Christian Writing Debate Topic: Is magic evil?

Jan 7, 2020
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I recently have gotten into a theological debate over whether it is a sin to watch, read, or write about magic, supernatural powers, etc.

It is true, the Bible says to turn to divination, witchcraft, omens, sorcery, spiritists, etc (ie. magic) is a sin.

However, in the realm of fantasy, such magic is typically not stemming from the demonic realm - while in real life, it is...

I also made the argument that throughout the Bible and our history, God has given us "supernatural" abilities all the time, we just don't think about it.

Prophecy = divination but from God, not demonic.
Miracles = sorcery/witchcraft but from God, not demonic

as two examples.

We don't call prophecy and miracles magic (although we do consider them supernatural) because they are gifts from God; however, they both do similar things. For instance, it could easily be interpreted that God gave Sampson a supernatural power. As long as he followed three rules, he had supernatural strength. Once he broke those three rules, his strength left him.

Another argument I made was that getting drunk is a sin, but that does not mean drinking is a sin. Jesus drank alcohol (and in fact was falsely accused of being a drunkard). Gambling is a sin, but not all card games are gambling, so playing card games is not a sin in and of itself.

Biblical example - eating meat offered to idols is not a sin, even though idolatry is blatantly and clearly a sin. (and that is surprising even further if you consider that purchasing meat offered to idols actually went to support those temples monetarily.) However, if it is contrary to a personal conviction, then it is a sin.

C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia is full of magic.... (in fact, the first book has Santa Clause in it!)


So.... I would like to know what you think.... is it a sin to watch, read, or write about magic?
 
Dec 9, 2021
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Consider this: Is electricity magic?

Now put that same question in the context as a person of various stripes of life from the 1800's, then the 1500's, then when Jesus lived?

The way many fantasy societies treat magic is the same as electricity, as nothing more than a commodity like electricity, or put in several other kinds of energy generation.

The problem is, that isn't magic. That's understanding the rules of nature. It can achieve many supernatural-looking things a la "Clarke's Law" which states:

"Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" (I think I paraphrased)

But that is an amoral type of technology to be used for good OR evil. That makes it a technology of an alternate kind in my opinion, not true magic. So your definition may vary.

Magic is a supernatural commune with something beyond the natural. And at least to my understanding of scripture, there is always a source: God or satan. There is a relationship, understanding and price for all benefits.

Scripture talks about the miraculous supernatural things God does directly and through His angels and even in the name of Jesus, the disciples and apostles do the same. Is this evil? No. At least in my setting I use that as my "magic system" guide (a term I hate more and more every year, but haven't found a good replacement for it.) You must know the source of your supernatural help, sometimes pray for it, but on other times, it's been a blessing granted to you from God, like Samson who didn't have to pray for the gifts God gave to him.

On the other hand, satan is full of "false miracles" and is more than willing to dole them out... for a price. So be very discerning with "magic". Satan will always try to make his look good or at least amoral, and of course as is always the case, is never an honest broker and first in line for a false deal.
 
Jan 7, 2020
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Really? Where does it come from? I'm curious.
differs for different fantasy worlds, but consider Harry Potter, the magic there does not stem from demons. They don't get their powers through that way. It's a part of that world's infrastructure. Some people are born with that power - it's not from some other entity.

Same for C. S. Lewis' Narnia. The magic is in the very land itself, as well as those who inhabit it.

But different authors can answer that question differently.
Magic is a supernatural commune with something beyond the natural. And at least to my understanding of scripture, there is always a source: God or satan.
that is, indeed, one definition of magic. But it doesn't cover all concepts of magic - especially within the fantasy trope...

one definition of magic is to move, change, or create by or as if by unnatural means
another is to have or apparently have supernatural powers.
and the word supernatural does not necessarily mean it was granted by a supernatural power either. Supernatural simply means above that which is natural. No where in the word does it dictate that it has to be given by a supernatural entity.

