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Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements

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AooH

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Yeah, that is a yes and no issue.  The usual Christian theological view is that anything not Christian (and some things that claim to be Christian) are actually "satanic." However, satanic doesn't mean that it carries the whole Marilyn Manson thing with it, or that it even recognizes Satan at all. It simply means that it isn't aligned with Christianity.  So wiccans would usually say they absolutely are NOT satanists/satanic and will often say they don't even believe in Satan, and certainly wouldn't serve him if they did.  They look to the old gods and goddesses of different cultural groups- Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse very often.  Satanists, oth, often make it a point to try to break the Mosaic Laws in defiance of God, more than to align themselves with Satan, though it all boils down to the same thing (and are generally nerdy, lonely teens who chicken out of all the rituals before they actually get them going.  Yeah, guess who my friends were in HS.)
Anyway, it all depends on which side of the window you are standing on.
#31 - May 17, 2007, 09:55 PM

Pickles

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I thought this link explained things well

http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_sata.htm
#32 - May 17, 2007, 10:09 PM

Here's what the Bible has to say about it (witches/sorcery):

"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord..."Deuteronomy 16:22 (This is a tenet of Jewish law).

"The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual imimorality, impurity and dabauchery, idolatry and witchcraft;  hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage...) Gal 5:19-20a


There are more scripture references, but this is where the thinking comes from--as a Christian, I would never practice witchcraft/sorcery but I do write fantasy. Those worlds are different from my own and use a power from an imaginary source.
#33 - May 17, 2007, 10:31 PM
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Cia

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Thanks for that site, Kay. It looks like a good resource.

I've actually run into problems once or twice in critique groups where very conservative Christian members obviously had a bias against work that included anything that hinted at "magic." (I have a short article on that very subject coming up in a future issue of Once Upon a Time, as a matter of fact.) It's difficult to please everybody.

Hope this made sense. It's late...and I should really be in bed! :)
#34 - May 17, 2007, 10:41 PM

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Thanks for the chapter and verse, Pam, that was useful.

I didn't mean to imply earlier that anybody who had issues with magic/fantasy elements was necessarily irrational -- just that it was irrational to object to something based on assumptions and labels and hearsay without checking out the content itself (as in the C.S. Lewis example).

Which leads to, I think, one additional layer of complexity in this issue:

For example, the Harry Potter books are a true good vs. evil story, and I find them to be quite moral. 

To me, theme and allegory and other "deep content" seem more important than the "trappings" of a story. Many, many stories boil down to good against evil, and in our culture, at least, good almost always wins. The "how we tell it" part that makes every story unique -- whether it's a contemporary story or historical fiction or science fiction -- or fantasy -- seems less important than the book's underlying messages about the human condition. This is the part that seems sometimes overlooked whenever issues of "objections" to books (or other media) are raised. A forests/trees conunudrum...?

If the theme is moral, can the trappings be anything but moral? Is there an ends justifying means, or vice versa, issue? Would a book with a pessimistic or nihilistic theme or message be okay as long as it didn't use magic (or sex or fill in the blank) to tell that story? Hmm.

I guess one thing I'm asking is -- would magic be acceptable (to those who might otherwise take issue) in a story where only the bad guys had magic, and they lost in the end anyway? Or can magic be God-given, and if so does it have to be explicitly attributed to be okay? Or is it the depiction of magic at all that's the problem? (Or "different people, different answers" on all this, too?)
#35 - May 18, 2007, 12:50 AM
« Last Edit: May 18, 2007, 02:16 AM by Joni »
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Pickles

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--as a Christian, I would never practice witchcraft/sorcery but I do write fantasy. Those worlds are different from my own and use a power from an imaginary source.

Good. This makes perfect sense of it.
#36 - May 18, 2007, 04:52 AM

Pickles

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Joni,

It's okay...I just wanted people to feel comfortable speaking up here. I really wanted to know and understand.

