"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Monday, August 13, 2007

Let's Race

A race is one of the metaphors the Apostle Paul uses to describe the Christian life. This metaphor is picked up by Steve Taylor in his song "The Finish Line" from Squint. If you have never heard of Steve Taylor, it probably means you were not listening to Christian music in the late 1980's. Steve is probably best known for "I Want to Be a Clone" (though my personal favorites are "Drive, He Said" and "Cash Cow") and having a sarcastic sense of humor that did not always endear him with more fundementalist Christians. I, however, have a great affection for his music.

"The Finish Line" is something of a modern day Pilgrim's Progress, admittedly in much shortened form. It follows a prototypical Christian from conversion to death. If you listen closely, you may find something of your own journey in the song. The confident to arrogant beginning. The stumbling that causes you to eventually buy "the party line." The questions as to how so many good things become idols. Then, hopefully, that return to relying on Jesus, as we emerge "bloody but wise." The title of the album is taken from this song, "You squint with the light of the truth in your eyes."


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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Prophetic from the Center

Some time back I wrote a post about a message given by Dr. D. A. Carson at the 2007 Gospel Coalition conference. In that post was a lengthy quote from Dr. Carson, including the following statement: "It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins. What is urgently needed is to be prophetic from the center." I have been thinking about this statement and what it means to be "prophetic from the center."

If you read the entire quote, I think it is obvious what is meant by "from the center" versus "from the margins." The margins are those peripheral issues, on both the left and the right, that engross so many people. These are issues like environmentalism, social justice, gay marriage, prayer in schools, music styles in worship, etc. The center are those issues that are essential to Christian faith, including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the atonement, the resurrection, i.e. what "takes Christians from lostness, condemnation, alienation from God all the way through conversion, and discipleship, to the consummation, to resurrection bodies and the new heaven and the new earth."

The question, I think, is what does it mean to be "prophetic?" What it does not mean is that Christians should join the Jeane Dixon fan club. Biblical prophets sometimes made predictions about the future, like:

Micah 5:2
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days

Micah here prophesies that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. Clearly this is "predictive" and is one of the things prophets did in the Bible. But prophets did at least two other things in the Bible, both of which were more common than prediction.

One was that the prophets pointed out the sinful condition of the people. For example:

Micah 7:2-3
The godly has perished from the earth,
and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
and each hunts the other with a net.
Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;
the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,
and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;
thus they weave it together.

When we are prophetic in this sense from the margins, it is easy because it most often takes the form of condemnation. It is a means to lift ourselves above those on whom we pronounce judgment. This is the Pharisees - clean on the outside but full of death on the inside. Our condemnation falls on any who have not cleaned the outside, regardless of the state of their heart.

We carry picket signs that say, "God hates fags" without acknowledging that God also hates the self-righteous. We maintain our ritual, but have forgotten love, forgiveness, and mercy. Jesus in contrast does not put out the smoking flax or break the bruised reed. How do we behave around those of weak faith who are struggling? If we are prophetic from the margins, most often we will shun them.

To be prophetic from the center is much harder in no small part because it requires humility. John the Baptist called the Pharisess a brood of vipers, but also said he was not fit to tie the sandal of the Messiah. He proclaimed that Jesus must increase while he (John) decreased.

To be prophetic from the center means we have to first acknowledge that we need the gospel as much as anyone else even now. It means that we have to acknowledge that we do not live up to God's standard even now. Like Paul we need to be truthful that we have not attained, but that we are pressing on. To be prophetic from the center requires a balance of boldness and humility.
But prophets in the Bible also proclaimed God's mercy and lovingkindness, like:
Micah 7:18-19
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea
To be prophetic in this sense from the margins is the prosperity gospel. God wants you to have your best life now. God wants you to be healthy and have a two car garage. God does not want you to suffer, for you are more than conquerors in Christ. You need to claim your healing, money, possessions and have faith that God will deliver.

Less extreme is to say that while things may not always go your way, you will always sense the presence of God. If you are faithful to follow God's plan for your life, you will always have a smile on your face. Both of these are easy because people will respond.

But being prophetic from the center is to say your best life is not yet here. The kingdom breaks into this age, but is not fully realized yet. We still have struggles and difficulties. Like Jesus we continue on for the joy set before us. Per Paul we recognize that death as the last enemy has not yet been destroyed, but will be. Love we are told bears, believes, hopes and endures. All of these indicate an element of tension, struggle, and difficulty.

