The American Prospect published an article entitled "Fantasia:
The Gospel According to C.S. Lewis" February 25th, 2002. It
discusses the Christian message in C.S.Lewis, Tolkien, and J.K.Rowling.
Consider this widely quoted extract:
Rowling initially was afraid that if people were aware of her Christian
faith, she would give away too much of what's coming in the series.
"If I talk too freely about that," she told a Canadian reporter,
"I think the intelligent reader -- whether ten [years old] or
sixty -- will be able to guess what is coming in the books."
The article goes on to show one example of this from the first
It is important to recognize that Christians and Christian leaders
are split on the appropriateness of Harry Potter for children.
After all - on the negative - characters use magic and talk to
ghosts, and concerns have been expressed that this could lead
a child to explore more sinister subjects. On the positive - messages
are Judeo-Christian, characters benefit or suffer from their own
choices, and the 'magic' in Harry Potter is an alternative reality
neutral power, far removed from the Satan controlled Spiritualism
the Bible forbids Christians to explore.
To be clear - I have no intention of joining this debate or persuade
anyone one way or another about whether reading Harry Potter is
right or wrong. Very real concerns have been expressed and Christian
leaders have taken both sides here for and against, so who am
I to get involved?
- All the main characters in Harry Potter series practice
teachings that are forbidden in the Bible, and therefore
should be avoided:
- When you enter the land the LORD your God is
giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable
ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among
you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire,
who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens,
engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is
a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone
who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and
because of these detestable practices the LORD your
God will drive out those nations before you. You must
be blameless before the LORD your God. Deuteronomy
- The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual
immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and
witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,
selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy;
drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as
I did before, that those who live like this will not
inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21.
- The books include descriptions of shapechanging, meditation,
human sacrifice, spells, charms, curses, communicating
with ghosts, broomsticks, divination, reading tea leaves,
looking at crystal balls, potion making, sorcery, teaching
dark arts. These books are nothing more that an attractive
door inviting the young to explore the occult.
- This series - along with other TV shows, films, and
books - continues to desensitize children to the occult,
as well as other forms of violence. It encourages disobedience
to authority, and there is no 'higher power' to answer
- These stories are fantasy. The 'magic' in Harry Potter
has nothing to do with the teachings forbidden in the
Bible. The 'magic' in Harry Potter is a neutral power
- a resource that can be used by good and bad alike.
- If you have a problem with fantasy 'magic' in stories,
then you really need to be honest with yourself, and also
give up the C.S.Lewis Narnia Stories, J.R.R.Tolkien and
the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars films (the
'force' is another type of magical neutral power), and
even Arabian Knights, the Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Cinderella,
Snow White, and Mickey Mouse (think Fantasia, the sorcerer's
apprentice). All these stories contain magic.
- There is much material out there worse than Harry Potter
for children to get desensitized to. Kids are going to
be exposed one way or another, sooner or later, to non-Christian
and evil practices. Inappropriate censorship for some
age groups can make things worse later on. Parents need
to talk to their pre-teen and teenage children about such
matters (smoking, drugs, sex, even more so than the occult)
so they learn to make the right decisions for themselves.
Teaching discernment should be the priority here.
- This is an opportunity to talk to children who have
read the books to discuss the difference between make-believe
fantasy and real world reality. In the real world, the
practices the Bible forbids are those that get someone
closer to Satan and Satan worship. The 'father of lies'
is a master, and such practices only deceive, bring false
hope, and ultimately lead to destruction.
This is a personal decision everyone needs to make for themselves.
I myself started reading these books several years ago, and while
not sure at first - as the stories progressed - it became clearer
and clearer to me that the concerns that I had about these books
could be managed. Now after reading book 7 it is very clear to
me that there is a great opportunity to use the stories in the
Harry Potter series to reach to children and to use them to talk
about Jesus and the Gospel message.
In other words, if you have worries about any ill
effects of Harry Potter, read on. You can do something about it.
To be clear, I don't condone, nor condemn these books. But I
am always interested in opportunities in sharing the gospel, and
for those children who have already read the Harry Potter books,
this is one of them. And it starts with a statement that shocked
me when I first saw it: Harry Potter is an allegory of Jesus Christ,
and within the Harry Potter series you can find parallels to the
life of Jesus.
Look at this table that summarizes the evidence for this. What
do you think? Right or wrong (and for sure Harry isn't perfect),
it does provide ample material to turn any discussion on Harry
Potter to that of Jesus.