I live in a community which is at least 70% (probably more like 90%) conservative Christian, I don't want to step on toes, and I want my writing to appeal to these children. I was hoping there was some simple set of "rules," but I see not. :)  Even though I'm not quite the right religion and definitely not the right football team, I've found that my published author status bridges the gap...and well I don't want to screw that up. :)

But this is a fascinating discussion, and I've learned enough to keep me out of a few poo piles I might have inadvertently stepped into.
#37 - May 18, 2007, 05:00 AM

Pickles

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Joni, you brought up some great questions.

Donna, excellent point.

This has been a great conversation. Okay, so I'm glad I brought it up, afterall. :)
#38 - May 18, 2007, 07:34 AM

AooH

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*I guess one thing I'm asking is -- would magic be acceptable (to those who might otherwise take issue) in a story where only the bad guys had magic, and they lost in the end anyway? Or can magic be God-given, and if so does it have to be explicitly attributed to be okay? Or is it the depiction of magic at all that's the problem?

Probably depends on how it is handled, but I have a feeling there would be those who would still object.  I do know Christians who will not even read/let their kids read Tolkien and Lewis, even knowing they were Christians themselves and the stories are based on a basically Christian worldview. In Lewis, the only magic users are the bad guys- the kids never use magic that I can think of, and Aslan being a picture of Christ, what he does is miraculous, not magical. In Tolkien's writing  it is very clear from the Silmarillion that Gandalf and the other wizards are actually  angelic-type helpers rather than men who have studied the arcane- none of the other MCs use magic in the trilogy, except for Frodo who uses the ring, but actually he's more being used by it (an elegant picture of sin and addictions) .
I think some of it can boil down to taste, too.  Not everyone enjoys fantasy *gasp*.  Sometimes it is easy to look at something we don't like, and then find reasons why it's bad, and not second check those reasons, as they have served us well.  I do this, I know, with other things, though I do try very hard to not do that.
#39 - May 18, 2007, 09:08 AM

Pickles, I pm'ed you, too.  Good post, Aooh.
#40 - May 18, 2007, 09:17 AM
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cdb

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          This is interesting, but it basically boils down to your audience. Who do you want your audience to be? Are you afraid that you will "turn" people off if you write about something they don't want to read? At first, I thought, perhaps, this would 'open up a can or worms', but the conversation is benign, yet does it prove anything or change what you want to write? Writing what you love is the best advice I've heard because no matter how good this conversation is on this board, it won't change the public's perception and you are guaranteed to offend some people by including references of witches, magic, etc.
    The converse is true, also. For instance, I have written a lovely picture book dealing with death that makes reference to an afterlife and in the writing  community alone I have been warned to be very careful who I sub it to because of the Christian slant it contains. I posted this story some time ago on the SCBWI exchange and much to my surprise, I received many personal messages through email from people who had opinions, one way or the other. One person even mentioned on the board that that particular aspect was "off putting" to him. Basically, my feeling is, that's ok. I can't please all and don't desire to try. I write what is in my heart to write, some people will like it, others won't. I certainly don't like everything I read.

Hope my ramblings haven't gone too far off topic.

Carole
#41 - May 18, 2007, 09:45 AM

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I wonder if MacBeth is banned from some high schools?  Not only does it have a lot of gore, but there are those three witches.
#42 - May 18, 2007, 09:53 AM

RJ_Anderson

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I agree heartily with cdb -- no matter what you write or how you write it, there are going to be some people who are dissatisfied, perhaps even offended. Sure, you can try to avoid giving offense by writing only about Mom and baseball and apple pie, but then some people will dislike your book because they had bad Moms or once got hit by a baseball or are allergic to apples. :)

