Should Christians Watch Illusionists?
Rocking God’s House recently landed an interview with the very talented actor Kristen Connolly who co-stars with Adrien Brody in the TV Mini-Series Houdini. The series chronicles Houdini’s life of illusion, government espionage, and his lifelong battle with Spiritualists. Christians sometimes associate Houdini with the occult, but, ironically, Houdini dedicated his life to exposing fraudulent psychics and occultists who claimed to have supernatural abilities.
Our interview with Kristen appeared Sunday evening and, besides getting some interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses of the mini-series, Kristen’s take on whether Houdini had any element of religion or spirituality in his life.
While reading about these topics, I couldn’t help but ask the question: should Christians watch illusionists? After all, the Word is very clear about staying away from anything that even dabbles in the occult.
Yet the Bible also portrays a world inhabited by the supernatural: ordinary followers of Christ (not just the apostles) do miracles, God Himself manifests His glory on the earth in supernatural ways, and unseen angelic and demonic forces battle for souls on earth.
I believe that angels and demons exist. I have witnessed first-hand demonic powers manifesting themselves in demonstrations of power to deceive people. And, according to the Bible, demons have been known to give powers to willing human vessels in order to deceive humanity.
Jesus even predicted that this would happen: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Revelation 13:13 has this prophetic word about the end times: “He [the false prophet] performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.”
But does this mean that all illusionists are demon-empowered deceivers? GotQuestions.org has, in my opinion, the best answer to this question:
There is a difference between the magicians spoken of in the Bible and the magicians and illusionists one sees today at parties and in stage show acts. The magicians in the Bible either gained their power from demonic forces or else they were little more than charlatans who pretended to have great knowledge or to discover secrets, tell fortunes, and predict things to come.
In fact, Christian magicians have, in recent times, defended their work and made it clear that these is no occult or supernatural element in their craft. In a recent article by Christian Post, Dan Delzell, a Christian magician, pointed out that all of his tricks are accomplished through “natural means,” and that many Christian illusionists have used their entertaining craft to support evangelist efforts — everything from Billy Graham crusades to Campus Crusade for Christ ministry events. He also told the Christian Post:
“As far as whether or not Christians should engage in ‘performance magic,’ I would be interested in knowing in each case what is being done in the name of ‘magic,'” Delzell said. “The word ‘magic’ conjures images which are often different from ‘illusion’ and ‘sleight of hand.’ I don’t believe all stage performers approach their work the same way. Some perform ‘sleight of hand.’ I believe others engage in sorcery.”
The bottom-line? A Christian should always use discernment and avoid any kind of entertainer who has ties to occult practices. Granted, sometimes it’s hard to tell. Personally, I err on the side of being over-cautious. If something feels off, I usually avoid it. But at the same time, I try to avoid knee-jerk reactions where I condemn what could be a legitimate and effective ministry before hearing them out.