Definition of an allegory:
a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic
meaning. It represents an abstract or spiritual meaning
through concrete or material forms; is a figurative treatment
of one subject under the guise of another. An allegory is
a type of extended metaphor, in which anything - object,
people, actions represent something that lies outside the
story. This could be something moral, social, religious,
or political. Characters can be personifications of abstract
ideas as charity, greed, envy. For example death was personified
in Chaucers The Pardoners Tale.
Spoiler Warning: if you haven't read the books,
the following table gives away parts of books 1-5. I won't touch
on Books 6 or 7 yet.
The Life of Harry Potter
The Life of Jesus
- After surviving a killing curse that backfired on Voldemort:
Fireworks, many messages sent by owls, celebration by
wizards. Also Harry was visited by Wizards (who took him
to his new home.)
- At birth: star of Bethlehem, visit of wise men with
gifts, visit of shepherds, angels singing.
|Threatened by death as a baby, and a young
- Order out for the death of the young child, resulting
in his family in hiding in 'Godricks Hollow' when he was
- Order out for the death of the young child under 2,
resulting in the flight to Egypt until it was safe.
- Dumbledore, not the uncle he grew up with. Leader of
all that is good, the greatest wizard, seems to know about
everything important, rarely reveals full powers, great
observer, tends to direct others rather than get involved.
Harry sometimes complains he feels abandoned by him.
- God the Father - not Joseph (at least we know very little
on this one)
Jesus called out on the cross 'My God, my God, why have
you abandoned me?'
|Good v. Evil
- Dumbledore (and Harry) against Voldemort
- The phoenix (also known as the resurrection bird) against
- Gryffindor against Slytherin. (In ancient times the
Gryffin was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of
- Harry against Draco
- God (and Jesus) against Satan
- The cross against the serpent
- The church against the world
- Jesus against Pharisees/Sadducees
- Lord Voldemort, a.k.a. Tom Marvelo Riddle, who can
talk to snakes. Directs and organizes all that is evil.
- Is trying to become the greatest ever Wizard and to
- At school Tom was a model student, did very well, and
became head boy.
- Name - a riddler tries to confuse and mislead.
- Satan, the Serpent, the Dragon, Devil, The adversary,
father of all lies, god of this world, Lucifer, the tempter,
the wicked one (amongst other names).
- Ultimately wants to be like God.
- Started out as a perfect angel, but fell from grace.
|Friend of the rejected
- Harry favored people and had friends who were not considered
- Spent time with 'sinners, tax-collectors, poor, ill',
- While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house,
many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate
with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this,
they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher
eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing
this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need
a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means:
'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to
call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:10-13.
- Peter Pettigrew.
Something interesting also happened in book 7.
- Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the
chief priests to betray Jesus to them. Mark 14:10
|It's all in a name
- Potter - We are the clay, you are the potter;
- Stag (Harry's protector/patronus) - a medieval symbol
- There are over 100 names for Jesus in the Old and New
Testament. Here are 4:
- For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. And he
will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting
Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
- Lightning bolt on forehead - a constant reminder of
the act of Voldemort
- Scars on hands, feet, side, a constant reminder of taking
on the sin of the world.
- Harry is rejected by the family he lives with.
- Harry is bullied and taunted by others - mostly by characters
from the rival house 'Slytherin'
- So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath,
the Jews persecuted him. John 5:16
- Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among
his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without
honor." Mark 6:4
|Seeking the Lost
- In a game called Quidditch, Harry has a natural talent
as a 'seeker', finding a small golden ball that loses
itself and needs to be found. In fact finding this ball
is the most important part of the game, far more so than
the goals that are scored by other players.
- For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what
was lost. Luke 19:10.
- The Magical word of Harry Potter is hidden to ordinary
- The spiritual world is hidden to non-believers.
- The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the
glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians
- Harry's real mother sacrificed herself through her love
for him, and in doing so protected Harry through 'old
- This is a theme that develops through the series.
- Something interesting also happened in book 7.
- Jesus died for us on the cross. As such Christians claim
protection through 'the blood of Christ'
- How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who
through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished
to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to
death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews
- Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the
truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7.
|King's Cross Station
- Harry departs for school at platform 9 and 3/4 which
exists through a hidden gateway. Like a world between
- Jesus - our King - died on the Cross.
- And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"which means,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
When some of those standing near heard this, they said,
"Listen, he's calling Elijah." One man ran,
filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick,
and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him
alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down,"
he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
- "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is
the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow
the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
- Power is enacted through the use of wands. Broken wands
cause unfortunate things to happen.