As a Christian who is part of a quite conservative congregation, I've heard friends and acquaintances speak disparagingly about Harry Potter, certain Disney movies, and other stories containing magical and fantastical elements; I also know numerous people who prefer their children not to read any books that weren't published by a select group of "Christian" publishers. Those particular people will very likely not understand how I can write fantasy with a clear conscience, and frankly I hope they won't try to read any of my books because they will most likely just be confused and upset by them. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if some atheist or agnostic readers (certainly not all, but perhaps a few) are irritated by the spiritual elements in my writing. So I really don't think there's any way to avoid stepping on somebody's toes. The question I tend to ask myself is not "Will this offend somebody?" but rather, "Will this give any needless offense?"
#43 - May 18, 2007, 10:14 AM

Pickles

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I realize I can't please all the people, I'm trying to offend the least number possible. And I thought there was some consensus...but I see there is not.

Also, when I speak of "community," I'm not speaking for my whole city or state, but basically the five mile radius in which I hang out.

#44 - May 18, 2007, 11:00 AM

cdb

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          Just another thought on a personal note.

         As Christians, my husband and I, raised our first son from a much stricter posture than our second son who was eight years younger. Part of that had to do with our personal growth as Christians. For instance, I probably would not have allowed my oldest to read Harry Potter because of certain emphasis I was placing on particular teachings and how I was processing that at that time. With my second son, I would have been in a "different" place in my walk, so I would have probably read it to him. (I speak in past tense because the oldest is now 31 and HP wasn't around then)...anyway, my point is, even Christians grow and change and see things depending on "where they are in their walk".  I personally, would not want to cause a 'brother" to stumble, but I've learned that I am not a 'mind reader' nor do I know "how" others will perceive what I write. I know my intent, but can't always second guess the impact. I guess I'm just trying to say that some people who may not like what you write today, may be a fan tomorrow. And you're right, there is no consensus, there are just perspectives.

Carole
#45 - May 18, 2007, 11:26 AM

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Interesting topic, Pickles.
I'm married to a Baptist minister and studied for the ministry myself before ultimately deciding to take up teaching instead.  My experience has been that views on the subject vary from person to person and within specific denominations.  My daughter and I are huge Harry Potter fans & have volunteered at our local bookstore to help with the last two book releases and I can't begin to tell you how many people have expressed shock (and some outrage) that we would be "involved in such things."  Of course, I'm a writer and a reading teacher, so I'm a big supporter of a reader's right to choose and am not afraid to speak up about my views. 

My daughter became interested in HP when book 4 was released to so much publicity and kids were shown on the news lined up outside the bookstore in town waiting for the book.  There was a good deal of controversy when #4 came out about Christianity and the book.  My daughter came to me and asked about the book and what I thought--did I think it would be okay to read or did I think it was a bad book?  I told her that was a decision she could make for herself.  We talked about the fact that she had chosen herself to have certain beliefs and those beliefs would act as her own moral compass allowing her to determine for herself if something was in opposition to her faith & if so she could just put it down and stop reading.  We drove down to the book store the next day and she browsed through the books and decided to try one.  She choose to start with book one.  That evening when she went to bed and left it on the coffee table who do you think stayed up until 3am reading it?  I was so hooked!

For me, I don't find the generic idea of witches or magic in literature offensive--it's fiction!  I know alot of people however, who find any mention of the word "witch" to be questionable.  I once had a puzzle rejected by a well-known kid's magazine that had bought several previous puzzles from me because it made reference to the word witch in the punchline once you solved the puzzle (totally dumb and corny line--nothing questionable).  I got back a note that said they "don't accept anything dealing with witchcraft." 

For me one of the dividers between what is acceptable and not (for me personally) is probably genre & purpose.  I have no problem reading fictional pieces, especially fantasy and fairy tales, where I would expect to read about witches, fairies and magic, as long as it's not dark or disturbing.  I have started some fantasy books and put them down soon after as I found them too dark in theme for me.  I would not be interested in reading non-fiction works about the actual practice of witchcraft, paganism or the occult or fictional stories where the characters practice these beliefs.  I don't have a problem with these titles being on the shelf--I just wouldn't choose to read them. 
Rebecca
#46 - May 18, 2007, 07:54 PM
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Pickles

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Cool perspective, Rebecca.