Also, with those definitions, electricity would not be defined as magic. Even if someone falsely believed it to be. Same for magic "tricks". Majority of magicians do illusions, which is called "magic" but isn't really magic in the true sense of the word. I myself know some magic card tricks that are mere illusions that I love showing my students, nephews, and niece.

Now, within reality, yes. There is always a source, and it is either God or it is evil. But the question is whether our imagination and ingenuity in creating fantasy, sci-fi, etc. where magic exists in worlds greatly different from our own, separate from supernatural entities, is evil or sinful...
On the other hand, satan is full of "false miracles" and is more than willing to dole them out... for a price. So be very discerning with "magic". Satan will always try to make his look good or at least amoral, and of course as is always the case, is never an honest broker and first in line for a false deal.
when speaking of real life, YES! Run away from all things 'magical'. And there are strong warnings in the Bible to stay away from it and not seek out or participate in such things...

I take this to mean that it's a sin to believe in and put our trust in these things. That's a far cry from doing something like reading a Harry Potter novel.
I agree. true, Harry Potter can lead people to see real world 'magic' as cool and could potentially lead them toward that sin, but in the same way alcohol can lead people to get drunk, which is sinful, but drinking itself isn't sinful in and of itself.
 
Jan 7, 2020
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It is simply put, but I'm not sure what you mean, @Eliora Yona. It depends on where your views are rooted, yes... all things are... but what views? If our views are rooted in God, that is good; however, how does that answer the issue at hand? There are different interpretations on the issue both stemming from those whose views are rooted in God - which is one of the reason I think it is a matter of conviction - but, again, not everyone agrees with me...
 
Jul 15, 2016
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It's a part of that world's infrastructure. Some people are born with that power - it's not from some other entity.

Same for C. S. Lewis' Narnia. The magic is in the very land itself, as well as those who inhabit it.

Thanks for answering the question, @Jared Williams . I never thought about it before this post. Of course, now that I do think about, I'm not so sure your answers resonate with me, but thanks for bringing up the topic.

But I think the question can be boiled down to @Toni Star's answer, but with the caveat that they are only stories and therefore are imaginary. The rest of your answers- that it's part of the world's infrastructure, etc. are beside the point, and irrelevant. (I mean that with all respect)

This is only my opinion, if magic or the supernatural take your thoughts and focus away from God, and His Son, Jesus, then it evil.

I think that if we can accept that it is only a story, then it's fine. If not, then as @Toni Star says, if it takes our thoughts and focus away from God and his Son, Jesus, then it is evil. And that's really the defining attribute to the question.

It's a question of accepting that, after all, it is only a story, someone's imaginings. And if you can walk away from it and just put the story down, or profit from it, it's fine.
 
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Apr 5, 2019
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Magic does not exist.

Supernatural abilities do exist, as Jesus had them. Normal men, who are fallen and faithless, cannot make the blind see, nor cure the diseased if someone merely touches their robe. Those powers that are beyond the "natural," are thereby "supernatural" by their definition.

Divination, speaking with spirits, and so on - yes, all prohibited by the Bible. And such things are pointless anyways, as I will explain below./

What it really comes down to is the use and exercise of power. When power is given, it is to be used to further the Will of God. WHich is why, in my Fantasy books, power does not come naturally to anyone. It is granted or embued by either a holy or demonic presence. Those that do have such power are - either explicitly or implicitly - limited in how they may use it.

This is actually a subject or a theme of my next book, THE WIZARD ODO. It is a concept that I am wrestling with as I revise the manuscript, as I take this very subject seriously. It is also something that I touch on in the follow-up to THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB.

People often want to be powerful. They think that, by having power, they can right the wrongs of the world. But as the saying goes, power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. They seek to be wiser than God and by doing so create chaos and suffering. This is part of the reason why Jesus showed us the example by being humble.

