Magic in Entertainment

By Beth Hyduke

Is magic permissible as a means of carrying a fictional story? Should Christians watch movies or read books where magic plays a major role? There are many Christian believers on both sides of this issue. There are those who believe quite strongly that any use or mention of any kind of magic whatsoever, even make-believe magic or good magic, is sinful. And then there are those who reason that magic can be an amoral (neither moral or immoral) element of storytelling, or can even uphold and echo biblical truth.

What makes this issue so difficult to address is that magic is a very broad topic to define. When we use the term "magic" in fiction we could be describing occult magic (i.e., The Craft), mythological magic (i.e., Beowulf), allegorical magic (The Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of The Rings), and even practical magic like card tricks. Because "magic" is such an expansive umbrella term for many different nuances and meanings in fictional literature, I think it becomes necessary to more precisely define what you're actually talking about.

I think it is necessary to go to the Bible in order to understand what exactly God forbids and why He forbids it. In Deuteronomy 18 (one of the foundational Scripture passages forbidding the use or practice of magic) we find something very interesting from a contextual standpoint. The chapter begins with a set of instructions for offerings of priests and Levites, and ends with the Lord's commission and provision of prophets who serve as God's mouthpiece to His people. Between those two passages, we find the strongly-worded warning about practicing occult magic. It seems oddly out of place until we understand that the magic God detests is always an attempt to subvert God Himself, and by extension, God's prescription for how we are to live. This magic aims to seek knowledge and power apart from God and His ordained ways and to influence and manipulate others in an evil way. As Paul clarifies later in 1 Corinthians 10:20 occult magic falls under the category of worship whose object is not God but demonic powers.

While the Bible certainly condemns magic, it uses the term in a different way than we do today — it specifically refers to occult magic which defies God's authority and sovereignty. Any involvement in this kind of magic, even involvement in fictional literature or TV shows which glorify or promote this kind of occult activity, should be avoided. The Christian has no business filling his or her mind with spiritually dangerous things that encourage or glorify sin and aim to subvert God and spiritual truth. Rather, we should follow the Philippians 4:8 encouragement to pursue and dwell upon that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

Ultimately, the appropriateness of magic in fictional literature and entertainment media should be judged on a case by case basis, specifically in terms of how the magic works and what it is intended to accomplish and promote to its audience. We tend to think that some media is educational and some is entertaining. But every work of art — whether it's a fictional book, a movie, a TV show, a cartoon, or a painting — has the ability to shape our thinking and perspective. Everything we "take in" is educational in nature; the crucial question we need to be asking is what are we being taught? When we use common-sense and informed Christian discernment, it becomes pretty easy to see that while a story like The Craft's portrayal of magic obviously advocates the practice of occultic witchcraft that God detests and that defies His wishes for His people, the use of magic in The Lord of the Rings serves to underline, albeit in a fantastical way, the epic struggle between good and evil, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.

Image Credit: Karen Newman Photography; "The Wardrobe"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Reviews-Critiques  | Sin-Evil

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Published 5-1-17