The word "witch" is on my first page - the scrotum effect.  My mc is raised by a witch, but the witches in my story are more healers or herbalists who dabble in a bit of folk magic. The witch describes herself as a "healer" and a "magic woman."
#47 - May 18, 2007, 08:02 PM

MandyT

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I'm not a big fan of Roald Dahl to begin with, and I felt that Witches started out a delightful story but that went flat very quickly.  (Which is what I think of most of Dahl's books.)  It seemed to me that the teacher's claims that her students enjoyed and understood the story was a difficult sell.  I just don't feel this book was appropriate for first graders.  Unfortunately, the age appropriateness of the material got lost in the censorship issue.


I would have to disagree... I am a lifelong Roald Dahl fan.  I have been reading his books since the first grade, and my open little mind was even more swept away by them then.  This may sound not believable, but I promise, I was reading fluently well before I started Kindergarten.  I adored Dahl's books, and understood them perfectly.  Witches gave me those scared/thrilled/enthralled shivers every time I read it.  I completely respect your opinion, but what I'm getting at is, I think age appropriateness can be just as relative an opinion as what should be censored or not.  Which could start a whole other thread. haha...  :) 
#48 - May 28, 2007, 10:22 PM

I work in a Christian bookstore, and there are quite a few fantasy books for sale there that have magical elements. For instance, The Door Within kids' series by Wayne Thomas Batson (a conservative Christian relative who doesn't like HP bought this for my daughter) is about a boy who travels between worlds via three ancient scrolls. There are magical creatures, magical foods, and magical objects with various powers, and evil forces.

We also offer books that instruct people on how to drive out demons or how to harness certain powers through prayers or fasting or speaking in unknown languages. Also for sale are magical talismans (necklaces of the saints worn for protection) and magic bread and juice (communion sets). We sell magic oil for annointing purposes, and most popular are the many versions of our most expensive book, an ancient collection of magical stories and rituals that remains one of the best sellers to this very day.
#49 - May 29, 2007, 09:53 AM
« Last Edit: May 29, 2007, 10:10 AM by Lenzi »

ecb

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"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord..."Deuteronomy 16:22 (This is a tenet of Jewish law).

So for those who mentioned this as an objection, what is your position on ghost stories? 

My forthcoming novel features a young, church-going woman who uses folk magic to banish a ghost who's been haunting her family for generations.  I was prepared for objections to the folk magic (or "witchcraft," as some may read it)... but it never ocurred to me that people might be troubled by the ghost!
#50 - May 29, 2007, 01:41 PM

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IThis may sound not believable, but I promise, I was reading fluently well before I started Kindergarten.

Oh, it's totally believable to me.  I was reading at that age, too, and in second grade I discovered my dad's college music history text books in the bookcase and started reading them, beginning a lifelong interest in that subject.  Many kids that age can be excellent readers and should be challenged on much higher levels.


I adored Dahl's books, and understood them perfectly.  Witches gave me those scared/thrilled/enthralled shivers every time I read it.  I completely respect your opinion, but what I'm getting at is, I think age appropriateness can be just as relative an opinion as what should be censored or not.  Which could start a whole other thread. haha...  :) 

I agree that there are children who could easiy read and understand this book at the first grade level.  But this teacher was using it as a read aloud for the whole class, and that's where I take exception to the choice.  I think the humor is far too sophisticated and the story far too complex for the average first grade student.  I would say the same thing about Charlotte's Web for general use at that age.  Certainly the exceptional, or even the merely above average student at that age could handle the book, but I don't like the idea of such a challenging work being used for everyone.
#51 - May 29, 2007, 02:53 PM

Alison

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So for those who mentioned this as an objection, what is your position on ghost stories? 