Jesus does hint that there is power in Faith. That with faith the size of a mustard seed, one can command the mountains to throw themselves into the sea. Some take this saying to be figurative or cryptic. I take it as both figurative and literal. Jesus was the pinnacle of faint in mortal flesh, and through faith he was able to accomplish unbelievable things. Even Peter walked on water through sheer faith alone. Then, when he looked away from Christ, he sank.

Some might call that "magic." It isn't. It's the strength of faith.
 

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May 6, 2022
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Prophecy = divination but from God, not demonic.
Miracles = sorcery/witchcraft but from God, not demonic

Hard NO! I absolutely do not agree whatsoever.
 
Jan 7, 2020
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Prophecy = divination but from God, not demonic.
Miracles = sorcery/witchcraft but from God, not demonic

Hard NO! I absolutely do not agree whatsoever.
what I meant by that is that divination is an attempt to use demonic (sometimes disguised sometimes not) power to see into the future. Prophecy is when God tells you or shows you glimpses into the future. They are the same, just from different sources. One is good and one is evil. God's gift of prophecy is good. Pursuing any form of divination is evil.

Same thing with the second line. Sorcery or witchcraft is the attempt to use demonic (sometimes disguised sometimes not) power to in some way break the natural laws of the universe. Miracles are when God either allows or uses you to break the natural laws of the universe (eg. sun standing still or moving backward, the plagues of Egypt, the dead rising, walking on water, etc....) Again, One is good and one is evil. God's miracles are good. Any form of sorcery or witchcraft is evil.

Please don't just take that part out of context and miss what I was trying to say.
 

Toni Star

Well-known Member
May 6, 2008
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Thanks for answering the question, @Jared Williams . I never thought about it before this post. Of course, now that I do think about, I'm not so sure your answers resonate with me, but thanks for bringing up the topic.

But I think the question can be boiled down to @Toni Star's answer, but with the caveat that they are only stories and therefore are imaginary. The rest of your answers- that it's part of the world's infrastructure, etc. are beside the point, and irrelevant. (I mean that with all respect)



I think that if we can accept that it is only a story, then it's fine. If not, then as @Toni Star says, if it takes our thoughts and focus away from God and his Son, Jesus, then it is evil. And that's really the defining attribute to the question.

It's a question of accepting that, after all, it is only a story, someone's imaginings. And if you can walk away from it and just put the story down, or profit from it, it's fine.
I thank you, Suspensewriter, for the caveat "that they are only stories and therefore imaginary."
 

Johne

Senior Member
Staff member
Sep 27, 2005
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Some resources for this discussion. (tl-dr: I'm with SW.)


 

321

May 6, 2022
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what I meant by that is that divination is an attempt to use demonic (sometimes disguised sometimes not) power to see into the future. Prophecy is when God tells you or shows you glimpses into the future. They are the same, just from different sources. One is good and one is evil. God's gift of prophecy is good. Pursuing any form of divination is evil.

Same thing with the second line. Sorcery or witchcraft is the attempt to use demonic (sometimes disguised sometimes not) power to in some way break the natural laws of the universe. Miracles are when God either allows or uses you to break the natural laws of the universe (eg. sun standing still or moving backward, the plagues of Egypt, the dead rising, walking on water,,ihhhnhone is evil. God's miracles are good. Any form of sorcery or witchcraft is evil.

Please don't just take that part out of context and miss what I was trying to say.
One cannot put God’s miracles and prophetic messages in the same realm as sor
what I meant by that is that divination is an attempt to use demonic (sometimes disguised sometimes not) power to see into the future. Prophecy is when God tells you or shows you glimpses into the future. They are the same, just from different sources. One is good and one is evil. God's gift of prophecy is good. Pursuing any form of divination is evil.

