Me, Myself, and Harry Potter

Last summer I decided to get acquainted with Harry Potter. When he first arrived on the literary scene several years ago, my husband and I decided that we as a family did not need to intimately know a wizard child going to wizard school. Recently I noticed many Christian parents allowing their children to get to know Harry quite well. I thought perhaps I had been wrong–too hasty in my judgment–so I decided to do some research. I prayed for God’s guidance and protection as I did three things.

First, I researched each reference in the Bible to witches, witchcraft, sorcerers(ies), soothsayers, wizards, etc. (forty-six in all). As I did this, I also investigated the Hebrew and Greek definitions for each of the words, to see exactly what these words meant. Second, I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series. Since I did not have time to read all four books, I chose …Goblet of Fire because it is characterized as the “darkest” so far.  Each of the next three books is supposed to get “darker”–whatever that means.  I wanted to get to the heart of the complaints about Harry, and I figured the fourth book would take me to the core of the problem, if it existed.

When I finished these two projects, I began reading Harry Potter and the Bible by Richard Abanes, who is the author/co-author of nearly a dozen books on cults, the occult, and world religions. Mr. Abanes has already done exhaustive research, which he carefully documents, on all four books, which the average parent does not have time to do. My prayer is that this article will help parents discern how intimate they want their families to become with the very popular child-wizard, Harry Potter.

I had vaguely known that God did not like witches/witchcraft, etc., but I had never searched specifically for what He had to say about it in His Word. As I searched the Word, I saw that God has nothing at all good to say about it. Witches and wizards (mediums/spiritists) were to be put to death.¹ The various forms of sorcery, and the various personalities involved, are deemed “detestable to the Lord,”2 “abominations,”3 and “harlotries,”4 among other things. We can be “defiled by them,”5 and they cause God’s anger to burn6.

In the New Testament, sorcery is listed among the “deeds of the flesh,” and we are told that “those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”7 We also see in Revelation that sorcerers end up in the lake of fire.8 In Acts 13, Saul calls a local magician “full of deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness.” In both the Old and New Testaments, we see judgment coming upon individuals or nations because of their involvement with witchcraft in all its forms.9

One reference that some might construe as slightly positive is when Daniel is promoted to chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.10 Later we learn this meant he was over the “magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans (master astrologers), and diviners.” However, in reading the book of Daniel, it is clear that Daniel11 gave all credit for his wisdom and abilities to God and that the entire kingdom was aware of this. We know that even though Daniel was their boss, he was in no way involved with their methods of gaining insight into situations.

This brings me to the most important thing I learned from this Scripture study. As I read the verses, God showed me why He hates witchcraft in all its forms: because HE is God! When a person consults wizards, astrologers, mediums, etc., he is taking his needs to a false god and forsaking the real God of the universe. HE is to be our source. That is why King Saul was so sharply rebuked by Samuel: “for rebellion is as the sin of divination … because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”l2 Rebellion and divination are both ways of turning your back on God. In rebellion you turn your back on what you know God wants you to do. Divination (witchcraft) is turning your back on God by seeking another source to solve whatever you believe your problem to be.

While I studied all these verses during my quiet times, I was also reading the 734-page Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–quite a contrast from morning to afternoon. I cannot take the space here to discuss the literary qualities of Rowling’s book. This has been done already in numerous reviews, with opinions splitting between fascinating fantasy to “really just slop” (this statement from renowned literary critic Harold Bloom).13 Yes, the entire book glorifies sorcery. There is no other way to say it.

Also, there are sections that are indeed fodder for nightmares. A gruesome murder scene begins the book, and toward the end of the book there is an unforgettably creepy scene between Harry Potter (the “good” wizard) and Lord Voldemort (the “very evil” wizard). Lord Voldemort is trying to gain a new body for himself, his original body having been destroyed when he had tried to kill baby Harry thirteen years before. The spell had backfired and reduced his body to a hideous blob. Apparently, throughout the other three books Lord Voldemort had as his goal the moment when his one remaining wizard servant would capture Harry and use his blood as part of the brew needed to reconstruct Voldemort’s body. The incantation quoted by his aide used the words “renew,” “revive,” and “resurrect” as the brew in the cauldron finally turns into a new body for Lord Voldemort. Rowling actually uses the phrase, “Lord Voldemort had risen again.” Do you see how this phrase and scene might be offensive to Christians? I see an extreme problem with this type of literature being touted as harmless, entertaining literature for our children. This is not a harmless story about a cute little boy who just happens to be a wizard. If society comes up with a story about cute little homosexuals, fornicators, or adulterers going to a special school to learn their trade, will we think it harmless? That is ludicrous, of course. So is the “harmless” theory about Rowling’s books.

Every aspect of our lives must be run through a God’s Word grid. We must find out what God has to say on a matter and take His word to heart. Then we must engage the culture on these subjects and not just lie down and surrender to Satan’s schemes. God has “delivered us (as Christians) from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”14 We are to walk as children of light; why would God want us back in the domain of darkness?

