Friday, December 3, 2010

The Horcrux of the Matter

Spoiler Alert!  Nerd Alert!  Consider this a Deathly Hallows prequel to the movie review.  Sorry to say, I did not see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows at the stroke of midnight when it opened recently.  I simply value sleep to much (sorry Fan-boys, I guess I lose some geek street cred there).  But, I do plan on seeing it this afternoon.  So far everyone who has seen the movie has enjoyed it, and allegedly it follows the book fairly accurately, at least as well as any Hollywood production can.  It can't get much worse than Two Towers (am I right, my fellow Tolkien fans!?).  There's been one question I've had since I heard they were doing the movies and especially this final 7th and soon to be 8th movie.  It's rather fitting that this series will end with an 8th movie.  After all, the books are by Rowlings own admission, all about death and life.  And there's no better number for talking about death and life than the number 8.  8 sided fonts. 8 saved in the ark.  Baptism.  New creation.  Eden restored.  Paradise is yours in the resurrection of Christ - today!  But this is not a paper for Dr. Just (hope you all can take a joke, I do appreciate his work on this subject and if that joke was totally lost on you, I'm sorry for the seminary humor).  This is actually supposed to be a brief post about the one thing I really hope to see in this first installment of the Deathly Hallows.  So, let's cut the muggle and get to the point.  We've known throughout all the books that Harry is the boy who lived because his parents were the ones who did not thanks to he-who-must-not-be-named (here on referred to as Voldemort because He is defeated in Deathly Hallows and his name no longer has any power in Hogwarts or Huntington Beach).  In the book, Deathly Hallows, Harry comes to his parent's tombstone and finds an inscription written on it.  This is what I am most interested in.  For the key to understanding the entire Potter series rests in the inscription on that headstone: The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  Most may pass it off as a clever way to wrap some hope into an otherwise sad and lonely life of a teenage wizard.  But the more nerdy (or just Biblically literate) will recognize this passage, and it is no small significance.  Here's where it comes from:

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.  - 1 Corinthians 15:12-28, especially note verse 26 in bold!

And that my fellow Hogwarts students is the horcrux of the matter.  I won't spoil the entire reason why this is so important in the book.  You'll have to read if for yourself, or watch the movie (maybe, hold the phones on that one).  We'll see if the resurrection shows up as clearly as it does in the books.  Ultimately, that is the reason for the series: confidence in the resurrection in the face of death.  Perhaps you could even say that Harry (and all who are not associated with Voldemort) live in this hope and in the end triumph in it as well...but I fear I have said more than needed.  For now, we'll leave further review for after the show.  Rest assured, I'll be looking at one headstone very closely because Harry was and so was Rowling when she wrote it all. 


  1. Enjoyed your post. I have read all of the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them, but am not sure about whether or not the resurrection of the dead can be transferred as easily from Rowling's world to the real world as it is given to us in I Corinthians.

    After watching the recently released movie, I went home and had to read the end of the book again, since I read this book several years ago and no longer remembered how it ended. What I found very interesting as I read it this time was how the conversation with Dumbledore made a theological statement. The last thing that Harry says to him is: "Did this real? Did this just happen in my head?" And Dumbledore responds that "Yes, it did only happen in your head, but that doesn't make it any less real." So that got me to thinking. I think it is very interesting that Rowling has de-mythologized the afterlife (with a passing off of the afterlife in sentiments, the strength of which is only in one's own head), while she has re-mythologized the world. The world is filled with mystical powers to be controlled and manipulated, but an afterlife is just a journey in the head.

    Certainly Harry learns something from this mental experience, but it is practical only in the life on earth to which he returns. An afterlife (it seemed to me) was dominated by an obliteration of most of what it is to be a human being (but maybe there would be some silvery strings floating around).

    So, what does this mean? The world has been mythologized, faith has been de-mythologized, perhaps the exact opposite of that which would be most helpful for Christians.

    That is not to say that I am opposed to these books. I think it is a supremely useful exercise to mythologize the world, because a myth is a story and all people (scientific, religious, or otherwise) have a story to tell about the world. Reading other people's myths levels the intellectual playing field, having the possibility of bringing people to (intellectual) repentance. Amid the cacophony of voices and stories, only the Gospel can make people get up, walk, and live, since it is the voice of God and not of man (man, who can only work within the structures of the law [Galatians 4:1-10--especially the stoichia of verses 3 and 9, the stuff of idolatry {being created rather than the Creator}]).

    Again, enjoyed your post. Hope you enjoyed the movie. I did.

  2. Mike. I'll try post a more thoughtful response for you tomorrow. You raise some very interesting points and I appreciate you taking the time to post them as well as read the post. Glad you enjoyed it. I hope to post something on the movie tomorrow too, but we'll see how much gets done, just not enough hours in a day. And yes, I did enjoy the movie. It was quite well done.

  3. One of the best answers I've found to this question - and it's a good one - comes from Richard Stuckwisch who is also a big Harry Potter fan. I think he pretty much sums up what I was thinking but struggling to put into cohesive thoughts all at once, so here it is.

    It seems to me that it's all in Harry's "head," because his body is truly dead at that point, and his soul or spirit is at a junction in between life and death. His perception and experience of that state are formed by his mind, based upon what he has known and what he imagines. Doesn't make it unreal, but it's not a bodily situation. What he perceives, and the choice before him, are the truth of the matter, but they aren't actually occupying space, time or body.

    There are clues throughout the books that point to and emphasize life after death. I didn't catch them all my first time through the series, and I really didn't fully catch on until the sixth book. But then, in going back through the series, I spotted them here, there and everywhere. Harry finally has no fear of death, because he has learned that it is but a step into something better beyond death, where his parents and Sirius and Dumbledore already are living.

    Thus, unlike the ghosts, who remain trapped "in between" because they are afraid, Harry has the free choice to enter into death, unafraid, or to return to his life in the body for the sake of love, in order to defeat Voldemort on behalf of his friends and the world.

    Within the fiction of the series, he has the option available to him because of the connection he shares with Voldemort. That connection is what did in the piece of Voldemort's soul that had resided in Harry's body, when Voldemort killed him, but the same connection -- especially via Harry's blood, which Voldemort took from him when he restored his own body -- provides an anchor for Harry's soul and spirit yet within the temporal world.

    But theologically speaking -- and, yes, I do believe that was, in large part, J.K. Rowling's point -- it is Harry's self-sacrificing love, and his courage in the face of death, because of his faith in the Resurrection, that enable him to defeat Voldemort. That self-sacrificing love and resurrection are not a literary symbol of Christ, the way that Aslan in the Narnia series is, but it is a picture of the Christian life, which lives under the cross in the hope of the resurrection. That is what gives meaning to Harry's life, and to his sacrifice. Voldemort is undone by his ignorance and unbelief, which fuel his terror of death, his self-love and his lust for power.

    Anyway, more to the point of your question, I don't believe that what Harry experiences at King's Cross Station is actually the life after death, nor the resurrection of the body, but is a fictional limbo that illustrates the choice he is free to make in faith and love.