Book Plunge: Pokemon and Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction

What do I think of Phil Arms’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been a gamer for as long as I can remember. My gaming life started with seeing a Colecovision when I came home one day under the TV in the living room and asking what it was. From then on, I came to enjoy games. They’ve always been there. Not just video games. Any games. Board games and card games can still be very enjoyable to me.

Now I am married and active in the ministry of Christian apologetics. It has been over three decades since I got my first Nintendo. My love of gaming hasn’t changed. I could be playing Words With Friends with some friends or going through a daily logic problem.

I also see it as a shaping influence on me. It is growing up in gaming that also shaped my desire a lot in the battle of good versus evil. Of course, this was also coupled with my Christian faith. My parents raised me up in the church and I was there every Sunday and in the evenings and when I got out of high school, the subject I knew best was the Bible so off to Bible College I went.

Today, I really see apologetics as doing in reality what is often done in fantasy. It is the battle of good versus evil. It is fighting to spread the Kingdom of God. There are real people out there who seek to destroy Christians. I debate atheists most every day.

Recently, someone sent my wife and I a video about religion and Pokemon. It is no secret that Pokemon, like many other fantasy industries, draws upon mythological themes found all over the world. This is not a problem to me. I find it fascinating. In looking at this video, I wondered if anyone might have actually written on this from a scholarly perspective. Sadly, I found nothing, but I still think it could be an interesting project for anyone interested in this. I would not be surprised if some Poketubers on YouTube have engaged in such research.

What I found on Amazon was Phil Arms’s book instead. I laughed some and before too long, I decided why not see what is said? Sadly, going through, much of what I think is confirmed. Many people who write about this write with a fear that our children don’t understand fantasy from reality. I suspect it is such writers who do not understand fantasy from reality.

Let’s say something positive upfront. We should all applaud the effort to raise our children Christian. We should also applaud the effort to monitor their entertainment choices. I have no problem with that. If a parent has forbidden something like Pokemon or Harry Potter or such from their home, the children should respect that.

Still, I wonder when these children grow up and start to think differently how many of them will wind up rebelling against this kind of thinking? It has happened in many areas and many of these areas of truth. Consider the case of sex before marriage. Many people have told young people, “If you have sex before you are married, you will feel guilty.”

Some will. Sure. Some won’t. When this happens, they will wonder what else the church has lied to them about. (Note it is not a lie, but they often perceive it as a lie. A lie is not merely an untruth but something that is told as true knowing it is false or vice-versa. It is intentional.) Inerrancy and young-earth creationism are two other beliefs like this. I have seen some people ready to throw Christianity out the window because they found one “contradiction” in the Bible they couldn’t reconcile.

Note I say that last part as a believer in Inerrancy properly understood. I believe in it so much I have been a co-author on two eBooks on the topic. Those are Defining Inerrancy and Contextualizing Inerrancy. While I do hold to Inerrancy, a contradiction in Scripture would not cause me to abandon Christianity for a moment. Jesus still rose from the dead based on the historical evidence.

I fear that Arms’s work could be doing more of the same. He also gets a paranoia in Christians that I do not believe is fruitful to good Christian discipleship. The lines are too blurred as great writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and others are not mentioned who often engaged in writing of a fantasy nature. If anything, this could lead to a further idea in an atheistic worldview reaching children.

On page 16, Arms tells us that much of the evil of Pokemon comes from “the deeply held belief system of some personalities at the very core of the Pokemon industrial complex.” Little problem. He never tells us who these people are. This is quite important as well since these are accusations of moral turpitude of the people involved. We should not make such claims unless we can name the people and specifically cite the references.

Does that mean that all people involved are perfectly angelic and devout Christians? Not at all. Yet that does not mean they are definitively involved in a satanic plot to control children. These claims need to be backed.

Pokemon was actually created by a man named Satoshi Tajiri. This is someone I have a great respect for also because he and I have something in common, namely Aspergers. The game was based largely on Tajiri’s love of bug collecting as a kid. This is something common with other original game makers. He was also mentored by Shigeru Miyamoto. You may not know who that is, but you have probably heard of some of his creations. These include Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong.

Actually, Zelda hits home with me. Link, the main character, was one of my first heroes growing up. I remember going to the barber when I was young with a picture of Link from Zelda II and wanting a hairstyle like his. I had a wooden sword and shield for me that my Dad made for my pretend adventures. My wife today has given me two ocarinas. I found out later that Miyamoto based Zelda on his love of outdoor adventures and told people when he signed things like instruction manuals to the game, “On warm days, play outside.” Also, I have a friend who has written a book about The Legend of Zelda and Theology.

By the way, let’s state something here also. If the only way you can present the Gospel in media to people is something explicitly Christian, you don’t know how to really present the Gospel that well. It has been said that wherever you have a hero and a villain, somewhere you have the Gospel. This should not surprise us. Christianity is the cry of the heart of man. It is the truth that we all seek.

