Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harry Potter Pt MII

Just the other day my brother in law, Mark, asked in a forlorn voice "how long was it before you stopped thinking about the end of the book?"

"Oh Mark, I am sorry to tell you that I haven't stopped thinking about the end of the book."

But since you slow-pokes out there haven't finished it I'm not allowed to talk about the end of the book.

So instead I've been focusing on an extraneous matter - the debate among my peers over whether the books are appropriate for Christian children.

Before reading the books I witnessed a very vocal and passionate debate at the jewelry store I worked at. Two of the mothers in the store were fans but one father (a fellow creeker) said the books were inappropriate for children because they glorified witchcraft. I stayed out of the argument but my curiosity was piqued. Finally, after seeing the first movie, and hearing a christian teacher talk about her interpretation of the book, I decided to check it out for myself.

What I found was a book far more steeped in tradition and morals than any of the books I had been reading when I was Harry Potter's age. I fell in love with the rich and complex universe Rowling had created, as well as her halting, brave little heroes.

I also decided that when I had kids they weren't going to read Harry Potter too early. I knew a mail man who was reading the books to his 6 year old daughter and I winced to think of this little girl hearing about the more gruesome acts of Lord Voldemort. The content of each book matures with Harry, so while the first book might be okay for a 7 year old, I wouldn't give the sixth book to anybody under 11 or 12.

As more and more Christian adults are checking out the Potter books for themselves the tide of objections seem to be shrinking, according to this article from the South Bend Tribune.
Harry dropped off the top-10 list of the ALA's most protested books last year.
What's caused this shift in perception?

He...credits the Harry Potter films for the apparent change of heart. "I think the movies illustrated how much Christian theology has in common with the message of Harry Potter. Without the movies, we would still have a huge uproar."

And an increasing number of Christian writers are going further. Connie Neal, John Granger, Gina Burkart and John Killinger -- a former youth pastor, classics teacher, creative writing professor and Congregationalist minister, respectively -- are making a case to their faith community that Harry Potter is a parable.

Their theory? That instead of leading children down the path of the occult, J.K. Rowling is using magic in the way that Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien did, as a way of enchanting children into hearing the story of the Gospel.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's my unrequested opinion on the subject.

You'll remember our discussion on Kelly's blog about the old law, Kim. I objected to applying it to modern day situations, and you shared your feelings about how you discern whether or not you should follow certain aspects of it.

Well picking and choosing doesn't really fit with my theology. I'm of the belief that when we were saved, we died as Christ died, and through that the Mosaic Law no longer rules over us. Making all old testament law obsolete.

So party time at Scott's house, right? Well not so fast. In addition to Paul commanding us to abstain from the laws about sexual purity, he also said that we as Christians are to "live by the Spirit." Now we all know the Spirit is not going to tell us to do things that are against God's nature, so we will be forbidden to do many of the things that the old testament Law said, such as stealing or murder. But it wont be because of the Old Law that these things are restricted, but because of the Spirit.

So where does that leave Mr. Potter in all this? While, I'm quite unimpressed by those who spout verses from Deuteronomy or Leviticus commanding us, er... Jews, to abstain from witchcraft or whatever. But I'm equally uninspired by those who seek to justify Potter by claiming it's really a Christian message in disguise.

The one I'll listen to is the one who says to me, "You know, I just feel life the Spirit is telling me that's not something my kids need." Good for them.

What's the Spirit telling me about Potter? Not much really. Seems there are enough other things I do wrong that are more pressing to Him. Plus it's not really an issue now since Emily's not quite advanced enough to read it anyway. When it is an issue, we'll see what happens.

Scott said...

Opps, that was me, not the infamous Anonymous.

*curses Blogger under his breath*

Kim Traynor said...

Good morning Scott! Thanks for weighing in!

First, about the law...picking and choosing vs. tossing it out.

Just because we no longer face the eternal consequences for failing to obey the law (we are free) doesn't mean that the law no longer matters. God designed the law to help us live right with Himself and others. Some laws (like the laws that helped us get closer to God or laws that told us how to punish sin) are no longer needed because Christ took the punishment and God sent his Holy Spirit so that we could be closer to Him. This is by no means an arbitrary "picking and choosing." It is based in scripture and reason. And the Holy Spirit told me so.

