R. Scott Clark has thoughtfully reviewed the latest Harry Potter movie with his Heidelblog post Harry Potter and the Allure of a Magical World. Dr. Clark finds much to enjoy about the Half-Blood Prince but draws down from the flights of fantasy by reminding us that the legacy of the Reformation includes, “the de-sacralization of the world.”
No doubt Dr. Clark is correct. His assertion, here attributed to Bob Godfrey, that the Reformation led to the de-sacralization of the creation and the secularization of politics is a standard part of the Whig-worldview By “de-sacralization”, Clark means the process of removing religious or sacred significance from the creation. A dubious project in light of Psalm 19’s declaration that the “spacious heavens declare the glory of our God”, the rainbow that testifies to God’s covenant promise, and the cadence of days, weeks, and seasons that point us to the the spiritual realities of life, death, and resurrection. Further, it seems like an odd legacy of Calvin who rejected the concept of natural law in favor of God’s direct providential intervention upholding his creation by the Word of His power. New England Puritan obsession with things going bump in the night suggest that the Pilgrim fathers were poor representatives of the modernist impulse toward “de-sacralization.” But what did they know? They never read Max Weber. Neither, of course, did Luther, whose Table Talk is enough to make a Whig’s face flush with embarrassment.
Perhaps, Clark’s thesis is beyond dispute. The Protestant Reformation may well have opened the door for the de-sacralization of the world. I say, more the pity for the world. Nature has lost its transcendence, and daily life its deeper meaning. With Burke I will lament the loss, “the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever… now all has changed. All the pleasing illusions, which made power gentle, and obedience liberal, which harmonized the different shades of life, and which, by a bland assimilation, incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off.”
I lament the lose of enchantment found when man makes peace with nature, and exercising the moral imagination, begins to see the reality beyond the shadows in which we grope. I lament the rise of a dark magic, one rooted in rebellion against nature and the sinful desire to dominate and destroy it.
Is the desire to find a fuller incarnation of magic in the realm of fairee problematic for the Christian? Clearly not. Rather, it is the attempt to use one of our greatest tools against the powers of dark magic, the moral imagination, to glimpse the transcendent goodness of the creation, to remember the enchanted garden from which we we were driven, and to see this world as it will be when all thing have put to right. C.S. Lewis illustrates this truth in the Last Battle. Here we find the stirring image of the the true Narnia, the real Narnia, experienced only when the created Narnia was destroyed. Lord Digory explains, “But that was not real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or a copy of something in Aslans real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, has been drawn in through the door.”
This in our confident hope. Until then, I will reject all flat theories of scientism, secularism, naturalism, and utilitarianism. Instead I will teach my family to behold with wonder the magic in God’s incomprehensible common grace. In the Spring we will plant our garden seeds with prayer, in the summer we will look for the wonder of new life, in the fall we will rejoice in a bounty brought forth, not by impersonal laws of nature, but by the hand of the living God. And, with a sense of awe, we will commit ourselves to a deeper piety toward or God and His creation. Along the way we will not be surprised to catch a glimpse of fairies in flight, to chance upon the great leviathan that swims in the depths one of our local lakes, or to chilled at each bump in the night wondering if we are haunted by some ancestral shadow. We will live in a world full of incomprehensible mystery… and we will call it magic.