UnChristian Lit?

I originally posted this on Oct 10, but am moving it to the top today for the benefit of La Shawn Barber's readers who may be visiting for the first time. Welcome!
And for those of you who haven't seen it and are interested, check out her column on the Harry Potter series at Townhall.com

La Shawn Barber had a lively discussion going earlier in the day about what makes literature Christian. La Shawn specifically mentioned Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia (which I've read) and Rowlings's Harry Potter books (which I'm reading). The problems some people might have with these, are the use of magic and sorcery in the books. Sorcery is clearly proscribed in the bible.

The biblical references I've found for magic or sorcery mainly make a point of God's anger at people who practice it. I see in sorcery an attempt to accrue power or esteem for oneself, separate from God. This isn't far removed from the original sin, a desire to supplant God's rule with our own. But does that mean that the protagonists use of magic in a fantasy story makes the story incompatible with Christianity, or even unChristian?

I ask it that way because many things may be compatible with Christianity without actually being Christian. For example, Bill Bennett's Moral Compass and Book of Virtues are compatible with Christianity, but not specifically Christian (nor unChristian).

So there's a spectrum of possibilities here. I would suggest that works of literature (or art) can be Christian, compatible with Christianity, neutral, or unChristian. How do we identify where a work falls in the spectrum? The first question I would ask is whether the author professes to be a Christian. The answer to this question by no means determines the nature of the work, but it can certainly inform our decision. I would expect that for a work to be called Christian, its author must profess to be saved. This seems like a necessary condition, but is not sufficient to call the work Christian.

Does the author intend the work to be Christian in nature, or only to appeal to a Christian worldview? I assume here that a work which does not appeal to people's faith can be only neutral at best.

The answers to those questions can be found by reading little more than a review of a book. Beyond this, it becomes very much a judgement call on the part of the reader. Just as there are Christians who disagree over the meaning of specific portions of biblical text, it is up to the individual Christian to prayerfully consider for himself whether the material he reads is informed by and in agreement with God's Word.

For my part, if you want to know, I've made the following categorizations in the context of this post:
  • Star Wars series (movies, but the classification holds): neutral (God as an No God, but a powerful, everpresent "Force" which can be manipulated by individuals who are sensitive...)
  • Dr. Bennett's anthologies (Book of Virtues, The Moral Compass): compatible with Christianity (some of the stories are specifically biblical, others are drawn from other traditions or from true accounts of individuals)
  • Tolkein's Lord of the Rings: compatible with Christianity: compatible with Christianity (Tolkein was specifically opposed to using the fiction as allegory, but there is clear moral value in the tales, with definite right and wrong)
  • Rowling's Harry Potter series: I would also classify as compatible with Christianity, for the same reason I would classify Tolkein's work as such
  • Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia: I would classify as Christian lit
Are there inconsistencies? Maybe. Change my mind.

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