THE CHRISTIAN, THE WITCH AND THE BIBLE
(with apologies and appreciation to C. S. Lewis)
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 - When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.
Leviticus 20:26-27 - And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.
Proverbs 3:1-6 - My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
With the release over the last few years (I write this in 2004) of the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings movies much debate has taken place between Christians and non-Christians (and also between Christians themselves) as to the legitimacy of portraying witches, wizards and such as heroic or sympathetic figures. Many have argued that because both movie series promote the value of personal characteristics such as self-sacrifice, loyalty and patience among others the possible negative aspects of these movies may be ignored if the educational and emotional emphasis is placed upon these more positive aspects. Many others have argued that because both movies cast witches as the central characters upon whom the audience will place their affection they must therefore be avoided in obedience to God's command to have nothing to do with witchcraft of any type. Time and time again comparisons are made between these movies and The Chronicles of Narnia series of books by C. S. Lewis; generally to show that since Lewis made use of witches as a plot device and since his Chronicles of Narnia is widely acclaimed by Christians as an allegory of Biblical teaching it is legitimate to makes use of witches as central characters in our popular entertainment.
There is a significant difference between the use of witches and wizards in both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings and the use of witches in The Chronicles of Narnia. In Harry Potter and to a slightly lesser extent in The Lord of the Rings central characters are possessors of "magical" power and are shown positively as heroic figures whose use of a power inherent within themselves is in aid of a noble cause. Only in passing does the wizard Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings ever refer to his power being given to him by the higher power or powers that had sent him to Middle Earth to aid them in defeating Sauron. It is true that much is made in The Lord of the Rings of the personal struggle that is often encountered in one's battle with evil and there is a very clear distinction made between the evil of Sauron and the nobility of the inhabitants of Middle Earth who oppose him. It is also true that to use the gifts which one possesses in an unselfish manner, as is often done in Harry Potter, is a noble goal worthy of imitation. But valuable lessons alone are not sufficient to make either of these movies (or the books upon which they are based) an appropriate guide for Christians in the living of their lives. The Chronicles of Narnia, however, do not show witches in so positive a light. C. S. Lewis has dealt with witches far more effectively from a Christian standpoint in The Chronicles of Narnia than has either J. R. R. Tolkien or J. K. Rowling in their respective works. Lewis portrays witches as mortal practitioners of an evil power that is opposed to the will of God (Aslan being an allegory for Jesus Christ). There is no doubt throughout the series that witches are evil, regardless of the context in which they are encountered by the other characters, and that they must either cease being witches or suffer the consequences of their actions which is in line with the Bible's teaching that witches are to be destroyed. (I am not suggesting that Christians round up all witches and put them to death but that our current cultural view of accepting almost anything as long as a lesson can be learned is far removed from God's call for personal purity.) At no point in The Chronicles of Narnia are witches portrayed as sympathetic or heroic characters and at no point is the audience is encouraged to view them as anything other than sinful beings in need of salvation.
This is such a marked contrast to the portrayal of witches in The Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf is most certainly a character with whom the audience is intended to sympathize, and in Harry Potter, where Harry becomes the focus of the admiration of the audience because he is enduring with character what they hope also to endure with similar character. In each case (though again to a far lesser extent in The Lord of the Rings) the emphasis is upon the character possessing the power and not upon the supposed source of that power. God makes it very clear that witchcraft is evil. He commands those that follow Him to have nothing to do with it on pain of death. He has never indicated that His followers can learn lessons from witches when they are portrayed in the proper manner and for us to think we can learn lessons from witches is to skirt the edge of apostasy.