Harry Potter and the Old, Old Story

In a recent article published by the Religion News Service, Tara Isabella Burton introduces the Harry Potter series, writing:

It’s a book nearly everybody knows, many of us nearly from birth. We reference it in our daily lives. We use its complicated moral systems to define our social and political stances and to understand ourselves better. Once we have read it, and learn the lessons considered therein, our political attitudes alter, making us more welcoming and more caring to outsiders.
Activists quote from the stories on placards to make their points at protests. Hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people have written their own narratives in response to these foundational myths.
I refer, of course, to the “Harry Potter” series.

She refers to the statistics that show that 61% of Americans have seen at least one Harry Potter film. That statistic juxtaposed with the mere 45% (a little more than 50% for US Christians) who can name all four Gospels is a bit shocking. She observes, “it’s no stretch to say that Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are better known in American society than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”

She offers a reason for the ubiquity of Harry Potter in that it was published during a time of a massive, earth-shaking transition. In the years before the publication of the first volume and the fourth, internet use increased 500%. So, she argues, the popularity of the fiction series resembles the Bible in that, just as the rise of the printing press enabled the Protestant Reformation to put Scripture in the hands of the masses, the Harry Potter books grew in prominence during a time when the masses were introduced to a new media—the world wide web.

And again, she’s not wrong.

Of course, she argues that this is the manner in which the Harry Potter “most resembles” the Bible. And that conclusion is where I must beg to differ.

In a 2007 article published in the Telegraph, J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, acknowledged that they were inspired, in fact, by the Bible. Rowling, who was raised in the Anglican Communion, but now a member of the Church of Scotland, was quoted as having said, “the religious parallels have always been obvious.” In a different interview altogether, she made those parallels explicit, explaining that Albus Dumbledore is “John the Baptist to Harry’s Christ.”

She explained her reasoning for avoiding the question until the moment of her interview in the Telegraph (she had just released the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) to her attempts to avoid spoiling the ending: “I never wanted to talk too openly about [the influence of the New Testament on the series] because it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”

So, the argument that the Harry Potter series resembles the Bible most due to providential timing ignores the most glaring parallel—one was patterned after the other!

So, when Burton concludes that the Harry Potter series has supplanted the Bible as the common mythological foundation of understanding for the new generations, Christians should take notice—if only for the purpose of considering her claim further. She presses her argument to conclude that, in light of the obvious fantasy and fiction that describes the Harry Potter series, “fewer and fewer of us need to believe in a text to take it, well, as gospel.”

The question that discerning readers should ask is, “Does her conclusion follow from her argument?”

In a world that fails to observe the author’s own declaration that her stories (creative as they may be) are patterned after the Gospel narrative, the historical similarity between the Reformation-era printing press and the advent of the internet age seems reasonable.

But, if we allow the author’s own admission to raise the issue, it becomes more clear why this story resonates with the new generations (and many from the older generations as well)—it is built from the pieces of the story of salvation. The elements in play over the course of Rowling’s stories reflect the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is it a simple re-telling? Obviously not.

But perhaps it resonates so clearly because it speaks to genuine needs and longings of the human heart. And the answer to those needs isn’t found in a book of spells, in the waving of a wand, or in the Room of Requirement. Harry Potter’s journey over the course of Rowling’s books (and movies) brings him from a childhood discovery of his place in the world to an encounter with evil that rescues a people with whom he identifies.

Perhaps it resonates so powerfully because it resembles so closely “the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”

Episode 07: Evangelism

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss evangelism.

But first, we talk a little bit about this article on beards.

  • What is the role of evangelism in the church?
  • What is the role of the pastor in evangelism?
  • What is the role of the evangelist in the church?
  • What does evangelism look like in your church?
  • What does evangelism look like in your life personally?

Appreciate what we’re doing in these Pastor Talks? Help us out by jumping over to our YouTube Channel to subscribe and drop a few comments and his a thumbs up on this video.

Episode 06.2: Loneliness

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss loneliness in ministry.

  • Is loneliness in ministry a biblical thing?
  • Is it okay to make friends of your church members?
  • What do you do to combat loneliness in ministry?

Appreciate what we’re doing in these Pastor Talks? Help us out by jumping over to our YouTube Channel to subscribe and drop a few comments and his a thumbs up on this video.

Episode 06.1: Spiritual Dryness

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss spiritual dryness in ministry.

  • Is spiritual dryness a biblical thing?
  • What does it look like to be in a time of dryness?
  • What do you do in times of dryness?
  • What can you do to prevent spiritual dryness?

Appreciate what we’re doing in these Pastor Talks? Help us out by jumping over to our YouTube Channel to subscribe and drop a few comments and his a thumbs up on this video.

Episode 05.2: Marriage

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss what you need to know about marriage and ministry.

EP05.1
* How do you protect your marriage from ministry frustration?
* When do you start saying “No” to protect your marriage from ministry?
* How do you protect your marriage in hard seasons of ministry?
* How do you balance marriage and ministry?

EP05.2
* How do you invest in your marriage?
* How do you encourage your congregation to build stronger marriages?
* What is the number one priority to build a healthy marriage for pastors?

Episode 05.1: Marriage

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss marriage in ministry.

How do you protect your marriage from ministry frustration?

When do you start saying “No” to protect your marriage from ministry?

How do you protect your marriage in hard seasons of ministry?

How do you balance marriage and ministry?

Be sure to check out part 2 on Thursday.

Special Episode: Interview with Ryan Fontenot, part 2

Find Information on R.A.G.E. Ministries here: http://www.rageministries.com/

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @TheRyanFontenot

  • How can churches support pastors with a special evangelistic calling/gifting?
  • How can churches partner with itinerate evangelists?
  • What are some differences between preaching regularly as a pastor versus preaching as an evangelist?
  • What does day-to-day evangelism look like for you?
  • How does your preaching differ when preaching to adults versus preaching to students?
  • What tools are you using that would be helpful for pastors?

Special Episode: Interview with Ryan Fontenot

Find Information On R.A.G.E. Ministries Here: http://www.rageministries.com/

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @TheRyanFontenot

  • What are you currently up to in ministry?
  • What did your calling to that ministry look like?
  • What lead you to write this?
  • What are your hopes for this booklet? (What would you like to see it do?)

Episode 04.2: Preaching

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss what the ins and outs of preaching in the local church.

What is the role of preaching for the church?

What is the difference between teaching and preaching?

What type of preaching do you prefer?

How would you define the difference between Text-driven Preaching vs Text-centered Preaching?

What are you trying to accomplish in your preaching?

What are some ways that you intentionally accomplish your goals in preaching?

How long do your preach?

Episode 04.1: Preaching

Join the Caffeinated Theology crew as we discuss what the ins and outs of preaching in the local church.

What is the role of preaching for the church?

What is the difference between teaching and preaching?

What type of preaching do you prefer?

How would you define the difference between Text-driven Preaching vs Text-centered Preaching?

What are you trying to accomplish in your preaching?

What are some ways that you intentionally accomplish your goals in preaching?

How long do your preach?