HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Finding Jesus in a World of Wizards: 5-Minute Devotions for Children, Teens, and Adults
Author: Jordan Lyons
Publisher: Independently published, 2020
Related website(s): http://www.jordanlyons.com (author)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Probably intended for ages 8 and above
Rating: *** 3 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: Bible study
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Lyons, Jordan. Finding Jesus in a World of Wizards: 5-Minute Devotions for Children, Teens, and Adults (Independently published in 2020). This is a series of 23 Biblical devotions based on the first “Harry Potter” novel by J. K. Rowling. I read that book and distinctly did NOT like it. In answer to the question as to why he chose to write a devotional centered around Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, author Jordan Lyons replied, “Some people picking up this devotional will certainly recall the push back of certain Christian leaders in regard to the Harry Potter series. They were ardently concerned about a popular book full of magic and sorcery. I wonder if they had the same concerns about C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? Both are full of magical creatures (and Christian themes).” Well, there were a lot of us who saw a BIG difference between the overtly Judaeo-Christian, Biblical worldview of Lewis and Tolkien on the one hand and the seemingly pagan, even occult worldview of Rowling on the other.
Rob Shearer of Greenleaf Press expressed our concerns about as well as anyone. “For those of you who’re not familiar with my literary preferences, I’m a huge fan of Tolkien and Lewis, and especially of Tolkien’s epic, The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings is NOTHING like the Harry Potter series. While I would have serious reservations about allowing my children to read Harry Potter, I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings out loud to them several times.
“I know that many Christian parents have quite legitimate concerns about anything which might engender an interest in the occult among their children. I share their concerns. I am VERY uneasy with many of the elements of the Harry Potter series. Harry is in many ways an admirable figure. He’s a nice kid. He values friendship and loyalty. And he struggles to defeat/thwart enemies who are clearly evil. BUT, I am very uncomfortable with the presentation of Harry’s magic powers as neutral and the school he attends to master magic skills as just another school for gifted and talented kids.
“The most troubling aspect of Harry Potter is the confused way in which the author plays with traditional western symbolism of good and evil. It is very dangerous to present witches (with brooms and familiar spirits) as not necessarily evil just misunderstood. The unspoken (but powerful) message is a sort of literary moral relativism. The idea that nothing is inherently evil is morally pernicious. And very confusing and potentially dangerous for children.
“By contrast, Tolkien’s epic has an entirely different approach to magic – especially the central symbol of magical power, the ring. The ring is very powerful and dangerous. Over and over again we are reminded (and shown) that it is perilous to attempt to use the ring and that anyone who did attempt to do so would inevitably be corrupted by it. Frodo wins, not by mastering the ring, but by resisting the temptation to use it. He must struggle using his natural abilities.
“Gandalf is a much less troubling figure for me than ANY of the figures in the Potter series. Gandalf is much different from the wizards in Potter’s world. The most important difference is that Gandalf NEVER attempts to recruit or train anyone in how to use magic or spells. There is no possibility for any of the hobbits (or any of the men) to become wizards. In Tolkien’s world, Wizards are a small, chosen race – set apart – more akin to guardian angels than to mortal men, though they do have bodies, and they can die. Gandalf is the chief advisor who cautions against the use of the ring or of ANY of the tools of the enemy. Gandalf actually reminds me of the Prophet Samuel – or of Moses.
“These are important distinctions. And it is important that we talk about these things with our children. Our kids have not read the Potter books, not because we’ve had to forbid them, but because there are so many other, better books available to them. I WOULD forbid any of my younger kids from reading Potter if they asked. One or more of our older kids (16 and up) may read some of the Potter books in order to be able to intelligently critique them (as have I). I wish there were a simple rule for selecting books for our children. It’s not simple. One can’t simply say that all books with witches in them are bad. There’s a witch who figures prominently in the book of Samuel. So there must be other, more subtle criteria. Anything which awakes a fascination with magical powers is dangerous. I think Harry Potter potentially does. I think Tolkien’s tales warn against the inherent, inevitable danger in dealing with magic. There are many other virtues taught and portrayed in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as well. Courage, perseverance, self-sacrifice, loyalty, etc. Plus it’s a marvelous story with an incredibly rich and delightful level of detail.” I say amen.
At the same time, I recognize that there are those from a Christian background who have defended and even endorsed the Harry Potter books. In Honey for a Child’s Heart, Gladys Hunt wrote, “Seldom does the subject of censoring children’s books arise, but the popular and controversial Harry Potter books have come under fire….During those months of furor, I spent a good amount of time defending a kid who goes to Hogwarts School for Wizards, something I had never done before. While it is true that we don’t want to encourage children to explore witchcraft or engage in casting spells, these books do not promote any such actions. J. K. Rowling has created a series of books about a parallel world, using imaginative devices (owls that deliver mail; portraits that guard doors; Quidditch, a fascinating game played on a flying broomstick; a school motto, Never tickle a sleeping dragon), a fast-moving plotline, and likable protagonists. The books satisfy the love of mystery and magic in everyone. This is fantasy. Bravery, courage, loyalty, humility, and the fight between good and evil are themes in these books.”
It is obvious that people of good will can disagree, even strongly. My own conclusion as previously stated is that “I cannot, and therefore will not, say that parents who are Christians and let their children read Harry Potter, or see the movie, have sinned. These are decisions that each family, guided by the principles taught in God’s word, must make for itself. But in our family, we desire to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27). Therefore, we have decided to forgo this popular series.” Finding Jesus in a World of Wizards is advertised thusly: “Grow your Christian faith in just 5 minutes a day with this unique devotional where Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone meets the Bible. With messages on gratitude, courage, and loving others, Finding Jesus in a World of Wizards is the perfect book for kids, teens, men, and women of all ages that are looking for a new way to nourish their faith.” Each devotion features a Biblical principle with a passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to illustrate it, the devotional message, a Scripture verse, a prayer, and a conclusion with questions or prompts for application or reflection. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with the Biblical principles mentioned or Lyons’s discussion of them. However, the bottom line is that if you enjoyed Harry Potter, you will probably find this book useful, but if you did not care for Harry Potter, this book would have little meaning or value to you.
Let me add just one more comment. The most common justification for defending and endorsing the Harry Potter books, especially among people from a Christian background, is that they are merely “fantasy” and “fiction.” Well, Philip Pullman’s series “His Dark Materials,” consisting of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, are simply fantasy-fiction books too, but they definitely promote an atheistic, relativist worldview.