Witchcraft, Magic, and Sorcery in Media

March 16, 2023

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Today's question says, "should I let my children watch shows and movies with magic, witches and sorcerers when the Bible says to avoid these things?"


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the kids that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode of the podcast today. Now, today's question says, "should I let my children watch shows and movies with magic, witches and sorcerers when the Bible says to avoid these things?" And that's a great question and one that I think so many Christians are thinking through as just there's so much media that our children can consume.

Now, before we dive into answering that question today, if you have a question that you would like for us to answer on the podcast, you can simply go to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast and submit your question there. Also, if you found the content in this podcast beneficial, we'd ask that you would consider liking subscribing, writing a review, and sharing with those in your sphere of influence so that we can equip as many adults as possible to reach the children in their sphere of influence with the truth of the biblical worldview.

So now will dive into today's question, and I think that this can be a really, really confusing topic because it's very clear from scripture that we are not to participate in any form of witchcraft or sorcery. However, watching or consuming media that includes things like magic or witches or sorcerers can be a little bit confusing because most times in Christian circles, those things are looked down upon. However, for some reason, CS Lewis and J R R Tolkin seem to get a pass that nobody's in the Christian community seems to be really concerned with the fact that there's magic in Narnia or there's magic in middle Earth.

And I've asked myself the question before, why is this? Why is it that we seem to give a pass to these two authors? Is it just because they're Christians? What is it? So I thought through this a little bit more in response to this question, and there's a few things that I think we need to think through as we're making decisions for our children and the media that we say that they can or cannot consume. And the first thing that we need to make sure that we do is that we're diving into scripture and having a thorough understanding on what scripture says about the topic of magic and witchcraft and sorcery. And then after we have a thorough understanding of that, then I think there are some questions that we can consider as we choose which media our children can and cannot consume.

So first we're going to look into what does the Bible actually say? Now, there's many passages of scripture that we could look at, but I've pulled out just three that I think are really key. And now one of the first places in scripture where sorcery is mentioned is in the book of Exodus. And in Exodus chapter 22, verse 18, it's when God is giving Moses his law for the people of Israel. And in Exodus 2218, it says, you shall not permit a sorceress to live. Okay, so very extreme. So not only are sorcerers not allowed in the land of Israel with God's covenant nation, but they're not allowed to live that anyone who practices sorcery within Israel is to be put to death. Then several books later in the book of Deuteronomy where there's looking at the law more in depth in the book of Deuteronomy, this command is repeated and expanded upon. In Deuteronomy chapter 18, looking at verses 9 through 14, God gives the people further commands about magic and sorcery.

And God says, when you come into the land, or Moses, sorry, Moses is speaking in the words of God. So he says, "when you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you, anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering. Anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations, the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord, your God has not allowed you to do this.

So Moses is making clear that God's law is that these things are not to be within the nation of Israel, that the people of the land of Canaan practice all of these things. They practice sorcery and divination and talking to the dead. And God is saying that those things are not of him. They're not of him. And then when we look to the New Testament, to the new covenant that God has brought us into God again makes this clear that sorcery is not of him. In the Book of Galatians, if we look at chapter 5, verses 16 through 24, Paul is writing to the people in the church of Galatia and he's talking to them about living a life in step with the Holy Spirit of God who indwells us, who we have been sealed with for the day of our redemption. And so in verse 16, he says, "but I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh for the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now, the works of the flesh are evident. Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, amity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalry, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control against such things. There is no law, and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

So in this passage, God's command against witchcraft and sorcery is even expanded upon further that witchcraft is something that is of the flesh not of the Spirit. So when we look at all of these passages together, we see that witchcraft and sorcery is considered a sin because it's trying to find fulfillment in something other than God.

It's trying to get a glimpse in the future which only God knows, it's trying to change our present circumstances which only God and his sovereignty can do. It's trying to communicate with the dead, which is a realm that we here on earth do not belong in. So scripture makes clear throughout the entire narrative that witchcraft, that sorcery, that it's idolatry, that it's a sin against God. Now, that means it's very clear that we are to have nothing to do with it, that we are not in any way to take part in it, even if you're at the county fair, and there's a fortune teller there that that's not something we're supposed to go and participate in, even if we think it's just fun or innocent because it's actually in a front to God. So now the question becomes, okay, so what do we do with the media?

