‘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?”
“Do you remember what the people of Sodom tried to do to those angels?”
“What if I wrote a story in which those two angels were portrayed as demons instead?”
“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
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,  Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.  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
 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written …  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?”
“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?”
“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?”
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
 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
 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.  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.