Such a Thing As Biblical Magic?

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  • #120692
    Mischievous Thwapling
    @mischievous-thwapling

      My parents have always warned me against taking witchcraft lightly, which was why they made me wait a really long time before allowing me to read Harry Potter.  But I often find in fantasy, not only can magic add a cool element, but it can provide a sorely-needed explanation for something in your fantasy world (if you have one) or can help with the answer to a problem.  And it can just be fun to experiment with.  But I’m always hesitant to add it, because isn’t any other power other than God’s not right? (Unless I suppose you say that the magic is a gift from him?) So what I frequently do is just contribute something to God in my world.  Here’s for a random example if we were dealing with a strange river or something: “This river does this amazing “blank” (insert whatever it its) because it flows from a place in a rock where God (or the world’s name for God, like Maker or something) struck the stone, so it’s really His power that’s doing it.” (See the reference to Moses? :P)
      So a lot of times I’ll just have something unnatural like that, something that other people might say is magic, and declare that it is because of God, which seems to have been working for me.

      But I still wonder if one can have magic in any way, shape, or form that is biblical?  I know that some people may not share my views on this subject, but I’m still curious as to what you may say.  Any suggestions on this topic or opinions? It’s something that’s puzzled me for a while.  Would you say that magic is ok? Would you say that it should be avoided? What?

      Thanks!

      No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader ~RF

      #120696
      Dakota
      @dakota

      Hello, @mischievous-thwapling! 🙂

      First of all, I would say that, from what the Bible says, there is nothing supporting or endorsing magic. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord repeatedly tells the Israelites to have nothing to do with magicians, sorcerers and witches. (see Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:6,  Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:9 – 18:12 and Isaiah 8:19)

      Even in the New Testament, He calls witchcraft a “work of the flesh” (see Galatians 5:18 – 5:21). And magic and witchcraft are never put in a positive light in the Bible (see 1 Samuel 15:23, 1 Samuel 28, 1 Chronicles 10:13, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Micah 5:12, Nahum 3:4, Acts 8: 9- 11, Acts 13:6 – 11 Revelation 21:8 and Revelation 22:15)

      Also, there’s a trend throughout the Bible where God demonstrates His wisdom and power to be superior to that of magicians (see Genesis 41, Exodus 8, and Daniel 1:20, 2:2, 2:27, and 4: 7-9). All of this indicates that God doesn’t like magic and does not want his children to have anything to do with it.

      The only magic that I think would be allowable (and this my opinion – please don’t feel like you have to agree with me) is if it were on the “bad guys” side. Since most of the power for magic, witchcraft and the like comes from Satan anyway, it’s not out of place there. And I would keep the details as few as possible; the less we know about this stuff, the better. (see Romans 16:19)

      That being said, I’m not saying that you can’t have anything supernatural happenings that aren’t “Bad-guy” related. I actually think that your hypothetical example is an acceptable way to go. And God has done a lot of miracles and allowed people power and abilities that can’t be explained without Him. (i.e Moses, Samson, the Apostles) I would just want to make sure that any “fantastical” things are a gift of power from your “God-figure”, and not by works of man or Satan.

      Hope I don’t sound like I’m preaching! 🙂 And I am not try to either, just wanted to say what the Bible says and share my opinion without attacking yours. I hope this answers your question

       

      Psalm 119:11
      Your word I have hidden in my heart,
      That I might not sin against You.

      #120703
      Mischievous Thwapling
      @mischievous-thwapling

        @dakota Hi!

        Oh, you’re not attacking mine! What you have been saying actually is my opinion! And no, you do not sound like you are preaching  (Even if you were, I wouldn’t mind :P) I like how you keep pointing back to scripture; that’s how I know what you’re saying isn’t just an opinion. It’s what the bible says, and whatever the bible says is definitely truth!

        Yes, I believe you are perfectly right.  That idea about the “bad guy” magic is very good. It would definitely make that point that witchcraft is from Satan, not something to be messed around with.

        I don’t know if you’ve read this series, but in The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, this subject came up a bit.  One person asked if something was magic, and his mother answered him (this is not the exact words), “To a kitten, a bumblebee flying would look like magic, even though it isn’t.  This (By this, I mean what he was asking about) is by the Maker’s power, and it’s a gift from Him.”  I’d have to look the part up, but I think that was the main gist of what she was saying.  Is this kinda of what you’re getting at when you say that any fantastical things are from my God-figure?

