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What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?
Chapter Four - Page Four

Continued from page three       Footnotes page

Similarly, those who are not guided by Scripture may look at all the “magic” in the Harry Potter books and say “It’s just fantasy. None of this is real.” They don’t even believe that there are real demonic forces behind witchcraft and occult practices in our world, much less in the fantasy world of Harry Potter. However, those of us who believe the Bible know that, mixed in with all the fun imaginative words, mythology, fables, legend, folklore, and fairy tale imagery, are some terms that correspond to real occult witchcraft practiced in our world today and  forbidden by God.

      Knowing that the author of Harry Potter says she does not believe in magic, doesn’t negate the truth in Ephesians 6: 12, where it says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. So we may wonder if reading the Harry Potter books could open someone up to the demonic forces at work behind the scenes -- even, perhaps especially if they do not believe such forces exist.

3.      How Might This Look to Others Who See It? Christians in Corinth had been baptized, publicly displaying their new allegiance to Christ and denunciation of idol worship. Those who were against eating meat sacrificed to idols thought people who saw a Christian eating meat sacrificed to idols might think he condoned or was promoting idolatry. Onlookers might be led astray, thinking that one could be a Christian and still be involved in idol worship.

·        Today Christians have raised the question of whether reading the Harry Potter books, might give the impression that they allow, condone, promote, or are unconcerned about real occult witchcraft. They worry that kids who read or view Harry Potter might be misled into thinking that real witchcraft is okay because they even see and hear Christians who are into it. There is evidence that this is an important consideration. Marketers of books and other products are eagerly following after the Harry Potter crowd with offerings like: “Teen Witchcraft Kits”,  “A Spell-A-Day Tear-off Calendar” that features real spells to cast, and other products that cross the line into occult involvement in our world being presented in the wake of Harry Potter’s popularity.

4.      Issues of Freedom in Christ and Conscience: First century Christians were just learning what it meant to be “free in Christ.” Some of the Corinthians asserted that they were free in Christ, that the idol was nothing to them because there is only one true God, so eating meat sacrificed to idols wasn’t an issue. They had no pangs of conscience about it. Others were not sure, some were still so used to thinking in terms of there really being idols that were in competition with God, that their consciences were very troubled by the thought of eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. They associated the eating of that meat directly with the practice of idolatry so that one was an extension of the other. For them, to eat meat sacrificed to idols was tantamount to worshiping that idol.

·        With Harry Potter, some Christians say, “The magic in Harry Potter is not occult. It makes no contact with spiritual forces of darkness in our world.[11] It is the same kind of literary magic I have allowed my kids to see in Sword in the Stone or Sleeping Beauty, so they feel complete freedom to read the books, and don’t feel any pang of conscience. Others -- especially those who have had experience with occult practices of the same name as those mentioned in Harry Potter -- are not sure or may be adamantly sure that there is a direct association between the literary magic of Hogwarts and the practice of real witchcraft, so that to them one is an extension of the other. Therefore, their consciences are very troubled by all that is associated with Harry Potter; for them, to be involved in any way is tantamount to dabbling in real witchcraft or condoning it.

 

Paul settled their dispute with principles they could apply conscientiously:

(My paraphrased application follows. Look in your Bible to read the whole answer)

1.      Don’t be a know-it-all. (1 Cor. 8:1)

2.      An idol is nothing to the person who serves the one true God. (1 Cor. 8:4-6)

3.      It depends on how someone thinks of it. Those who associate eating that meat with worshiping an idol, violate their conscience. It’s not the act of eating, but what that means to the person that matters. No better or worse for eating. (1 Cor. 8:7-8)

4.      We are free in Christ. However, our freedom is to be limited by our sensitivity to other Christians and that which violates their conscience. Those who have no pangs of conscience, were to be aware that others who did might see them eating meat sacrificed to an idol and be emboldened to do likewise -- even though the Christian whose conscience is troubled by the act would be violating their conscience to do so. In this way, the Christian who was exercising his freedom in Christ did not sin by eating, but did sin by causing his fellow believer to do something he believed to be wrong. (1 Corinthians 8:9-13)

5.      We have many freedoms and rights as Christians that we may waive out of love for others. Love for others and sensitivity over how exerting our rights might stumble them should guide us as to how and where we will claim our rights. (Paul used his life as an example of how he gave up many rights out of love and consideration for the people to whom he sought to minister.)

