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Topic: Christians & Magic
Message: Posted by: Tony Thomas (Jul 15, 2010 09:27PM)
I recently read the article "Should A Christian Do Magic Or Conjouring" posted as a sticky under the Fellowship of Christian Magicians. It was a helpful article. I studied it and discovered a problem. The opening scripture listed (Exodus 22:14) is not a correct reference, because that verse says... "And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution."

I have rewriten the article with some changes that were helpful for my purposes. I removed references to ventriloquism. I fixed the scripture reference problem and maybe improved it in a few ways. I changed a number of things, maybe enough to consider it my own, but it certainly maintains the general purpose and heart of the original article, which I very much appreciated. Anyway, I'm putting this out here in case this rewrite is helpful to anyone.

Tony Thomas, M.Div.
Families Pastor

Here is the article:

GOSPEL MAGIC
Does the Bible forbid magic? Is it right for a Christian to be involved in sleight of hand and illusion?

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
When the Bible uses the term "magic" (e.g. Isa. 47:12), "sorcery" (Deuteronomy 18:10), or “spells” (Mic. 5:12), it is clearly dealing with man's involvement in the supernatural, often with the collaboration of evil spirits. Biblical prohibitions make it clear that God does not want man to dabble with the devil. Today's manifestations of these forbidden activities are such things as consulting mediums, spiritualists, the occult, & voodoo. Christians have no business being involved with these, since they could open the door to demonic influence, and certainly rely on a world view that is not biblical. No Christian magician or family stage show entertainer is in any way involved in the use of supernatural powers.

THE MEANING OF MAGIC
Confusion rises from the fact that certain words have two meanings. "Magic" has a meaning which is similar to witchcraft or sorcery, the idea that humans control supernatural agencies or the forces of nature (sometimes called “black magic” or “magick”). The word magic also refers to a modern entertainment medium, the art of producing illusions as entertainment by sleight of hand and deceptive devices. Obviously the Bible, as it forbids involvement in magic, is talking about the first of these meanings and not the second.

SUPERNATURAL FORCES
Some Christians assume that anything they cannot themselves understand and explain must be supernatural. Often Christians see negative effects as being produced by demons, and positive events as being a miracle of God. Sometimes, Christian’s see a magic trick, and assume satanic spiritual forces at work. As if Satan would be involved in a silk hanky disappearing from one hand and appearing in another. The truth is that there is great room for morally neutral events to be used either for good or for evil, but the bible is clear, God alone “does great wonders” (Ps. 136:4).

THE USE OF DECEPTION
Should a Christian to use deception in presenting the Truth? The reality is that a Christian magician uses deception much like an actor on stage. Consider an actor in a play. What is being presented can be described as a deception. An actor can play the part of a husband married to a woman that is not his wife in reality. Is the purpose to deceive, or to entertain and communicate a message? Magic certainly involves deception, but like the deception of a play, it is a deception that is clear to the audience and engaged in willingly with the goal of entertaining and sharing about Jesus. The Gospel magician honestly acknowledges trickery for entertainment and teaching purposes, and the audience willingly follows along choosing to suspend their disbelief so they will be entertained and grasp the heart of the message.

After all is said and done, no magical entertainers actually have supernatural powers. And no solid Christian entertainer would ever present themselves in this fashion. If the total presentation is an accurate representation of Biblical truth, the audience will be impressed with the message, and not dazzled by the possibility of humans doing superhuman feats.

JUSTIFICATION FOR CHRISTIAN MAGIC
Paul expressed it best: I “became all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some” (1Cor. 9:22). Paul changed his presentation to present truth best to each particular audience. Churches today use a variety of means to reach a variety of people. They use preaching, comedy, special events, movies, bowling, and on occasion… a magic show, all for the purpose of reaching some. Not everyone will be attracted to each event, but each event has a unified purpose, to help all come to know the Lord.

Also, consider Jesus' own use of visual aids. As he passed vineyards, he referred to branches and vines (John 15), He often used object lessons. In a similar way, sleight of hand and illusion provide a way of presenting some very powerful spiritual messages in a visual way, like an object lesson. For instance, when a dark handkerchief (representing sin), is transformed into white silk, it makes a very striking illustration of the change God makes in a person's life when he trusts Christ. Magic tricks have power to gain and maintain attention, and ultimately, to present Truth. When sleight of hand and illusion are used to present biblical Truth, it can powerfully impact people and Truth does not return void (Isa. 55:11).