Same thing with the second line. Sorcery or witchcraft is the attempt to use demonic (sometimes disguised sometimes not) power to in some way break the natural laws of the universe. Miracles are when God either allows or uses you to break the natural laws of the universe (eg. sun standing still or moving backward, the plagues of Egypt, the dead rising, walking on water, etc....) Again, One is good and one is evil. God's miracles are good. Any form of sorcery or witchcraft is evil.

Please don't just take that part out of context and miss what I was trying to say.
God’s miracles and prophetic messages can not be put into the same realm as divination and sorcery. There is no comparison. Satan is not the opposite of God. God created satan and therefore satan is subject to Him.
As for the subject of you original post: Should we be reading or writing things God hates?
 
Jan 7, 2020
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God’s miracles and prophetic messages can not be put into the same realm as divination and sorcery. There is no comparison. Satan is not the opposite of God. God created satan and therefore satan is subject to Him.
As for the subject of you original post: Should we be reading or writing things God hates?
I'm afraid you are still not understanding my post. Perhaps some of the articles Johne posted might shed some light on what this conversation is speaking of?
 
May 8, 2022
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To me this an “edge case”.

We as humans like to see how close to the line we can get without going over it . Certainly we can justify ourselves getting close to the line, but on this issue God is clear. “Flee from it”

Getting close to the edge is not fleeing.
 

Johne

Senior Member
Staff member
Sep 27, 2005
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To me this an “edge case”.

We as humans like to see how close to the line we can get without going over it . Certainly we can justify ourselves getting close to the line, but on this issue God is clear. “Flee from it”

Getting close to the edge is not fleeing.
Disagree. God says to flee immorality. Jesus himself used parables to convey spiritual truths to common people.
Christian author Rebecca Luella Miller notes this:
The point that is noteworthy for fantasy writers and readers, however, is this: the Bible makes it clear that both God and Satan have power. Not in equal measure. Satan is no more omnipotent than he is omnipresent, though I suspect he’d like Man to think he is both.

Make no mistake. God’s power trumps Satan’s, and it’s not even a fair comparison. Satan may not get this because it seems he keeps trying to go up against God, as if he can outmaneuver Wisdom or out-muscle Omnipotence.

Be that as it may, we can’t deny that he has power and it is supernatural—beyond Man’s abilities. Pharaoh had his magicians and so did Nebuchadnezzar, and seemingly they were used to these conjurers producing what normal folk could not. Their power was not from God, however.

Moses, with the rod of God, went head to head with Pharaoh’s magicians, if you recall, and God’s power dominated. Nebuchadnezzar’s sorcerers could not tell their king his dream, let alone the interpretation of it, but God’s man, Daniel, could.

But back to fantasy. If supernatural power—good and evil—is real, then why should Christian fantasy writers pretend that the evil forces in their stories don’t have real supernatural power? Why should we pretend that those siding with good have no supernatural power?

Fantasy, after all, gives a story-long metaphor for the real world. Why would we want to give Christians—young adults or adults—the idea that there isn’t actually supernatural power of any kind by doing away with magic in our stories?

It seems to me it’s important to address the source of power and the reality of power and the proper attitude toward power—all of which fantasy can address. Unless, of course, a Christian story must be scrubbed clean of supernatural power.
The point isn't that we write or don't write about magic, the proscription (the thing we're expressly forbidden to do) is that we don't engage in real magic.

E. Stephen Burnett, author and editor of the speculative Christian magazine Lorehaven, writes:
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 is usually cited to prove fantasy magic is evil. Instead, God directly warns God’s people to avoid the actual practice of divination and sorcery, in an attempt to protect ourselves from harm—that is, dark spiritual influence—or to divine the future:

“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.”2
I think it's vital not to depict Satanic magic as ever exceeding above God's sovereign power, but I see nothing in scripture that forbids us to write about it. Indeed, reminding our readers that God's power is absolute no matter how attractive Satan's power appears can be very effective.

There is a treasure trove of articles about Christians writing Fantasy with magic at Speculative Faith, the magazine that preceded Lorehaven. One could lose oneself in their archives. This is where my own thinking has been challenged and shaped. It is a solid resource.
 
