Don't worry. The good news is, the other series will be coming as well, in the order of their popularity. And since one last vote squeaked in this morning (one vote on Advertising Discernment was a tester from Yours Truly to make sure the poll worked) "How to Deal With Dirty Words" wins silver, and "The Ins and Outs of Advertising Discernment" wins bronze.
But the gold medal definitely goes to Magic. And to be honest I had no idea what to write until yesterday morning.
I think many people struggle on how to handle this issue. After all, how does one handle wands and called-up thunderstorms and winter that never ends? Part of the problem can come from extreme literalism--taking things to be literal that are only meant to be symbolic. Many of the issues really are legitimate. So let's dig a little deeper.
To be quite honest, I've been putting off dealing with this issue for years. I couldn't reconcile some things in my ever-favorite Chronicles of Narnia, and I was scared to find out more about the rights and wrongs, simply because I loved them too much. But the issues that we refuse to deal with never go away. They'll come slinking back around in our lifetime, or worse still, in our children's. So it's best to reconcile them as they come.
Now granted, this won't be exhaustive, nor even as comprehensive as I would like. I'm dealing with it in my present understanding of Scripture. That changes, and refines, and expands. I'll probably be returning to this issue somewhere along the line. But I can offer a little of what the Lord has shown me so far. And I realize full well that you may differ with me. That's certainly just fine, and I wish you all grace and wisdom as you search out this issue for yourself.
Second of all, we're not going to rush through this. I have no idea how many parts it will be, but I'll deal with magic on Tuesdays until further notice. Fridays will be something else.
Thirdly, it is not my goal to teach my readers, or to learn more myself, about the abomination of witchcraft. I shall be endeavor to be discreet in the terms that I use and the depth to which I go. We're not here to learn about witchcraft. We're here to learn a biblical way to handle books that contain "magic".
And finally, I'm not going to be dealing with Tolkien or Lewis, but with magic in general. Because while these are the two most classic examples, a trend is on the rise in modern literature to include everything bizarre and fantastic. And I want to include some tips on how to deal with it anywhere, not just with those two authors.
So here we go. And I covet your prayers as I seek wisdom on this myself.
A Few Starting Points
1. Supernatural Powers Exist--
Anyone who reads the Bible understands that God works phenomena in ways that we cannot explain. Creating everything out of nothing was his very first evidence of supernatural power--then creating man out of dust, woman out of man, wine out of water. Holding the sun in its course, sending illogical terror on entire armies, walking on water, and raising men from the dead--some of whom had been dead for extended periods of time. And since He is an eternal God (1 Timothy 1:17) none of his attributes (including miracles) can ever pass away. The word "supernatural" implies something "being beyond or exceeding the powers or laws of nature; miraculous." (Webster's 1828 Dictionary). Therefore, supernatural implies something that men cannot achieve on their own. God can do supernatural acts through men, and he can do them without men, but men cannot on their own. Only spiritual forces have that power. Angels and demons have that power, but they cannot receive that power apart from God. For this post, we will use the term "Supernatural" to mean "miraculous events that occur by God's power, in subjection to His authority."
2. Demonic Powers Exist--
Another issue out of whack in our society is the issue of demonic power. Without going into detail, we'll be using the term "Sorcery" to refer to "events exceeding the laws of nature, executed through God's power, but in rebellion to His authority."
Because of the Fall, everything on earth has Good and Evil. Every natural thing has a right way and a wrong way to be used. And supernatural powers have both a Good side and an Evil side.
This makes many uncomfortable, and C.S. Lewis put it well when he said that humankind either has an unhealthy interest in, or ignores demonic power altogether. But I don't want to dwell on this heavy subject for long. Needless to say, they do exist, but the Christian can be assured that all evil is subject to the supremacy of Jesus Christ. The devil is vanquished by the cross, and though he is still allowed to rule the earth for a little while, Jesus will one day make a final end of him. We need not fear, but we do need to be aware.
3. Magic is Not a Neutral Issue--
A subject is either taken dominion to the glory of Christ, or it is given over to the workings of the devil. Therefore, we need to be informed about magic in the books that we read. And the purpose of these posts are to give a few pointers for evaluation.
4. Oftentimes We Misunderstand Our Terms--
Many people are confused between the meaning of "magic" and the meaning of "supernatural". Or more specifically, the difference between black sorcery and miracles of God. What about wizards, witches, and magicians? 'the "good" witch of the North" and 'the "bad" witch of wherever-it-was'?Sometimes we call something evil because we misunderstand the meaning of the term. We've already looked at sorcery and supernatural, but let's look at a few more:
witch: a female sorcerer, no doubts at all. They are wicked, and should be portrayed as such.
wizard: originally meant "philosopher or sage" in the middle of the fifteenth century. Therefore, you may want to check the author's intended meaning before you throw the book out altogether. Granted many probably draw little difference between "wizard" and "magician" but some still do. While it has negative connotations because of the changes in English language, it may not always be intended to refer to sorcery.
magician: a male sorcerer. No bones about it. They are wicked, and should be portrayed as such.
5.Oftentimes We Misunderstand Our Times--
The English language changes. Profanity alone is evidence of that. Sometimes words that have negative meanings today did not have those same meanings at the time of the author's original writing. Therefore, if it was written in a time when the words/meanings were good, then I take it at the time when it was written, and consider it good. But if it was written at a time when the meaning was bad, and the author knew better, then I give no room for excuses. In other words, I apply 19th century meanings to 19th century books, but I don't apply 19th century meanings to 21st century books.
That's all for today, fellow bibliophiles. I'm dipping my toes in the pool, so to speak, and next time I will cover further questions and issues. If you have thoughts or comments, I would love to receive them by email, or in the comment box. Please be respectful of differing viewpoints, and grant grace to each other. Right is not relative, but we are all at different stages in our spiritual growth.
And on Friday, I will have a stand-alone article on an important issue for the bibliophile. :)