Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Harry Potter meets Cornelius Van Til: Part Two
07/21/2007 - Colin SmithIn the previous blog, we looked at some passages from the first three Harry Potter books and analyzed their underlying assumptions with a view to demonstrating that the Harry Potter series depends upon a Christian worldview. I am not claiming that these books are Christian, or even Christian allegory, or even that J. K. Rowling is herself a Christian (from interviews I have seen and read, she appears to be a typical nominal theist with a stereotypical suspicion of "organized religion"). But these books do make a number of assumptions about the way the world works, and about ethics and morality, that are inconsistent with anything but a Christian theistic, or Biblical, worldview. In other words, for her stories to "work," she cannot draw from the fallen humanistic worldview that gave us evolution (or neo-Darwinian macro evolutionary theory), Hitler, Stalin, and the moral decadence that is rampant in much of Europe (and sadly in the US too)--i.e., the natural worldview of fallen mankind. Rather, she has to borrow from the Christian worldview concepts that are foreign to the natural worldview for her story to have any kind of moral foundation. It is my hope that the following quotations from books 4, 5, and 6 of the Harry Potter series will serve to illustrate this, and also help to equip you as you bear testimony of Christ within the context of our culture.
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Harry Potter meets Cornelius Van Til: Part One
07/20/2007 - Colin SmithThis weekend, the publishing phenomenon that is Harry Potter reaches its conclusion with the official release of the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Outside of the millions of people, young and old, who have invested money and hours of online time to these books, there are those, especially within the Christian community who will certainly not be sad to see Harry's story come to an end. Regardless of which category you fall into, these books have become a part of our popular culture, and as Christians who are in the world (though not of the world), like Paul in Athens, we should be willing to take that which is a part of our culture and use it for apologetic ends (see Paul's example in Acts 17:23).
Over the next week or so, you, or your child, might find yourself in (or close to) conversations around the book series and the events of the final installment. I thought it would be both timely and useful (and, let's face it, fun!) to present a way in which the Christian--regardless of whether he or she has actually read the books--might use such conversations as a means of bearing witness to Christ. If you understand the presuppositional approach to apologetics, you will already be familiar with the method I am proposing to use. If not, may this serve as an introduction to the method, and for further study I recommend you spend $4 on the mp3s of the Greg Bahnsen-Gordon Stein debate on the existence of God from Covenant Media Foundation. :-) In these blogs, I will be presenting passages from the first six Harry Potter books and demonstrating how it depends on a Christian worldview; in other words, Harry Potter could not have been written without assuming Christian presuppositions.
The Scriptures often speak of the distinction between "the spirit" and "the flesh," or the way we used to think, and the way we think now we are in Christ, redeemed and reborn by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 2:1-7, for example). Biblically speaking, there is no middle, or neutral ground. You either see the world with fleshly eyes, only accepting what you can see, smell, touch, taste, and hear, or you see the world through the eyes of faith, as Scripture presents the world, allowing for the supernatural. Beyond this, though, the Christian also sees men as creations of a holy God that have fallen into sin, and as a result sin reigns in the hearts of men. Within this worldview, concepts of moral standards, good and evil, redemption, and so forth make sense, because the Christian believes there is a God who can set the standards, and also understands the condition of man to be one of always failing to meet those standards. The humanistic worldview, the worldview of "the flesh," however, can not explain moral absolutes, because the humanist does not have an ultimate arbitrator between right and wrong, good and bad. For the humanist, therefore, these things are "conventions": each society determines its own rules and standards of behavior.
The problems the humanist worldview encounters as a result of this perspective can, I think, be exemplified through the following samplings from the Harry Potter series. Given my appreciation for original languages, all quotations from the Harry Potter books will be from the British editions. :-)
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The Spirit of Erasmus Lives...