On pages 23-24, Arms mentions doing research on a number of websites. The problem is that throughout this book, he consistently does not cite the sources. He will give quotations, but he won’t tell many times where they are found. Internet searches I have done for these quotations has been fruitless and as one who has seen several made-up quotations, I remain skeptical.

On page 24, he refers to Ash as a character in the game. This is false. Ash is a character in the anime. Some could see the character Red as referring to Ash, but it could just as well refer to the main character in the original game. Those of us who play the game and understand it will have a reason to immediately discount Arms as not knowing what he’s talking about.

On page 25, Arms has a problem with the idea of becoming a Pokemon master. After all, Master is a word from the New Age movement. This would be a guilt by association and Arms seeking to find what he wants to find.

The creatures in Pokemon, referred to as Pocket Monsters, are often seen as pets. Pet owners are often referred to as masters. Slaves in the Bible are said to have masters and Jesus is said to be our Lord and Master. One can go to College and get a Master’s in a particular field of learning or play Golf and participate in the Masters’ Tournament. If you host an event, you can be referred to as a Master of Ceremonies. Why choose the negative term and not the other terms? Why read into a term something not necessarily there?

He also says Pokemon trainers gain powers in the game. This is false. Trainers acquire new Pokemon who have new abilities, but the trainers themselves do not gain powers.

On page 26, he states that an early quest is to capture a Kadabra. This is also not accurate. I shared this with my wife and we both laughed together wondering when this quest was in the game. It is also not in the anime. There is a quest in the anime to defeat Sabrina’s Kadabra, but not to find one of your own.

Arms says there is an emphasis in Pokemon on teaching children to fight, kill, poison, and use occultic and psychic powers to reach their goals. One of the first rules of understanding a work of any kind is to try to figure out the world it is set in. Is it in a world meant to be like ours? Now there are times that sometimes one could think that it’s set in our world, such as in a movie when Ash says most Vikings lived in Minnesota, referring to the football team there.

Still, do children today see the world of Pokemon like that? Doubtful. Children don’t need fantasy stories to believe in magic. We already do. Fairy tales are full of it. They lock on to what children already know. As Chesterton said, fairy tales are not here to tell children dragons exist. Children already know they do. They exist to tell us that dragons can be beaten. Lewis also referred to the spell of naturalism and that we need a stronger spell to overcome that.

One can understand the concern of people like Arms, but would they prefer fantasy with no extramaterial elements whatsoever? (See my article on why I do not accept a natural/supernatural distinction.) He could find this in much of science fiction like Star Trek. Keep in mind that many of us are mature Christians who can enjoy series like Star Trek and Star Wars (Which I don’t watch personally on either account) and still not agree with the worldview, but we like the story. There is even a series now called Star Trek Continues starring Vic Mignogna. Mignogna is a popular anime voice actor who has been at numerous anime conventions. My wife and I have met him and I have emailed him a few times.

Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention he’s a devout Christian? He has helped numerous people who have come to the conventions struggling with many issues, including suicide. I have heard of him playing the piano at these conventions and singing worship songs. You can watch videos of him online talking to kids at these conventions about Jesus. We have with us a Gospel of John CD that he gave us personally with him reading the Gospel. If you go to his website, he makes it no secret that he is a Christian.

I say this because many of us do know fantasy and Mignogna does as well. We have elements of fantasy in our literature and stories because we know the real world is fantastic. We know that there is more than the material realm that we see every day. Arms should want to affirm and celebrate this.

Arms also says part of Pokemon is saying “My will be done” instead of “Thy will be done” on page 33. Yet if this is Arms’s point, it can be pushed to absurdity. The evening I publish this, my wife and I will be joining friends to see Christmas lights. We will stop somewhere for dinner. Are we sinning when we tell someone what we want to eat? We are telling the cooks in the kitchen “My will be done” aren’t we? The problem is only if our will contradicts the moral will of God.

On p. 35, Arms quotes another pastor who says that Pokemon teaches about gaining power from crystals. Again, my wife and I were puzzled at this. We tried to think of a game of Pokemon where this happens. We could not come up with one. We suspect this is a pastor who does not know about the game and sadly, there are too many pastors writing about things they do not know about.

On p. 40, he quotes Anton Lavey (And it’s Lavey, not Levey) who was the founder of the Church of Satan, as saying the fastest way to indoctrinate young people into the occult is through fantasy role-playing games. I saw that and immediately tried to find this quotation. I had no such luck. Arms gives no reference. Let me show a problem with that. Check this picture with a quote from Lavey about Halloween.

There is a well-known Christian apologist who regularly shares this quote. Many people look at this and think this is a powerful statement. For me, as a researcher, I want to know when I see an unreferenced quote where it came from. I did some searching, but so did Jeff Harshbarger of Refuge Ministries, an ex-satanist. As expected, he never said it.

There’s also a great danger with unreferenced quotes. One runs the great risk of bearing false witness about one’s neighbor. Yes. Even though Anton Lavey was a satanist, he was still someone in the image of God and thus, our neighbor. We are not to bear false witness against him or anyone else.

