Should Magic in Stories Bother Christians?

Harry Potter wielding knife

Image from playbuzz.com

To have magic or not have magic, that is the question.

And it’s one that has plagued the Christian reading community for too long.

From Narnia to Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, the topic of magic is a hot-button issue that’s sure to rouse a lively—if not heated—discussion.

The Source of Magic

In a previous post, I talked about the scientific vs. supernatural sources of magic.

My conclusion was that the best definition of magic is something completely alien to reality, a power or source not based in science but in the supernatural. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be magic.

By far, this is the more treacherous path winding up Magic Mountain. Scientific explanations are one thing because they avoid a connection with witchcraft and the occult.

Supernatural powers, on the other hand, are the skeleton in the room. There are too many unknowns, too much risk involved. Best to avoid everything that touches on supernatural-based magic.

But is it?

This is the one that draws a bold line in the sand, raises ire, and causes dissent. How do we deal with magic that uses spells and enchantments—something not anchored in the safe harbor of science?

It’s too close to the occult for comfort.

There’s something legitimate in these fears. Witchcraft and occultism are real and dangerous. That assumes, however, that all supernatural powers are tied to those dangers. If we’re talking supernatural magic—not based in science—it must be evil.

Which isn’t true.

There are two sides of supernatural magic, what C.S. Lewis termed “white” magic and “black” magic, both answering the original question: what’s the source of the power?

  1. God—or whatever divinity exists in the world
  2. Not God—the evil force opposing good

Forgive the basic titles, but that’s what it comes down to.

In some cases, the magic is more amoral, a power that can be equally wielded for good or evil depending on the user. For example:

  • Allomancy from the Mistborn Trilogy
  • Bloodvoicing in the Blood of Kings Trilogy

Personally, I have no issue with reading and writing about magic, whether purely evil, purely good, or amoral. Even so-called witchcraft doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s properly portrayed as something evil or ultimately has negative consequences for whoever uses it.

We don’t throw a mystery book down in horror when someone’s murdered, even though murder is a sin, and we shouldn’t have the same impulsive reaction to magic.

The presence or absence of magic isn’t the issue. One issue is where it’s rooted and how the characters handle it.

Another—more important issue—is our personal convictions.

Good and Bad Reasons We Avoid Magic

Whenever magic comes up, the inevitable mention of Harry Potter follows. Some Christians vehemently denounce the books because they include witchcraft and the main characters are practicing wizards.

Others don’t see those problems and enjoy the books without the fear of magic’s dangers hanging over their heads like a thunderstorm, ready to zap their consciences.

Who’s right?

It depends.

I’ve been in circles that rejected Harry Potter outright because it was dangerous. Across the board. No exceptions.

Now I’m on the other side of the argument, and I think calling every instance of magic inherently evil goes too far.

Ultimately, it depends on the individual person and their situation.

I’ve talked to people who’ve known friends that were drawn to the occult through reading Harry Potter, or who had an interest in occult practices themselves and chose to avoid the books for fear they’d be too big of a temptation.

Those are good, rational reasons to avoid Harry Potter and other types of “questionable” magic, and I respect them. However, one can’t force their personal convictions on others who wouldn’t be lured by such temptations.

That’s when the wheels fall off the proverbial cart.

I’ve read the first two Harry Potter books, and I’m going to continue reading them. It’s not my place to judge others who, for whatever reason, avoid the series.

But neither is it their place to judge me or call my faith into question because I’m supposedly engaging in an activity of the devil.

If all magic was evil, it would be a different matter, but for every shadow there’s a ray of sunlight. For every evil act there’s a counterpart rooted in the pure soil of virtue.

For every Voldemort, there’s a Gandalf.

Magic is merely another expression of these truths, not something to flay without thought but something to examine carefully.

When we do that, we’ll be able to enjoy fantasy as it was meant to be—epic, amazing, and yes, magical.

As a reader, do you avoid all magic or only certain types? Do you think it’s wrong to discount any magic without a reasonable motive? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Comments

Should Magic in Stories Bother Christians? — 3 Comments

  1. Great article! I have lived with one foot in the “all magic is bad” camp, and eventually came around to “most magic is fine,” but once in awhile there is a book that bothers me on some level with the depiction of magic, usually because it “feels” similar to the occult to me. It’s very subjective and personal, for sure. Most of the time I really enjoy fictional magic, especially the kind that’s actually a science!

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, since it’s been awhile since I read the books, but wasn’t bloodvoicing a trait that was inherited? So wouldn’t that make it “science” because it was biological for some people in that world? I could be mistaken.

    • Thanks, Bethany. Glad you enjoyed it!

      You might be right on the bloodvoicing. I don’t remember. Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. Pingback: How Magic Displays the Power of Words | Zachary Totah

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