6.      We are to accommodate ourselves to the cultural sensitivities of those with whom we have relationship, being careful that the exercise of our freedoms does not cause them to do anything that they believe to be wrong because of their cultural context. (1 Cor. 9:19-22)

7.      A clear command not to participate in idolatry or the sexual immorality that went along with it. (Here Paul showed his cultural sensitivity by  not to just pointing the finger at pagan idolatry in a pagan culture, but reminded them of how the Jews committed idolatry with the Golden Calf. 1 Cor. 10:6-10.)

8.      A clear command to flee idolatry. 1 Cor. 10:14

9.      Don’t eat at McIdol’s: After explaining that those who eat at the Lord’s table (take communion) commune with the Lord, those who ate sacrifices offered on the Lord’s altar as part of religious ritual took were connected to the Lord, Therefore, those who ate at feasts in the idol’s temple, and ate meat sacrificed to idols in that context became part of their religious ritual and were sitting down to dinner with demons! “God's people are warned that if they do eat meat sacrificed to idols, they should not eat it with pagans in their temple feasts, for to do so is to become "participants with demons."[12]

10.  "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” Christians should not only ask: “Do I have the right to do this?” but also ask, “How will what I do impact others? Will this work out for their good?” Paul made it clear that we do have great freedom in Christ; but love will cause us to temper our freedom with concern over how our conduct will impact others. Aim not only to be right but also to be beneficial to others and constructive in building up the body of Christ.

 Then Paul made some specific applications:

“Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

            If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake -- the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

            So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God-- even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”[13]

            We must make personal decisions in disputable matters on the basis of 1) any commands of Scripture that has legitimate bearing, 2) applying the scriptural principles and precepts that relate, 3) the leading of the Holy Spirit, 4) keeping a clean conscience, and 5) operating under the guidance of appropriate God-given authorities in our lives.

How do these principles about meat sacrificed to idols apply to Harry Potter?

Unabated Controversy and Division: Both sides arguing over whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols could site Scripture and experience to back up their positions. Both sides were sure they were right (on the basis of their convictions), and -- judging from the emphasis Paul put on this point in his reply -- both sides resorted to judging those of a different opinion as deficient Christians. There was no way for the entire community of faith to come to a conclusion one way or the other. Therefore, God provided guidelines for how we are to treat each other with love and respect while we agree to disagree.

            Could these books really be right for one Christian and absolutely wrong for another? Yes!            Just as one Christian may be allowed to take a drink of wine or even sell it as part of their business, another Christian may be convicted that he should never take a sip -- if the Holy Spirit and his own conscience convicts him that to do so is a snare for him. Those Christians who associate the Harry Potter stories with the real occult would have doubts about reading them; therefore it would be sin for them according to Romans 14:23. Those who make no such association, who approve of the Harry Potter books without any pang of conscience, can happily do so according to Romans 14:22 without being in sin. We see here scriptural grounds for both positions.

            So, if you are not convicted about reading Harry Potter, go ahead and enjoy them. If you are convicted, do not read them. But neither are to dictate the conscience of another in such disputable matters. Furthermore, if you have freedom to read them, learn how you could go on to make it not only lawful for you, but profitable for the kingdom of God and the spiritual training of children.

            The only position that cannot be upheld by God’s Word is to judge, look down on or condemn another Christian for coming to a different conviction than you do. God tells us all, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). To which I say a hearty, “Amen!” I pray that Christians on both sides of this debate can join me in that.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

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