My forthcoming novel features a young, church-going woman who uses folk magic to banish a ghost who's been haunting her family for generations.  I was prepared for objections to the folk magic (or "witchcraft," as some may read it)... but it never ocurred to me that people might be troubled by the ghost!

I don't mind ghost stories, but I know some people who would. If one believes that after death, people live eternally in Heaven (or somewhere hotter...), then it's hard to figure out how ghosts would fit in. Maybe the Catholic view of Purgatory would allow for ghosts? However, in the Bible, the disciples originally think Jesus is a ghost when they see him walking on the water, and he says (in Luke 24:39): "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." So Jesus didn't deny the existence of ghosts--he just said he wasn't one! Odd. But a lot of Christians might be leery of ghost stories, since they either don't fit into their theology, or might be seen as evil spirits.

And Lenzi, I take it you work in a Catholic or otherwise high-church-friendly bookstore, because I suspect many people in Pickles' neck of the woods, who don't even know what a Lutheran church is (?!), would be just as upset by saint necklaces as by Harry Potter. Most "low churches" (Baptist, charismatic, or general evangelical) don't do saints or even really sacraments--the communion is generally seen as strictly symbolic in many of those traditions. (Also, you may think of it as all being magic, but if Pickles truly wants to make her work palatable to the people around her, she needs to keep their definitions of magic in mind, and they obviously don't think of it that way. Although I tend to think that any Christians who seem stymied by Lutheranism when Martin Luther was one of the most famous Christians in history are probably not going to be thinking too subtly about these issues.)
#52 - May 29, 2007, 04:24 PM

Pickles

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Errrrr...it's feeling sticky in here. :)

Well said Alison. And also well said, Lenzi. I see what you're saying.

Being Catholic is not really a good thing in my hood. And Lutheranism is a bit too close to Catholicism for some people's comfort.  I have been quizzed more than once, in what I percieved as a suspicious way, as to how close to a Catholic I am. Yes Lutherans are "high" church and by that I mean, we are liturgical and our services are full of formal ritual. Our pastor wears a robe and collar. I moved from an area that was largely Catholic and Lutheran to one which is....not.

I've lived in a similar setting before in a different state, but I don't think it bothered me as much because that was "home." Back then, I was asked if Lutherans were a "cult." But I had family and friends around and I didn't feel like a foreigner. I was raised Methodist, and became Lutheran as an adult when I moved to a military town. There tends to be more diversity in military towns.

Basically, for those who are lost in this conversation, some Christians do not consider Catholics to be Christian. And that's as far as I'm going to go.

There is also a misconception that Lutherans worship Martin Luther.  The name "Lutherans" was a derogatory term used during the Protestant Reformation and it just stuck.
#53 - May 29, 2007, 05:52 PM

MandyT

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I agree that there are children who could easiy read and understand this book at the first grade level.  But this teacher was using it as a read aloud for the whole class, and that's where I take exception to the choice.  I think the humor is far too sophisticated and the story far too complex for the average first grade student.  I would say the same thing about Charlotte's Web for general use at that age.  Certainly the exceptional, or even the merely above average student at that age could handle the book, but I don't like the idea of such a challenging work being used for everyone.

I can definitely see your point there.  Trying to remember books that were read aloud in my own first grade classroom I can remember choices more along the lines of "Little House in the Big Woods"- which are of interest to children of all ability levels, and not too sophisticated for "average" six year olds.  It is important that in a classroom setting no child is made to feel "stupid".  I should have thought more deeply about that before posting.  I guess we all have our "me" blinders on sometimes! : :hug1: <---- "blinders" lol
#54 - May 29, 2007, 08:21 PM

And Lenzi, I take it you work in a Catholic or otherwise high-church-friendly bookstore, because I suspect many people in Pickles' neck of the woods, who don't even know what a Lutheran church is (?!), would be just as upset by saint necklaces as by Harry Potter.

Our largest section of books (aside from Bibles and fiction) is "Charismatic Interest," but we do have Catholic items and books as well. It's a diverse area, and we get a diverse group of Christians who shop there. But I imagine the selection is the same everywhere--it's a national chain, "Family Christian Stores"....

