I recently made the decision to read through the Harry Potter book series. My wife read through several of the books and raved about them. So, I took the plunge and purchased Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
I was hooked.
I devoured the first book within a week and quickly bought book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I couldn’t put it down. I finished the book in a week and began to consume the next book within a matter of days (do you see a pattern here?).
The entire series is absolutely riveting. From start to finish, J.K. Rowling writes in such a way that you can see the grandeur of Hogwarts, smell the putrid stench of Hagrid’s breath, and hear the laughs shared between Harry and his friends.
However, since my first mention of reading Harry Potter I’ve had several Christian brothers and sisters say the following:
- Christians shouldn’t read Harry Potter
- Harry Potter celebrates witchcraft and shouldn’t be read
- I would never let my children read Harry Potter because of all of the evil in the books
Let me be clear that I think in some instances Harry Potter shouldn’t be read by Christians. If reading the books causes you to stumble into sin, in any regard, they should be given up for the sake of growing in godliness (Rom. 14:13-23).
While I don’t think it is wise (or even right!) to divide over such a minor matter of conscience and conviction, I do want to share three reasons why Christians can read Harry Potter.
1. It Helps to Cultivate Imagination.
G.K. Chesterton famously said that it only takes four words to hook a child into a story: Once upon a time.
As we grow older our capacity for imagination tends to leak. Wonder transforms into predictability. Dreams are easily dismissed. Beauty fades to dullness. The older we get the more prone we are to losing a powerful aspect of the human experience: imagination.
Fiction is meant to cultivate and stir your imagination. When you sit down with a good book you are doing more than reading—you are entering into another world. C.S. Lewis described reading fiction as a kind of escape,
“[W]e want to escape the illusions of perspective on higher levels too. We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. . . . We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is ‘I have got out’.”
When you read Harry Potter you are doing more than reading about a 12-year old boy learning about how to be a wizard. You are entering into a new world with new friends, new challenges, and new perspectives that stretch the imagination and bring about a sense of wonder in life again—a vital part of the Christian life. Through imagination, Christians place their faith in the invisible God who makes Himself known through a visible world (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:20). Likewise, Christians know God by seeing His image in Christ (Col. 1:15). Imagination fuels, not siphons, faith in God.
2. It Is a Good Gift of God.
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
Harry Potter, like any other piece of wholesome literature, is to be received with joy and gratefulness to God. However, some people contest that Harry Potter does not qualify as a wholesome piece of literature because of its secular nucleus and godless storyline. Andy Naselli wisely asks people three questions in response:
- Have you read Kevin Bauder’s series on fantasy literature?
- Do you have a problem with C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings?
- Have you read any of the Harry Potter books?
The answer to these questions typically go like this:
- I’m not sure because I haven’t read them all.
Once again, I don’t think it is wise to divide with brothers and sisters over such a minor issue. But I do think Christians should be more informed on the issue before making definitive statements on if reading Harry Potter is right or wrong. In my estimation, Harry Potter is an excellent piece of literature that can be enjoyed by Christians.
3. It Contains Redemptive Themes Throughout the Book.
All good stories are simply a reflection—good or bad—of the grand story of redemptive-history. All good literature contains an underlay of three major themes:
- The beauty of creation.
- The reality of evil.
- The universal human longing for redemption—for a better world.
Harry Potter is no different.
Throughout the books, we see the beauty of a diverse world full of muggles and wizards, dwarfs and giants, hippogriffs and fire-breathing dragons. The beauty of creation.
It doesn’t take long to see the appalling work of evil in the books. The Dursley’s self-centered neglect and abuse of Harry, Malfoy’s hatred of others, and Voldemort’s longing for power leave the reader with a clear sense of the pervasive evil in the wizarding world. The reality of evil.
Harry and his friends long for the abolition of evil and for all things to be made right. How long will Voldermort continue to wreak havoc in the world? The universal longing for redemption—for a better world.
While we shouldn’t read the gospel into everything, we should read everything through the gospel.
Harry Potter creates a great opportunity for Christians to grow in seeing the redemptive themes of the Bible in literature written by people who don’t claim to follow Jesus. While we shouldn’t read the gospel into everything, we should read everything through the gospel. Harry Potter serves as yet another reminder that our world is broken, evil permeates our world, Jesus is victorious over sin and death, and one day all will be made right.
The Bible challenges Christians to be prepared to celebrate anything that is good and true, regardless of where it is found. Even in the wizarding world of Harry Potter.