It’s the age-old question, or at least a question that’s been around since 1997: should Christians read Harry Potter?
We thought we had put the argument behind us when the 7th and final volume of the series released in 2007, but now an 8th book(ish) feature is coming on July 31 (which happens to be character Harry’s birthday).
Some Christians enjoy the series and see it as classic good vs evil. Magic and witchcraft in a biblical sense are associated with the occult, but magic in Harry’s world is not. In the frame of the series there are both good and bad wizards. Themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, and self-sacrifice are packaged in a fun fantasy world.
Other Christians feel that the mention of wizards, witches, or magic preclude Christians from consorting with the books. They believe that in fantasy true power must point to God and His authority in whatever form it takes, such as a lion named Aslan. Metaphor must be direct and overt so that readers, especially young ones, will not be misled.
In actuality, this is an age old argument stemming from biblical times. In the past, the debate was over circumcision, or meat sacrifice to idols, or… So let’s look at Scripture, and for clarity let’s exchange eat for read and books for food.
Romans 14 (NLT)
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to
eat[read] anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat[read] only vegetables[CS Lewis]. 3 Those who feel free to eat[read] anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat[read] certain foods[books] must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
…I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no
food[book], in and of itself, is wrong to eat[read]. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat[read], you are not acting in love if you eat[read] it. Don’t let your eating [reading] ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good.17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat[read] or drink[watch], but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
…Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you
eat[read]. Remember, all foods[books] are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat[read] something if it makes another person stumble.21 It is better not to eat meat[read Harry Potter] or drink wine[read 50 Shades of Grey] or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat[read] something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
And another passage:
1 Corinthians 10 (ESV)
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25
Eat[Read] whatever is sold in the meat market[on Amazon] without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner[a book club] and you are disposed to go, eat[read] whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice[penned under Satanic influence],” then do not eat[read] it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you
eat or drink[read or watch], or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Personally, I have no problem with Harry Potter, but I could not in good conscience read 50 Shades of Gray. You may disagree with me on either side of that issue, and I respect that. The important thing here is to follow your own conscience (i.e. the Holy Spirit within you) because ultimately it is between you and God.
The key here, I believe, is two-fold:
- Don’t read/watch anything that prickles your conscience.
- Don’t encourage others to read/watch something against THEIR conscience.
NOW YOU: DO YOU AGREE/DISAGREE? WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR PERSONAL LINE WITH READING OR WATCHING MOVIES/TV?