Arms also has something to say about evolution which is in the games. Yet go to any biology professor and base your paper on evolution on the Pokemon games and you will fail immediately. Not only that, there are plenty of devout Christians today who hold to Inerrancy as well who either agree with evolution or have no problem with it. This isn’t just modern times. Go back to the past. Asa Gray, the Christian botanist, had no problem with it. Neither did the minister Charles Kingsley. Also, Mr. Inerrancy himself, B.B. Warfield, wasn’t concerned about evolution. You can find support from a framer of the ICBI statement like J.I. Packer as well.

For those who assert God must have created humanity fiat to be special, we have an excellent counter-example. Namely, everyone of us. Psalm 139 says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we all know there is a long nine-month average process of making each of us. It is not how we are made that makes us special. It is what we are. We are bearers of the image of God.

There is an emphasis on the concerns about power on p. 46 as the game apparently tells children they have the power in their hands. Use it. Any child who thinks this applies to the real world I suspect already has some severe problems to begin with. There are also many things that can give a child a feeling of power. This is especially true for boys and not a bad thing. To this day, go through Wal-Mart during Christmas time and hand two grown men rolls of gift wrap. They will duel with them like they’re lightsabers.

On p. 50, he tells us that Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Popeye have been replaced with more sinister characters, yet even these characters would fall under concerns like magic and violence.  Mickey Mouse, for instance, nowadays, appears in the popular Kingdom Hearts role-playing games.

But even before that, one does not have to look far to see the magic in many Disney movies like Fantasia or short scenes like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Don’t forget the classic fairy tales that Disney has brought to life. How many of these also have Christian ideas of ending the conflict, which Arms speaks of? Do they not often have a warrior who slays the villain?

Looney Tunes is also not without magic. One of the favorite cartoons of my Dad and I involve Bugs Bunny in a Transylvania setting where he gets in a magic duel with a vampire using those dreaded words like “Abracadabra” and “Hocus Pocus.” Popeye is the hero every time by eating spinach and then walloping the villain of Bluto.

But who are these other more sinister characters? Figures like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, She-Ra, Care Bears, Gummi Bears, The Smurfs, and My Little Pony. Arms at this point strikes us as one who sees satan behind everything.

Arms has much to say about the phenomena with teen witchcraft and Wicca. I share his concerns. The problem is not Pokemon. The problem I point more to a church failing to do its job and looking to something like Pokemon to blame. The church has often failed to present a compelling view of Jesus in our era and does not build a good Biblical foundation. It’s more than just reading Bible stories to children today. We need to equip them with apologetic knowledge of how they can know the Bible is reliable and that Christianity is true.

From there, he goes on to talk about Dungeons and Dragons. Later in the book, Arms says he has never played Dungeons and Dragons. This was not a shock. Many of the criticisms presented about the game have been found to be sensational and been retracted. Are there problems? Yes. There are also problems with solitaire since that can be an incredibly addictive game. How many people have redealt a hand on the computer until they finally won one game?

Arms gives the case of Sean Sellers who says he got involved in wicked practices because of D&D. Is it really the cause of D&D or is it more the cause of Sellers himself? Fortunately, in response to the Pulling Report, we have the record of Sean Sellers himself.

With the controversy over role playing games so prevalent today many well meaning people have sought to use my past as a reference for rebuking role playing. While it is true that D&D contributed to my interest and knowledge of occultism I must be fair and explain to what extent D&D contributed.

When I was playing D&D I was not a Satanist, and in fact would have probably punched any Satanist I met right in the mouth. I was interested in witchcraft and Zen however. In doing some research at the library for a D&D adventure I was leading I happened upon other books that led to my study of occultism.

After I became a Satanist I used D&D manuals for their magical symbols and character references for my initial studies. I also used my experience as a Dungeonmaster to introduce people to Satanic behavior concepts and recruit them into the occult.

I do have objections to some of the material TSR releases for their role playing games. I think their excessive use of paganism and occultism is unnecessary and can lead to idealistic problems among some players; however, to be fair to TSR and in the spirit of honesty I must concede that D&D contributed to my involvement in Satanism like an interest in electronics can contributed to building a bomb. Like the decision to build a bomb, I had already made decisions of a destructive nature before I incorporated D&D material into my coven projects, and it was Satanism not D&D that had a decisive role in my crimes.

Personally, for reasons I publish myself, I don’t think kids need to be playing D&D, but using my past as a common example of the effects of the game is either irrational or fanatical.

February 5th 1990
Sean R. Sellers

So by Sellers’s own statement, whom Arms cites as an authority, Arms is either fanatical or irrational. Perhaps he is both. Also, unlike Arms, I will give my source. It is Michael Stackpole’s response which he says Sean Sellers helped with. We also recommend Arms read Confessions of a D&D Addict.

On p. 63, Arms says that Pokemon does not have a Christian view of conflict-resolution. Instead, it is more in line with the New Age movement encouraging children to think of the collective instead of individuals. There is a great irony here because in doing so, they are much more in line with the Biblical worldview. Arms has grown up in the modern 20th century in the West and thinks everyone thinks like him.