CONCLUSION
Let me make several practical suggestions about your own attitude toward "Gospel magic".
1 - Enjoy "magic" presentations as entertainment. Don't worry about being fooled. You don't need to understand how every trick is done in order for it to be alright.
2 - Pray for the Christian magician. He wants to present Gospel truths in an effective way, without violating God’s Word.
3 - Seek God's heart. Ask God to help you understand what attitude is right to have toward forms of ministry with which you do not wholeheartedly connect. Realize that the same gifts and skills may not be best for everyone, but God can bless each and use them all for His glory.

If you continue to have reservations, work them out. Talk to your local pastor or possibly a Christian Illusionist. They will be happy to discuss these ideas with you! Thanks for being open to consider some new ideas.
Message: Posted by: Tony Thomas (Aug 3, 2010 07:10PM)
I'm surprised I haven't received a single response. I would think someone would want to correct an incorrect reference. To repeat... The first scripture reference listed is Exodus 22:14, and it has nothing to do with magic. At the very least, I would suggest it be replaced with a verse, like Is. 47:12 (NIV).
Message: Posted by: Vlad_77 (Aug 3, 2010 10:43PM)
[quote]
On 2010-08-03 20:10, Tony Thomas wrote:
I'm surprised I haven't received a single response. I would think someone would want to correct an incorrect reference. To repeat... The first scripture reference listed is Exodus 22:14, and it has nothing to do with magic. At the very least, I would suggest it be replaced with a verse, like Is. 47:12 (NIV).
[/quote]

Tony,

Perhaps the reason you have received no responses is because your argument is well considered. So, you missed a reference. The IMPORTANT thing is your scholarly and spiritual investigation.

I am a convert from Roman Catholic Christianity to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Before my Chrismation, my Priest went over in detail, the meanings of sorcery, magic, etc., in the Bible and also the Ante-Nicene Fathers' clarifications of it.

I applaud your post and I believe it should be sticky-bunned :)

+In Christ,
Vlad
Message: Posted by: Tony Thomas (Aug 4, 2010 08:25PM)
Thank you Vlad. I appreciate your feedback and your testimony.
Message: Posted by: danielluskmagic (Aug 5, 2010 08:50PM)
Fantastic.......I used the old one on my site and never liked the "belly talking" section.

Thank you.....replaced with yours tonight.

DONE
I like how this is more to the point and not so long.....again thanks
Message: Posted by: marklock (Aug 18, 2010 11:49PM)
Nice work Tony. I like your update.

I actually have had fewer problems with doing magic and more issues with using playing cards...because you know...they lead to dancing :)
Message: Posted by: daffydoug (Aug 30, 2010 01:25PM)
Tony. Was that from the original article by Toby...man, I can't remember his last name!

Anyway, you did a good job. I have been harassed by so called Christians for doing magic for as far back as I can remember. Even got kicked out of churches for it. Sometime their eyes get real big and they are about to cast a demon out of me.

One time they went so far as to tell me :"Brother, when you were walking down the street, we saw a demon sitting on your shoulder!"

And when I was very young in magic, a church I went to convinced me that we needed to start a bonfire and BURN all my magic. That included old issues of Genii, and tons of stuff I had purchases from Tannen's in the 70's.

I did it because I was "filled with the spirit" like them (Or so I thought) but after it was done for a long, long time I was really sorry that I did it.

I felt like I had been robbed of a vital part of me.

So the article is helpful, although I highly doubt that the kind of people I have run into in churches would even pay it any heed.
Message: Posted by: harris (Aug 30, 2010 01:30PM)
In my work with Fishers of Men and at my home church, I use sleight of hand/illusions along with my messages. (I also am a vent,but not a belly talker...seems that came from use of diaphram??? used in projecting while you are talking, singing or doing ventriloquism.

Thanks for sharing...You might want to contact the folks at FCM website.

