Fear of Fantasy Magic

Elizabeth Goddard Uncategorized 15 Comments

As part of the blog tour, Becky Miller (her link is on the sidebar) has an interesting topic on her sight regarding magic. One of the reasons that many Christians shy away from fantasy, in general, is due to its use of magic. She has raised an interesting question: What exactly is magic?

In the Literal Translation of 1st Cor. 12:10 the scripture references that through the Spirit some will have “workings of power.” Other versions might call this miracles or completely disregard the term as in the case of the KJV.

If we look at the Greek word used for magic in the Biblc, it is dunamis, a word which means power.

I have two thoughts on this: First, there are two sources from which “workings of power” may be derived–the Holy Spirit, and a spiritual source not of God. It is the source of magic that is not of God, that Christians shy away from when reading fantasy.

Another consideration is that Christians–at least in this country–shy away from any power, whether it be from God or not.

I find it also interesting that many Christians novels that are not fantasy by definition are lumped into the fantasy genre if they hold anything referencing supernatural power. This is not the case for all novels such as Dekker’s or Peretti’s works. But this sort of labeling would lead you to think that we as a whole believe that any supernatural power–good or bad, is completely fictitious. And we wonder why we are a powerless Church. Don’t mind me, I just read Dekker’s Blessed Child!

I’ve listed the blog tour participants including some additional sites here. Below that, you can read more definitions regarding power.

Mirtika Schultz’s Mirathon
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
Spoiled for the Ordinary-Jayson Joyner
Marci’s Writer-lee Blog
All About Children’s Books-Sally Apokedak
Steve Trower’s Old Testament Space Opera
LaShaunda’s See You On The Net
Shenandoah’s Eclectic Musings-Shannon McNear
Meg Moseley’s Megawriter
Stuart Stockton’s The Jerkrenak’s Den
Jim Black’s Bedford Review of Christian Fiction
Karen Hancock’s Blog-Writing From The Edge

More reading on works of power:

1Co 12:10 and to another, workings of powers, and to another, prophecy, and to another, discerning of spirits, and to another, kinds of languages, and to another, interpretation of languages.
LITV

Strongs Definition:
dunamis
doo’-nam-is
From G1410; force (literally or figuratively); specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself): – ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work.

Thayer Definition:
dunamis
1) strength power, ability
1a) inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth
1b) power for performing miracles
1c) moral power and excellence of soul
1d) the power and influence which belong to riches and wealth
1e) power and resources arising from numbers
1f) power consisting in or resting upon armies, forces, hosts
Part of Speech: noun feminine
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G1410
Citing in TDNT: 2:284, 186

Webster Definition:
Miracle
MIR’ACLE, n. [L. miraculum, from miror, to wonder.]

1. Literally, a wonder or wonderful thing; but appropriately,

2. In theology, an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event. Miracles can be wrought only by Almighty power, as when Christ healed lepers, saying, “I will, be thou clean,” or calmed the tempest, “Peace, be still.”

Miraculous
MIRAC’ULOUS, a. Performed supernaturally, or by a power beyond the ordinary agency of natural laws; effected by the direct agency of Almighty power, and not by natural causes; as the miraculous healing of the sick or raising the dead by Christ.

1. Supernatural; furnished supernaturally, or competent to perform miracles; as the miraculous powers of the Apostles. Miraculous, applied to the extraordinary powers of the Apostles, may mean conferred by supernatural agency, or competent to work miracles. I believe it is generally used in the latter sense.

2. In a less definite sense, wonderful; extra-ordinary.

Blessings!
Beth

Comments 15

  1. Elliot

    I think it’s also important to think about the distinction between ‘miracle’ and ‘sign.’ In popular language, ‘miracle’ often means anything that appears to be really out-of-the-ordinary. But I think that for Christians, this definition is inadequate.

    Christ’s miracles were signs, because they signified the breaking-in of the Kingdom. Just because something is anomalous and supernatural doesn’t mean that it’s a ‘sign.’ In scripture God rarely, if ever, causes weird miraculous things to happen without a message attached to them. Christ went around healing people to show what God was like, and what the Kingdom was like. He didn’t go around putting on miraculous fireworks shows or smiting people dead.

    So I think Christians are called to be somewhat skeptical – as in 1 Thes. 5:21 – “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” We believe miracles are possible, but have high standards for understanding and evaluating them.

    Many of the magicians and alchemists of the past *thought* that they were doing God’s will and uncovering ‘the secret things of God’ – when in reality most of their tricks didn’t actually work, and even if they did they didn’t have a deeper ‘sign’ attached to them and were just self-glorifying.

  2. Beth Goddard

    Elliot!