This message is not as immediately attractive. Telling people to hold onto a Savior who will deliver some day is not as appealling as telling them God is like Santa Claus bestowing gifts on those who are nice. But it is real and many people who have been through difficulty will find in the gospel the truth. Yes, this life is hard, but even so God is good.

This is why Paul says we are to be pitied if the resurrection is not true, because our hope, our joy, our anchor is on what is to come, not on the now. We live now and we show the kingdom now and we try to make things better now. Believers before Jesus stood with their arm stretched out pointing to the future.

We now stand with both arms outstretched pointed to the past (the cross) and the future (the resurrection). We do so also to die figuratively and literally for the cause of Christ. Some being prophetic from the margins will condemn us as compromising with the world, calling us gluttons and winos. Some being prophetic from the margins will say we are from some hick town and not sophisticated or educated. Some being prophetic from the margins will say that we could deliver ourselves from suffering if we had more faith.

We are to love them all, and pray for them to be forgiven even as they stone us. Who knows who will be holding their coats as we die.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Fundementalists, Antithesis and Common Grace

Updated Below

While I have been blogging on Harry Potter, there has been a rather interesting discussion going on over at Reformation 21. This has been between Rick Phillips and Carl Trueman on fundementalism and it's merits and dangers. I'm not planning on commenting a lot, I just want to provide some quotes that maybe will encourage you to read the entire discussion. As I think about it I may have more to say later.

It starts with Rev. Phillips' move to Greenville and his decision of which school to enroll his children. The final decision was Bob Jones elementary, an arm of Bob Jones university. Rev. Phillips writes:
But the fourth reason is the one I really want to talk about. The fundamentalists get the idea of antithesis. . . . I find in general that the fundamentalists get the idea that the Bible really is the Word of God and that our only salvation is in the blood of Christ. There is no talk about postmodern hermeneutics among the fundamentalists. They believe the Bible is the Word of God because it says so, and so do I. They believe that men, women, and children are sinners who must believe in the cross in order to be saved. There is no talk of alternative theories of the atonement with them. They understand that the church must stand out against the world, that holiness is our calling, and that Christians are to witness to the lost. Amen, amen, and amen. They get the Christian antithesis, that light has shined in the darkness and that we are to walk in the light and shine the light into the darkness.

Frankly, because of the big idea of antithesis, I am more comfortable with the fundamentalists than I am with the broad evangelicals. More and more, broad evangelicals do not get the idea of antithesis, and for this reason even when they have a pretty good formal doctrinal statement, they seldom really stand up for it.

Rev. Phillips goes on in other posts to discuss price as a factor in the decision and the reformed leanings of Bob Jones. But the discussion is taken up in earnest by Dr. Trueman. Dr. Trueman makes four points about antithesis, all of which are interesting, but the last two are the most significant. From the third:
3. An overwhelming emphasis on antithesis creates a situation where others are only ever critiqued, not learned from, while we remain blissfully above correction. That's cultic and it's Gnosticism, and the Reformed world currently contains a couple of scary examples of exactly this kind of thinking and church life. . . . It can in fact be used in such a way as to justify a form of Gnostic empiricism and in effect to say 'everyone else has tradition, we just have the truth' is a problem. It could be better translated as `We have a tradition like everyone else, but we're not going to write it down so that it cannot be critiqued by you or anybody else.'

And from the fourth:
4. Charity of spirit (not compromise of doctrine) is a Christian virtue. This involves the ability to relate to those who are different, to treat with respect as made in the image of God those from whom we differ. An overwhelming emphasis on the intellectual/cultural antithesis does not, in my experience, foster the kind of appreciation for others, the self-deprecating humour, and the ability to see the absurdities of one's own positions, which enable this. . . . My point is simply that the antithesis can be abused in the name of Christ to subvert these very Christian imperatives, not that it always does so.

Rev. Phillips responded to Dr. Trueman and makes points worth considering. I want to move on though to comments from Sean Michael Lucas who joined in with two posts (part 1 and part 2) on his blog. In part 1, Dr. Lucas notes:
[M]y primary identity is a believer of Jesus and I'm called to love other believers in Jesus regardless of their spiritual maturity or theological perspective (even, shudder, Arminians). I live out this identity as a Presbyterian, committed to the wholeness of the Reformed faith as the best explanation of the Bible and eager for others to embrace the same perspective that I hold. I affirm catholicity while holding personally to the Reformed faith.