        Thank you so much.  You have just answered my question perfectly!  Thank you so much for taking the time to do that.  It’s been something I’ve wondered about for a long time.

         

        No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader ~RF

        #120706
        R.M. Archer
        @r-m-archer

        Personally, I think there are three categories of “magic.” There’s “magic” that comes directly from the world’s God-figure, there’s “magic” that is built into the world (which, I think, means it comes indirectly from the world’s God-figure), and there’s the type of magic condemned in the Bible which is an attempt at gaining power apart from God (usually through outright evil/demonic methods).

        “Magic” #1 would involve things like miracles or like your illustration of the river with supernatural properties. Things that have been specifically put in place by God and are acknowledged as such.

        “Magic” #2 would include, for instance, my many magic systems which are passed down through genetics or are otherwise a part of the world’s inherent make-up. “Magic” in my sci-fi world, for instance, is a semi-sentient life form that lives in humans and grants them supernatural abilities. It’s something that was created with the world by the Creator and therefore is, indirectly, a gift from him. I don’t personally think that there’s a reason a fantasy world has to adhere to the same limitations as the real world as far as what is naturally possible.

        Magic #3 is the only one I believe is wrong, and even in that case I think it can be written so long as it’s shown to be evil and the author is verrrrrrrry careful about how deep they go. This would be magic along the same lines as real-world witchcraft and would be anything otherworldly (for the fantasy world) and evil and anything that involves characters trying to gain power without God and through unnatural means.

        I also think one should be careful when creating a “natural” magic system that it doesn’t too closely resemble real-world magic. Clearly fictional magic systems aren’t likely to gain any serious imitators, but something that dabbles too closely to real-world witchcraft, even if it’s built into the world, could end up being a stumbling block.

        But as a general rule, I think what is or isn’t acceptable depends on how the world is built and what the intention is.

        Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.

        #120715
        Josiah DeGraaf
        @josiah

        Here’s my personal opinion on the topic.

        In order to answer this question, I think we need to first answer another question: “What is magic?” Here’s why I ask this. If I told you a story about a man who went around incinerating armies with columns of fire, controlling the weather, and creating bread out of nothing, you would probably describe that man as a magician. But that description also matches the description of Elijah that we get in 1 and 2 Kings!

        So let’s think about how the Bible uses the word—because I don’t think the Bible uses the word “magic” in the same way that the fantasy genre always uses the word. Why is magic condemned in the Bible?

        I’d argue that the reason that magic is condemned is not because it is wrong to interfere with the natural order. The prophets did that all the time after all. (And certain things we do today to interfere with the natural order would have been called “magic” in that world.) The reason I believe God condemned magic in the Old Testament is because he was condemning those who went to demonic forces to gain power over the natural order. That’s why the magicians, sorcerers, and fortunetellers were all forbidden: God didn’t want the Israelites going to false gods to gain power over the natural world—he wanted them to come to him.

        In this world, the Bible teaches that going to supernatural beings who are not God for supernatural power is wrong—people should be going to God and God alone for this. But let’s say you create a fictional world where the divine being of that world created a magic system as a “new law of physics” or where people could use magic without entreating demonic entities for help. Is that the same thing as the type of magic that God forbids? I would argue that it isn’t, since I believe the Bible is referring to power that stems from demons—not to any type of supernatural power (since many of the prophets exhibited that power as well).

        As a result, unless your story is portraying characters who go to demons for magical powers in a good light, I don’t think OT admonitions about witchcraft are terribly applicable. And I’d largely agree with the value of @r-m-archer’s distinctions.

        Now, all that being said, certainly some things that are fine can become sinful to those with a weak conscience. If as you’re reading books about magic, you find yourself tempted to believe that the story is real or that you should go to sources that are not God in the real world to gain magical powers… it may be better for you not to keep reading. If you aren’t tempted in that way, however, I personally believe authors are able to do so with a clear conscience.

        There are a variety of different perspectives on this question within the Christian community and you should test my argument here against Scripture as you will with any other argument you receive.But this is my personal response to this question. (:

        Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com

        #120727
        Lona
        @lonathecat

          @mischievous-thwapling

          That is a wonderful question.

          Personally, I think it’s all about perception. When you were five and your Uncle pulled a coin from your ear, it was “magic”, since you didn’t have another explanation.

          When we’re older than elementary/middleschool-aged though, I think we stop using the term magic, and start using things like “supernatural”, “miracle”, and “paranormal”. Really though, they’re all just describing something we don’t understand.

