Conversations on Magic: ‘Genetic Joe’

Conversations on Magic: ‘Genetic Joe’
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‘Genetic Joe’ had approached me many times before, yet I had not known his name. This time he came right out and let me know where he was coming from. “My good man, it is quite obvious that you have committed the genetic fallacy concerning magic.”

I was taken aback. “You have the advantage of me, sir. I’m not familiar with the term. What is the genetic fallacy?”

“Ah, yes, the genetic fallacy. It is the very good friend of literalists and legalists and fundamentalists … you know, people like you.”

He paused and looked at me meaningfully.

I was curious, so I decided to respond to his opening remark. “Do you think literalists, legalists, and fundamentalists are good terms or bad terms?”

He was incredulous. “A question like that need not be asked, isn’t it obviously bad?” He looked knowingly at the man on his right. There was a small group of people now inching closer to hear our conversation.

A pricking in my heart told me that I had probably been guilty, many times before, of what I was about to accuse ‘Genetic Joe’ of, but I thought it better to bring it up and clear the air anyway. “I see. Were you calling me names?”

His eyes widened.

I continued. “You know, trying to weaken my side of the argument by associating me with something that is perceived in the negative? Isn’t it irrelevant to the argument whether or not I am a fundamentalist?

“Those listening to our conversation, or even you, might reject my ideas based on who I am rather than by examining the evidence? After all, if you can sway them into believing that I am a legalist, then they are less likely to listen to what I have to say?”

He winked, and flourished his finger in my direction as if it were a sword, “Touché”

Shaken, not at all, ‘Genetic Joe’ jumped into the fray. “Back to the genetic fallacy we shall go. Pay close attention now. You think magic and pagan gods are bad only because they have begun that way in the world. Yet, where they came from, or what they once were, is actually irrelevant. You see, magic has morphed in its meaning over the centuries, especially in certain cultures.

“In like manner, the magic of Tolkien and Lewis must be taken in context of Christianity. The magic in those books are all metaphors for the great things of God. Context my friend, context!

“For me, the wizard Gandalf is an angel, and the magic of Narnia correlates to God’s supernatural power. You should not judge popular Christian fantasy according to magic’s historical, genetical constructs. Our more civilized beliefs and traditions of this Christian age, meaning the last 100 years or so, attach much different meanings to the magical elements of this literature, and I, for one, am happily inclined to follow after these more enlightened connotations.”

That was certainly well spoken, and a bit much for me to grasp in a few moments. Think. Think. Think. Let’s see, there were many points made. Gandalf the wizard is an angel? hmmm … scriptures immediately came to mind, but I thought I’d hold off on that. What should I address first. Some thoughts began to take shape … He brought up the “context” of Christianity thing- yes, I would speak to that. Does God decide the context of Christianity or does popular ‘Christian’ culture? Okay, here goes.

I began with the obvious. “Do you remember when the two angels went to visit Lot?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember what the people of Sodom tried to do to those angels?”

“Yes.”

“What if I wrote a story in which those two angels were portrayed as demons instead?”

“I shudder.”

“Why do you shudder?”

He looked at me as if I wasn’t thinking. “Because to turn angels into demons is a ridiculously clear deviation from truth.”

“I’m glad you think so. What I find interesting is that you can see one deviation from truth, like calling an angel a demon, but you can’t see another, like calling magic good. After all, if we are looking through the lens of scripture, through God’s way of thinking, changing magic from evil to good should be just as clear a deviation from truth. I’m sure you know what the Bible says about magic, but let me read one scripture as way of reminder:

Deuteronomy 18:10-22 KJV
[10]There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, [11] Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. [12] For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.”

“Yes, yes, yes, but I didn’t say that the meaning of demons had changed,” Genetic Joe answered. “I said the meaning of magic had morphed, not demons.”

“Okay then, what if I were to portray the angels as pagan gods, like Zeus, or Dagon, or Tammuz, or Bacchus? Just imagine, Bacchus and Zeus are the good guys walking with God, speaking with Abraham, and getting ready to warn Lot before destroying Sodom.”

He looked at me with a smug look, shaking his finger like I was a naughty child. “I know where you are trying to go with this, but it doesn’t work. You’re trying to take the ‘now’ Bacchus of today, and force the definition of the ‘then’ Bacchus on us by putting him into an old ‘then’ scripture. That was for then, not now. Like I said, pagan gods and magic have morphed into something that is altogether different for today. Especially in our country. That was written for then, not now.”

“Who says we shouldn’t apply, at least to some degree, what God told us back then? For instance, what do you think of this scripture? It references the time of Moses. I opened the Bible:

1 Corinthians 10:6-7,11 KJV
[6] Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. [7] Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written … [11] Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition ….

I then asked him simply, if he agreed with what the scripture said.

