[Fiction and fantasy are neutral and can be fine vehicles for literature, but
fantasy and fiction are given shape by their content. Fiction can be quite
influential, especially on children. Note: Magic is spelled here as "magick" to
refer to occult magick; "pagan" is used in the generic sense to refer to
non-Christian or pagan beliefs of the ancient world rather than to modern
Neopagan religions. The bulk of this article is on the last book, Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows, although there are opening brief comments on the sixth
John Granger, who has written on Harry Potter, says that the spell
Harry casts to conjure his guardian spirit, Expecto Patronum,
means that Harry is saying, "I wait for the Lord." However, patronus
(patronum is the form for the direct object) means, especially in
this context, guardian or protector.
Mariella Bozzuto, a Harry Potter fan who has a Master's degree in Latin, states that Expecto Patronum means "I await a patron" but in the context of Harry Potter, means something closer to "I await a guardian spirit." She acknowledges that the word patronus is related to the word pater, "father" in Latin. Bozzuto feels that "Harry is not simply summoning a random guardian; he is looking for his father, or a father figure, or anyone who will play that role for him. . . In a sense, each time Harry uses the Patronus Charm he is crying out: "I want to see my father!'" (http://tinyurl.com/2gkdh2). However, Bozzuto apparently does not see any religious meaning here. One must read a spiritual meaning into the text to state that the Patronus indicates "Lord." As for Bozzuto's view that the Patronus spell implies searching for a father figure, it is speculative at best, especially since other characters, including adults, conjure Patronus figures as well.
As pointed out in a previous CANA article, the Patronus spell is similar to conjuring a thought-form or an animal spirit for protection. To turn an occult spell into a metaphor for wanting to see the Lord is a strange concept indeed, and is not supported by the context of the books. One must already presume a Christian meaning to the books and read it into the text in order to theorize such a meaning for the Patronus spell. The clear reading is that the Patronus is a protector or guardian spirit.
Many claim that when Harry's mother, Lily, died to protect her son,
this serves as an analogy to Christ dying for us. However, it's
explained in the fifth book and the seventh book that Harry is protected
because his mother's blood acts as a magical charm (33, 46, 47, 49, book
7). Dumbledore tells Harry that this is why Harry is put into his aunt's
home, because his aunt's blood carries the protection since she is the
sister of Harry's mother. But this charm wears off at age 17 - making
this supposed analogy to the sacrifice of Christ very weak indeed.
Christ did not die so we could have physical life on earth, but He died so we could have eternal life with God. The sacrifice was the willingness of Jesus to take on unimaginable suffering and death as the penalty for sin. This sacrifice removed God's wrath on sin and provides redemption through faith. Christ's death is not so much a protection as it is a propitiation that offers redemption, and that redemption is applied by grace through faith. To compare the atonement of Christ to Lily's natural instinct to protect her son, and to compare the blood of Christ shed for sins to Lily's blood being a charm only devalues the message of what Christ did on the cross.
Harry's willingness to die towards the end of the book is pointed to
as symbolic of Christ's sacrifice. However, it is not even clear that
Harry dies (see next section). Moreover, Harry believed he had to die
because he contained a piece of Voldemort's soul and therefore,
Voldemort could not die if Harry was alive. Harry and Voldemort were
tied together in ways that cannot be a parallel to Christ and his
complete separation and distinction from Satan.
Moreover, the context of this book and of the whole series is a mixture of occult and secular views, not Christian ones. Every CANA article on the books has demonstrated how these books are not promoting Christian values or worldviews. Without a Christian context - in fact, the context is very unchristian - it is impossible to support the theory that these books give the Christian gospel, as some claim.
Some have pointed to Christian symbolism in the books, but the meaning of symbols changes over time and in cultures, and these same symbols have also been pagan symbols. Even if one concedes that the unicorn, the stag, the phoenix, etc. are exclusively Christian symbols in these books, of what value is that when the behavior in the books is so distinctly unchristian?
Speaking of the unicorn, it is the disembodied Voldemort (possessing the body of Prof. Quirrell) who drinks the unicorn's blood in the first book. How in the world is such a grotesque scenario a symbol of being redeemed by the blood of Christ as claimed by John Granger (on a radio program in which I was the other guest)? Christian symbols, images, and terms do not mean the message is Christian. Christian references, if they can be proved to even be such, can be merely cultural or counterfeit, especially when interspersed with occult references that are presented as good.