If you need more convincing, read Richard Abanes’ Harry Potter and the Bible. Abanes has carefully documented the entire Harry Potter saga. He explains why our society is ripe for acceptance of Harry and his friends. Abanes examines all of the first four books. For each book, he has a section called “Potterethics,” which exposes Harry and his friends’ actions in light of Scripture–basically, they often lie, steal, or cheat for a “good” cause and rarely suffer consequences. He also points out the occultic practices and vocabulary used in each book. Believe me, you will learn more than you want to know. But then again, are we to bury our heads in the sand and hope Pottermania will go away? Harry Potter is not going away—three new books and six more movies are promised in the next few years.

Mr. Abanes can also help us understand the differences between classics written by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Rowling’s works. He devotes an entire chapter to pointing out the distinctions between Rowling’s fantasy world and the worlds created by Tolkien and Lewis. All three contain some sort of magic, wizards, and/or witches. Are the works of Tolkien and Lewis acceptable to Christians? Abanes claims the major differences come from the spiritual perspective each author takes.15 J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were devout Christians writing from a strong Christian viewpoint. Lewis’ Narnia stories are clearly Christian allegories with a classic battle between good and evil, while Tolkien has created in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy a world that is mythological, yes, but thoroughly evidencing a Christian worldview. His mythological world, Middle Earth, had a creator god, Eru (a.k.a. the One, or the lluvator), and angelic beings, Maiar (plural for Maia), sent to render aid to Elves and Men. The Maiar are the wizards in his stories. Gandalf, Sauron, Saruman, and others are not human but are basically representing good angels and evil (fallen) angels. Their powers cannot be obtained or enhanced through occultism but are part of their very nature.16 Also, Tolkien’s letters indicate that his definition of “magic” in the context of Middle Earth did not include any kind of supernatural power. It was an inherent power given only to Elves, and strict limitations to its nature and use were given. It could not be learned or enhanced. In Middle Earth, there is also magic within certain objects, put there by “lore,” which Tolkien likened to technology and science.17

In contrast, Rowling’s wizards (the “good” ones and the “evil” ones) have all been or are being trained at wizard schools and are learning to enhance their skills through occultic practices such as divination, numerology, mediumship/channeling, astrology, crystal gazing, necromancy (i.e., communicating with the dead/ghosts), spellcasting, and magick.18 According to Abanes, Rowling’s “magic” would be more properly termed “magick.” Apparently, occultist Aleister Crowley used the term to describe the “Science and Art of Causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”19 The spelling “magick” is now widely used to distinguish any form of occultic magic from sleight-of-hand tricks performed by stage magicians.20 The magick in Rowling’s books has a direct link to contemporary paganism/witchcraft because it parallels current occultic beliefs and practices.

Also, in contrast to the fantasy worlds created by Tolkien and Lewis, there is no god or authority over her characters at all–which, by the way, perfectly matches the worldview of the vast majority of people in our time. People believe there is no Higher Authority and therefore, they make their choices without reference to any standard outside themselves. I believe this is why so many people have no problem with Harry Potter’s questionable ethics. Certainly he is loyal and shows courage sometimes, but he and his friends have no problem lying, stealing, or breaking any rule necessary to further their cause, which, of course, is a “better” evil cause than that of the truly “very evil” Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

Abanes summarizes this well, “…when it comes to her fantasy battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ Rowling does not employ the biblical definitions of ‘evil’ or ‘good.’ She has both sides relying on the same power source (magical), both sides resorting to similar philosophy for discerning right from wrong (subjectivism), and both sides using comparable acts to further their own, albeit different, goals. For example, all the characters (good and evil) participate in various forms of occultism when it is necessary, lie when it is expedient, and break rules whenever those rules do not serve their needs. From a biblical perspective both sides are technically ‘evil’ or sinful, even though their agendas might be vastly different.”21 He also states, “Biblically speaking, Harry and all the other ‘good’ characters are simply using one set of sinful behaviors to defeat another set of sinful behaviors … the Harry Potter series is not morally compatible with Christianity, which stands in direct opposition to using evil actions to conquer evil. Christians are instructed to overcome evil with good.”22

I recently purchased a book titled Finding God in the Lord of the Rings. I have not yet read the book, but the title intrigues me. Perhaps it can help us know how to judge a piece of literature, music, or other form of art. Can we find God–can we know Him better–through this book, this song, this art? And does it mesh with God’s Word grid? As far as Harry Potter goes, I realize each family must make its own decision about its level of acquaintance with him. My prayer is that this article will help you decide whether Harry has to stand outside your home on the curb of your street, just barely get in the door, or have a special place at your dinner table every night. Prayerfully, carefully, make your decision.

     Endnotes:  ¹Lev. 20:27; 2Deut 18:9-12; 32 Kings 23:24; 42 Kings 9:22; 5Lev. 19:31; 62 Kings 21:6; 23:24; 7Gal. 5:20-21; 8Rev. 21:8; 9Deut. 18:12. Lev. 20:6, 2 Kings 9:22, Is. 2:5-6; 47:9-13, Micah 5:12, Nahum 3:4, Malachi 3:5-6, Rev 9:20-21; 18:23; 22:14-15 among others; 10Daniel 2:48; 11Daniel 5:11; 121 Samuel 15:22-23; 13Abanes, 234; 14Col. 1:13; 15Abanes, 239; 16Abanes, 237; 17Abanes.235-36; 18Abanes, 173;  19Abanes, 96; 20Abanes, 96; 21Abanes, 88; 22Abanes, 135