Sunday, March 12, 2017


God doesn't seem to want to be associated with magic. There's a command about not taking His name in vain, and rules about avoiding divination. Anything that goes "Do X and get a miracle" seems to be off the table. Jesus said that whatever we asked in His name would be given, but it must have been obvious from pretty nearly day 1 that that didn't mean just tagging on "in Jesus' name." (Though we do that anyway.)

Jesus healed in a number of different ways, and when Moses got peeved with the Israelite's complaining and said very free translation "Don't you nitwits remember how we got water for you last time?" and hit the rock again instead of speaking to it, God called Moses on the carpet about it. That seems like a small matter to us, but God thought it was a big deal. I suspect doing things the same way over and over is an invitation to try to use the procedure magically--with us in control rather than God. We like simple patterns and procedures: "Want water, hit the rock with Moses' staff." Actually being in a relationship with God is more complicated.

I remember the scheduled "Revival" services. Many weeks in advance we'd be told a revival preacher was coming, and we needed to invite people and be ready for revival. It sounds a little like magic, doesn't it? Crank up the volume and get the kids rocking, and you'll have the Holy Spirit inspiring the youth. Magic. Have 24-hour prayer services and the Lord will work. And He probably will, somehow, but sometimes the response takes a very long time. If I have the numbers right, Monica prayed for Augustine for about 17 years.

It's so tempting to feel in control.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Tolkien and Lewis handle this in related fashions, that there are creatures whose natures and skills seem magical to others, are really not "magic" in divination and spell-casting sense. Other creatures can use some magical things, but it is generally dangerous and damaging. Plus, some sorts of mechanistic manipulations of the universe are right out.

The OT had the Urim and Thummim, which seems to be a holdover from some pagan practice but are not forbidden, and practices that seem pretty darn close are allowed but not encouraged, like throwing fleeces. The Magi seem to be astrologers, which is forbidden to Jews but somehow not an obstacle in respecting those from Persia. All in all, there seems to be something of God meeting us where we are at but drawing us upward, leaving such things behind. The repeated lesson of the Other Gods of the OT is not so much that they are dangerous but they are powerless. They are deaf, dumb, can't help you. Unclean spirits seem to be something different, though we lump them together today.