The Bible is in a culture where individualism was unheard of. The group was to be thought of first. One does not think about what is good for them, but rather what is good for their culture and their people. Arms is invited to check any of the scholarship from the Context Group and an honor-shame perspective to see this. It’s a great irony that in this facet, countries like Japan where Pokemon comes from are closer to the Biblical culture in that respect than modern America.

Not only this, has Arms never seen the first movie? In the main battle of the clones in there, Pikachu, the mascot of Pokemon, responds to the slaps of his then evil clone by turning the cheek repeatedly. Ash, the main character, throws himself in between the two fighting forces when a powerful blast goes off being willing to sacrifice himself to end the conflict. Does Arms see these as wicked examples?

On p. 64, Arms says in Pokemon the real pathway to peace is for the world to abandon all ideologies and religions. No backing is given for this incredible statement. He then goes on to say that to accept this premise would require rejecting Biblical beliefs like the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by grace through faith, etc. The fact that there are numerous numerous Christians like myself out there who have no problem with Pokemon and love Jesus show that this is inaccurate. Note in all of this, Arms never references an episode of Pokemon or the movies or anything of that sort.

On p. 68, he returns to D&D saying the setting is the mind of the player. Why yes. The mind is the area of the imagination and D&D requires imagination. Imagination is something that sets us apart as well. We don’t see other animals creating works of fiction after all.

At this point with his obsession about violence, conflict-resolution, obsessiveness, deceptive tactics, anything to win ideas, and occultism, I want to ask Arms a question. If he is wanting to eliminate anything having to do with anything like this, let’s get to the point. Will he speak out against professional sports?

Violence? Has he never seen a football or hockey game? How many fights break out at hockey games? Many parents have got into fistfights at Little League games over calls made on their children. There are people today suffering physical damage because of football they played growing up. Some hockey players opt to have their teeth pulled out and replaced since they know playing hockey will knock them off. I have heard of someone having a part of their body cut off by the blade of an ice skate. Not only that, how many times has a professional sports team won a major event and the response has been rioting and looting in their home city?

Conflict-resolution? It is often violent. In football, grown men tackle and climb all over each other for a ball. What about boxing and wrestling?

Obsession? Do you know how many sports shows you can find on the radio? Do you know how many TV channels there are dedicated to sports? How many grown men can spend all day watching sports? How many people memorize trivia about their favorite sports?

How many sports also rely on lying and deception? Do you not have to fake out your opponent many times? Is this not deceptive? This also includes winning at any cost. How many of us have heard about athletes who take steroids to win?

And as for occultism, how many teams are named after animals? Could this be not seeking to embody the spirit of the animal? Isn’t that familiarism at that point?

I am sure I can amass many more examples from professional sports. I am also sure Arms will not denounce them. Professional sports are just different somehow.

Let’s go a step further. If we want to talk about Biblical conflict-resolution, why exclude violence? Isn’t that how the Canaanite conquest was resolved? Isn’t that how the Amalekites were to be dealt with? Isn’t this how God deals with His enemies in the book of Revelation?

Arms also says on p. 69 that for the vast majority of young people involved in D&D, the line between fantasy and reality grows fuzzy. No backing is given for this statement. I would love to see which organization out there did a search of all the young people that play and how they determined the line between fantasy and reality is blurry for them.

Arms quotes an authority familiar with the game saying, “The stuff that make me nervous is the over-identification with the characters. I’ve seen kids go into raging fits, scream for hours, and throw objects in anger when they lose a battle or when their character dies.” Arms gives no reference to this quotation. I have done a search but have not found it. I have no reason to believe this quote without a reference and a source. Does Arms expect me to believe blindly? Would it have been too much of a bother to quote the reference? Obviously, it was.

It is not a surprise to see Arms go after Harry Potter, but as usual he does not know that of which he speaks. Arms even tells us about the four books out at the time in order of release. Prisoner of Azkaban, Chamber of Secrets, and Sorcerer’s Stone. Yes. Those are only three books. Yes. The last one to come out was the first one mentioned.

Yes. There are instances in the book of good characters being killed by the evil wizards. Why? Because J.K. Rowling (Her name is spelled wrong at one point even by Arms) knows what world children live in. It is a world where real death occurs. Not everything is pretty and bright.

We wonder if Arms has ever interacted with Christian scholarship on Harry Potter. There are plenty of Christians who see the good in the series. Most notable I think is John Granger. Granger read the first book after his pediatrician gave his daughter a copy so he could explain to her why trash like this is not allowed in their home. He immediately saw them as Christian classics. More can be found here.

It is doubtful Arms will ever really research this. More likely, he sat down at his computer one day and put in a web search of something like “Pokemon, satanic” and went immediately with what he found. Similar happened for Harry Potter. Researching both sides and responding to real criticisms does not seem important to Arms who holds the view of what my ministry partner calls, “The godly man in authority.” The cause is just and necessary so one cannot be bothered with details like this. Ironically, it’s also an anything to win mindset.