Despite possessing some good qualities, a boy who is a sorcerer, motivated by revenge, studies the magick arts, and who lies so easily cannot and should not be held up as a sacrificial Christ figure or even as a mere role model.
Some claim that Harry figuratively dies in each book, including this
one, and is "resurrected." Harry comes close to dying but there is no
such thing as resurrection if there is no real death. Any correspondence
to the death and resurrection of Christ is so beyond possibility that it
is difficult even to entertain the idea. (In fact, the Resurrection
stone in the book, a magickal Hallows object, brings back dead people,
but they are not fully alive and cannot function normally).
The question of whether Harry dies in this book is unclear. After an encounter with Voldemort, in which it seems Voldemort slays him with his wand, Harry finds himself in a unidentifiable place resembling a train station. Here he meets up with the dead Dumbledore who explains to him that Harry has been tied to Voldemort through Voldemort taking Harry's blood (in the fourth book in a ghastly and gruesome ritual) and so has kept himself alive. Dumbledore tells Harry, "I think we can agree that you are not dead" (712).
Given that Dumbledore tells Harry he is not dead, it seems that he (Harry) did not die but was close to dying, temporarily between life and death.
Harry, as the hero, should model behavior that we would want children
to learn from or emulate. Although Harry does do some good things, such
as saving his enemy Draco Malfoy, and Harry shows courage in many
situations, Harry has no remorse and few consequences from lying and
cheating; he seeks revenge in many cases; he hates; and he can be cruel
(examples of this behavior are documented in other CANA articles on
Harry Potter). Being brave and loyal to friends is admirable, but these
qualities by themselves are not moral since anyone -- good or bad -- can
be brave and loyal.
Before we can say the books are about good versus evil, we have to see what the good is and how it is defined. It is apparent in this book, and in the others, that good is based on how things turn out -- the ends justify the means. This is pragmatism, a philosophy in which any action can be rationalized for what is perceived as a good or useful end. But it is not about what is good so much as what is expedient. Harry cannot be a good hero simply by being the hero; and skillful fighting with spells is neither admirable nor good, especially since magick is neutral in the books but is denounced by God.
I can already envision the emails that will come in response to this article (partly because I have received such emails in the past) - emails defending Harry because of all the great things he has done. It seems that this justifies any immoral actions on Harry's part. This is the kind of thinking prevalent today, and it is coming mostly from young people who email me. Does not that kind of reasoning and justification disturb anyone else?
The popularity of the Harry Potter books does not give them a pass.
Test all things; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5.21).
Questions for Christian parents and readers are: Would Christians be
okay with the books if they weren't so popular? What if these books were
barely known? Would Christians normally think that books about a boy,
motivated by revenge and using the magic arts, are good for children to
read, and that books full of themes of death and torture are okay for
What a contrast we see between a series promoting a hero who uses occult arts with Acts 19.18-19, which tells us that former practitioners of magick, upon their faith in Christ, burned their very valuable books. Not only were they renouncing their practices, they destroyed books worth a hefty amount of money (verse 19 tells us the total is "fifty thousand silver coins" or drachmas, equivalent then to 50,000 work day wages, or today to about $10,000 U.S. dollars). This was not about book burning, but rather was a demonstration that they no longer placed any value on their former practices. It was a visible and public sign of cutting ties with their past. They had come to know the One with the highest value of all: Jesus Christ, and the redemption by grace through faith in Him.
Explaining away magick as a metaphor goes against the straightforward narrative and the clear, literal reading of the text, especially when specific occult practices and examples are referenced such as divination, astrology, casting spells, potions mixed for spellcasting, numerology, communication with the dead, amulets, charms, and occult/pagan views of death.
There are positives in the books: adventurous story lines, comedy, Harry and his friends doing good things for others, Harry's bravery, etc. However, the books also contain disturbing and macabre material, questionable moral actions, endorsement of occult practices, and other material inappropriate for young people.
For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5.4
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Colossians 3.8
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4.29
And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. Acts 19.19
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12.14
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5.15
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. Romans 12.19
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2.11-14
~ Soli Deo Gloria!