Someone quoted a verse in Deuteronomy (I think that verse may be in chapter 18, not 16?), but divination was done in Israel. And condoned in the Bible. Jacob used magic to prosper. Moses used it big time. Gideon used divination. Jonathon and his armor bearer interpreted an omen. It was "good" magic. "Bad" magic was the kind that was condemned--malicious or illegal (done outside of the priests' or kings' authority.) I'd argue that good magic is still being done in modern Christianity (and that Christianity itself is a very magical thing), we just prefer not to call it that nowadays, for some reason. It's kind of odd (and obviously very interesting to me--sorry for the tangent  :) )


#55 - May 29, 2007, 10:38 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2007, 12:17 AM by Lenzi »

Donna

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I work in a Christian bookstore, and there are quite a few fantasy books for sale there that have magical elements. For instance, The Door Within kids' series by Wayne Thomas Batson (a conservative Christian relative who doesn't like HP bought this for my daughter) is about a boy who travels between worlds via three ancient scrolls. There are magical creatures, magical foods, and magical objects with various powers, and evil forces.

We also offer books that instruct people on how to drive out demons or how to harness certain powers through prayers or fasting or speaking in unknown languages. Also for sale are magical talismans (necklaces of the saints worn for protection) and magic bread and juice (communion sets). We sell magic oil for annointing purposes, and most popular are the many versions of our most expensive book, an ancient collection of magical stories and rituals that remains one of the best sellers to this very day.


There is a difference in "magic" and the Power of God. Hands down. One is true Power --- "magic" is imitation. Kind of like the slogan, "I can't believe it's not Butter". It looks very similar -- but it still isn't the "REAL" thing. :)  (probably not the best analogy, but it'll have to work for now)  For example:  Moses' staff was changed to a snake by the Power of God -- not magic -- and it swallowed up the snakes created by the Pharoah's magicians.

I am a follower of Christ (who still can't grasp the enormity of His sacrifice and Love for me -- but I'm thankful!) I KNOW that my prayers are answered by God -- NOT magic. If I speak tongues, have a prayer language, participate in communion, pray for the sick, have faith that moves mountains (I'm still praying for that kind of faith!) and speak with all knowledge -- but if I don't have LOVE (God's love) -- then none of it matters. (based on the Love Chapter from I Corinthians).  That's why I've been hesitant to post much to this topic. I don't want to say anything that is not said "in love". I do, however, disagree with calling the Word of God a "magic" book and the miracles contained there as such --and so I've said my peace. :)   :girl

One more thing -- I don't know anything about "talismans", but I do wear a cross. NOT for protection (The Lord is my protection) but as a personal reminder of what Christ did for me.

Just my two cents. . .So, forgive me for staying off topic, too.   O0

Hugs,
Donna  :hug1:
#56 - May 30, 2007, 07:02 AM

I do, however, disagree with calling the Word of God a "magic" book and the miracles contained there as such

I agree with Donna.  If God's word, the Bible, was *really* only a magic book, there would be a whole heck of a lot more people trying to tap into Jesus, the free power source.  Anyone here is welcome to give His power a whirl.  Works for me.   :yup     
#57 - May 30, 2007, 08:28 AM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2007, 09:33 AM by Stef »
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"If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Mark 9:23

Using the word "magic" to talk about the power of god is not a put down or an incorrect use of the word. This Wikipedia article may shed a little light on the term when used to discuss religion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_and_religion
#58 - May 30, 2007, 09:10 AM

Donna

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That depends on your acceptance of the author's definition and understanding of history and biblical truths.

Yes, I read the article. I still don't agree.

But that is what this discussion is about, yes? The original question was to find how folks feel about magic and fantasy elements. I think we've given plenty of points to ponder.

Peace,
Donna
#59 - May 30, 2007, 09:20 AM


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