I plan on joining the FCM in September or October...


Harris
Message: Posted by: daffydoug (Aug 30, 2010 03:16PM)
What's the cost to join?
Message: Posted by: MagicBus (Aug 30, 2010 03:22PM)
Go to http://www.fcm.org for membership information and membership form. Nutshell: $35 per year for U.S. residents (includes subscription to The Voice of FCM and access to the "members only" portion of the FCM web site); $40 for Canada and $45 overseas. FCM Mail Center, 7739 Everest Court N, Maple Grove, MN 55311-1815.
Message: Posted by: daffydoug (Aug 30, 2010 05:49PM)
Thanks for the info!
Message: Posted by: Dan Bernier (Sep 5, 2010 12:05AM)
I would have no problem burning all my magic for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I have no problem with walking away from ever performing magic again.

But...I would have a serious problem with anyone telling me that I could not witness, or preach the Good news of Jesus Christ.

Magic means little to me in comparison to my faith.

What is magic anyways? Does it help in saving souls? Does it make it any more easier to witness to people? Are we able to make the message more clearer, or understandable?

Why do we perform Gospel magic? Ask yourself that. Why do you perform Gospel magic? There lies your true motive. And, when your motive is God centered, magic and all the rest is meaningless.
Message: Posted by: Humester (Sep 6, 2010 12:19AM)
Amen to that Dan.
Message: Posted by: Kif Anderson (Sep 7, 2010 12:44PM)
People who are passionate about a particular thing will think it is the one thing everyone should care about. I won't mention one as an example, because I don't want off track the discussion. But for those who are passionate, they need to realize that isn't necessarily the passion God has put on my heart, and where my efforts need to be directed. I think most will agree with that logic.

Likewise, what appeals to some folks as a ministry style, won't appeal to everyone. Fellowships have figured this out and in many cases have pastors designated for them individually for the different interests, i.e. Youth, Children, Family, Singles, Police Officers/Firemen, etc.

Taking it a step further, (and I know I'm preaching to the choir here...but there is a method to this rant) God gives talents to folks to reach the different sects out there. One effective way is to use the performing art of magic to help capture the attention of folks while a message is being shared. That's not for everyone. But that doesn't mean it is bad. It is just another way. And it happens to be what I believe to be my God-given talent.

Jesus didn't heal the blind the same way twice...at least as it is recorded. I think there is a message in that. Don't get hung up on just one way.

My buddy's church many years ago decided puppets were bad...and so there was going to be no puppets. He loved puppets, he shared stories with puppets, but his puppets basically went "into the closet." Later, many years later that is, this fellowship dropped the ban and it is mostly accepted in their church. Magic has the same problem.

I like to use music as a way to describe it to folks. Lots of fundamental churches don't want modern praise bands in them. "Drums? That is sacrilegious! Music needs to be played on an organ or piano!" What these folks don't realize is it wasn't all that many decades ago...okay several...that the thought of bringing in an organ to church was deemed the same way. "Those are in saloons and music halls. We won't be having any of those in our holy building!" (I love that story)

Technically, we aren't doing "magic" but instead "mysterious and creative object lessons." My church, when I started doing gospel magic there, the word "magic" was frowned upon. Not illusions...but the word "magic." I argued with the Robert H. Hill logic to no success. So I searched for a word...and the one I came up with was "effects." My ministry is called "FX4 Christ" (pronounced Effect for Christ) which is now a non-profit organization. "Effects" has never been a problem with anyone. Oh...what we do gets seen as "a magic show" and that has caused some speed bumps, but our show is more about message mixed with comedy than "TAH DAH!" so we seldom have issues.

All this to say, find a word that works...and work with that. And be creative. (in other words..."FX4 Christ is taken, registered, etc.). But I believe God lead me to that. I'm sure he can lead you to others...and better for you.

><> J
Message: Posted by: Cyberqat (Sep 7, 2010 12:52PM)
Tony,

I think its a good summation of one particular Christian point of view. I don't think its anything that the Christian world can agree on. To some, it will be too 'liberal.' To others, too 'conservative.'

In my wife's tradition, we don't talk about biblical imperative without discussing the social locators of the time and place the content was written, its surrounding text and context, and the limits of the original sources from which it was translated.