“Well, of course I do, but I think you are missing the point. Magic was evil back then, but today, in our culture, there is a sort of innocent magic, like that found in Lewis and Tolkien, that is not at all evil. Like I said, its genetics were evil, but its ‘christian’ version contemporaries are not.”

I thought I did understand the point he was hammering on, and that is why I kept trying to hammer on mine. “What if I were to portray the angels as a homosexual couple?”

“I’m aghast.”

“Good, as you should be. But why?”

“Because God says it is wrong.”

“Yes, God has defined homosexuality as an abomination also. What a slap in the face to Him and His angels it would be if I were to do something so low and crude as to redefine what he has said about it, even if I were making up my own story. Still worse, I would be leading many astray with my words … many children. Would you take part in that, sir, leading children away from God’s truth?”

“No, but you are not being fair. We are not talking about demons or homosexuality. We are talking about magic.”

“Well, I am trying to make a point, so please bare with me a moment longer, and if you still think my line of reasoning is not fair, I shall give up on this course. Shall we proceed?”

He shrugged. “I suppose.”

“Here goes then. Are the ‘genetics’ of demons and homosexuality evil?”

“Yes.”

“What if many Christians started saying that demons were actually good, or at least some of the demons were good. Would you agree with them?”

‘Genetic Joe’ wrinkled his nose. “No.” He said it very slowly, as if perhaps little lightbulbs were popping on.

“Okay, What if I throw the genetic fallacy argument at you because you don’t agree with the morphed definition of demons that the Christian culture has embraced? What do you have to stand on?”

“hmmm …”

I waited a moment for it to sink in. “This is already happening with the context of homosexuality. It is markedly different today than it was 100 years ago. Even in christianity the embracing of homosexuality has greatly increased. So according to your use of the genetic fallacy with magic, I should also be able to apply it to demons, false religions, or anything else that Christians begin to embrace.

“But we can’t. We do have something to stand on. We do have something to combat this way of thinking. What you have not been taking into account is how God defined magic long ago, how He yet defines magic today, and how He will continue to define magic in the future. Context, context, context. What God says is true context.

“Are we really at liberty to redefine magic, demons, false gods, homosexuality or any other thing that God says is evil just because time has passed or we have morphed into a new cultural context? Who decides what is relevant or irrelevant? Should we contradict God when he tells us something is relevant, by saying it is not?

“I tell you my brother, we have left the solid ground upon which we stand when we decide what is right in our own eyes.”

Deuteronomy 12:8 KJV
[8] Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:5-6 KJV
[5] And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. [6] In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Note: I touched on the belief that Gandalf the wizard is actually an Angel. I’ll try to follow up on that in my next post.

4 Comments

  1. Interested to see your next post as i adhere to that beleif.
    However, pending that, I would like to note that you never prove that your analogy holds water. You have not proved that “magic” may not be a misnomer in some cases. Until you do, calling a daemon good is not a watertight argument; in this case “magic” may not be magic.
    While the argument of “Genetic Joe” is flawed, your counterargument fails to disprove the nugget of truth that’s buried in Joe’s argument: sometimes popular literature calls magic thatwhich isn’t truly magic.\
    My definiton of magic: the interference of God-hating supernatural powers [daemons] by way of a human.
    just wondering: how do you view technobabble and sci-fi where technology explains the “magic” [Clarke’s Law i think it’s called]?
    God bless.
    Χαιρε.
    Sincerely, RC

    Reply
  2. CLARKE”S LAW
    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    I assume this is the law that you are referring to. I know that there can be some nuances of meaning behind the statement which would probably change my answer, but on the surface at least I would say that it should not be true for the Christian. We have God’s word that tells us there is a great difference between technology and magic. Someone might try to use an advanced technology and pretend that it is magic, or even say that the magic of the ages is really a scientific force to be used by all, and therefore deceive the brethren. Some Magicians would even say that technology must catch up to what magic practitioners already experience and understand.

    There is a popular school of magical thought out there that believes magic is just a tapping into of the natural forces of the universe, and therefore it is scientific, and furthermore, devices (technology) could possibly tap into those forces, blurring the line between magic and technology. The book and movie, ‘Contact’, pursued philosophies along these lines.

    From Wikipedia’s description of Contact the film:
    “Outfitted with several recording devices, Arroway enters the machine’s pod, which is then dropped into four rapidly spinning rings, causing the pod to apparently travel through a series of wormholes. Arroway sees a radio array-like structure at Vega and signs of an advanced civilization on another planet. She then finds herself on a beach, similar to a childhood picture she drew of Florida, and a figure approaches that becomes her deceased father. Arroway recognizes him as an alien taking her father’s form and attempts to ask questions. The alien tells her that the familiar landscape and form were used to make their first contact easier for her and that this journey was just humanity’s first step to joining other spacefaring species.