On p. 95, he writes about parents complaining that their children spend all day playing Pokemon. First off, parents need to be able to control their children properly. If you have a problem with what your kids are doing, try to exert some authority. Second, how about this for an idea? Play the game with them. Many kids would love it if their parents would take an interest in their games.

On p. 99, Arms tells us about how his children talk to others about controversial subjects on the playground and get ridiculed. Arms tells them that this is what Jesus said would happen. We would be persecuted and this shows tht we are on the right track. Now let’s suppose I send this to Arms, which I think I will. He writes back and he gives a lot of criticisms. If I followed his logic, that means my thinking is on the right track since I am being persecuted.

This is bad logic on Arms’s part. To say If you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted, does not equal, if you are persecuted, then you follow Jesus. If it is raining, the sidewalk is wet. The sidewalk is wet, so it is raining. False. It could be raining. It could be a walker spilled a drink. It could be a sprinkler system came on. It could be it was raining yesterday and the sidewalk is not dry. It could be flooding is going on in the area and the sidewalk is not only wet but underwater. You get the idea.

On p. 114, he says the creators of Pokemon have now released Digimon. This is false. Pokemon and Digimon are often seen as rivals to one another. Again, this is basic research Arms could have done. He should not speak as if he is an authority when he has not done basic research.

He also says a number of websites for Pokemon are proud of their linkage with D&D and another game called MAGIC. He quite likely means Magic: The Gathering, which I have never seen referred to as MAGIC. If guilt by association works, I encourage him to ban Parker Brothers and Playskool. Both of them have the backing of Hasbro who manufactures D&D and other such games. Parker Brothers produces Monopoly and Ouija Boards both. Guilt by association does not really work.

On p. 127, Arms lists Isaiah 14 as an example about the life of satan. This is not about the devil. The figure in the account is a man. One can make a parallel if they want to, but I see it as no reason to think that is in the mind of Isaiah. This does not mean I do not hold to a real devil. I think the Bible is clear that he exists. I do not think he is talked about as often as people think he is.

In conclusion, Arms’s work is really lacking. It is the kind of fanatical paranoia that gives Christianity a bad name. We can appreciate his zeal, but we know that Scripture has a problem with zeal not in accordance with knowledge and much of Arms’s work I think will drive more people away than it will bring them to the Kingdom.

Now if you’ll excuse me, as I have said, my wife and I were gifted with a Nintendo Switch recently and she’s happily playing Let’s Go, Eevee! I think will go and join her. She loves it when her husband plays Pokemon with her after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/4/2017: John Granger

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Harry Potter has been called the boy who lived. His books came to America here in 1998 and the first movie came out in 2001. Since then, all of the books were best sellers and all of the movies were hits, the final book even having to be divided into two movies. He was either loved or hated, but Harry was the talk of the town.

That was, of course, several years ago. The craze then was Pottermania, and surely that was it. Harry Potter was fun for awhile, but then, like so many other fun things, the time comes to move on. His fame lasted for a time and it was no more and will be no more.

But the boy who lived still lived.

Last year, the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them came out as well as a book continuing the series twenty years in the future called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Based on sales, one would think that Pottermania had never died. The book was a bestseller and the movie was a box office hit. (I must confess, I have not seen the movie, but I did get the book for my birthday and read it in a couple of days.)

What’s the Christian apologetics community to do with this? Is this harmless fun? Is it actually a satanic plot that will get our children to fall into the clutches of satanism? Or could it actually be a story that is surprisingly Christian at the core? My guest, someone well read in the classics, goes with the last option. His name is John Granger. Who is he?

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Tagged “The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars” by TIME magazine’s Lev Grossman, John Granger has been the leading expert on the subject of the artistry and meaning of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels since the publication of his first book on the subject in 2002. The author or editor of eight books, ‘The Hogwarts Professor’ has been a Keynote and Featured Speaker at more than twenty academic and fan conferences, and spoken at twenty-five major universities and colleges. John has a Bachelor’s degree in Classics from the University of Chicago, a Master of Fine Arts ion Creative Writing, and is working on his PhD thesis at Swansea University (Wales). He blogs at HogwartsProfessor.com and podcasts at MuggleNet Academia.

What is it that has led Harry Potter to be such a phenomenon such that even years after the original series, the theaters and bookstores are filled with fans again wanting to see the latest on the boy wizard? What is it that actually makes Granger think that these are Christian classics? Are these not stories of witchcraft and wizardry which would be condemned by Scripture? Are there not many examples in the stories of Harry misbehaving in ways that we should not accept as Christians?

We’ll be discussing all of this and more so if you’re a fan of Harry, or you know someone who is, this will be a show for you. Please be looking for the latest episode. Also, please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Harry Cast His Spell

What do I think of John Granger’s book published by Tyndale Momentum? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last August, I went back to my hometown with my wife to visit my parents due to an illness of a friend who was dying. It was a month before my birthday and my parents asked me what I wanted. The first thing I thought of was the new Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. They got it for me early and I already had it read in a couple of days. I just could not put that one down. Just recently, we have also had the release of the movie based on the series, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. It’s been years since the last official Harry Potter book and movie, but let’s face it, Pottermania isn’t dead. Not only is it not dead, it’s alive not only among children but adults who love the series.