- There is symbolism is the wands of Harry (who is fighting
evil) and Voldemort (who is ultimately trying to live
forever by fighting death). Both use a core of a phoenix
feather, but Harry's is made of holly (symbolizing holiness,
fighting evil) and Voldemorts of Yew (symbolizing long
life, as well as having a poisonous sap.)
- Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you have
faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this
mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew
- There was a prophecy about Harry, that he would have
the power to defeat Voldemort, and that either he or Voldemort
would die at the hands of the other.
- There are many prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament.
- He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how
slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then
enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all
the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all
the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27
- Harry openly rebelled at the authority of the Wizard
government (Ministry of Magic) when they were clearly
in the wrong.
- Jesus called the Pharisees to account publicly.
- "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees,
you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish,
but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and
dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Matthew
1 - The Philosophers Stone
- Mystery: what is hidden at the school?
- At the climax of the story, Harry descends through a
series of obstacles and temptations to prevent the 'Philosophers
Stone' getting into the wrong hands. He is only able to
get his hands on the stone and return to the surface because
he has a selfless ambition (i.e. a test of purity). Parallels
to Jesus decent to hell and resurrection due to his perfect
sacrifice are clear.
- The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a
broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's
mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual
act of worship. Romans 12:1
- But God raised him from the dead, freeing him
from the agony of death, because it was impossible
for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:24
- The antagonist in this story is a 'possessed' teacher
called Quirrel (almost like Quarrel eh?)
- Another antagonist is a teacher called 'Severus Snape'.
Not quite a snake...
2 - The Chamber of Secrets
- What is causing sinister happenings at the school? Is
there a secret chamber under the school that has been
- This story includes a type of possession by the antagonist,
Tom Riddle, and can be used to warn against getting involved
in things you don't really understand - the real world
- This story includes a teacher - Gilderoy Lockhart -
who even though is famous for writing about his many dangerous
exploits, turns out to be a bit of a fraud and a coward.
This name can be broken down - Gilded (i.e. deceptively
attractive) King (Roi is French for King), Locked Heart
- or someone who looks attractive but is spiritually dead.
A great example of a wolf in sheeps clothing, a false
- Watch out for false prophets. They come to you
in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious
wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do
people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from
thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Matthew 7:15-17.
- Side note: both the 'possession' which is through a
book, and Lockhart and his false writings, can be seen
as a modern fable against false teachings that abound
in literature today, and how they can possess us in all
sorts of wrong ways.
- The story includes a giant snake, called a basilisk,
which will kill you if you look at it. Is this not the
personification of sin? If we do one thing wrong, we're
no longer perfect and are cut off from God, which leads
to spiritual, and ultimately, physical death.
- Therefore, just as sin entered the world through
one man, and death through sin, and in this way death
came to all men, because all sinned Romans
- At the climax of the story, Harry descends to a chamber,
opened by speaking the language of snakes. He confronts
a giant serpent and is saved through faith and loyalty
to Dumbledore, rescues an innocent from an accuser, and
returns in triumph. A parallel to salvation through what
Jesus has done for us are very clear.
- For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
- An interesting detail - during a battle between Harry
and the basilisk, the phoenix attacks the snake and blinds
it. Harry eventually kills the basilisk with a sword,
but not before being injured with a bite which is poisonous.
However phoenix tears heal, and this is how Harry is saved.
If the basilisk is sin, the phoenix represents power over
death, and the sword the 'sword of the spirit which is
the word of God' then this is a very interesting way to
represent how sin is defeated by what Christ did for us
on the cross.
3 - The Prisoner of Azkaban
- Who is the Prisoner of Azkaban, and why are teachers
so frightened for Harrys safety?
- This story is darker. It introduces a teacher who is
a werewolf, 'boggarts' who become your worst fear, 'dementors'
who feed off happiness and can kill by feeding on your
soul, as well the prisoner, an individual called Sirius
Black, who escaped.
- Regarding the teacher who is a werewolf - called 'Lupin',
the teacher is otherwise a very good at his subject and
is very kind towards Harry. He hides his handicap with
a potion that helps him prevent turning into a werewolf
each month. It also emerges that Lupin was bitten as a
child, and was friends with both Harrys father and Sirius
Black who both demonstrated amazing kindness and self-sacrifice
towards him at school.
- This story has loyalty and betrayal, heroism, and courage
of supporting a friend with a dangerous 'handicap'.
