Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.Buckle your seat belts...we're entering the deep water of opinion:
What is magic?
Before attempting to discern whether it's good or evil, let's define it. The Oxford American Dictionary says magic is, "the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or natural forces."
In the Bible, "magic" is considered to come only from God or from Satan. God influences the course of events by using His own mysterious and supernatural forces to turn people's attention to Him (parting of the red sea, water into wine, etc.).
Satan uses the power that God allows him to have, to turn people away from God.
But hardly anyone today relates magic/miraculous works/supernatural forces to God. Instead, magic is looked at as an anomaly.
anomaly: "something that deviates from what is normal"
People can't understand it because they attribute the power that is behind the magic, to the magic. That is to say, magic is viewed as its own entity.
entity: "a thing with distinct and independent existence"
The world does not understand God or His power. It doesn't understand that magic is under God's control ("magic" referring to all or any supernatural acts or miracles). Instead, the world sees magic as its own neutral substance, lumped into a category of "things that just...exist", like gravity, light, oxygen, weather, etc.
Christians know that all these things are under God's power. Those without knowledge or belief in God have different views.
But here's another question: does magic really exist? Is it another mystery like gravity or is it created by the imaginations of dreamers?
I believe magic is real, but I do not believe it can be tapped into with the special red-button words or incantations. I believe that God and Satan have power in the supernatural (though Satan is still under God's power and ruling). Humans cannot control or use this supernatural force without being backed up by God or by Satan. For example: the disciples perform miracles in Christ's name. God backs them up because it is turning the glory to Him. On the flip side, people can be possessed by demons because Satan supports those acts to turn glory from God.
This is obviously not the form/view of magic that we see in novels. It's been changed. It's been tweaked. It's been misunderstood.
The authors have written about magic and created an "access button". What does that mean? It means they've created (not literally, but with imagination) a way to access the magic, to control it in a way. it's the same idea as if an author wrote about someone who had the "access-button" to gravity. He or she could turn off gravity whenever he/she wanted.
But we all know there are no access-buttons. God's got the only one and He's not sharing. That's why our imaginations explode with the idea of "accessing" things like magic.
Let's look at the different appearances of magic in novels:
- Eragon (my review can be found here): the magic is a force that is accessible through the "ancient language". The magic-user can control the magic in a way, but the magic still takes the mickey out of the user.
- Fablehaven (review of book 1 is here): the magic is contained in the creatures and sometimes in the mysterious organization of tangible objects (sand, salt, lanters, etc.). There is no explanation for how the magic started, it's just there and always has been.
- The Chronicles of Narnia (review for book 1 and book 5):the magic is in the place and the creatures, but it is the product of Aslan's power (aka. Jesus). God created Narnia to be in a more magical state than Earth (as can be read in book 1, The Magician's Nephew). The magic is still controlled by God, it's not its own entity. It is still subject to His ruling.
- Harry Potter (reviews of book 1, books 2-3, books 4-6, and book 7, )--the books provide no explanation for the existence of magic. It's just the same as Fablehaven and Eragon--it's always been there (like gravity). And the "access buttons" are special wands and secret words.
In almost all "magic" books--Narnia, Fablehaven, Harry Potter, the Golden Compass, Dragonspell, etc.--the only factor that attributes "good" or "evil" to magic is how it is used. The White Witch uses magic to create an everlasting winter--evil. Harry Potter uses it to protect his friends--good. Eragon uses it to defeat enemies--good. Voldemort uses it to kill--evil. Kale Vallerion from Dragonspell uses it to help her comrades escape--good.
If this is the only problem with magic--how it's used and who uses it--then this places magic in a new category: grey areas. Grey areas like guns, politics, war, etc.--areas with no definite lines. These areas essentially return us to the world's main issue: the good and evil in people and their choices.
So why are many Christians prone to be "anti-magic"? My theory is because the portrayal of magic has been turned into its own entity instead of what it really is--spiritual or supernatural power in the hands of God. Christian's don't like it because "magic" is a twist on something that is serious in nature. It's a Godless twist. And this twist scares us because magic/supernatural/miracles/spiritual power holds some truth to it. It's frightening watching people play with it.
So are books, movies, video games, etc. with magic good or evil?
Again, we find ourselves back at the place of personal discernment. If magic-using fantasy books are read with the intent to memorize the words, chant them, and hope that your pet cat turns into a unicorn, then this is bad. But this is caused by readers who read these books as realistic. When I pick up a fantasy book, it is with the knowledge that it is fantasy--fictitious, imagined, created, false, etc.
A common fear is that children who read fantasy or magical books may come away with skewed ideas of reality. Of course this is a risk, but let's look around us:
Children (our parents, even) grew up reading Narnia, the Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings, but we don't see them (now grown) climbing into every wardrobe they see or searching the skies for Nazgul. Yes, you get the occasional quirky fanss--the ones walking around barefoot in cloaks who can speak the elvish language (I envied their courage for a time). But even they usually understand it's not real. They don't base their lives on these beliefs.
In fact, I think that this generation and even the one before it, has more practice keeping reality separate from imagination. Look at how many movies are out there--fantasy or just fiction. Look at the cartoons kids watch--talking animals, super-spies, robots, underwater sponges, etc. These surround us daily and children aren't losing their grip on reality (at least most aren't). They grow up with more practice in discernment; therefore, I believe that many of them can handle novels that deal with magic or anything fantastical.
I do not believe reading about magic is a sin--otherwise we would be forbidden from reading the Bible (miracles galore in those pages). I do believe it can be taken too far--when books are written only about the evil use of the supernatural (leaning toward the Satanic-side). I believe that it is okay to read about magic as long as we do not take these books as serious truth.
As for children reading these things, a lot has to do with his or her upbringing in general. My siblings and I were raised by brilliant and wonderful parents. I read The Hobbit when I was eleven. I read Harry Potter to my 9-year-old brother (I was only 13), and we all read Narnia at some point. I never confused reality with fiction. I attribute this to my upbringing--my parents making sure I understood what is important in real life. So all I can say is:
Parents, be good parents. Use discretion and teach your children truth. Kids--keep your feet on the ground, but it's okay to allow your imagination to soar.
I believe in God's supernatural power and God's control over all things supernatural. My faith is in Him, not in Satan's limited power. There is a difference and as long as you understand that difference you can see the twists in the world's portrayal of magic.
There is no more sin in reading about someone who uses magic than there is in reading about someone who can see gravity--the danger lies in the level to which the writer takes these "powers".
This is my very long, intense belief on magic. But don't think it ends here...
Does any of this make sense?
Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, released September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.
Parting of the red sea retrieved on 11/15/10 from http://sassywire.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/parting-of-red-sea-jibes-with-natural-laws/red-button picture retrieved on 11/15/10 from: http://santaletters1.tripod.com/santa/funletters.html
Hobbit picture retrieved on 11/15/10 from: http://jenhayley.com/2007/12/18/peter-jackson-to-produce-the-hobbit/