by Matt Slick
I'd heard a lot about the Harry Potter books, how they were filled with the occult, witches, spells, potions, and more. Emails came in asking me to comment on the books, so I finally read one. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," by J. K. Rowling, was my intro to the series.
Would I recommend it to Christians to read? Yes and no. Yes, if you are doing research on the influence of the occult in today's society, or if you have a large website and need to review a book, or if you simply like reading this kind of thing and have no problem at all with it influencing you. On the other hand, I would not recommend it if you want to guard yourself or your children from the influence of occult principles and ideas. I'm sorry to say that the Potter book I read was definitely filled with witches, potions, spells, ghosts, magic wands, flying broomsticks, and more. It was definitely heavily into the occult.
Unfortunately for me, I am in a bit of a quandary. I think it is good to let our imaginations run free, as long as it isn't sinful. Also, I don't want to be a kill-joy when it comes to simply reading fun kid stuff. After all, C. S. Lewis, the renowned Christian author, wrote "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." It is a story of make-believe, a witch, good and bad, a talking lion, etc. So what is the difference between them? There is a big difference. C. S. Lewis wrote, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" with the intention of teaching Christian concepts. The failures of the occult side were demonstrated against the power of grace, love, and truth of God, though done through metaphor. The Potter book(s?) do no such thing, at least not the one that I read. It taught no Christian principles at all. If anything, it taught things in direct contradiction to scripture.
In the book, Harry Potter is an orphaned young boy. His parents were killed by an evil sorcerer named Voldemort who, for some unknown reason, couldn't kill Harry when he was an infant. The child is then delivered to his relatives who are Muggles, people who do not believe in magic. Harry, who is unaware of his true parentage and the world of magic, spends 10 years living in dingy conditions under the stairs of these selfish and uncaring Muggles. Finally, a giant named Hagrid appears with a startling invitation to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Of course, Harry attends and is introduced to the previously unknown world of magic. The rest of the book takes place at the school. The occult flavor of the book is aptly represented in some of the course books required for the classes at the school: The Standard Book of Spells, A History of Magic, Magical Theory, Magical Drafts and Potions, The Dark Forces: a Guide to Self-Protection, etc.
In the book, several spells are cast and we see the use of an invisibility cloak, magic wands, and flying broomsticks. Witches are basically people who have magic skills. Ghosts are helpful. Mention is made of the need to study the stars and their names, which can affect magic, along with herbs and fungi which are used in potions. In all, there is plenty of magic, wizardry, and spells, as well as plain old suspense and drama. The book was written well enough to keep my interest. Too bad it was filled with so much dark occultism. Furthermore, lying and deception were not condemned. Instead, they were justifiably used to accomplish the necessary ends of the characters.
I offer two criticisms. First the subjective. I found that after I had finished reading the book, I was more open to accepting occult ideas. I was desensitized a bit to the occult, having spent a few days vicariously involved in it. The result was that these dark ideas were simply on my mind and I was more "aware" of and accepting of the ideas of sorcery, casting spells, using potions, etc. And in a very small way, I noticed my interest in reading the Bible had diminished. Now, this is just me and my experience, very subjective, and I do not claim that it is normative. It is just my observation of how I felt about it. Nevertheless, I can't help wonder how it might affect the young, impressionable kids who are hooked on the books. As a Christian, I can't see the influence being a positive one.
Second, biblically, we are to focus on godly things, not the ungodly. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things," (Phil. 4:8). Also, the Bible condemns contacting the dead, seances, etc. Therefore, as a Christian parent, I would not want my children reading the Potter books because I don't want them to be influenced in any way towards the occult. When they are older and can make their own choices, or when I think they are mature enough to read the books and not be negatively influenced by them, then I think it would be okay.
But, as a Christian, I cannot recommend that Christians read the Harry Potter books.
Are the Harry Potter books sinister attempts to undermine Christian values and replace them with the evil teachings of witchcraft and sorcery? No. Should Christians seek to have the books banned? No. Are they fun to read? Yes. This isn't a proclamation of fear or intolerance. As a Christian, and from a biblical perspective, I believe the Harry Potter books to be harmful spiritually. Right or wrong, that is my opinion.
------------------ Emails from Readers -----------------
Most of what you say with regard to the above books is very true but may I disagree with the last paragraph in your review.
I read the first three books one after the other when they were published and it looked like my grandchildren would receive them for Christmas. Upon finishing the first one I had almost begun to wonder if the reports I had heard were really true. Maybe I had just overreacted. There was nothing in the book that I had read before and it was no worse than dozens of other books already on the market. But after I had finished all the three books that were available at the time, a very different picture began to emerge. Each book takes you deeper into the world of the occult until it is possible, for one who is not on their guard, to have their values and their understanding of what is " good or " bad " changed and not be even aware of it.
I do not believe or accuse anyone of writing the books with the intent of leading anyone astray but having said that it is my opinion that these books hold far more danger than first thought.
The two follow-ups to that which you have read " The Chamber of Secrets " and " the Prisoner of Azkaban " certainly have more occult activity and the subtle pressure to accept the reversed roles of " good " and " bad " is increased. I now hear my own grandchildren describe something which is enjoyable and good to do as being " really wicked " How much longer will it be before they really accept that as being the truth? I would advise that those who read the books do so for the reason of making themselves and others aware of how Satan is working on the next generation.... Michael