In part 2 Dr. Lucas discusses the concepts of antithesis and common grace and how these have created two streams in the reformed tradition. He refers to this split as the "Kuyperian legacy" in honor of Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper. He discusses both the positive and negative tendencies of both. Dr. Lucas says there is no way to meld the two together and admits to having fundementalist/antithesis leanings. I think there is a lot of value in reading and thinking about this. Regardless of where you stand, I think we should all heed Dr. Lucas' conclusion:

Finally, above all, we need to exercise the judgment of charity toward each other. By recognizing the dangers in our position, we are freed to recognize the value of the other--I can affirm my brothers and sisters who in common grace run coffee houses and line their churches with their art in order to engage in conversations with others. They bring something to the body of Christ that I don't bring; they are "jazz" to my "three-chords and a chorus" (1 Cor 12:12-27). I need those who emphasis common grace; and they, frankly, need me.

Update: Rev. Phillips has posted some additional thoughts based on Dr. Lucas' thoughts

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Harry Potter Posts and Links

Here are links to my posts on Harry Potter:

On Choices (and Harry Potter): Reflections on a discussion between Dumbledore and Harry near the end of the Half-Blood Prince

On Harry Potter (and Choices) I: A discussion of common Christian objections to the Harry Potter series

On Harry Potter (and Choices) - II: A discussion of why I think the books are more than just acceptable for a Christian audience

Community in Harry Potter: A discussion of the theme of community/relationships

The Afterlife in Harry Potter: A discussion of the theme of the afterlife

Power in Harry Potter: A discussion of the theme of power

Death in Harry Potter: A discussion of the theme of death

Love in Harry Potter: A discussion of the theme of love

Harry Potter - Concluding Thoughts: A response to Lev Grossman's article "Who Dies in Harry Potter? God"

Other links of note regarding Harry Potter:

Alan Jacobs' "Harry Potter's Magic" (hosted by the Harry Potter Lexicon)

Jerram Barrs' "J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter" (hosted by Be Thinking): The audio is long but worth the listen

A transcript of J. K. Rowling's Bloomsbury chat (hosted by Accio Quote!)

Chris' recommendation of the series

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Harry Potter - Concluding Thoughts

As a follow-up to the series looking at the themes in Harry Potter, I wanted to make just a few additional comments, in part as a result of the post by Joshua Harris' "Harry Lives, God Dies" this past week at Between Two Worlds. Justin's post was a reflection on an article written by Lev Grossman.

In that article, Mr. Grossman claims that the world created by J. K. Rowling is signficantly different than the worlds created by J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis. I want to look at two statements from that article and show why I think Mr. Grossman has grossly missed the point.

WARNING: There be spoilers ahead!

Quote 1: Harry Potter and religion
Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn't.

Mr. Grossman is correct that we do not see Harry going to church or praying. However, the Christian calendar is followed, including Christmas break. One could argue that many of these holidays are now cultural and not religious in signficance. But what cannot be escaped (and, to Mr. Grossman's defense this was in book 7, released after his article) is that both Dumbledore's family and Harry's family had Bible verses on their tombstones. That Harry does not recognize them as such I see more as commentary on the general lack of Biblical knowledge in our society than a denial of Christianity. Hermione, even if she does not know where it comes from, at least understands that "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" on the marker for Harry's parents is not a death eater idea, but an affirmation of life after death.

In terms of the spells Harry uses, none is more powerful than the patronus charm. This spell is used most frequently against dementors, the presence of which causes despair. In her list of influences, I have not seen Rowling mention John Bunyan, but the wizard prison Azkaban, which is under the oversight of the dementors, would be something akin to Giant Despair's Doubting Castle Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

To use the patronus charm, one thinks of a happy memory and utters, "expecto patronum." The "happy memory" can be interpreted as having faith in the midst of despair. The charm itself, in translated latin, is a call for a protector or guardian. In similar manner, a "patron" saint is one who protects those under his charge - e.g. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers.

