Worldview and Philosophy
It’s an argument many of us who insist on biblical morality have probably heard before. “If you’re going obey the Bible, you’re going to have to avoid wearing clothes with mixed fabric, eating shellfish, and boiling baby goats in their mother’s milk!” This argument came up recently in a discussion where someone insisted that Jesus never spoke against homosexuality. I pointed out that God is not schizophrenic, and as the second person of the Trinity, Jesus is in full agreement with every prohibition of homosexuality given in the Bible. I received the mixed-fabric argument in response. I realize that such arguments are usually intended as snubs, and those voicing them are probably not interested in a real answer, but for those who have ears, we do have a real rebuttal to this assertion.
The Old Testament contains many interesting laws like the prohibition of wearing mixed fabric. Such laws are not based on universal moral principles, but served the purpose of setting Israel apart as God’s people, and pointing forward to the Messiah that God had promised to send. Specifically, the prohibition of mixed fabric symbolized God’s call to the nation of Israel to remain pure, unmixed with the idolatry of their neighboring nations.
Jesus actually made the fascinating claim that such laws were written about Him.
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.”
-Jesus (John 5:46)
While many in Israel successfully avoided wearing mixed fabric, every one of them utterly failed to keep the spirit of that law—to be totally holy unto God. In Christ, God’s requirement that His people be totally devoted to God was fulfilled! He was without sin, fulfilling this requirement both literally and spiritually. Since Jesus, the Messiah—the reality such laws pointed to—has come, those laws have served their purpose. They successfully pointed Israel to the now revealed Messiah. Such laws served their purpose, and their requirements are fulfilled in Jesus.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
-Jesus (Matthew 5:17)
On the other hand, there are things that always, irrevocably contradict the very nature of God. Principles built into creation that represent the nature of God, which when violated have always and will always be sin. Stealing, for example. God is the one that gives us everything we have, and revoking God’s gifts to another has always and will always be wrong. Lying is another example of a universal moral offense. God is truth, and speaking deceit contradicts His nature and is thus sinful. Murder is universally wrong because it strikes out at the image of God in man. According to Jesus, the male / female biology and marriage union is irrevocably built into creation.
“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall becomes one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
-Jesus (Mark 10:6-8)
God made people male and female, and nature bears witness to the rightness of that relationship in many ways that I don’t need to elaborate on. This male and female element of creation is not just some arbitrary detail, but was actually designed by God to represent profound spiritual truth. According to the apostle Paul, male / female marriage is a picture of Christ and His church.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
The preceding verses in that chapter speak about how the differing biology and roles of men and women in a marriage relationship are a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. God has designed the one-flesh marriage union of men and women as a beautiful object lesson of the entire reason for creation. It displays the glory of God through the saving of sinners through the death and resurrection of Jesus!
Does it surprise you, therefore, that Scripture speaks of twisting that relationship by men being with men and women with women as an ungodly perversion? Male / female marriage proclaims the most holy truth to which we are beholden, and homosexuality mocks it! Is it any wonder, therefore that the Bible says things like:
“realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for … homosexuals …, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
-1 Timothy 1:9-11
“Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; …homosexuals… will [not] inherit the kingdom of God.”
-1 Corinthians 6:9-10
The prohibition of wearing mixed fabrics, and all the other laws not based on universal moral principles have served their purpose. They pointed us to Jesus, and were fulfilled in Him. Christians are therefore not responsible to observe the Jewish ceremonial laws. People being made male and female, and becoming one flesh with a person of the counterpart sex in a marriage relationship is here to stay. The rejection of our design, and the roles of the sexes through homosexuality and transgenderism is a rejection of Creation and God’s intention for it. It is a rejection of the good news gender distinctions and the marriage relationship were designed to proclaim. Any sexual activity outside the confines of one man and one woman in a permanent marriage union has always and will always be sin.
But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus died for homosexuals! He also died for those who approve of their sin. He died for liars and murderers and thieves! He died for everyone who will turn from their sin and trust in His sacrificial death and resurrection as their only hope of salvation from the wrath of God. God is rightfully angry at sin, but Jesus took the punishment for the offenses of all who will turn to Him for forgiveness. In Christ, we are no longer enemies of God, but His children. Repent and believe the gospel and be saved!
