Magic Systems in Fiction

One of the hard things about writing Christian speculative fiction is that it’s really easy to make people uncomfortable.

Unless it’s really overt allegory, speculative worlds tend to make some Christians twitchy, especially if those worlds contain magic.

Magic.

For many Christians, the term “magic” implicitly implies witchcraft, which the Bible specifically speaks against. Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy all speak out against the dangers of necromancers, sorcerers, and mediums. In the New Testament, some lists of sins include sorcery.

Given the fairly clear stance the Bible takes on witchcraft and sorcery, it’s easy to see why magic in fiction is looked upon askance, and even causes some to worry that reading or writing stories with magic systems opens up doors to the occult.

So, if magic is wrong, is it ever okay for it to be in Christian stories? And if not, what about the heroes of Christian speculative fiction, like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien? Fans of Spec Fic use them as role models, while more conservative readers are uncomfortable even with the magic in those worlds.

I think part of the answer is in the term “magic” itself. What is “magic,” and how do you know if it’s wrong? The word “magic” is used for a lot of things that often have no relation to each other.

If you go to a magic show, is it sinful? It’s called “magic.” Things appear and disappear. But if it’s just illusion, is it okay?

And when it’s in a book, because it’s fiction, does that make it okay?

Witchcraft, magic, and sorcery in the Bible are defined as deriving power from spirits other than God and as trying to communicate with the dead.

The primary difference between sinful magic in our world and magic systems in fictional worlds is in the way they’re set up.

Magic in fictional worlds is often like electricity. It’s a natural resource that can be used, but has no inherent moral value. It is something that can be wielded, but it is neither good nor evil of itself.

In the world of The Amulet Saga, magic is intrinsically tied to nature. It is an element that is in a symbiotic relationship with the earth. Ideally, they balance each other out. The magic enhances nature, and nature supplies magic. In my story, there is an overuse of magic by evil sorcerers, and they are drawing too much magical energy, which is draining the land of its resources. Plants are dying, food is becoming scarce, and the people are suffering. It is a natural element.

In contrast, sorcery in the Bible is derived from beings that have a will of their own. It is drawing upon another entity. Satan, demons, spirits, the dead—those are all entities that are in opposition to God, at enmity with Him. They are beings with intrinsic power, not a tool or an element that can be used. That is the primary difference.

Some feedback I’ve gotten regarding this storyworld has been concern that I am opening myself up to the occult by including magic in my story.

Concerned parties suggest that, while they’re sure I would never intentionally do anything against my conscience, everyone makes mistakes. They worry that my conscience has been tainted. They say that my story is not glorifying to God. They believe that by including magic in my world, I am glorifying witchcraft.

I disagree.

My world is a self-contained world, with different rules than those that apply in our world. The magic in my world is a natural resource, a tool that can be used for good or evil. It is passive, without a will of its own, used only as the wielder chooses, and good or evil is in the heart of the person who uses it. Yes, I use the word “sorcerer” to describe someone who uses the magic in my world, but each one is an individual character, and those characters make choices about whether they’re going to use magic to help or hurt, to derive personal power or deliver peace.

I believe God gave me a gift and a passion to write. And I believe that everything I write has a point. It might not be obvious, and it might touch on some things that others are sensitive to and disagree with, but I believe that what makes it “Christian” fiction is me. My worldview colors everything I write. My beliefs that Good will triumph, that there are consequences for our actions, that there is always hope even when things are dark, and that love and self-sacrifice are virtues without parallel, are my testimony. Those are the things that will shine through, no matter what world I put them in.

 

2 thoughts on “Magic Systems in Fiction

  1. Magic in other worlds, even “alternate earths” doesn’t violate God’s prohibition. Magic in Narnia, in Middle-earth, in Frozen, in your world of the amulets, is to be found in sources other than the Devil’s hand. That’s the rub with stories which present a very unbiblical view of magic practiced in THIS world. That may not endear me to some, but God’s Word is what it is and Deut. 18 will not be erased, no matter how many blogs are written or how many books are sold. This doesn’t mean we can’t as Christians enjoy, for example, the adventures of Harry Potter or Alan Garner’s timeless gem The Weirdstone of Brisingamen as STORIES. But to remain biblical, we cannot in our writing set in THIS WORLD give magic a meaning the Word of God does not. In this world, those who would honor God shun magic, not practice it.

    That being said, many Christians cannot, just cannot conceive of another world where things might be different than they are here. If other worlds exist, and they certainly may, then how God operates there may be quite different indeed than how He works here. I love your remark: “My world is a self-contained world, with different rules than those that apply in our world. The magic in my world is a natural resource, a tool that can be used for good or evil. It is passive, without a will of its own, used only as the wielder chooses, and good or evil is in the heart of the person who uses it.” There may indeed be a world such as this somewhere. For all you know, you may be writing history even now and not know it. Contemplate that, and be encouraged. Thanks for the excellent post!

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