Tuesday, July 19

What About Harry?

He's a wildly lauded pop-culture phenomenon. He's bigger than anything since the iPod Shuffle. Even Hollywood blockbusters have a hard time keeping pace with his box office booty. He's enmeshed in a world of wizzards and magic and evil sorcerers. Can he possibly be good? I mean really! On the face of it, isn't it obvious that Harry Potter--to say nothing of the craze that swirls about him--has to be dangerous, dispicable, and desultory from a Christian worldview perspective?

Well, not necessarily. In fact, according to Jerram Barrs, the J.K. Rowling novels featuring Harry Potter may actually be all they are cracked up to be--and more. In his latest Christian Counter-Culture essay from the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, this renowned professor of apologetics and evangelism makes a powerful case for Harry, Hogwarts, and Hermoine. If it seems more than a little paradoxical to you that a thoughtful Reformed theologian would be wild about Harry but wouldn't even think of touching the Left Behind novels--much less actually reading them--then you probably ought to read this!

For a totally contrarian view, my friend Doug Phillips, raises grave concerns at his Vision Forum site about the themes of sorcery in the Potter books. Be sure to read the whole essay carefully--Doug artfully uses sarcasm to make his point.

After you have read the to-and-fro and pillar-to-post discussions that Barrs and Phillips have launched, you may still find yourself wondering what a Christian ought to think about Harry and Hogwarts. If you've made it this far into the discussion then you may want to try to go further by tackling John Granger's book, Finding God in Harry Potter. I have found it to be the most thoroughly informed work--from both a theological and a literary perspective--on the subject thus far.

But, one thing is clear: this is not a simple debate--it is fraught with the complexities of language, definition, literary form, thematic purpose, and cultural differences (remember that Rowling is a European not an American, so the metaphysical terminology she uses may rankle the average Evangelical unfamiliar with the Medieval traditions and forms she borrows from the fairy tales, myths, and legends of continental Christendom). Thus, this not a debate that will be won or lost with simple sloganeering, however impassioned or emphatic.


Rob said...

An alternative point of view:


gileskirk said...


I'm not convinced that the "inner feelings" Spengler makes so much of in his/her essay are much of a feature at all in the Rowling moral universe. On the contrary, the characters in the books must constantly battle their feelings in order to do what is right rather than what is expedient or comfortable or easy. So, it seems to me that Spengler has either not read the books or has created a straw man argument quite deliberately--and deceptively.

bonnie said...

I heard Jerram speak at that L'Abri conference on Harry Potter. Any one interested can go to Sound Word and order the tape.


Richard in Austin said...

Dr. Grant:

Battling a severe case of insomnia deep in the Heart of Texas, I want to thank you for the link you provided to www.Christian Counterculture.com - what an incredible site!

I would encourage all those who participate in this on-line forum to go there and read an article or two. It will stir you!

Just like with the Harry Potter (or Lance Armstrong) debate, a reader may or may not agree with the point of views presented on the web site. But whatever position one may take, ChristianCounterculter.com is a good "read" that effectively articulates the case for the reawakening of Christians to reclaim the arts and our culture.

Thank you once again for the link!