          So, as an example, in my world there are three main people groups. The Illians, the Aksani, and the Midlanders, The Illians can listen to the voices in things like the wind, animals, and rivers. The Aksani and the Midlanders see this as magic, even though it’s not. Since their minds cannot wrap around the idea of wind being understandable, magic is the only thing they can make of it.

          So in that sense, I definitely think that magic is fine. I think that humans are not meant to understand everything, and that trying to is hopeless. Sometimes, just answering the two year old’s “how is God three in one?” question with “magic” or “because He’s God” works best. 🙂

          HOWEVER

          Haha there goes caps lock. Anyways. I think if you mean straight up sorcery and witchcraft, then yeah, that can be pretty quickly classified as not good. I think of it as taking the world’s mysteries, unraveling what wasn’t supposed to be unraveled, and then throwing it back at the world. Additionally, I feel like only the creator of the world should be allowed to know the answers to or be able to do certain things, so that kind of magic just seems to me like the person is trying to be on the same level as the creator.

          #120728
          Gracie
          @kimlikesart

            @mischievous-thwapling

            I’ve had this exact same question/problem! Thank you for asking this question.


            @dakota

            Thank you so much for taking the time to answer. Like M. Thwapling said. Your answers are so true and Bible backed. Thank you! I have just not been using ‘magic’ at all. Making the ‘bad’ guys use magic, but not the ‘good’ ones, is a stupendous idea!!! Thank you. (:


            @r-m-archer

            Another good idea! Thank you! I get your points. (:


            @josiah

            Thank you Mr. DeGraaf. Things to search, and think about.


            @lonathecat

            Oooh, thank you Lona!

            Jominkreesa

            Passion means to be willing to suffer.

            #120736
            Dakota
            @dakota

            @mischievous-thwapling I’m glad was I able to help you! 🙂 No, I haven’t read The Wingfeather Saga; I’ve heard of it though. And, yeah, that what I was saying about fantastical things coming from your divine-figure.


            @kimlikesart
            Glad to help! 🙂

            Psalm 119:11
            Your word I have hidden in my heart,
            That I might not sin against You.

            #120752
            Mischievous Thwapling
            @mischievous-thwapling

              @dakota

              Yeah! Thanks! And I really recommend The Wingfeather Saga if you ever want to read it. 🙂


              @kimlikesart

              No problem! I’m glad that my question helped answer your’s, lol.


              @lonathecat

              That’s a really cool way to think about it! What you’re saying is kinda like the quote I said up there: “To a kitten, a bumblebee flying would look like magic…” That’s what you’re getting at, right?
              And yes, the sorcery and witchcraft is definitely not to be toyed with.  It’s dark stuff.

              And cool! Isn’t that kinda like the #2 magic @r-m-archer mentioned up there? The Illians abilities?


              @josiah

              Wow, that is a very good point.  I hadn’t even thought of the Elijah example!  That’s a very big distinction, like @r-m-archer’s.  You have brought up many great arguments that previously had not even crossed my mind.  To me, the difference between what the bible was talking about concerning magic and the more fantasy type magic is pretty significant.


              @r-m-archer

              Woah, now that you’ve explained it, I recognize what you’re talking about in books I’ve read.  In one series, I believe the author had the #2 magic, and I think she executed it very well.  When I thought of it, the word “magic” didn’t cross my mind as much as “the characters’ abilities,” which I believe is part of the picture you’re trying to paint with that, correct?

              I heartily agree.  There’s BIG distinctions between the “magics,” and I think that, yes, #3 should be avoided, unless the author is doing what you described.  Even then, I would be very cautious, I think.  (:

              Thank you all!  Every one of your answers kept adding to the explanation and really helped clear up this nagging confusion up.  Thanks a bunch to you all for your well-thought-out answers!

              No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader ~RF

              #120756
              Dakota
              @dakota

              @mischievous-thwapling Your welcome and thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

              Psalm 119:11
              Your word I have hidden in my heart,
              That I might not sin against You.

              #120759
              Lona
              @lonathecat

                @mischievous-thwapling

                Yes, that’s pretty much what I’m getting at.

                Yep! I think mine would be a version of R.M. Archer’s #2 magic. 🙂

                #120803
                Mischievous Thwapling
                @mischievous-thwapling

                  @dakota You’re welcome 🙂


                  @lonathecat
                  Nice! (On both accounts :P)

                  No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader ~RF

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