    Arroway falls unconscious as she begins traveling back through a wormhole. She awakens to find herself on the floor of the pod, the mission control team repeatedly hailing her. She learns that, from outside the machine, it appears the pod merely dropped through the machine’s rings and landed in a safety net.”

    This is actually magic. But the film describes the magical worldview in terms of science and Technology. This excerpt from Contact is describing a person going into an altered state of consciousness and then meeting an advanced life form – a demon.

    Here are some illuminating quotes from the book, Modern Magick, Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts by Donald Michael Kraig. As you read, notice the use of words like science, and the idea promoted that one must come into contact with demons (Guardian Angel, entities, denizens, the gods, Archangels, and orders of angels):

    “White Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science, for the purpose of obtaining the knowledge and conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel.”

    “Instead I will teach you how to obtain higher information, the knowledge of true magickal secrets, for yourself. This knowledge is not available on the physical plane of Earth! It can only be learned from entities on higher planes. … The process of how to reach and communicate with these “entities” will be discussed later in this lesson.” pg. 472

    “Occultists have always maintained that everything is made up of vibrational energy. Modern scientific thought has finally come to the same conclusion, calling it “wave theory.” pg. 472

    “Little nasties, being denizens of what some people call the Lower Astral Plane are not Higher Spiritual Entities. What I mean by Higher Spiritual Entities are three things: direct manifestations fo the Divine (the gods), the Archangels and the Orders of Angels.”

    “Up to this time, without dwelling on it, I have been directing you in the method of how to obtain the desired information and secrets. I have not dwelt upon it because some people seem to fear what is represented by two small words … when this process is controlled by a firm Magickal Will, however, it seems to scare some people. This is foolish … the two words which describe it are: Astral Projection.”

    (Note: I didn’t want to bring this book into my home, so I took pictures of the pages that I quoted from, and didn’t capture many of the page numbers.)

    Astral Projection, or leaving your earthly body to go into other worlds where one can meet up with higher beings (demons) and get enlightening information from them, is the end goal of magic. Look at the Chronicles of Narnia in light of these quotes. Doesn’t the magic Wardrobe, magic ring, and magic picture look ominously similar when one sees that they result in children going into another world where they come in contact with the gods?

    Reply
  3. Wow! I’ve been curious about magic for quite some time. We were not allowed to watch certain movies or read certain books necause they co tained magic. However, out Christian friends were allowed and we were allowed to read some, like Narnia.
    Your last paragraph really hit me hard. I would like to know, how far should we take this? Pretty much every movie that comes out has some sort of magic. We are not to have anything to do with such practices, so should I abandon movies? How will I be able to connect to the culture around me?

    Reply
    • I sure appreciate your humbleness and your desire to figure this out. To your first question about abandoning movies, I think you are quite safe in continuing to watch them.

      We watch at least one movie per week as a family, we find it thoroughly enjoyable and we feel our conscience is clean in so doing. Admittedly, it takes some work to find them. We use the Christian Movie review services that are out there, and then we compare them with scripture. If we decide to watch one, then we talk about the areas where they deviate from God’s will for us. I’ve noticed that we are comfortable with less and less over the years. And that’s a good thing because it shows that He is faithfully sanctifying us 🙂

      Just as you will not find a perfect spouse, or a perfect church, you will not likely find perfect movies or books. But perhaps this scripture will help you as you wrestle with what you will watch:

      Philippians 4:8 KJV
      [8] Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

      And when you decide to watch any movie make sure you do so with an eye to scripture, and don’t be afraid to label something as wrong/sinful/evil if God has defined it so:

      Hebrews 5:14 KJV
      [14] But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

      Now to your question about not being able to connect to a culture because we don’t partake of that culture’s doctrines (ie. movies, books, internet etc.)

      This one is pretty easy to figure out if you just substitute some of the other cultural norms for that of the magical one. Most Christians can’t see the magical one as being so bad because the culture has already conformed them to it’s way of thinking, instead of being transformed by the Word of God. But, if you are a Christian, then I’m pretty confident that there are areas where you have not conformed to this world’s way of thinking. I’ll list some of our cultural norms, and I’m hoping some or all of them seem obviously wrong to embrace. If you agree, try to then look at the magical worldview and ask God why it should be treated differently:

      Premarital sex, having abortions, divorce, homosexuality, creative visualization, abusing drugs and alcohol, taking the Lord’s name in vain, pursuing one’s own godhood, communication with demons etc.

      Do you feel as if you must partake in any of these things or watch movies promoting them in order to connect to the culture with the Gospel of Christ?

      Isn’t the gospel supposed to be the way we strive to connect with our culture? And isn’t the gospel foolishness to it?

      1 Corinthians 1:18-21 KJV
      [18] For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. [19] For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. [20] Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? [21] For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

      Well, I have lots more to say on the subject if you want to dialogue. Thanks so much for reaching out to discuss our beautiful God and His kingdom 🙂

      Reply

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