Harry Potter Vs. the Bible: Can Christians read Harry Potter? Pt.3

Read part one of this post here, or read part two here.

Biblical Themes in Harry Potter(cont.)

Spoilers lie ahead

Revealed in the seventh Harry Potter book, but present throughout the entire series, is an idea Jesus introduces during the Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew 6:24a Jesus says:

“No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”

This idea is very real, especially throughout the seventh book.  During the seventh book many things are revealed about Dumbledore’s past, and one of these things is that Dumbledore had a sister who died under his care.  We learn that she died mainly from Dumbledore’s neglect and carelessness and that this neglect stemmed from the fact that Dumbledore was so avidly searching for the Deathly Hallows.  Dumbledore was attempting to serve both his sister and his greed, and his greed won out, with disastrous consequences.

The other key, and even stronger, example of this principle can be found in Severus Snape, the villain that everyone who has read Harry Potter has a serious love/hate relationship with.  (I, personally fall more on the love end, but that post is for another time.)  At the end of the seventh book, Harry enters Snape’s memory, and discovers that Snape was in love with Harry’s mother, Lily Evans, all throughout his life, even when he served Voldermort. When Voldermort decided to kill the Potter family, Snape’s two masters conflicted.  Snape implored Voldermort not to attack Lily’s household, but Voldermort did not listen.  Snape then turned to Dumbledore.   This is another excellent showing of a servant attempting to serve two masters. Snape is most certainly one of the best characters in Harry Potter, and, in my mind, the entire landscape of literature.

Dumbledore also has a number of quotes that sound reminiscent of Christian ideas.  At the end of the second book, Harry discovers he can speak in Parseltongue, the language of snakes.  This is a talent normally held by dark wizards, and by Voldermort himself. Harry begins to question if having this talent makes him evil.  Dumbledore responds:

 

“It is our choices, [Harry] that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

This is certainly a Biblical principle.  At the end of the fourth book, Dumbledore gives a speech to the students informing them of Voldermort’s return.  He tells them that in the coming days they must decide between what is right and what is easy rather than the oft used, what is wrong. This is much reminiscent of of what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to eternal life, and only a few find it.”

Dumbledore also quotes several Bible verses on the graves of loved ones.  On the grave of his mother and sister he writes, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  This is a direct quotation of Matthew 6:21(the Sermon on the Mount.)  When Hermione and Harry see this grave in the book, little is made of this phrase, but Rowling says that Harry does not understand its meaning.  Another Biblical quotation can be found on the tomb of Harry’s parents.  The inscription reads: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Once again a Biblical quotation, this time from 1 Corinthians 15:26.

There are numerous other Biblical themes in Harry Potter, things such as Harry observing Luna spreading special herbs on the grave of Dobby the house elf three days after Dobby’s death (much like the women who came to put spice in the tomb of Jesus), but I have discussed some of the most significant.

Conclusion

So, can Christians read Harry Potter?  Most definitely. Interestingly enough, J.K. Rowling revealed after the release of the final book that the books were written from a Christian viewpoint, but that she kept this a secret so as not to give away the series’ ending.  Although there is some debate as to how religious Rowling is, these books are just as good Christian allegories as the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, although it does take more time and thought to reveal the allegories in Harry Potter.

The Harry Potter books are also one of the greatest literary works of all time.  As already mentioned, J.K. Rowling studied classical literature at Harvard, and this certainly shines through in her excellent books.  The genius of Rowling can be seen in   everything from themes and writing style to the names chosen for her characters.(Which I may write a post on at a later date.)

One important attribute that Rowling would appear to have inherited from classical literature is the idea of the characters making the plot, rather than the plot making the characters.  In many classical works, we are introduced to the characters first, and the story is slowly shaped around them, rather than the idea that has become popular today, of throwing characters directly into the thick of the plot, and allowing that plot to reveal the the character to us. Allowing the characters to shape the plot requires much more work and thought, as well as much more developed characters.

And Rowling  has amazing, very real , excellently developed characters.  All of Rowling’s characters make choices that are very real; and you feel that the only thing keeping you from these characters is an inch of paper and the words that fill the gap.  While Rowling may not stay as completely true to this method of characters over story, she certainly opts much more toward it than the converse method of plot over characters.

Harry Potter is  an amazing story, with, as aforementioned, many Christian themes.  J.K. Rowling has created one of the most  creative, imaginative world in all of literature.  I would put the Harry Potter legacy only second to that of the Bible, and believe that it will be forever regarded as one of the great classics.  These books are amazingly written, great allegories for the Christian faith, and show many truths about humanity that are so true we have lost sight of them.  Humanity speaks its best and most profound truths through its literature, and the Harry Potter books are some of the best literature available.  Not only can Christians read Harry Potter, but they should.

 

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Harry Potter Vs. the Bible: Can Christians read Harry Potter? Pt. 2

Read part one of this post here.

Christian themes in Harry Potter 

(WARNING:  SPOILERS LIE AHEAD)

 

Throughout Harry Potter, there are dozens of themes that could be considered Christian.  A good begining to this subject would be to discuss the resurrection themes within Harry Potter.  One form of magic used in the series is a kind of atoning sacrifice.  We are told that by an ancient form of magic, if one individual sacrifices themselves for another, that fellow human,(or humans) will be spared.  This magic is first used in the very first book.  When the wicked Lord Voldermort comes to kill Harry, Harry’s mother dies for him, and when Voldermort attempts to destroy Harry the curse rebounds, banishing Voldermort to a spirit form for many years.

This magic is also used in the final book.  Harry sacrifices himself(for many reasons,) and when he dies he finds himself in an imaginary King’s Cross Station with Dumbledore.  Dumbledore tells Harry that he can go back, and that he must return to fully defeat Voldermort.  When Harry does go back, he finds that Voldermort does not have the power to kill his friends because Harry has died for them.

Also in the seventh book, the Deathly Hallows are introduced.  The first is a wand that wins any battle, the second an invisibility cloak that never wears out and cannot be revealed by any spell, and the third is a stone that can bring back the dead.  This stone would be a resurrection symbol on its own, but to bring someone back, you turn it three times. Although it may not have been purposeful on Rowling’s part, this is a fascinating parallel to the fact that Jesus was in the grave three days. Dumbledore tells Harry in the aforementioned King’s Cross Station scene, that he attempted to posses these items, but could not. He then tells Harry that the true owner of the Deathly Hallows is Harry himself, because he would not pursue them in an attempt to control death.  Dumbledore tells Harry that he, Harry, is the true master of death because he did not fear death, much like Christ.

Another symbol of resurrection exists in Dumbledore’s pet bird, Fawkes, a phoenix, who is reborn each time he dies.  Harry hears Fawkes singing after Dumbledore dies.

And when Harry fights Voldermort at the end of the fourth book, he causes those Voldermort has killed to come out of Voldermort’s wand, in a kind of ghost-form, similar to the form of those who come from the resurrection stone, another nod to a resurrection.

(Part three coming next week!)

Harry Potter vs. the Bible: Can Christians read Harry Potter? Pt. 1

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!)