I get tired of the fear that many Christians show when confronted with culture. It seems that in practice, many of us believe Christ to be quite powerless in this world. So we wonder if J.K. Rowling, the author of the hugely popular Harry Potter series, is out to vanquish Christianity with her pen. [for a better approach see here] We protest the movie Brokeback Mountain, because it is obvious that the homosexuals are more powerful than Christ as well. I am heartened by the response that many Christians have had toward the DaVinci Code, using it as a way to talk about Christ instead of running from it. This is the way we should approach this world, like Christ did- not running from it because of its filth, but running to the filth, confident of Christ's rule over this world.
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 are a big reason why Christians are scared of things like Harry Potter, witches, and astrology. These verses are a clear forbidding of any practice that might be a shortcut to succeeding in life through using the supernatural for your own ends. God does not allow this, for when you try to use the supernatural (even God) for your own ends, you end up in idolatry, and it ends up destroying you. This is a passage that does not lose its meaning when we read it in our day. These practices are still outlawed for the Christian. The powers of darkness are still around, and this world is still under their influence, despite Christ's decisive victory.
What should a Christian do, stuck between being a bearer of the true light, and having a new heart that is incompatible with the world's darkness (but fully able to experience it and participate in it). I think that a major problem that Christians have with culture today is that they have forgotten who they are. They are connected with Christ, they have new hearts, they are light bearers to a dark world, reflecting the True Light, and yearning for the day when he makes all things new. If Christians would just be who they are, then nothing that world throws at Christ can ultimately hurt them. Christ will set all to rights, to borrow a favorite phrase from N.T. Wright. The Christian's connection to Christ by the Holy Spirit is the amazing proof that the world cannot defeat Christ. He took you, filthy as you were, and now lives in you to fufill his plans for this world. Trust that he will (and is able to) do it; anything less is fear and unbelief.
Israel was told to not participate in the detestable practices of the Canaanites, and told to be blameless, "for these nations which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune tellers and to diviners."(vs. 14) This is the reason God is clearing the land of these nations. They don't listen to Him. I think that is the crux of the issue. You either listen to God or you listen to the world. If you listen to God, you know his promises are sure and his purposes firm to the glorious end that he desires. If you listen to the world, you are left without an identity and without hope in the world, except what you can manipulate to your own ends, as far as your power allows. Israel's identity is the people of God, which is why they were forbidden to mix with the culture; Israel's hope is in God, which is why they did not have to strive for power- their king was God.
As Christians, our identity is in Christ, and his plans are indestructible (he proved that at the cross) and full of love for a broken world (he proved that at the cross) and our hope for this world is in him.
Listening to God through the prophets is the subject of the next post on Deuteronomy 18:15-22.