- At the climax of the story, Sirius Black reveals himself
to Harry, and it turns out that he is not after Harry,
but another individual - Peter Pettigrew - who was partially
responsible for the death of Harrys parents by betraying
their whereabouts. This person escapes but Harry discovers
Sirius is a relative of a sort - being his God-father.
However Sirius is still an escaped prisoner and has to
go into hiding. (Sirius Black an interestingly ambiguous
name, as Sirius is the brightest star is the sky.)
- Ultimately this is a story about salvation. Two individuals
in the story are falsely accused and are condemned to
die, but Harry (with Dumbledores guidance) helps them
both escape, much to the dismay of the authorities. In
fact one individual is saved twice. In one incident, Harry
fends of hundreds of dementors who would otherwise kill
Sirius Black. He uses an interesting spell called a 'patronus
charm' (in Latin patronus means protector). The 'patronus'
is a bright white object that takes on the characteristics
of the individual casting the spell - for Harry this is
a Stag. Consider that the Stag is an old symbol for Christ,
that dementors represent death, and you have another illustration
of the power of Christ over death.
- Once you were alienated from God and were enemies
in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now
he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through
death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish
and free from accusation Colossians 1:21-22.
4 - The Goblet of Fire
- Who will win the Triwizard cup? Three schools compete
each with their own champion selected by the Goblet of
Fire, but who entered Harry Potter and how did the Goblet
select him as well?
- This story has both adventure and mystery. The tournament
requires contestants to navigate three tasks - each could
be considered to have Christian parallels. In the first,
Harry has to fight a fire breathing dragon to obtain a
golden treasure, in the second Harry has to find a lost
friend (as in fact does more than he needs to), and in
the third, Harry has to navigate a dangerous maze to find
the cup (and in doing so helps others along the way).
- However, I consider my life worth nothing to
me, if only I may finish the race and complete the
task the Lord Jesus has given methe task of
testifying to the gospel of God's grace. Acts
- Do you not know that in a race all the runners
run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way
as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
- I have fought the good fight, I have finished
the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
- The climax of the story takes place in a graveyard.
Harry, having reached the cup and touched it, he gets
transported there. It was all a trap. Here Harry is bound,
tormented and used to restore Voldemort back to full strength.
However he receives unexpected help due to the past sins
of Voldemort and escapes. But the stage is set - and Harry
is certain to meet Voldemort again.
- It turns out that a teacher at the school was working
for Voldemort and set the trap, helping Harry through
- This is a story of betrayal - there is a parallel with
Jesus' betrayal by Judus, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
where -alone - he wrestled with the task ahead of Him.
5 - The Order of the Phoenix
- Why does no-one believe that Voldemort has returned?
What is hidden at the Ministry of Magic that Voldemort
wants so much?
- This story puts Harry and Dumbledore against most of
the wizarding world - Voldemorts return is not believed.
Harry also has to put up with an awful new teacher called
Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge obtains greater and greater
authority at the school, ultimately becoming headmistress
(albeit temporarily). Because the defense lessons Umbridge
teaches are considered dangerously weak, Harry gathers
a following who he helps teach in secret. These secret
lessons are discovered and lead to the removal of Dumbledore.
- At the climax of the story, Harry and several friends
are lured into a trap at the Ministry of Magic. It turns
out that Voldemort is after a recording of a prophecy.
Harry hears it, but the recording is destroyed during
a battle, which ends in a confrontation with Dumbledore,
Harry and Voldemort. After a dramatic scene - where the
protective power Harry has in his blood plays a part -
Voldemort escapes, but not before being seen. Voldemort
is officially alive, Umbridge is fired, Dumbledore is
- Later Harry learns about the prophecy and what it means:
that he has a power (love) Voldemort does not have nor
understands, and that one of them will have to kill the
- There are a number of Christian parallels in this story
- about the world who does not believe that Satan
- about Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic who appears
as a representation of the teachers of the Law in
Jesus time who oppressed the Jews with the letter
of the law.
- Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees,
you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven
in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor
will you let those enter who are trying to.
- about the power of love/a blood sacrifice over Satan.
Voldemort represents Satan. Harry's mother died in
protecting Harry as a baby. This love - a blood sacrifice
as it were - protected Harry at the end of this story.
- There is no fear in love. But perfect love
drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
6 - The Half Blood Prince
7 - The Deathly Hallows
More to come - watch this space.
July 22nd, 2007, updated July 29th, August 11th 2007
Irvine, California, USA.