Why? Why are the adventures of the boy wizard so popular? What is it about them? How did Harry Potter enchant the world?

Enter John Granger to explain this. John Granger is known as Hogwart’s Professor. Rumor has it he’s the third cousin of Hermoine twice removed. He’s an unlikely figure to write on this seeing as being an expert in classics, when his daughter was given a copy of the first book, he read it first so he could explain to his daughter why garbage like that should not be read. Turns out he went and bought the next books that were out the next day and now he’s a leading spokesman on all things Harry Potter.

More than that, Granger is a devout Christian and is convinced that the Potter novels are woven in Christian imagery much like Lewis and Tolkien are. A lot of it comes with the symbolism of alchemy. This isn’t to justify the science of alchemy, but a way of pointing out that alchemy was seen as a way of achieving purification and holiness in the Middle Ages.

The books, Granger argues, answer the questions of our age and answer them in very Christian ways. The books are loaded with Christological imagery and no, the main power in the books is not magic. The main power in the books is love. Love has the power to overcome the darkest of all magics, even the magic of Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort is seen as the great tragic character because all his power comes from wanting to avoid death, even if that means murdering his own soul, instead of realizing as Dumbledore points out, that there are worse things in this world than death.

If you’re wanting to know about Christ imagery, consider that the first book was not said to have the Sorcerer’s Stone, but the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s stone was an item sought in the past that was said to grant immortality, like Christ. Other Christ imagery includes hippogriffs, stags, unicorns, and phoenixes.

Is Harry a Christ figure? Not usually. More often than not, he represents everyman, which is why we can so often see ourselves in him. It’s also why we can accept the fact that many times Harry screws up. He’s a fallen man like we all are, but something in Harry consistently chooses to believe the right things and want to do the right things. You can see in the novels the way Harry will often mature from the start of the novel to the end of the novel.

Granger starts out the book with an introduction to his main thesis in several chapter. Then, he takes you through the books themselves and points out the symbolism and Christian lessons all throughout. To top it off, he ends it with an FAQ section of the questions he gets asked the most. (Want to know about Dumbledore being gay? Go look here.)

If Granger is right, and I think he is, this is a great time for Christians to be speaking of this imagery. Running from it could have the exact opposite effect. Granger’s book, even if you don’t agree with him, is certainly food for thought and should be considered by the fan and critic of Harry Potter alike.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: From Homer To Harry Potter

What do I think of Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara’s book on fairy tales? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the authors, Matthew Dickerson, sent me a free copy of this book in PDF format so my thanks to him. A friend recommended I read this book after I spoke at an event he was at. Immediately, I got in touch with the authors thinking this would be a great topic for a podcast. I have been a fantasy fan all my life, though I must admit I don’t get to read as much as I used to, though I used to read books in Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Terry Brooks’s Landover series.

The authors write from a Christian perspective and set the groundwork which is largely indebted to Lewis and Tolkien. These are two authors that do not have their own chapters in the book because nearly everything in it owes some debt to them. I have often told people today that if we enjoy any kind of role-playing game today, we owe that to Tolkien.

The writers start with a look at what is meant by myth. They think the Bible contains mythical elements, but by this they do not mean untrue. That is for the historians to decide. What they mean is a story that is meant to teach us a greater truth than we would find on our own. A person who holds to Biblical inerrancy need not fear this.

They also look at various writers and not just Christian ones. Most noted is the look at Philip Pullman. He is a decidedly non-Christian writer with a war in his series going on against YHWH and the evils of the church. Still, in his work he can’t seem to help but meet the criteria for a fairy tale and some of it in fact undermines his own case.

One of the main ones I was interested in of course was Harry Potter. There is talk on how magic is used in the books. Those interested will obviously need to pick up the books themselves, but the stories belong in the classic tradition of fairy tale. I thoroughly appreciated this part as I am an avid fan of the Harry Potter series having read all the books, including the latest one that has been released which is more of a play.

I also found myself intrigued by other works, such as ordering from the library The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. My copy has not arrived yet, but the writers have a chapter dedicated to this one and the whole premise was intriguing. I left this book with a greater appreciation of the genre of fairy tale. Now that doesn’t mean that I’ll suddenly find the time to read them, but I can easily agree with Lewis that a man need not fear any embarrassment from reading fairy tales. These aren’t just for children. They are a good way of getting past the watchful dragons.

Those interested in fairy tales and fantasy should read this book. Christians concerned about fantasy literature also should read it. I find a lot of criticisms of fairy tales and such come from not appreciating them as fairy tales. This book will help clear up a lot of confusion if it is listened to.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast: 11/16/2013

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it.

Readers of this blog know that I’ve always been a big gamer. Sit me down in front of Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy and I’m happy. Whatever I do, I do seriously and so when I play a game, I play to win. The world of fantasy has always been appealing to me.