07/15/2007 - Colin SmithIn their Historical and Theological Introduction to Luther's Bondage of the Will, J.I. Packer and O. R. Johnson make the following observation, comparing the attitude of Erasmus with the attitude of Luther:
Christianity, to Erasmus, was essentially morality, with a minimum of doctrinal statement loosely appended. What Erasmus professed that he desired to see in Christendom was a return to apostolic 'simplicity' of life and doctrine, and this he thought could be brought about simply by eliminating the superstitions and abuses which had crept into the Church's life over the centuries. The Reformation that Erasmus advocated was like a course of slimming; its aim was confined to the removing of unhealthy surplus fat. But what Erasmus actually advocated under the name of 'the philosophy of Christ' as the true, slimmed, 'simple' version of Christianity, turns out on inspection to be no more than a barren moralism. Erasmus recognises no organic dependence of practice upon faith. That the life which pleases God springs only from living trust in Christ as the Word of God sets Him forth--that is something the great humanist never saw. That is why he could profess to find so little pleasure in theological dogmatizing that he would gladly side with the Sceptics whenever Scripture and the Church allowed him to do so--although, as he hastened to explain, he uniformly submitted his judgment to these authorities, whether he understood the reasons for what they ordained or not. Luther takes him to task for his remark, and not without justice. Erasmus cannot be acquitted of the charge of doctrinal indifferentism. His attitude was that what one believes about the mysteries of the faith does not much matter; what the Church lays down may safely be accepted, whether right or wrong; for the details of a churchman's doctrine will not affect his living as a Christian in this world, nor his eventual destiny in the world to come. Therefore, however sure one might be that the Church was at some point wrong, one was never justified in disrupting Christendom about it (as Luther was doing); peace in the Church was of more value than any doctrine. The churchman would be wise not to bother his head about problems of doctrinal definition, but to concern himself simply with guiding his life by the moral law of Christ. In particular, the question as to whether or not man's will is free, to Erasmus' mind, can be ignored with perfect safety; it can have no possible bearing on a man's endeavour to keep the law of Christ, except perhaps to distract and discourage him. (Martin Luther, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnson, The Bondage of the Will, (Fleming H. Revel: Grand Rapids, Mi, 1957), pp. 43-44)
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This Gives Me a Headache
07/12/2007 - James WhiteThe headline says it all, "Moore May Tackle Gay Rights." Yes, Michael Moore, the man who has never met a fact he couldn't ignore, twist, spin, or bury, is set to insult all Christians once again by daring to touch upon a subject that is obviously far beyond his expertise. How do I know this? Here:
“There is nowhere in the four Gospels where Jesus uses the word ‘homosexual.’ The right wing has appropriated this guy … and they have used him to attack gays and lesbians, when he never said a single word against people who are homosexual. Anyone who professes to be a Christian and does that is certainly not following the teachings of Jesus Christ.”That's how I know. I'd quip that he obviously hasn't read The Same Sex Controversy, but not only is that a given, but would it matter anyway? If you've seen the Barry Lynn and John Shelby Spong debates...can you just imagine a debate with Michael Moore?
Another Heart, Mind, and Body Set Free
07/05/2007 - Mike PorterA passage that is very familiar to those of us who strongly emphasize the depravity of man and the gravity of sin is Romans 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
That word "suppress" is intriguing, for it presumes knowledge of the truth in order to suppress the truth. It is deliberate to the degree that the truth wishes to make itself known, or rather, as the passage indicates, is being made known, but the man does whatever is in his power to push it down. I have often likened this struggle with that of my son who has some toys that he tries to keep from floating to the top of the water when he swims. If he loses focus and stops keeping it under it begins to surface and he is forced to work even harder to keep the toy suppressed under the water. If he changes his position, his arms tire, or his Dad comes by and taps it a little (Dad can be a meany!) all is lost and it comes up anyway. The truth is revealed, but men seek to suppress the truth by any means necessary.
Recently, I read an article of a man who gives a testimony that he has been freed from homosexuality. But, this is not an ordinary man. He was a leader within the gay rights movement, founder of a homosexual magazine that targeted teens and young people, and was called upon to speak and defend homosexual lifestyles. As I read this article, I was impressed as to how many times he commented about how often he had to push the truth down so it would not reveal itself. He stated:
Homosexuality allows us to avoid digging deeper, through superficiality and lust-inspired attractions – at least, as long as it remains "accepted" by law. As a result, countless miss out on their truest self, their God-given Christ-self.and
God is regarded as an enemy by many in the grip of homosexuality or other lustful behavior, because He reminds them of who and what they truly are meant to be. People caught in the act would rather stay "blissfully ignorant" by silencing truth and those who speak it, through antagonism, condemnation and calling them words like "racist," "insensitive," "evil" and "discriminatory."Not only did he train himself to ignore God and even hate him, but he and others also trained their guns against others who objected to that lifestyle. Again, it is amazing how accurate the Scriptures are in describing the nature and power of sin for those who are mightily in love with it. They not only approve, but give hearty approval of the same.
Michael Glatze gives credit to God continuing to pursue him despite all that he had done and that finally he is freed from the slavery of homosexuality. And, with no uncertain terms he makes it clear that his entire lifestyle was a choice he made and gave no credence to the idea that he was biologically designed to sin in that fashion.
I cannot speak of his affiliation with church or any such thing, but taking his testimony at face value, it would be easy to conclude that Mr. Glatze is an example of what I have recently written about: The King subdues his subjects.
Claiming that it was God, Mr. Glatze rejoices in his liberation. I will take joy in that and I will remind myself the lesson here is that we may share the faith and preach the Gospel and feel we have failed to budge an ant hill. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to move mountains.