    I agree with you! Totally. The only “problem” if you will, that I have at all, is that when we, for the sake of being cautious, miss something that God is, in fact, doing:) In other words, many would avoid miracles at all cost to the detriment of seeing God do something powerful.

    Of course, this is sort of getting off of the subject of magic. . .but then, we’re trying to understand how it all fits into fantasy and why some Christians want to avoid it.

  3. Mirtika

    Amen. Call me crazy, but I still pray almost daily for great healers and prophets and visionaries and teachers to rise among the church so that we recapture the sense of wonder and of God’s great power.

    In fantasy, power is a metaphor or a correlative to what happens in the real world. For Christians, this should be a natural fit. We’re the folks who believe in miracles and the laws of nature bowing to nature’s God.

    Elijah wasn’t afraid to ask God to send fire from heaven, and Joshua didn’t hesitate to ask the Sun to stand still, and Paul drove out spirits with a phrase, and Peter had people walking or waking from the dead. The early church showed all the great gifts.

    I think if we humbled ourselves, prayed, fasted, and honored God the way He ought to be–and trust me, I’m not there by a long shot, I am part of the problem who is trying to become part of the solution–we’d see things that would knock our mundane socks off.

    One of my friends smiles at me when I pray “big.” She says she wishes she had the nerve to pray for mountains to move. I say, “Well, if I’m gonna pray, I want to put my time to the best use and God’s best use, and I figure I can find my own parking space or wash my own feet, but I need Him to do the things that are beyond me, like changing my heart and helping me love the unlovable and dropping a big, old mountain on Osama’s head.”

    Actually, I’ve been praying that fiend gets converted. Nothing would make my year like having that freakasoid send a tape to Al Jazeera saying, “Hey, guess what? JESUS REALLY IS LORD! I’ve been really, really bound up by Satan.” And give himself up.

    See what I mean? I figure God can make a donkey warn Moses, he can make a camel warn Osama. 😀

    I’m also praying for a bit of global cooling and the mass conversion of India’s Dalits. And y’all are free to laugh. I ain’t gonna stop.

    Mir

  4. Mirtika

    Testing by the Word is good. Discernment is a valued gift.

    But total skepticism belies the core of the faith: A man who is God died an came back to life and rose up into the heavens.

    To the skeptic, that’s a nice little myth.

    To a Christian, that’s truth, and that truth is “magical” and the stuff of legends. It just happens to be real magic, and a true story.

    You wrote: Christ went around healing people to show what God was like, and what the Kingdom was like.

    Well, God has not changed ,and the kingdom has not changed. It still is what it was.

    Perhaps we are not what we should be, and therein lies the problem.
    Mir

  5. Beth Goddard

    Great comment, Mir! I love hearing about that kind of faith. Hey did you happen to read Dekker’s Blessed Child? Awesome book—recommended reading for EVERY Christian in my opinion.

    Since you’re praying big, please pray for an event called Arise coming up on June 25th here in the Rogue Valley (Oregon). People here have been praying for revival for thirteen years, and they’re believing that God is going to do something mighty here. You can check out more at arisereubild.com.

    Blessings~
    Beth

  6. Elliot

    Very true. A Christian can’t be a total skeptic. I don’t think even a total skeptic can be a total skeptic. It’s self-defeating.

    But I also think that God usually works through natural laws and through ordinary people. He seems to care for the integrity of His Creation and our own free will so much that He only rarely uses the flashy stuff. Christ rebuked those who came looking for a sign, when they didn’t care about the message. They just wanted the entertainment, I guess.

    And you’re right, most of the time we’re all of us part of the problem rather than the solution! What you say reminds me of what Dorothy Sayers wrote in one of her plays: “‘Why doesn’t God smite this dictator dead?’ is a question a little remote from us. Why, madam, did he not strike you dumb and imbecile before you uttered that baseless and unkind slander the day before yesterday? Or me, before I behaved with such cruel lack of consideration to that well-meaning friend? And why, sir, did he not cause your hand to rot off at the wrist before you signed your name to that dirty little bit of financial trickery?”

    I found that quote here:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/special/131christians/sayers.html

  7. Grafted Branch

    Just surfing through on the CWO ring.

    Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.

    We also know that we don’t need to look for signs because, in His Son, we have our completed revelation for life on this earth.

    I won’t condemn fantasy because the bible tells me that all things are permissible, but I will not be mastered by its intrigue because the bible also cautions me that not all things are profitable.

    I wonder how we, as Christians, can justify the time we spend with Christian-themed books when God has left us a Living Word that–no matter how many times we read every word (which I have yet to complete)–is still new and relevant for another day’s study?