It’s also known that in the Christian world, there’s much suspicion of many interests. Claims of something being occult or demonic quickly pop up. When the Harry Potter Phenomena started, this turned out to be no exception. Concerned parents did not want their children having any part in the phenomenon.

That included John Granger.

Until his pediatrician gave a copy of the first book to their daughter. Granger said he would read it first to show why that kind of garbage is not allowed in the house.

The next day he went out and bought the next two books in the series.

What caused this kind of book to be such a phenomenon? I had noticed that myself. It wasn’t just watching it, but I went and checked out from the library the books on audio so I could listen to them while I was driving, seeing as I was busy studying most of the time and didn’t have that leisure to read like that. Before too long, I found myself saying “I’ll turn it off after this sentence…after this one…after this one…”

The series is excellent! When the final book came out, I was one of those people waiting in line at the bookstore at midnight to get my copy, and mine was in audio again. (Jim Dale is amazing with the voices.) I spent the next few days sitting at home at any moment listening because I just had to find out how it ended. When I got off of work, I was going to my place to listen to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Today, I own all of the movies and have indeed seen all of them.

John Granger, my guest, now describes himself as Hogwart’s Professor and teaches a class on the series. In fact, he not only denies that it is non-Christian, but sees the series as entirely Christian, just like one would think of the Chronicles of Narnia as being a Christian series. He thinks the series is written from the worldview of a Christian to express timeless Christian truths?

But if that’s the case, then why is it set in the real world with real witches and wizards? Doesn’t the Bible condemn witchcraft? Another objection based on something not covered in the books but revealed later is the homosexuality of Dumbledore. How does this fit?

We can also discuss much deeper questions than this. How should Christians respond to that which is different? How do we examine that which we’re concerned about? How do we honor the imagination as Christians? Do we worry too much about such things? What can be said to those still concerned about the series?

I hope this show will explain one series as an example that will be used to help Christians think through anything else that they interact with and maybe give us a greater appreciation for pop culture and engaging the life of the mind through the imagination.

The show will air from 3-5 PM EST on 11/16/2013. The call-in number if you have a question is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Harry Potter True?

Can one dismiss the gospel accounts by pointing to the boy wizard? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s amazing that the group that likes to call themselves freethinkers all seem to think exactly alike and follow the exact same thought patterns. One idea catches on in the group and those who make the most out of condemning gullibility are immediately shouting it from the rooftops unaware that a few minutes worth of research could have prevented them from making such blunders.

A major one going around today is to say that if you believe the stories of Jesus are true, what about the stories of Harry Potter?

Because we all know there’s just a one-to-one parallel right there.

If we are to say it’s because of fantastical elements, well nearly every ancient writing of the time had some fantastical elements. We would have to throw out all of ancient history by this. Of course, not all did this, but it was something common still.

For instance, biographies of Alexander the Great that we have and even consider authoritative state of him that he was virgin born. Do we throw them out? No. We just look and say “Well this is a late tradition with not much behind it and we should be skeptical.” A mistake many critics make is thinking that history is an all-or-nothing game. An account is totally reliable in everything or it’s totally false in everything.

Unfortunately, many Christians make the same mistake with Scripture.

For the sake of argument Christian, what would it mean to you if you found out that there was one error in the Bible? Would you pack everything up immediately, conclude Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and that you can’t know anything about Him, and then abandon your Christian faith?

If your answer is yes, then you have a problem.

For me, if it was true, I’d still have an incredibly strong case for the resurrection, but I would have to change my views on inspiration and inerrancy. My overall method of historiography however would remain unchanged. I would just say I’d been wrong in some usages of it.

Now the comparison going around the net just doesn’t work. It says that Harry Potter has stories in it that are magical and therefore, it is untrue. The gospels also have stories in them that are magical. If we were being consistent, we’d say the gospels are untrue.

To begin with, the objection assumes that such a thing as magic does not exist. We do not know that for sure. Now is it fine to be skeptical of such a claim. In fact, I encourage skepticism, but if your worldview automatically precludes such a thing, then you are reaching a decision before examining the evidence.

Furthermore, the Harry Potter novels are in fact written to be fiction. No one has any idea that Rowling considered herself to be writing an authentic account of events that were taking place. The gospels by contrast are Greco-Roman biographies. They are not hagiographies, those came later. They must be judged by what was there at the time and at the time, they were written as Greco-Roman Biographies, accounts written to be historical. (The only exception could be Luke which could be a historiography with Acts being part 2 of it.) Those wanting more information on this are encouraged to read Richard Burridge’s “What are the Gospels?”

Now if we are to say that the problem is the gospels contain miracles, we come to the same objection. Has it been shown that miracles cannot happen? In fact, given Craig Keener’s book “Miracles” we can have a strong case that miracles do in fact happen and are still abundantly claimed today.

“Yeah. Well you’ll accept miracles in Christianity, but what about those outside your Christian tradition?”