Which leads me to the second thing, the Holy Spirit and Harry Potter. The Holy Spirit knows each of us, our strengths and our weaknesses, and we ought to obey when prompted. However, if the Holy Spirit tells a person "hey, this Harry Potter thing isn't for you" but doesn't provide any reasons why it is wrong for everybody else, then that person should not condemn other people or petition their local school board to get it yanked out of the library so that others can't enjoy it.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit has a message just for us, and when we try to apply it to everyone else I believe we are in the same boat as the person Paul scolded for speaking in tongues to no edification of the body.

But what if the Holy Spirit told me it's wrong and the Bible backs that up with its teaching about witchcraft? Well, the question is, is fiction that uses magic an example of withcraft and sorcery?

If it was than we'd have to stop reading a lot of our favorite stories - stories like Chronicles or Narnia, the Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Pinnochio, Grimms Fairy Tales, MacBeth, etc. Literature without magic is something unimaginable.

I'm not saying a book is innocuous because it's a book. Some books are dangerous. Here are the questions I would ask myself to determine if the book was a danger to me: Does the book claim to contain supernatural powers? Does the book claim to contain revelations that contradict the Bible? Does it seek to take the place of the one true God? Does it seduce people to set themselves up as gods?

So Harry Potter doesn't fit my criteria for an evil book, but is it a Christian message in disguise? I first wondered this when I heard a teacher read a bit from the end of book 1 where Dumbledore explained to Harry that what saved him was not his own strength, but the love of his mother, who sacrificed her life so that Harry would live. Sounded a little familiar. Since then I've had an open mind to the idea that Rowling was deliberately tapping into Christian themes.

You say you were uninspired by the argument Granger put forth in the article I posted. Well, at least you are no longer uninformed, which is more than I can say for most Harry Potter detractors.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Steph Stanger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steph Stanger said...

sorry I wanted to add to my comment...Scott are you saying you believe all Old testament law is thrown out and we only obey the old testament laws the spirit leads us to? I was a little confused and wanted to clarify. Because that sounds more like picking and choosing to me. But I'm sure I misunderstood what you wrote, please clarify for me using small words. =)

As far as the Harry Potter thing goes. I certainly think parents have the right and responsibility to decide what their kids read. For me the argument lies more in whether or not Harry Potter is an evil book and not whether or not parents should trust the Holy Spirit.

Kim Traynor said...

Hey Scott, I was so surprised by your position on law today that I did a little research and found that you are not alone. Your view is shared by many groups within Evangelical Christianity.

And apparently my view was shaped by my studies at Calvin, because my position (that all of the law is good, but some has been "fulfilled" by Christ) is the common view held by Reformed (CRC, Baptist, Prebyterian) Christians.

Obviously I still think I'm right ;) but if brilliant theolgians tossing arguments at each other across the centuries can't agree, then we probably never will either!

Scott said...

Whew! Where do I begin?

Kim:

I'll start with the Potter stuff since that was what this post was origianlly about. You said:

The Holy Spirit knows each of us, our strengths and our weaknesses, and we ought to obey when prompted. However, if the Holy Spirit tells a person "hey, this Harry Potter thing isn't for you" but doesn't provide any reasons why it is wrong for everybody else, then that person should not condemn other people or petition their local school board to get it yanked out of the library so that others can't enjoy it.

I really couldn't agree with you more. That's pretty much the point I was trying to make in my original comment, though looking back I can see how it would be misconstrued. When I said good for people who feel like the Spirit was guiding them away from Potterdom, I was in no way condemning those who read the books. If the Spirit is telling you or anyone else that there's no problem with reading it, have at it! I especially like the point you made about our own strengths and weaknesses and how some things may be harmful to one person and not so much to the other.

My only thought on the Christian message in Rowling’s work is that I thought I remember her, from a long time a go, making some derogatory comments about Christians in general. It could be just my memory is off, or maybe she was just bashing Christian Fundamentalists, in which case I might even agree with her. I don’t know.

Scott said...

