Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and Mars Hill? Garbage!

I contemplated titling this post "A Bucketful of Liberal, Emergent, Postmodern Drool" but "Garbage" seems to work well. Browsing through a stack of reader links this afternoon, I came across a commentary posting on Christianity Today that takes theological stupidity to new heights. Harry Potter has never been a craze in my household nor that of my grandchildren so we have escaped most of it. I did watch two of the movies a few years ago so that I might have some idea what some of my fellow evangelicals were bothered by. I found it to be rather boring and second rate mythology and to be fair, non-threatening. It is secular entertainment, of little interest as noted earlier and it too will pass. However, Linda Peacore, an adjunct at Fuller Theological Seminary seems to have waxed gold in trying to craft some sort of edifying and Godly purpose to the whole series of Harry and his miscreant warlocks and witches (good witches mind you trying to manage and defeat the really bad ones). An excerpt of her commentary includes ...

... J.K. Rowling's books—and the subsequent films—put important elements of the Christian story into a moral language that both communities speak and that our contemporary culture can understand and engage. Whether Rowling intended it or not, the Harry Potter phenomenon is an example of how the Holy Spirit uses cultural means to tell God's story...

This is stated by somebody who teaches in a Christian seminary! The poor students might as well have one of my neighbors teach them, a neighbor who thinks the closest thing to God is a freshly opened keg, a pizza and a football game on a big screen TV. That's not all. Ms Peacore takes it further leaving no doubt as to how deep the theological pit must be at Fuller this afternoon.

...We see it in Paul's speech to the Athenians in Acts 17 where he recognized and even affirmed elements of wider culture, identifying shared values between Christianity and a Greek worldview. Paul reminds us to listen to culture for those stories that resonate with God's story of love and redemption. This doesn't entail that Christians embrace all of popular culture (or even all of Harry Potter), but it does mean that we are attentive to the world around us, aware of the ways the Spirit is moving...

That is what Paul preached at Mars Hill? In a pigs eye. I recommend the esteemed adjunct assistant professor pull the plastic wrapper off her bible and actually study the passage she is attempting to read into Harry Potter novels. This brings to mind a suggestion by a Word-Faith acquaintance some time ago who recommended that we should take in the whole of one's ministry, eat the meat and spit out the bones. The poor fellow failed to realize that it is the partaking of the bones in the first place that does the killing. Paul did not incorporate the paganism of the Athenians into his Gospel message. He preached Christ to a group of souls who knew something was out there but didn't know what it was. Most of them rejected Christ and continued on their quest for the "unknown God" having no idea He had just been presented to them. Liberalism embraces the world and incorporates it into their religious fusion. In that sense, it differs little from the paganism of old. Ms. Peacore sees Mars Hill in Harry Potter because she sees Harry Potter in Christ. Oh, not in a salvific manner of course but in worthiness. Of course, none of her amusements are scriptural but if Mars Hill can be brought into such nonsense, then we can easily dismiss God's command to the people of Israel to tear down the idols in the high places. "Don't come out and be separate from the world. Look to the world as your source of inspiration".

I have a better idea for the poor souls at Fuller ... change classes.

Ms. Peacore's full posting can be found here.


Jc_Freak: said...

Ok, my family is rather into fantasy as a literary genre, so when the first Harry Potter book came out, we actually got it before it was a cultural phenomenon. I think I had already read book two before i even knew that some Christians had a problem with it. So I am speaking here as someone who has now read the entire series, and who has seen all the movies.

First of all, there is no witchcraft in it. There is a difference between witchcraft and fantasy magic. Real witchcraft is the manipulation of spiritual forces to do your bidding; in fantasy, magic is some impersonal force that some people can use. In Harry Potter, magic is never explained. It is just something some people can do. Actually, it is more simular to naturalism in how they interact with it than with actual witchcraft.

That said, i would be hard pressed to say that the books are consistant with Christianity. Sure, good is good, bad is bad, and they don't like each other. Additionally, there are some other ethical concepts that the books share with Christianity. But it was written in a post-Christian society, so where did those ethical concepts come from.

Additionally, my primary contention with the books is that they strongly encourage rebellion and is very pessimistic about authority. Harry often breaks the rules and is often encouraged to do so, even rewarded for it (because he does it for good reasons, and the results are good). The gov't is mostly made up of chowderheads. One of Harry's teachers has a vendetta against him because of Harry's father.

There are some decent lessons about friendship, and unity, and the need to oppose evil, oppression, and bigotry (there is lots of bigotry that is opposed), but a lot of this is tainted with much of the lessons of rebellion and the untrustworthiness of adults.

All in all, the books are well written and entertaining (and the movies are quite poor), but I would not recommend them for children.

A.M. Mallett said...

I agree with much of what you have presented although I would suggest that much of this secular world is deceptive and dominated by spiritual principalities and powers that need to be resisted. Having said that, my initial point was outrage at the idea that a theology professor could ever teach anybody through classwork or a column in a popular periodical that Harry Potter is essentially a work of the Holy Spirit and compare it to Paul's work at Mars Hill.
I am a fan of certain mythologies from a fiction perspective, Tolkien's work coming quickly to mind. However, if a professor attempted to use Tolkien as a work of God in demonstrating the struggle between good and evil, I would probably burst out laughing, especially if he or she incorporated it into the Gospel of Jesus Christ i.e. Paul's preaching at Mars Hill.

Jc_Freak: said...

Ironically, you picked a poor example because Tolkien was a strong and passionate Christian. You can find a lot of biblical principles in Lord of the Rings.

However, on the other hand, Tolkien was always very insistant that his books were not to be taken as Christian allegory (like Narnia), and resisted any attempt to do so.

Back to your point though: I think the professor could have made a good point comparing Harry Potter to Mars Hill. That point would be that God can use things which are not a product of the Holy Spirit and use them. Thus it is legit for a pastor to reference the Potter series in a sermon.

The problem is that she didn't make that point. Instead, she tries to use Mars Hill as a was of sanctifying secular works, I guess claiming that Paul of legitamizing early paganism (can we say blatent heresy?). I agree that the comment was truly foolish.