In classical latin "pater" (from which "patronus" is derived) means father. "Expecto patronum" is a call for aid, therefore, to a guardian or father, or a prayer. One receives the aid when one has faith and does not despair. Some are surpised that Harry can create a patronus because of his youth. This calls to mind those who would keep the children from Jesus or Paul telling Timothy not to let others despise his youth.

How much of this is intentional with Rowling I cannot say. But I certainly think we cannot, as Mr. Grossman does, easily dismiss the possibility that there are signficant religious elements in the Harry Potter series.

Quote 2: Harry Potter and love
What does Harry have instead of God? Rowling's answer, at once glib and profound, is that Harry's power comes from love. This charming notion represents a cultural sea change. In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion.

In my post on Love and Harry Potter, I deal with the theme of love more fully. Here, I just want to place a reminder that the love that is powerful magic in Harry Potter is much more than "mere human emotion." It is self-sacrificial love. The love required to be powerful magic is anything but a "charming notion." It is a love that dies that another may live. While some may point to Harry's sacrifice in book seven - a good reference - this has been clear since book one when Lily dies to save Harry. Painting the love in Harry Potter as a "charming notion" and "a mere human emotion" does injustice to one of the main themes in the novels.

Are the Harry Potter Novels Christian?

I think that is a mistaken question, not just with Harry Potter but nearly all fiction. How would one define whether a novel is Christian or not? The question is whether or not a novel is consistent with a Christian worldview. Some might say that Harry Potter is not because there is no mention of God. As others have noted there is also no mention of God in the book of Esther, yet it is in the Bible. Like Esther, I could argue for God's providence being a signficant presence in the Harry Potter books. Just one example is Hermione's having the "Time-Turner" in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

As I hope I've shown over the last several posts, major themes in the series are consistent with a Christian worldview. Views of community, the afterlife, power, death, and love in the novels are in alignment with Biblical views of the same. These are novels, and they are not as explicit on many of the topics as the Bible is, but what is there has substantial agreement.

And while thinking about and looking at these themes is profitable, let us not lose Alan Jacobs' final note on the series in his essay "Harry Potter's Magic." The books are "a great deal of fun."

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Love and Harry Potter

It was a Brit that said, "All you need is love." A smug American would later respond, "The Beatles said, 'love is all you need' and then they broke up." Which calls into question whether love is really all you need or if the Beatles didn't have it. Part of what it highlights is the ambiguity with which we throw around the word love.

To say, "I love chocolate" usually means, "please excuse my excess intake of sweets." "I love Harry Potter" means I find delight in reading the Harry Potter novels. "I love rock and roll" means you should put another dime in the jukebox, baby. "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one your with" conveys one of the more common usages of the word love in contemporary society. Ellis Paul is correct when he notes that, "Love is too familar a word."

WARNING: There be spoilers ahead!

Love in the Harry Potter series is more specific than the general American usage. When Dumbledore says love is the most powerful magic there is, he is not talking about a warm affection for someone else (though I don't think this element is excluded). The love that is powerful magic is a love that sacrifices. From the start of the series there is proof of this statement - Harry Potter is "the boy who lived." The question is why did he live?

Voldemort pursued the Potters with the intent of killing their son. No one was more feared in the wizarding world than Voldemort. Yet he was unable to kill an infant. The killing curse deflected back on him rendering him helpless and near death. The infant received nothing but a scar on his forehead.

When Voldemort came to kill Harry, he quickly dispatched of an unprepared James Potter, and then offered Lily the chance to flee. Given the opportunity to save herself, Lily instead gave her life in an attempt to defend the child she loved. This sacrifice placed a protective charm on Harry even greater than Voldemort's dark art. Throughout the series Dumbledore reminds Harry that it was his mother's sacrificial love for him that saved him.

This theme of sacrificial love occurs repeatedly in the series as character after character suffers or dies for another, most often for Harry. Until, near the end of book seven, Voldemort gives Harry a choice - come and die, or stay and watch others die for you. Harry knew that to complete the task of destroying the horcruxes he would have to die, so he walks deliberately to his death. Both Lily and Harry's sacrifices call to mind the words of Jesus, "Greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends."