Steph:

Scott are you saying you believe all Old testament law is thrown out and we only obey the old testament laws the spirit leads us to?

What I’m saying is that the Old Testament law (Ten Commandments, ceremonies, sacrifices, etc.) is the way God setup in the Old Testament for those he loved to obtain righteousness. That is to say, if a man were to follow the Law to every last detail, he would have no need for a savior and would be able to stand before God as holy and perfect. The offering of Christ as the sacrifice to all eliminates the need for us to follow the Law.

Now, as far as I know (someone can correct me if I’m wrong here) the Bible never provides a reason to follow certain parts of the law and throw out others. It is my understanding that we are given the option to either pursue righteousness by the Law, or give up and claim righteousness by believing on Christ as our savior. Paul spends a pretty significant portion of the New Testament making a case to Jews to drop the Law and instead follow grace, claiming converted Christians who attempt to follow some of the Law after being saved “have fallen from grace.” This is not to say that they loose their salvation, but rather they have stopped relying on the free gift of Christ and are instead trying to earn God’s favor by achieving the lofty goals of the Law. Again, I know the instant reaction to this argument is that Paul is only talking about ceremonial laws, but like I said, I can’t find where the Bible differentiates any part of the Law.

The other reaction to this doctrine is that, since we aren’t under the Law or Ten Commandments, then we must be under moral anarchy and “free” to sin however we please. Paul saw this argument coming and addressed it in Romans 6:15-18

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

See, I’m not saying we follow only the Old Testament laws the Spirit tells us to follow, I’m saying we don’t follow any of the Old Laws. We follow the Spirit. Now it just so happens that a lot of what the Spirit tells us is going to coincide with what the Law says, since the Spirit and the author of the Old Testament are one in the same. But the principle we should follow should be that of obedience to the Spirit, not to the Law.

I hope some of that makes sense, it’s a lot to cover and it actually runs even deeper than that. I know I didn’t do the doctrine justice, but I hope I at least formed some of the foundation.

I’m sorry I had to interject my philosophies into your blog Kim, but the question was there on whether or not Potter was objectionable, and to answer it I had to explain why I kind of disagreed (or maybe kind of agreed) with both sides. I appreciate that you took the time to research my side of the argument; that means a lot to me. And I’m glad I’m not the only nut out there.

thekooiet said...

What an interesting debate guys! ...Harry Potter to the Law....

Jeff and I have really been learning about the "Law" the past couple years (Jeff more so than I). I find it sad that many of us as Christians hear the word "law" and run for the hills, when actually the translation for Torah is instruction. Doesn't the word instruction sound much nicer than law? He (God) is not going to smite us or strike us down if we don't follow the 613 commandments...thank Jesus for that, but through our faith in the grace of Jesus Christ we are saved and because of His love for us we should desire to follow His instructions. I think we, as Christians, have really lost sight of our history, our heritage and our legacy. We have gotten things all mixed and jumbled up when it comes to grace and law. What Jesus teaches about is not new to Jews, it's all Torah. He gave us the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to binden and losen what we read from His instructions (this does not mean to pick and choose...)
I'm still struggling with all of this...like you said Kim, if great theologans can't figure it out, we never will. It's one of those mysteries of God.
I really recomend reading "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell. He makes some beautiful analogies and expresses thoughts so eloquently...you know the feeling you get in your heart when you just resound so deeply with what was said?..that's how this book will make you feel. So sorry to make this sound like an ad...but I just feel it right here (me pointing at my gut)...He talks in detail about bindening and losening....about where truth is and how to find it....(me pointing to my gut again.)

About the Harry stuff. I really respect your opinions Kim, you have great discernment. Magic is quite the controversy...and often people are very hypocritical of there thoughts. I, myself, am one of those hypocrites. No Harry for my kiddos (or Lord of the Rings)...but Chronicles or Narnia are okay. I wrestle with this even as I'm writing...

Miss you all!

Kim Traynor said...

Hi Kooiet! Thank you so much for adding your voice to the conversation!

I agree with you that the Old Testament is incredibly valuable to Christians. God's plan is unfolding before us, but God's character is the same yesterday, today and forever. That means that what our good God had to say to Moses is as good as what our good God had to say to Paul.