  8. Beth Goddard

    Grafted Branch,

    So true–not all things are profitable. I agree with you that far too much time is spent on the distractions of the world for instance, television, movies, this computer and emails. . .surfing blogs. . .. Sadly, I don’t think the old-fashioned entertainment of reading takes up nearly enough of our time. LOL

    But I think it’s wonderful that if and when a person deicdes they want to read a book and say, their preference is fantasy–that they can choose from an offering that is written with a Christian worldview . .that depicts the story of the Bible in some allegorical format.

    There are so many wonderful books out there that are God-inspired, and He uses to drive some Biblical point home for the reader.

    Yet, I know Christians who for the same reasons you mentioned, don’t support Christian fiction or music, but they will watch secular movies and listen to secular music. Hmmm.

    No, we don’t have to look for signs, and I’m not saying we should, be Jesus did say we would do even greater miracles than his disciples, so I don’t want to be the one to say no to that commission.

    Blessings!
    Beth.

  9. Beth Goddard

    I need to add something to my previous post. There is an excerpt of comments made by Bill Bright regarding why fiction is important. If you scroll down to Fantasy: Shining light into the darkness with a pen of a ready writer, you’ll find his comments there.

    Blessings!

  10. Mirtika

    Grafted branch, one can say that of any activity:

    Why blow-dry your hair when you could let it air dry and spend 15 more minutes praying?

    Why go on vacation, why have more than on pair of shoes, why not move into a smaller house and give the profit to the poor?

    Why not eat beans every day and give the money you would have spent on beef to the church?

    Why not walk to work instead of having a car, when that car costs thousands that could support a missionary?

    I think it comes down to balance. God wants us to have full lives, and God is not a God opposed to beauty and pleasure. He placed our first parents in a place of rare beauty that gave them everything they needed to live sweet, easy lives. He promised the Israelites a fertile land of milk and honey. He endowed Solomon with riches, when he could as easily have given him a hut that met his basic needs.

    Milk is a bone-growing, muscle building food. Honey is an extravagance. It sweetens milk, but doesn’t make it significantly anymore nutritious.

    The Bible is milk and meat. Our recreational pleasures are honey. Music and dancing and reading and joking with friends and having a wonderful romantic engagement–all those are pleasures that are not necessary to live, but add greatly to the enjoyment of life.

    I don’t think God wants us shut in a room with only the Bible anymore than he made a world with only one kind of fruit or one kind of flower.

    He made us like him, curious and needing to create the new thing–the new song, the new story, the new kind of house or vehicle or shoe or hair cut.

    We’re in His image. We create. We also rest.

    The Bible is there not to be our life, but to help us have wiser, fuller, better, stronger lives. And eternal life.

    Mir

  11. Grafted Branch

    Well. I’m not sure where all of that came from, Mirtika. Sounds like you over-interpreted me.

    Beth, did you really mean to say that “there are so many wonderful books out there that are God-INSPIRED?” I would reserve that designation for the 66 books in the Bible.

    I’m trusting you meant, “God-glorifying,” because I believe He is pretty clear about being finished with His revelation.

    Maybe we’re not coming from the same place; do ya’ll believe the Bible to be the true, inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient Word of God?

  12. Shannon

    Grafted, I assure you that we DO believe the Bible is the “true, inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient Word of God.” 🙂

    And by inspired–none of us would claim our writings are on a level with Scripture, not at all–but if you check out a dictionary definition of inspired, it isn’t a stretch to say our writing can be “inspired” is “influenced” or “motivated” by God, or at least by our relationship with Him. Consider:

    definition 1: “to infuse an animating, quickening, or exalting influence into.”

    3. “to influence or compel”

    4. “to guide or control by divine influence”

    At least by 1 & 3, I’d definitely say I am “influenced” and “motivated” by God in my writing, even if such writings are not unflawed. Preaching from the pulpit is not unflawed, either, and one could consider writing a kind of preaching.

    Furthermore, we can consider that Jesus Himself used story to communicate truth. A paltry communication medium it might be … but He seems fond of taking a paltry medium (after all, He became flesh in order to save us) and using it to show forth His glory.

    And really, as Christian writers of fiction, that’s what we’re trying to do … show God’s glory, and communicate His truth in a way that someone might not have heard before.

    I hope you haven’t taken offense at anything written here. I read your post more as thinking out loud, not necessarily as a criticism or even a point of debate, but I wanted to clarify a bit for Mir and Beth. 🙂

  13. Shannon

    … ack! I should have edited better … sorry about that garbling in the second paragraph.

    (What was that I said about not being unflawed … LOL)

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