That’s simple. If you show me a miracle that has good evidence backing it, I will believe it happened. It doesn’t have to be within my Christian tradition at all. If you can show me there’s a strong case that Vespasian healed blind men for instance, I’ll be more than happy to say that he did even if I can’t explain it, but good luck doing that.

Incredulity is not an argument. You may think miracles are ridiculous. Fine. It doesn’t work against my worldview to say that your worldview is different. You will need to give me an argument for your own worldview.

In fact, whenever I see someone use the Harry Potter analogy to explain away the gospels, I already am certain that I am meeting someone who is unfamiliar with historiographical standards at all. To skeptics of the NT, I encourage you to get a better argument. Start by reading good scholarship on both sides. Maybe in the end you’ll still disagree with me, but I hope it will be an informed disagreement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Demon-Haunted World?

How is a Christian supposed to reply to the demonic? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of my good friends is Jeff Harshbarger, who wrote two books on the occult which include personal testimony of his involvement with demonic powers and how he came out and is now a Christian. He is now the head of his own ministry, Refuge Ministries, where he uses counseling to help people get out of the occult.

But here’s something I really like about Jeff. He’s someone who admits the reality of demons, but he’s not someone who sees demons every where and despite having personal experience in the past with demons, he warns Christians to not spend too much time thinking about demons and not to worry about them.

Now keep in mind in all of this, I am indeed affirming that yes, I do believe demonic activity is real. I’ve heard too many accounts from people who I know to be intelligent and reliable that are firsthand accounts that I cannot deny that it has happened. I also have of course, as a Christian, biblical testimony to the fact.

Yet we must approach this realistically. As C.S. Lewis said in the Screwtape Letters “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

I have written plenty of times about my problems with a materialist view of reality, so if you’re on that side, this blog is not written to argue against you. This blog is written to deal with the problem that Jeff sees as well, and that’s Christians having too much of a fascination with demonic activity.

In fact, these Christians in having this can often take a view of Scripture that I consider to be occult. Scripture is treated as if it was a magic book and if you say this passage, you will ward off any demons that are in your presence. Now do I deny that there is power in the truth of Scripture? Not at all. What I have a problem with is its careless usage without a proper understanding of what is going on in a text of Scripture.

For instance, how many times have I seen a Christian use the passage about “My word will not return to me void.” When saying it, these Christians take it to mean that if you cite a passage of Scripture, it will be used and it will come back with results. I don’t think this is a Christian view of Scripture but an occult one.

For one thing, the passage is about the pronouncements of God Himself and what He’s saying is “If I make a statement, you can be sure that I will deliver on it.” It does not mean that we are the ones who can always deliver on His statements. God is not obligated to do our bidding. We are obligated to do His.

Furthermore, we often see people misuse Scripture, such as the devil in the temptation of Jesus, groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and of course groups like the Word of Faith community that think faith is a force whereby they can shape reality.

When we have this fixation on the occult, it will not keep us away from it, but will in fact draw us into it. Up and coming apologists. I make this warning to you. There are many areas in apologetics I try to at least have a basic knowledge of. This is not one of them! I have been warned by those much greater in the field than I and much more skilled NOT to even touch this stuff. In fact, they themselves don’t do it because the occult has such a drawing power. That’s why I leave it to people like Jeff.

We will also have undue fear in our lives of anything that could seem to be “occult” when we have this focus. I have interest in many activities that I’m sure a lot of Christians with this kind of fixation look at as occult. I play the Final Fantasy games regularly. (In fact, one of the songs played at our wedding was from Final Fantasy) I have every Harry Potter movie that there is and I’ve read all the books. I make it a point to know the difference between fantasy and reality.

Here’s something more important. I make it a point to know Scripture even better. It is in knowing the true God that I am supposed to be drawn to Him more and more. It can be good and helpful to have a good angelology and that includes knowing something about demons and any student of Scripture should know something about them, but that is as a metaphysical topic and not an occult topic and is not meant to be a fixation.

When we live in fear of everything around us and constant worry about the occult, we also have the sad condition of making ourselves look ridiculous to the world around us. Most of the world around us already thinks we’re crazy. We don’t really need to do anything to add to that.

Also, our culture has a fixation on end times. Most readers of this blog know that my view in end times is that of orthodox Preterism, but I’m happily married to a dispensationalist and I have several good friends who are dispensationalists.

If you want to be one, be one, but this is a problem I often warn against for dispensationalists. Make your fixation be Christ. Some are unfortunately so caught up in knowing the identity of antichrist that they do not pay as much attention to the identity of Christ, the one who they are to stake their whole identity in.

Now in all of this, there is no saying that Christians should be reckless, but do not let your Christian walk be defined by paranoia of anything that could have a negative reputation. Take the time to examine each issue and be settled in your own mind. If you disagree with your brother, feel free to make a case, but listen to his case back on why he doesn’t have a problem with what he does. It could be you’re wrong. It could be he is. Follow the admonition of Paul. Let each be convinced in his own mind.

And overall, remember to focus on God and His revelation in Christ. Christians are not to live their lives in fear, and that includes fear of the demons.

In Christ,
Nick Peters