Even after 15+ years, it’s still a controversial question in Christian circles today: Should Christians read Harry Potter? To some, the answer seems clear. Doesn’t the Bible condemn the use of magic and witchcraft? Shouldn’t we therefore stay away from a series that has constant depictions of magic and in fact centers around a school whose purpose is to train witches and wizards to use it?
I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this question. I have to say that over the last few years, my view has shifted to the conclusion that this is a matter of Christian liberty and conscience. For those who answer the question in the negative, I have great respect for your convictions, and I do not desire anyone to do anything against their conscience, but I think that an important distinction needs to be made in this conversation. That is the difference between invocational and incantational magic.
Invocational magic is the magic practiced in the world today. Those who practice invocational sorcery attempt to invoke demonic powers to do their bidding. It’s the kind of magic (negatively) depicted in Shakespeare’s MacBeth, for instance, and it is unquestionably evil. Essentially, those who practice it are attempting to prove themselves to be so wicked, and so in league with Satan that they can coerce demons to do their bidding. This is the magic forbidden in Scripture and practiced by some today. This sorcery, however, bears no resemblance to the magic portrayed in Harry Potter.
The magic of Harry Potter is what is referred to as incantational magic. In Harry Potter, magic is an inborn trait in certain gifted individuals that they can learn to harness. The Latin root of the word incantation means to sing along with. The magic of Harry Potter is essentially a talent that witches and wizards can hone and learn to use. This bears no resemblance to real world sorcery. It is purely fantasy on par with the “bippity boppity boo” of Cinderella’s fairy godmother.
It is because of this distinction that I believe the question of whether or not a Christian should read Harry Potter is an issue of Christian liberty. Since there is room for seeing a fundamental distinction between the magic forbidden in Scripture and the magic depicted in Harry Potter, we would do well to avoid attempting to bind the conscience of believers who are comfortable with it, while at the same time, those who are comfortable with it should be careful not to cause those whose conscience condemns them for reading it to stumble.
For those who can read the books with a clear conscience, there is plenty here to enjoy! Rowling has created a literary masterpiece! This may come as a shock to those who have not accepted the invocational / incantational distinction, but when you examine the Harry Potter books on a literary level, they contain a strongly Christian worldview.
Rowling is a member of the Church of Scotland, which is by and large very theologically liberal, but has many orthodox members and clergy as well. There is a strong sense of Christian morality portrayed and extolled throughout the books, with the exception of things like lying and rebellious attitudes, which are often depicted in the books. The books even contain subtle reproof for those who would attempt to redefine morality and human sexuality. And things get really interesting when you look closely at the actual events of the story line. Rowling was asked in an interview if she was intending to communicate Christian allegory in her works, and she replied, “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious.”
[spoiler alert, from here forward!]
For instance, in the first book, Harry is willing to die to save his fellow students. He passes by a three headed dog, which in literature symbolizes dying, via an allusion to Cerberus, the three headed dog that guarded the gate of Hades in mythology. After passing the dog, Harry voluntarily descends into the depths below the school, faces, and defeats the evil, serpentine lord Voldemort, and rises again from the depths, victorious. This is clearly a depiction of the Christus Victor theory of Christ’s atonement. Again, in the second book, Harry abandons himself and descends below the school to save a fellow student. In the same blow, Harry both sacrifices his own life and slays a giant serpent before being resurrected by a phoenix and defeating lord Voldemort again. He then rises up again from the depths, victorious.
From that point forward, the books begin more intentionally building toward the final face off in the 7th book, where Harry, “the chosen one”, explicitly said to be driven by the power of love, offers his own life to save those whom he loves. Harry willingly dies for his friends and rises again from the dead. In the end, the serpentine Lord Voldemort attempts to kill him, but the murder Voldemort intends for Harry actually results in his own death. As a blatant allegory of the gospel, evil commits suicide as it attempts to slay the chosen one!
The series is clearly not without its faults, but overall, Rowling has created a literary masterpiece that can be enjoyed, if your conscience allows, while appreciating some great underlying worldview statements and Christian allegory along the way. Not to mention, it’s simply a fantastic, unparalleled story! Again, it is a good and noble thing to abstain if your conscience condemns you for reading, but me and my house will be enjoying Rowling’s masterpiece!