I think this question of whether the Holy Spirit is to replace the scriptures as our moral compass is answered perfectly by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:14-16:

"...from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

This indicates that the woman or man who attempts to operate on the guidance of the Holy Spirit alone is not thoroughly equipped.

It is important to note that at the time this letter was written the holy Scriptures included ONLY the Old Testament. That means that argument (which I've read at some websites) that all a Christian needs to be thoroughly equipped is the NT and the HS is also false.

The clincher for me is this passage from Matt 5:17-19 where Jesus says,

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands wil be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven."

(ps Rob's book sounds really interesting!)

Steph Stanger said...

wow...super hardcore!

Crystal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott said...

Throw out the Old Testament? Who the heck said anything about that?

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yeah, Jesus spent a lot of his time here on Earth telling people to follow the Law, since at the time it was the only way to salvation. I totally agree with Jesus here, especially this part:

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments

See, that's been my point from the beginning. There is no biblical evidence to support the breaking down of the Law. In fact it's quite the opposite, we're told time and time again that every little last detail, letter for letter, must be followed. The Law leaves no room for grace. It only points the finger in condemnation, and declares us all guilty. There is no escape from the Law's judgment.

The only way to escape it is death. Laws don't apply to dead men. Paul summed it up in Romans 7:

Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to, the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Christ died, and when he did those who believe on him as their savior died as well. That's the mystery. How can we be dead and still be living? I don't know, but God says it's so.

Point me toward the verse that tells us to follow some of the Law, but not all. Then I'll see your point.

thekooiet said...

To a Jew the Law is NOT salvation. It is the outward expression of their faith in God - A covenant -not a salvation issue. Here is an example of this:

Romans 4:1-3 "...If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about - but not before God. What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

"They (God's Law) express God's love, will, and purposes concerning human conduct and relationships and are binding upon all people in every age. These precepts are the basis of God's covenant with His people and the standard in God's judgment. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit they point out sin and awaken a sense of need for a Savior. Salvation is all of grace and not of works, but its fruitage is obedience to the Commandments. This obedience develops Christian character and results in a sense of well-being. It is an evidence of our love for the Lord and our concern for our fellow men." A Biblical Esposition of Fundamental Doctrines.

Again, we could sit here and type back and forth till the cows come home. The bottom line is, we could make the Bible say just about whatever we wanted it to. That's how the Natzi's got their start...how our founding fathers thought slavery was justified...why they all decided to drink the koolaid....

But somewhere, someone decided (and decides everyday) what we "do" and "not do", what we keep and what we throw out...

Just like when the group of dudes got together and had to decide what books were a part our our Bible...we have faith that they were listening to God when they made those crucial decisions.

"Greet eachother with a holy kiss." We don't see people all kiss'n eachother, do we?

What about keeping the Sabath day holy? No work? What's work? What if my work is another man's play? What does it mean to keep it holy and set apart?

See, somebody decides...bindens and losens...

"Because God has spoken, and everything else is comentary." Rob Bell

Kim Traynor said...

Romans 7 is a fascinating chapter. It has a stream-of-conscious feel, like Paul is wrestling with these ideas.
Rather than solving the mystery for us, it simply deepens it. But the way I read chapter 7 and 8 is that the Spirit enables us to live out the law more completely because instead of trying to do it in our power, our own flesh, we now can do it by His Spirit.

For me, the law has done exactly what Jamie's great quote says it is meant to do - convicts me of my sin, shows me my need of a savior, reveals God's love and will, and builds Christian character in me.

The Belgic Confession, Article 25, puts it this way "we continue to use the witness drawn from the law and prophets to confirm in us the gospel and to regulate our lives with full integrity for the glory of God, according to His will."


I believe that it pleases God that we don't "get it" all the time. It's never appeared to be a priority of His to give us the full picture. If it pleases Him that we should be unable to pin it down, then I guess that is good enough for me.

Scott said...

Wow, I don't even know where to go with this. For fear of causing strife between us, or as Kooiet put it, "making the bible say what I want," I'll just post this is let it say whatever it means to you.

Galatians 5

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another."

