have the same traits and practices of real people who dabble with satanic forces, it gets dangerous — especially if those fictional witches are sympathetic characters (I'm thinking of Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). It's obvious that Kale, Gandalf, and Harry Potter do not get their power from demons. But Willow, even though she (usually) used her powers for good, draws us in to thinking that real-life demonic power can be used safely and even controlled. That it's neutral, when really it's incredibly destructive.
Personally, I also do not like fiction that uses true-to-life demons as a plot point. I don't understand the fascination with having that kind of (literary) control over demons. To that end, I don't like the Dresden Files or Supernatural. There's a new show coming out where the protagonist can enter the mind of a recently deceased person. That would typically be necromancy, but true life necromancy is nothing more than calling out a demon who pretends to be a dead person. Except for the little incident with Saul, Samuel's spirit, and a very surprised witch of Endor. We'll have to see where this protagonist gets her power, but even if it's fantastical and not occultic, it certainly could encourage people to seek out those who claim to talk to the dead. That is much more dangerous than sending mail by owl.
That's my take on it, and others will give you different perspectives — including many of my friends. Before I worked for Got Questions, I wrote sci fi and fantasy, and Donita K. Paul is a mentor and a friend. I can tell you that there is not one evil bone in her body! Her writing comes from her desire to serve God and make His love known, and her chosen medium is allegorical fantasy. That being said, everyone should decide for themselves what they think is appropriate and live as the Lord leads them.
So, I've caught the first few episodes of Stitchers, the new TV show where the protagonist enters the mind of recently deceased people. It's not magic at all, but pseudo-neurological science. The premise is that a secret government agency has the technology to "stitch" a living person into the more recent memories of a dead person for a limited amount of time. The stitcher experiences the victim's memories, gathering information in order to solve a crime. There's no magic involved at all. Will it encourage necromancy? I don't know.
Strangely enough, Stitchers somewhat resembles the pilot episode of Torchwood (the Doctor Who spin-off I can't recommend because of sexual content). But their tool was an guantlet endowed with rift energy that temporarily brought people back to life.
Tags: Christian-Life | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | Reviews-Critiques | Satan-Demons
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Published 5-18-2015; Revised 7-13-2015