Jan 7, 2020
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To me this an “edge case”.

We as humans like to see how close to the line we can get without going over it . Certainly we can justify ourselves getting close to the line, but on this issue God is clear. “Flee from it”
To me, this is a conviction case.

A perfect example of a case of conviction is when Paul says that eating food offered to idols is okay. This is something may pharisees of our day would balk at! Idol worship is Clearly and Blatantly wrong. Food offered to idols were thought to be therefore blessed by those little 'g' gods and were sold in the marketplace very very cheap (the cheapest meat you could get, typically). And then the proceeds went to support the temple of whatever little 'g' god that blessed it. Therefore, by purchasing that meat, you were in very clear ways (as far as the way most Christians see things) supporting the temple of that little 'g' god. But the thing is, you didn't have to be an adherent to that particular temple to purchase that meat. In that culture, most everyone purchased that meat, even if they didn't worship at that temple.

Paul, the apostle, said that meat offered to idols was nothing. There was no 'blessing' because there was only One God. Therefore there was nothing wrong with the meat to keep a Christian from purchasing or eating said meat. Now, he also said that we should keep our weaker brothers in the faith from stumbling, and that if it meant saving a life, he would stop eating meat altogether. However, Paul made clear that the issue was one of conviction, not of morality.

I take my glasses off when I pray as a sign of respect and a point of conviction. That does not mean someone else is in the wrong if they do not. It was a personal choice of mine. I also don't drink alcohol; however, I do not see those who do drink alcohol as wrong. Getting drunk is wrong, but drinking alcohol is not. Even Jesus drank alcohol and was even falsely accused of being a drunkard. Card games can lead to the sin of gambling, but card games in and of themselves are not wrong or evil.

To limit ourselves unnecessarily is the same mistake the pharisees made when they created stricter laws than what was required to make sure the people of Israel never strayed from God's word. They had good motives at first, but it ended up being all about the rules and there was no relationship.

God desires relationship above and beyond the following of the rote rules. He says as much in Hosea 6:6 - For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.

This is HUGE, for in the time of Hosea, sacrifice and burnt offerings was THE WAY to get right with God when you had sinned. But God made clear, he wanted relationship more than he wanted those things.

In this topic, it is a matter of conviction, and what matters most is the condition of our heart, not whether we stand two feet from "the line" or two miles from "the line"

Jesus was called a drunkard, but was also criticized for hanging out with prostitutes and tax-collectors. Today, lost of Christians would also criticize anyone who hung out with prostitutes and corrupt politicians ( loosely translated to todays version of tax-collectors). However, Jesus answered them 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'

If by getting 'close to the line', one can reach the unbeliever in ways that no one else can, then like Paul, I will become all things to all people so that Christ may be known and glorified.

and God said to flee from the devil and flee from evil. He did not say flee from anything that could possibly lead someone away. If that was the case, we would have to flee from food for it can lead to gluttony, flee from romance, family and friendship for it can lead you to putting someone else in front of God in your life, flee from all possessions for it can lead to jealousy and idolatry, etc.

It is true that if something leads us to sin, then we should flee those things - we should know ourselves and lead a life that will diminish as much as possible any potential situation where we will be tempted to sin - however, that is different for each person. I have a personality that could easily become addicted, so I stay as far away from alcohol because I know if I ever find an alcoholic drink that I enjoy, I would quickly lose the ability to control how much of it I drink and can lead to bad things. However, other people are just find having one glass of wine or a beer every now and then. My own father is very a very godly man, and he partakes in a single alcoholic beverage about two to three times a year. And there is no sin in that.

Some people refuse to shop at certain stores because those stores support cultural issues that stand against the word of God; however, that does not make it a sin if a Christian shops at those stores.

Bottom line, it boils down to conviction and having an open, honest, and obedient relationship with Jesus Christ.
 

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