Harry's love is also shown in a less dramatic way. For so long he had loved and trusted Dumbledore. Now he knows the secrets of Dumbledore's past. He also knows that Dumbledore knew all along that Harry would have to sacrifice himself for Voldemort to be defeated. But while he cannot fully reconcile himself in the short time he has to who Dumbledore was and the plan Dumbledore placed in motion, his love for Dumbledore "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Love in Harry Potter like Biblical love is costly. Snape lives his life constantly being suspected as a traitor by most, especially Harry. All out of grief that he betrayed his one true love, Lily, to Voldemort. While many of his actions are not excusable, how terrible a reminder must Harry have been. The boy who looked and acted like his father, but with his mothers eyes. The boy whose scar was a reminder of Snape's own betrayal of Lily.

But he does what is required of him to protect Harry and the others from Voldemort. Like Harry, he follows Dumbledore's plan even when it does not make sense. His actions are a testimony to the fact that his love was genuine, and his regret real.

So in greater and lesser ways, love displayed in the series requires setting aside personal desires, even personal needs. Lack of love and the inability to understand love I think defines Voldemort even more than his fear of death. So, in Harry Potter as in the Bible, love is not all we need, but without it we are nothing.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Death in Harry Potter

Shortly after starting the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling's mother died. Rowling admits that it had a significant impact on the seriers and told Meredith Vieira in an interview for Dateline that how the characters in the Harry Potter's novels viewed death defined them. Aside from the theme of love, death is the most significant theme in the book. Some might even argue it is the most signficant theme. As such, I'm only skimming the surface of what Rowling says about death in Harry Potter.

WARNING: There be spoilers ahead!

Death is present from the start of the series, and controls events that transpire in the stories past. The death of Harry's parents, James and Lily Potter, starts the series off. But the cause of that death, Voldemort, kills them in an attempt to get to Harry. Why?

Voldemort fears death. This fear leads him, in the backstory of the books and not revealed until book 6, to create horcruxes. Horcruxes are places where pieces of a soul can be stored so that a person need not fear death. The horcrux can be used to revive the person who has died. Voldemort has his horcruxes in place to protect against his demise. Interestingly, to create a horcrux, Voldemort has to kill - an exchange, if you will. To protect his own life, Voldemort must sacrifice another.

Also in the backstory, there is a prophecy, revealed in book 5, that a boy will battle Voldemort to the death. Voldemort attempts to kill Harry as an infant to prevent the prophecy. This is an act reminiscent of Herod's killing of all the children under two after the wise men do not return from visiting Jesus. Herod wants to kill Jesus, the Messiah, who Herod expects to be an earthly king and would therefore end his dynasty. But, while he is surrounded by death, Harry is "the boy who lived" (the reason why will be discussed in the following post, if the Lord should will).

Death is so significant because it is final. While, as I discussed in the post on the afterlife, something of the person continues on after death, you cannot really come back from death. Harry's parents, despite his hopes after seeing their forms at the end of Goblet of Fire, will never return to him. He has to live with the deaths of those that he loves.

And death visits Harry repeatedly throughout the series, but especially starting in book 4 with Cedric. Then Sirius dies, Dumbledore dies, Moody dies, Dobby dies, Snape dies, Fred dies, Lupin dies, Tonks dies, . . . All the deaths are to a greater or a lesser degree sacrifices to save Harry. Until Harry must decide whether he will follow their examples.

Harry has committed himself, after much wrestling, to Dumbledore's path of destroying the horcruxes. What happens, then, when you discover that Nagini is not the last horcrux, but that you yourself are a horcrux. Harry walks to his death, willing to sacrifice himself for others. For Voldemort to be defeated, the piece of Voldemort's soul that is within Harry must die. The horcrux must be destroyed.

So Harry responds to Voldemort's call, and walks out alone, under the invisibility cloak, to meet him. Harry does not attempt to defend himself when Voldemort again uses the killing curse on Harry. The first time Harry survived because of his mother's intervention. Now, there is no one to intercede.

After his sacrifice, Harry awakes in King's Cross. He is whole, not even needing his glasses. But he is not alone:
[Harry] had spotted the thing that was making the noises. It had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat where it had been left, unwanted, stuffed out of sight, struggling for breath.

In King's Cross we see the contrast between what Voldemort's fear of death and Harry's acceptance of death has made of them. Voldemort is beyond help, while Harry is healthy.

It would be easy to mistake the Harry Potter series as embracing death. Is Snape's killing of Dumbleore and assisted suicide?