I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this with you two. And Kim, I meant what I said about really appreciating you taking the time to research my views.

thekooiet said...

Did I say "I?" I was NOT directing that comment toward YOU.

Don't worry Scott...no strife at all. I totally love your views and opinions, very respectable. I don't get huffy about this kind of stuff. Iron sharpens iron:).

thekooiet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thekooiet said...

P.S. Thank the good Lord that this is not a salvation issue!

Love you guys!

Scott said...

Did I say "I?" I was NOT directing that comment toward YOU.

No, and I didn't mean to imply that you were. I was just saying I didn't want to come across as doing that.

Kim Traynor said...

Any conversation that has got us thining and talking about the Bible is a conversation to be savored! No thanks required Scott, I am so glad to be getting know you better after all these years!

Okay, back to business:

Wasn't circumcision the sign of the old covenant? Of course Paul would be alarmed if Christians began practicing the ritual which signified the entering into of a covenant that had passed away.

When he says "if you start circumcising yourself, you better be prepared to follow the whole law" that is because circumcision was the sign of the covenant under which it was neccessary to follow the whole law (because Christ had not made his atoneing sacrifice.)

I don't see how that detracts from the instructional value of the commandments found in the OT. If he'd said "why are you honoring your mother and father, don't you know that if you obey the commandment to honor your mother and father you will be under the law?" that might make me question my position.

I'm sorry if I seem inflexible, the verses you have mentioned the last couple of days are all the right verses for some one in your position to quote, but since the Bible is infallible I believe that it is impossible for those verses to contradict Matt 5:17-19 and 2 Tim 3:14-16. That means that all the verses fit together, even if the edges of these puzzle pieces remain tantalizingly out of focus.

Scott said...

And of course they don't contradict those verses, they support them with the point I've tried to make several times, and that has of yet gone unanswered. The Law is something that should be followed as a whole, complete, word for word doctrine, or not at all. That's what it says in Galatians 7. That's what it says in Matthew 5.

So following one law (in Galatians Paul also admonishes those who set their eating habbits by the rule of the law) means you have to follow the whole thing.

The stoning.

The safrificing.

The whole sha-bang.

It doesn't allow, even once, for breaking the law down. That's been my point from the start.

Kim Traynor said...

Scott, please don't get impatient.

I have answered your point to the best of my ability - Paul makes it clear that Christians are released from the old covenant and that it is inappropriate for Xns to practice ritual and ceremonial type laws like circumcision and abstaining from meat offered to idols, and then Paul tells Timothy "...from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Everything that I have said is well within Paul's teaching on this subject. We are not saved by the law, we are not enslaved to the law, but all scripture is God breathed and useful to the life of a Christian - including the law.

Likewise Christ, who assured us that he had not come to do away with the law and the prophets, broke the Sabbath. This shows that for us there is no cut-and-dry, all-or-nothing relationship to the law. For Christ and his followers the law is a much more organic and dynamic force.

I can almost hear you asking "then what about Christ's warning that whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven?"

A clue to what Jesus means here is found in the next verse, verse 20, where he throws in a barb at the Pharisees. The legalism of the pharisees is not the justice of God. Every sin is a sin against God and an affront to the righteousness of God. But to the religous hypocrites of Jesus' day doing the right things is like earning credit and doing the wrong thing is like spending it. They want to turn the law into a game of pluses and minuses where the object is to stay out of the red. Jesus is saying that even your "little sins" are deadly and if you teach people they can buy their way out of sin your in trouble.

Basically he's turning the pharisee's accusations on them. They want to accuse him of being anti-law and he's saying no, (in a way that indicates his authority with regard to the law) you're the ones perverting the law.

Time for bed!

You've made your position perfectly clear. I've made mine as clear as I know how. It is not a surprise to me that we are unable to come to an agreement. Like I said a couple days ago, folks a lot smarter than us have put even more work into resolving this debate and have been unable.

Like Jamie said, thank God it isn't a salvation issue! And thank God for non-denominational churches!

thekooiet said...

Recommended reading:

The Mystery of the Gospel: Jew and Gentile and the Eternal Purpose of God
By D. Thomas Lancaster

Of course, again, this is just one man's view...commentary.