Several people have commented to me on us having a magician at our curry night on the 21st September, asking whether this is appropriate for a Christian event. That's a really good question, and I wanted to outline my thinking around it.
In the Cambridge Dictionary the word magic, as a noun, has three very different definitions:
- The use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible, such as in stories for children: "The group is known for its belief in witchcraft and magic."
- The skill of performing tricks to entertain people, such as making things appear and disappear and pretending to cut someone in half: "He's a comedian who also does magic."
- A special and exciting quality that makes something seem different from ordinary things: "Although the film was made 50 years ago, it has lost none of its magic."
The first of these is demonic and not permitted for Christians. This is perhaps most clearly stated in Deutoronmy 18:
“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)There is no place for any of these practices within the life of a follower of Jesus. Anyone with a past involvement in any of these things should repent of them, and destroy anything they have relating to those activities. An example of this happening would be in Acts 19:
“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (Acts 19:18-19 NIVUK)
However, this is not the sort of magic we are referring to when it comes to the curry night, which in my mind clearly falls under the second definition of magic. I don't know anybody who looks at a modern day magician such as Paul Daniels, David Copperfield, Dynamo or our own Iain Bailey and suggests that what they're doing has been achieved because they've got special powers. Everyone knows that when the magician predicts which card you picked, pulls a rabbit out of the hat, saws a person in half or makes the Statue of Liberty disappear, that what we're seeing is an illusion. Something which appears to be impossible but which we all know has a logical explanation, even if we can't work out what it is. That's why the people doing this are often referred to as illusionists rather than magicians.
I do realise that many people in our community rightly have a very strong aversion to magic of the first type, and want nothing to do with anything which has the word magic attached to it. It's highly unfortunate that one word covers both definitions, and I fully understand why people might be surprised by the idea of us having a magician. However, I honestly believe that when we step back and think about what we mean when we use the word magic in this context we haven't got an issue.
There is a question as to whether we should still avoid having a magician because of the confusion it might cause in people's minds - that some people might think we're condoning the first sort of magic. That is a legitimate question and one we should think about for the future.
As for the third definition of 'magic', we could all use a bit more of that in our lives!
I hope that makes some sense. I'm very happy to interact more over this if people have other thoughts or questions.
Ps - please be inviting people to the curry night - 7.30pm on Wednesday 21st September - you can get tickets here. We've already got around 80 people coming for what will be a quality evening and a great introduction to Alpha.
Pps - please pray for Iain Bailey. He's a committed follower of Jesus seeking to point people to Christ through his magic (of the second type!). If you have questions about what he does I'm sure he'd be happy to talk with you.