I posted a story from Yahoo! news that discussed a claim that a man in Nigeria had turned himself into a goat. Since posting that story, some interesting questions have been raised on this blog concerning the validity of black magic and the powers of evil. Are they for real? What should we think about these things?
I know the Church has always directed its people to stay away from things like tarot cards, palm readers, and ouija boards. You may even remember that many churches were very outspoken against the Harry Potter books because of the inclusion of magic and witchcraft. I remember when I was younger, my church was against the Dungeons and Dragons games (which had just come on the market) for the same reasons.
So, why do we avoid these things? Is it just because of what these things represent? Or, do we believe that there is actually some kind of power in them? If we believe there is a power at work within these things, what is the nature of this power and what are its capabilities? Could a man really turn himself into a goat? Why or why not?
As I was saying in my comments, I do believe that evil can have power but only the amount which God permits. And even with power, it is nothing compared to His. When we look at Exodus 7:11-12, Aaron throws the rod down and it becomes a serpent and Pharaoh’s magicians do the same thing only to have their serpents swallowed up by the one from Aaron’s hand (which was by God’s power).
On the issue of restricting media that have witchcraft or magic in them (books, movies, television, games, whatever), I think Christians need to be careful with this. For instance, I’ve never read Harry Potter not necessarily because I think it clouds the mind with evil, but simply because I have no interest in the storyline. But if certain Christians have a problem with the boy wizard, how do they justify reading The Lord Of The Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia? Sure, both of these have Christian ideas and morals woven into them that parallel Scripture but ‘Rings’ has a good wizard named Gandalf and ‘Narnia’ has just as many pagan references as there are Christian (maybe even more if you take into account all of the deities in the books like the River God, Dryads/tree spirits, Silenus, Bacchus the god of wine etc.). This is why I don’t think either series should be labeled as strictly “Christian” and I don’t like how some churches promote them as such. They are fictional stories, not holy allegories.
True, I think some fiction should be avoided but where is that line? Are wizards and gods permitted to be read about and watched ONLY if there are Christian ideas alongside them? I don’t have the answer to that because I believe it’s a personal choice everyone must decide upon. But all Christians need to be careful and mindful of what they justify so they can avoid contradiction.
I realized I didn’t answer your final questions very clearly…so here goes:
“Why do we avoid these things? Is it just because of what these things represent?”
Yes, I avoid certain things because of what they represent but also because the enemy uses its power to distract and deceive people and I believe some of this is accomplished through some of the items you mentioned in the blog.
“If we believe there is a power at work within these things, what is the nature of this power and what are its capabilities?”
I believe the evil power it may have cannot harm those that have Christ in their hearts…the whole “Armor of God” protection. But I don’t think Christians are always free from the fear it creates and its possible manipulation.
“Could a man really turn himself into a goat? Why or why not?”
Don’t have the answer to that. But I do think some people are capable of doing strange, supernatural things, those that commit their lives to that sort of darkness. They think they have channeled into that power, but they are really just being used by forces much stronger than themselves.
Thanks for your thoughts. You make some very good observations and ask good questions. I look forward to reading what others think on this topic as I think more about it myself. I do agree, it is wise to be careful with those things that claim to have some supernatural power or promote witchcraft, black magic, etc.
I’ll post what I find on this topic soon.
Sometimes people tinker with these spirits and find out their in over their heads.
I may have missed it but, did the guy turn himself back, or is he stuck as a goat?
I remember when I was in high school, my youth pastor said, “God wouldn’t have told us to stay away from magic and witches and such if it had no power to it.”
Yeah, I am not sure if he was able to turn himself back or not. I was hoping to hear more on this story, but I never found anything. I have had several people ask me this same question though. 🙂
It sounds like you had a wise youth pastor.
I was not allowed to read Harry Potter as a child. I’m reading them now, because I’m such a rebel. 😉
In all honesty, I’m approaching the book knowing it’s fantasy, and I feel like many adults do not think that young people are able to do that. In response to that, I say “Stop underestimating us.” At the same time, there are people (few and far between) who do get swept up in it all and feel that it’s realistic. Maybe they shouldn’t read the books… But this was all responding to one very small part of the post.
As for the rest of it, I feel that it is quite possible that evil does have that kind of power, and I feel that we should avoid those things, if only to be overcautious. There are things we can go into knowing they are not real (such as Harry Potter), but there are other things we should avoid because of the possibility that they are real and are evil.
I personally think all of it is superstitious nonsense. I’ve never experienced anything that would lead me to believe that any of it has any validity.
I more readily believe that things like ouija boards, tarrot cards and astrology are receive credibility as a result of self-fulfilling prophecies rather than any “magical” power. It sounds more like an intense psychological trick rather than anything spiritual.
I believe that the only “power” they have is the power that we give them by trusting their validity at the expense of our own rationality.
I just got to this one, Tim. This was a hot topic for me over the past few years. Once you read my book, you’ll see.
I disagree with Andrew up above that CS Lewis did not write an allegory. It’s an allegory, clear as day. But what of the inclusion of magic?
The best I can judge, the magic presented there is in name only. It bears no real resemblence to real magic practiced today — just as Harry Potter doesn’t (for the most part — the divination part is realistic but is only mocked), nor LotR. In all of these books, a more modern approach to magic is taken. That type of “magic” isn’t about spirits, demons or curses, it’s about an alternate physics.
All of that said, there were some similar magical things back in the day (like the anti-evil-eye amulets and magical elixers).
So where should we draw the line? Can we talk about it in fiction? Or should we leave it alone.
6 years ago, I was a “leave it alone” person. Now, I don’t mind seeing it in fiction, so long as there’s a good sized gap between reality’s use of magic and the fiction.
Let me know what you think after you finish with the book. (also, let me know if you have questions with the book. There’s a whole chapter I’m re-writing that talks a lot about magic. If it doesn’t make sense to you, I can send you the new chapter after I get it down — or at least write up something for you).