Much has been made over the Harry Potter series, the magic within it, and how it should be handled by Christians. Is Harry Potter harmful to the Christian soul? Does Harry Potter paint the occult in too friendly a way? Can anything valuable for the Christian be found in Harry Potter? Many Christians believe that the Harry Potter series is directly against the Bible, but there is a strong argument to be made that the books actually endorse more Christian messages than they contest. So, are the messages in Harry Potter so evil that they outweigh the worth in reading it and the Biblical messages throughout it?
Of course, there would be no conversation here at all if the Bible did not have some very strong thoughts on this subject, so let’s start by discussing those. Sorcery and magic are directly forbidden in the Bible many times. Deuteronomy 18:10-12a says:
“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.”
These practices are forbidden at numerous other times as well (Ezk. 13:18-23, Lev. 19:27 and Lev. 20:27) and the Bible speaks of those who practice sorcery being destroyed by the Lord’s wrath (Mic 5:12 and Is. 47:12-15.) In Revelation 9:21 and 22:15, those who practice magic arts are mentioned in the same breath as the sexually immoral, murderers, thieves, and idolaters, as well as “everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
The Bible, then, very clearly condemns the use of the magic arts. But the Bible never condemns the reading of materials that discuss the magic arts. Indeed, if we were to refrain from the reading of all materials that mention the use of magic, we would have to ban even the Bible, because outside of directly forbidding these activities, the Bible also discusses numerous individuals who practiced them. The most famous of these is, of course, Simon the Sorcerer who Philip meets in Samaria. This story is found in Acts 8:9-13:
“Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.’ They all followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.”
Outside of this being a direct instance of magic used in the Bible, we can also glean another interesting piece of information from these verses. Simon was astonished by the miracles Philip was performing through the name of Jesus. Simon was probably working his magic through the power of the devil, but he immediately recognized a greater power and followed it in awe.
There are also several other mentions of individuals practicing magic in the Bible. In Acts 16:16, Paul commands a demon who is assisting a girl in the practice of divination to leave her. When Moses visits Pharaoh and causes his staff to transform into a snake, Pharaoh counters by calling in the magicians and sorcerers of Egypt, who did the same by their “secret arts.”(Ex. 7: 11). Pharaoh also calls upon these men when Moses strikes Egypt with the first few plagues. It is interesting to note, that although these magicians are able to copy Moses in his turning of water into blood and in causing frogs to pollute Egypt, they fail to fill the land with gnats, and they finally admit that Moses is working through the hand of God (Ex. 8:19). We once again see that God is more powerful than anything man or the devil can do.
In 1 Kings 9: 22, the wicked queen Jezebel practices witchcraft. Likewise in Samuel 28, Saul uses necromancy to summon Samuel at the end of his reign, even though he worked very hard at the beginning of his reign to rid Israel of such a vile practice.
Now, it is true that the magic in Harry Potter is much more compelling than in the Bible, but there are many, many books that we read that discuss magic in this way, including The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, which are both looked at as very strong Christian allegories. So what makes Harry Potter more dangerous than these books?
There are several reasons why the Harry Potter series could be considered dangerous. The first is that in Harry Potter the magic is very explicitly depicted and explained, and the central plot revolves around magic. The second reason is that in Harry Potter, the line between the good and evil magic is not very clear. The good characters at times use spells considered black magic, unlike in many other series, such as Charlie Bone.
The final reason lies in how well Harry Potter is written. J.K. Rowling is an amazing author, and she naturally makes you feel a part of the world she is in. The danger in this is that those reading the book may feel so involved in the story that they want in a very real way to experience it, which can lead readers down the wrong path.
The other side of this argument, however, is that just like all fantasy literature, the magic in the Harry Potter books is merely fantasy, and can be regarded completely as fiction, just as it can in the Chronicles of Narnia or Charlie Bone.
There are also many themes in Harry Potter that are very reminiscent of Christianity. J.K. Rowling’s degree, (at Harvard University) was in classical literature, and in her books the themes of classical literature shine through, those themes often finding root in Biblical truths.
(Keep an eye out for part two!)