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