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Jerram Barrs—Professor of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture at Covenant Theological Seminary, and Resident Scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute—talks about his love for the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Warning: contains spoilers!)


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17 thoughts on “Jerram Barrs on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

  1. David says:

    Have you read the books, Justin? Is this an argument that the series is God glorifying…just this last book…or nothing of the sort – only that the book had interesting and reality-affirming themes?

    The praise Prof. Barrs gives with reference to the book and the Last Supper experience is weird.

    Do you recommend this series be read? If so, do you recommend this series be watched?

    Is this post to be seen as an encouragement to go engage the culture by reading this series and tell culture what things really mean?

    1. Laura says:

      David, just for a resource, several of the guys over at The Rabbit Room have written great defenses of the “Christian-ness” of the book series. The movies are… well, pretty “meh,” honestly, but the books are so full of rich symbolism and truth — and they’re really fun too.

      rabbitroom.com

  2. RJD says:

    Or maybe they’re just good, well-written stories.

  3. David says:

    Barrs seems to express that these texts are profitable for the spirit. That’s why he brought up the student anecdote. Do you agree these stories are so profitable?

  4. david carlson says:

    yes, these are profitable to read for a christian believer

    next….

  5. Tim says:

    Yes, great art will enhance our appreciation of biblical truths – because all truth is God’s truth, all beauty points to His beauty, all moral excellence points to the one Source of, and power for, morality. The artist/author/musician/craftsman doesn’t even need to be a believer for this to be true. But when she is (as seems to be the case with Rowling), and when she puts excellent literary skills to that use, you get a great work of art like the Harry Potter series.
    See Jerram’s older article and talk on Harry Potter here: http://www.resourcesforlifeonline.com/search/?query=harry+potter&x=0&y=0

  6. Jason Oesterling says:

    After reading the entire series this year, I agree that they’re very worthwhile reading. On a surface level, they are fun, enjoyable books, with a very clear “good v. evil” theme (though, like any good literature, even the heroes have flaws). They follow in the tradition of great Christian literature (J.K. Rowling may be nominally Christian at best, but this doesn’t discount the fact that her writing is shaped by strong Christian themes). For help seeing these elements in the series, I second the recommendation of Barrs’ lecture, and I’d also recommend John Granger’s books “Finding God in Harry Potter” and “Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader”

  7. David says:

    Thanks for answering one of the questions, guys. I hope you didn’t take what I asked as accusations rather than as honest questions.

    What about the movies? Are those profitable in the same way?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      David: I am waiting on the books and movies till our kids are a bit older, but I recently heard from the author of this book which seeks to provide a biblical filter for thinking through the movies:

      http://is.gd/3Xad8M

      1. David says:

        Thanks, Justin. One reason I ask is that I know of fantasy lovers who would certainly identify other series, like Drizzt, as much better in storytelling, epic scope, and in moral and emotional imagination. I’m wondering if the issue here is like that of what sports media is facing with Tim Tebow (they argue whether he deserves the attention because of his game or because of his “polarizing faith”). Is this series given too much credit by the fans? And, for that reason (enormous popularity) ought we care and engage and discover redeeming qualities? Or, is it really deserving of the credit because it is steeped in intentionally thoughtful, redeeming storytelling?

        If they are great books, then I suppose the issue is not with the stories, but with the reader.

        I appreciate the links you’ve posted in the past to Tolkien’s essay on faerie stories and that recent message given on Voyage of the Dawn Treader where the issue of art/magic and technology is discussed.

  8. david carlson says:

    The movies are pathetic. Where as the Lord of the Rings trilogy did real justice to Tolkien’s writing, the movies, on the whole, were terrible.

  9. Andy says:

    Anyone remember the Stuff Christians Like post “We Hate Harry Potter But Gandalf Gets A Pass”? :0)

    In all seriousness though – great books and a good analysis here. Well worth reading for any Christian or lover of literature. Thanks for posting, Justin!

  10. Andy says:

    I second what many other posters are saying. The books are fantastic literature, and I will certainly encourage my children to read them. Imagine a 12-year-old reading an 800-page book (I think that’s the number in Goblet of Fire)!

    The movies, on the other hand, do not do justice to the books, in regards to the storyline. However the actors are very good, imo. In fairness, they are created with the Hollywood-entertainment mindset.

  11. Mark says:

    I can remember sitting in my dorm room years ago watching John Hagee say that Harry Potter was teaching children how to do witchcraft. I didn’t think much of John Hagee’s comments at the time. I also loved The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, both full of magic. I read Harry Potter this year and loved them and now I chuckle when my boys run around saying “Stupify!” to one another, and every time they turn on a flashlight, say, “Lumos!”

  12. I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, but I don’t think I found quite as much satisfaction in it as Barrs. It fell a bit flat, I think, compared to really great literature, but I agree that is the best fantasy writing in a few decades.

    It’s funny to watch the relationship of HP to Christianity over the last decade…what an incredible shift in perspective.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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