|By: Dr. Ted Baehr, Dr. Tom Snyder; ©2003|
|What is the difference between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings? While there are many ways to answer that question, Dr. Ted Baehr and Dr. Tom Snyder concentrate on the ontological difference—the different views of reality presented by the two authors.|
Recently, I went to tea with a Malaysian woman who was attending an evangelical Christian school in the United States. She said that there was a great debate at the school about what the difference was between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings with many of the professors being confused about the two. This Malaysian lady, coming from an area of the world where tribalism, paganism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism are competing for the attention of the people, said she only understood the difference between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings after I gave her a brief explanation of the difference between the ontology of the two movies.
Ontology is simply the ground of being, the very essence or nature of the world in which we live. For a Hindu and many, but not all occultists, there is no reality and so we live in an imaginary world which resembles a Great Thought, an illusion. For Marxists, we live in a materialistic world where matter is all there is. For Christians, we live in a real material world with real pain, real suffering, a real God, and a real salvation, and with a real spiritual world.
With respect to Harry Potter, the text of the film and the first two books says that the world can be manipulated through magic. Things change shape; nothing is really real. For a Christian, however, things are real, and, as shown in The Lord of the Rings, if you fall off a cliff, you die. Thus, your actions have consequences.
Well, Mother Theresa saw the poor and dying on the streets of Calcutta as real people. So she started picking people off the streets and taking care of them. The Hindus saw them as just Maya, or the World of Illusion, and were so offended when she took care of them that they tried to burn her on a funeral fire when she started her ministry. Materialists, of course, would say that the people she tried to help are just fodder, let them die, and get rid of all religion and just become disinterested scientists.
The good news, however, is that the Creator, who created the reality, is ready to rescue us from our fallenness, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In a Christian world, life has meaning. Since it was designed by a good God life has hope; it is not just a bunch of spirits and demons exacting revenge upon one another. Rescued by God through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, we are safe to build a family and a civilization.
Of course, one of the confusions in movies and books is that the famous Inklings Group of writers, which included C. S. Lewis and Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, tried to reinvest the word magic with Christian meaning. In The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis uses magic as a synonym for laws that God has written into the universe. Although their stories are fantasy, however, the worlds Lewis and Tolkien created are real worlds with real consequences, and real hope.
The reason these arguments are raging is that the Church has drifted away from a solid understanding of Trinitarian theology to an eclectic theology that has adapted or adopted all sort of unbiblical doctrines and that has become apathetic or lukewarm about biblical truth. That’s why the Battle for People’s Souls, and the Battle Between Good and Evil, is really just a Battle for Biblical Truth.
Everyone has a worldview or theology concerning the Bible. Even those who deny that the Bible is God’s inerrant word, or who proclaim that the Bible isn’t true, are proclaiming a particular worldview and theology about the Bible, its truth and its applicability to the affairs of man.
Ultimately, therefore, there is no real neutrality concerning God, the Bible, Truth, Jesus Christ, the Nature of Being (or Ontology), Good and Evil, etc. We are all responsible for the worldviews and attitudes that we take. The question is, how should we decide what to believe? By what authority? By what standard?
As Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-17, the Bible is a wonderful authority, a great standard that, when read and studied, can point us toward right thinking and thoroughly equip us “for every good work.” The Bible convinces us and convicts us. As such, it shows us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is far better to be like Mother Theresa or C. S. Lewis rather than some Hindu or witch worshipping dumb cows or cowering in his coven for fear of offending some little demon. And, though we may be persecuted by “evil men and imposters” who “go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13), we can know with certainty that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). That is the ground of difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. Vive le difference!