Because there's so many books and movies and shows that include media that just include this witchcraft and sorcery. So here are a few questions that I think are important for us to ask ourselves as we're considering the media that we allow our children to consume. Now, the first question that I think we should ask is, does this story take place in a magical land or does it take place here on earth? Because when we think about Narnia, middle earth, the land of fairy tales, these are all fictitious places. So when a fairy godmother appears out of nowhere in the story of Cinderella, it's not leading our kids to believe that we're actually going to have a fairy godmother appear out of nowhere and go poof, and we're going to be ready for the ball. It's just in a pretend land. So stories like that, stories like Narnia, stories like The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings, fairy tales, they're not necessarily encouraging the practice of magic or witchcraft because they're taking place in another land.

And the magic that's woven throughout is part of this fictitious land. Now, if our children go and take things that they see from this fictitious land and they start to incorporate them in their everyday lives, that might be a situation where we say, "you know what? Even though this media in and of itself is not inherently wrong, I think the way that my child is viewing it or is using it is wrong."

My family actually still has a joke to this day that when I was little, I really loved the movie The Little Mermaid. It was one of my favorite ones. I loved the songs as I think so many little girls did. And I saved up my birthday money and I bought a VHS tape of The Little Mermaid, and we had it for probably about a year or so until eventually my mom actually took it and threw it in the trash because I wasn't enthralled with Ursula. I wasn't pay any attention really to that magic, but my brother memorized Ursula's incantation that she said over Ariel, and he would walk around the house saying that incantation. And my mom was like, this is not healthy for him. This is a form of witchcraft, so we're going to get rid of this. So in that situation, that was probably what was healthiest to do. And if my mom's listening to this, she's probably smiling because I sometimes still give her grief telling her that she owes me $7.99 for that VHS tape, but I think she and my dad have made up for it long ago.

So that's the first question. Does this story take place in a magical land or does it take place here on earth? Because if it takes place here on Earth, then that's encouraging something completely different. The second question that I think we really need to ask ourselves is the magic seen as a way of gaining power is the magic seen as a way of gaining power.

Because if you think about stories like Narnia or the Lord of the Rings or even fairy tales like Cinderella or the Little Mermaid or something like that, in most of those, the magic is brought by someone who's more powerful and they're helping someone who's lesser than them. It's not actually used as a way for one of the main characters to gain power. And we saw in the scripture versus that that's why witchcraft here in real life is considered idolatry because it's a way of humans trying to gain power, trying to manipulate God and trying to take power that only belongs to him. And so rather than submitting ourselves under God and his sovereign will, it's humans trying to actually gain some of that power and manipulate God. And so we need to ask ourselves, okay, so is this magic seen as a way of gaining power?

If you think about the old Disney Channel show, The Wizards of Waverly Place, that was the magic that was used there even though it was kind of funny and might be seen as innocent, it was viewed as a way of gaining power, as a way of manipulating situations. And so that's something that's different than the type of magic that we see from the fairy godmother in Cinderella, that it wasn't a way of gaining power. It was the fairy godmother just bestowed this on Cinderella, and she had to play by the rules. It wasn't a Cinderella somehow manipulating things so that the prince would fall in love with her. It was very, it's very different. So that second question again that I think we need to ask ourselves, is the magic in this form of media seen as a way of gaining power? Because if it is, then again, that's idolatry.

Then the third question that I think we need to ask ourselves when there's magic in a fantasy world as opposed to a story that's showing magic that's taking place here on Earth, the next question we need to ask is, is there a clear distinction between good and evil? Because in scripture, it's very clear that there are spiritual forces of light that are on God's side, and there are spiritual forces of darkness. There's no gray area in between, okay? It's either light or darkness. And so if we're letting our children consume media that contains magic in some form of sorcery in a fantasy land, we need to ask ourselves, is there a very clear distinction between good and evil? Think about the Chronicles of Narnia series in that series, and the lion, the witch in the wardrobe, and in the Magician's nephew, the white witch's magic is very clearly seen as evil.