But there are many approaches to Christianity. About the only thing I can quibble with, which happens a lot in the Christian world, is that this particular missive is put in the form of "what a Christian should do", as opposed to "what a Christian of our particular denomination and/or belief set should do." Putting things that way belittles other's opinions that might differ.
Message: Posted by: sthielman (Oct 15, 2010 11:01AM)
I really like your revision, Tony. Hopefully, it will be helpful to those who have concerns about Christian magic - and I can see why someone could have a problem with some kinds of magical entertainment, especially some of the directions that bizarre magic takes.
Message: Posted by: scottsheltonmagic (Nov 21, 2010 08:22PM)
Good article, Tony!
Message: Posted by: mightydog (Jan 12, 2011 12:22PM)
Correct me if I am wrong but did not Aaron change his staff to a snake, The Egyptian magicians did the same and the snake of Arron swallowed up the snakes of the Egyptians? Nothing is done without God's permission so I believe that Aaron performed magic as we know it with permission. Or am I off base here?
mightydog
David
Message: Posted by: MagicBus (Jan 12, 2011 01:37PM)
Those (changing a rod to a snake) were miracles accomplished through God, not "magic" (e.g. conjuring, sleight of hand, surprises for the eye-es) as most of us refer to in "The Magic Café." I have started to use "Surprises for the Eye-es" (per Duane Laflin) when I do any programs in a church setting now just to avoid this kind of language misunderstanding.
Message: Posted by: Tony Thomas (Jan 12, 2011 09:11PM)
You are right. The context is Moses and Aaron validating that their message was from God before Pharoah. God told them to throw their rod down and it would become a snake. God was using Moses and Aaron to work a "wonder", as he did later through them with the plagues. Their first signs, were able to be copied by Pharoahs magicians (using trickery), although as you noted Aaron's snake ate the magician's snake. Quickly the magicians had no method that could match the miracles demonstrating God's power. This would be like Chris angel saying he can walk on water, and using a chezzy camera method, mimiking Jesus walking on water. God alone works wonders (sometimes through people), all others (Including Emo TV magicians and mentalists) are, obvously, entertainers.
Message: Posted by: GeneG (Jan 27, 2011 11:49AM)
Tony, I'm just getting back into magic after a hiatus of about 50 years. I teach New Testament at a Christian liberal arts college and have been thinking about issues surrounding faith and magic, and how I might develop routines using such objects as a lepton/prutah (the 'widow's mite'). Needless to say, I appreciate your post! The topic I'm pondering has to do with perception and interpretation, that is, how we understand with what we see and hear. It goes back to the "hermeneutics" course in seminary which teaches us about reading, interpreting and applying texts well. In this case, the 'text' is magic which our spectators interpret. And, for us, we bring this interpretive process into dialog with 'The Text' of Scripture. I'm thinking down into these issues as I learn the basics of coin concealments and vanishes and purchase some wonderful gaffed coins. I don't have any conclusions yet, but I just wanted to mention the need to think about interpretation/perception and not simply about whether or not "the Bible forbids/allows magic." The issues on the table go beyond that. Any thoughts on hermeneutics?

Gene
Message: Posted by: Wes Holly (Jan 27, 2011 02:38PM)
[quote]
On 2010-09-07 13:44, Kif Anderson wrote:
All this to say, find a word that works...and work with that. And be creative. (in other words..."FX4 Christ is taken, registered, etc.). But I believe God lead me to that. I'm sure he can lead you to others...and better for you.
><> J
[/quote]

AMEN
(I didn't want to quote the entire post - but I agree with all of it)
Message: Posted by: scottsheltonmagic (Feb 21, 2011 08:17PM)
When contemporary Gospel music started catching on, there were some who criticized it because it was not like traditional Gospel hymns. However, it reached new audiences and is now gaining popular acceptance. Magic is simply another one of the performing arts, like theater, music, and dance. The difference is that it's interactive which (I believe) is one of its strengths.

I believe God has given us all talents and it's up to us to use them to honor Him. When asked about the difference between magic and miracles, I say, "God performs miracles. I just entertain."

Scott