First, Harry did not run from death, but neither did he embrace it. The walk to Voldemort was difficult, particularly as he reflected on what would be lost. He required the support of those who had sacrificed themselves for him.

Second, Snape does kill Dumbledore knowing that Dumbledore is dying anyway. But the act is not to relieve Dumbledore's suffering, but to protect Draco. Had Draco been forced to kill Dumbledore, irreversible damage would have been done to Draco. I'm not saying that I agree with Snape's actions; I don't think they are justifiable. But the scene is not, I don't think, an argument for mercy killing.

Third, and most telling, is the graveyard scene on Christmas Eve. Harry and Hermione are searching for Harry's parent's grave. When they find the grave, on the marker are these words: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 (v. 26) where he is defending the resurrection. It contains (v. 3-4) Paul's wonderful summary of the gospel: "3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."

Whatever else Rowling may mean by using this quote, death is defined as an enemy, and one day it will end. I hope and pray that it also means that Rowling has the hope of the resurrection. That this quote is more than something in a book, but is a rock on which she can stand. I hope this is true for you as well.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Power in Harry Potter

By now you know: WARNING: There be spoilers ahead!

Horcruxes or the Deathly Hallows? The choice was anything but simple for Harry. It was a choice analogous to the choice to use or to destroy the ring of power. What Dumbledore had wanted was more or less clear, so trusting him would send Harry after horcruxes. But Harry knew now that Dumbledore had a past which he had been unwilling to share (trust to) Harry.

How do you handle power? Is it to be sought and used for your own benefit, or is it to be taken only with the outmost care and diligence?

For Voldemort and the Death Eaters that is a silly question. Power is meant to be wielded, otherwise it is wasted. Power means having the ability to get what you want when you want it. For Voldemort, it was a way to overcome death and to get "respect" that he had not gotten any other way. This is community committed to the principle of survival of the fittest. You either rule the pack by force, or you walk around with your tail between your legs.

One of the big surprises in book seven is the past of Albus Dumbledore. We learn in the book that his history included a desire for power and a scheming about how this might be done. While this might have been "for the greater good," it was a vain (both in the sense of proud and in the sense of worthless) pursuit. His scheming led, however indirectly, to the death of his sister and marked him for life.

Dumbledore becomes one then who shuns power. Many wondered why he never tried to become the Minister of Magic. Some, like Dolores Umbridge, assumed he was trying to take the position. But the reality was that Dumbledore feared what he might do in that position of power. When Harry tells Dumbledore in King's Cross that he would have been a great minister, Dumbledore responds (DH p. 718):
Would I? . . . I am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.

Dumbledore's wisdom in this matter is evident by two incidents signficant to Harry. The first was when Dumbledore realized that James Potter, Harry's father, had not just any invisibility cloak, but THE invisibility cloak. One third of the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore had to examine it, and it was in his possession on the night Voldemort killed Harry's parents. Likely having the cloak would have made no difference, but the question remains, particularly for Dumbledore knowing his own motives for wanting the cloak.

Second, Dumbledore kills himself, effectively, by putting on the ring that contained the resurrection stone. Voldemort had cursed the ring (similar to the poison protecting the locket) and while he continued to live with Snape's aid, Dumbledore's days were numbered. The black hand was a reminder that death was upon him and that soon he would die. This is the reason drinking the poison was an easy choice for Dumbledore. He was dying already. Power is frequently the weakness of the great. (I'm tempted to get on a soapbox about term limits for elected officials, but I'll let you work it out.)

So, Harry's choice in book seven (and at other times as well) is the choice to pursue power, or trust his friends. When Dobby dies while saving Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, and others, Harry realizes what he has to do. Even though he knows Voldemort has discovered the location of the elder wand. Even though Voldemort will get that wand which could make him nearly invincible, Harry chooses to pursue the horcruxes and not the Deathly Hallows. To take the path that Frodo takes, not the path to power but the path of sacrifice. The path that will require him to depend on Ron, Hermione, and, eventually, Neville instead of the path where he could be the next great wizard.

As believers, we are called to humility. Jesus is much more than an example and much more than a teacher, but He is both. His example is that we do not grasp for power and authority in this life. The least shall be greatest. The meek will inherit. We are sheep in the midst of wolves. And as Harry finally trusts Dumbledore, we must trust our great Teacher who calls us to die.

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