I have finally succumbed to the pressure! After years of being nagged by multiple friends to read Harry Potter, I finally gave in…
JK Rowling said in an interview in The Telegraph that Christianity was one of her major inspirations for the Harry Potter novels. The Easter themes of death and resurrection are particularly strong.
Here’s one of my favourite quotes so far:
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever.”
More than anything else the storyline of the series is driven by the idea of self-sacrificing love. Harry Potter’s mother gave her life to save him and in so doing dealt a decisive blow to the powers of evil. This is the basic theme that gives all seven books coherence and direction.
Of course many Christians are nervous about how prominent and explicit magic and witchcraft are in the novels. We should not be crassly dismissive of such criticisms. The Bible takes it for granted that there are real spiritual forces that oppose God and His people – and that we dabble with those at our peril. Jesus’ triumph at the cross was like the D-day landings in a way. It was a decisive victory and signals that final victory is inevitable. However, in the meantime, the enemy has not yet been utterly defeated and still fights grimly on.
With any work of fiction (whether in book or film or any other form) Christians must learn to be discerning and distinguish between the ‘wheat and the chaff’. No work produced by sinful humans can ever be perfectly true, pure or Biblical. On the other hand, because of God’s common grace, Christians expect to find specks of gold, at least, in even the darkest and most consciously anti-Christian works.
The Scriptures are the only safe and reliable filter by which we can separate the wheat from the chaff. We dare not lean too heavily on our own intuition, experience, wisdom or rationality. We must learn to assess everything else through the lens of the Bible. That way we will not fall easily for either trap; unthinkingly embracing the lies our culture broadcasts or unthinkingly dismissing the truth it perceives.
It’s perhaps true that, according to temperament and background, each of us tends to one of those pitfalls more than the other. Speaking for myself I suspect I am more in danger of the former. I tend to see the specks of gold more quickly than the dross they are surrounded by. Being aware of that is an important first step in engaging wisely and Christianly with the culture we find ourselves in. The most important thing to do though is to study our Bibles with Berean-like diligence (Acts 17:10-12)!
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.