There is no, even though the characters, even though Diggory and Edmond might get confused about who the white witch is, for the reader and for the narrator, there is no question about whether her magic is good or evil. It is always portrayed as evil. But then think about the magic in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Susan is given her horn that she can use as a distress call, and Lucy's given her cordial to use to heal people that these have magical powers. But it's very clear that these are things that are good because they're gifts directly from Father Christmas who is giving them through Aslan, and they can only be used as Aslan has ordained. Aslan tells Susan when to blow her horn many times. He tells Lucy how to use her cordial. It's not that Susan and Lucy are trying to manipulate circumstances. They're using these magical gifts that they have been given that are gifts very clearly that can only be used for good under the authority of Aslan.

And then if you think about the Lord of the Rings series, Saruman who's the sorcerer, he goes from being a good sourcer to a bad sourcer when he switches sides. And there's no question, there's no gray area. He's either good or he's evil. And that's what we want to make sure that if there is some form of magic, there's a very clear distinction between good and evil, because that is what we find in scripture. Satan might masquerade as an angel of light, but there's no question as to whether he's good or he's evil, that he is distinctly evil.

And then the final question that I think we need to ask ourselves just as we're considering this in the media that our children are consuming is do we have a biblical understanding of the spiritual battle in which we live?

The New Testament makes clear that we are in a war, that there is a war raging all around us against the spiritual forces of evil and the spiritual forces of good. And if we have any doubts about this, we're not supposed to focus on this all the time. We're not supposed to be scared because we're told greater is he who is in this in us than he is in the world. We're not supposed to be obsessed with spiritual warfare, but we're also not supposed to have a naturalistic perspective and think that the things that we can see in the here and now is all that there is. So we need to be very aware that there is a spiritual battle.

And the final thing that I would say is if we have any doubts about what media to let our children consume, we should be honest with them that we're going to avoid this because mommy's not sure, daddy's not sure, or grandma's not sure, whoever it is. Grandma, grandpa, mommy, daddy's not sure that this is okay. And if we're not sure about something, then the Bible makes clear that we're supposed to avoid it. Because in Romans 14, Paul is talking about meat that can be eaten, whether a Christian can eat meat that's sacrificed to idols or not. And he's talking in Romans 14 about how there's going to be different convictions from different people and they can be from the Lord. But he closes off that chapter in verses 22 and 23, and he says, "the faith that you have keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." And I think we can apply this same principle here.

If we're not sure about something, we can take more time to seek counsel to pray about it, but for the time being, we should avoid that thing because we're not walking forward confident that we know that that is the right thing to do. So if you have any doubts that would just encourage you to be honest with your kids about why you're not going to let them consume that media and that you just need more time to think and pray through that. And I would encourage you to do that, to really pray through this, to seek counsel from those who are within your local body of Christ, those who, not just asking everybody but those who you really respect and the way that they're raising their children. Just ask them what they think about this and how they have made these decisions.

And then the final thing that I would say is we really need to teach our children to be discerning, because when they're young, we have a lot of control over what they do consume and what they don't consume. But if we just make all of those decisions for them, and we never train them to be discerning, we're really handicapping them for when they become teens or when they become adults and they're making these decisions on their own. So really encourage you just to be intentional about teaching the children in your care to be discerning.

And that's actually where at Foundation Worldview, that's what we're trying to do through all of our curriculums. With our Early Childhood Worldview Curriculum, we're trying to teach kids just the basics of a sound biblical worldview. And then in our Comparative Worldview Curriculum, we're trying to teach kids here's what scripture teaches and here's what other worldviews teach, and this is how they're different, so they can recognize that in the media they consume. In our Studying the Bible Curriculum, we're trying to equip children to read, interpret, and apply scripture on their own so that they are consistently immersed in the biblical narrative so that they know who God is and what he has commanded and how good his plan is. And then in our Careful Thinking Curriculum for older children, we're trying to teach them to carefully evaluate every single idea that they encounter. So I'd highly encourage you to check out those resources and equip the kids that God has placed in your care to be very discerning.

Well, that's a wrap for our episode today. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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