Last time I said I would look at Harry Potter,  Star Wars, and the Lord of the Rings. I should have included The Chronicles of Narnia.

One thing all of these have in common is the supernatural. Star Wars fans don’t think of it as anything but science fiction, but “The Force” is clearly a supernatural power. An easy choice would be to simply reject all stories that involve the supernatural–except that, well, the Bible is all about the supernatural. And don’t think in today’s post modern, largely post-Christian culture that the supernatural in the Bible is obviously different from the others.

Let me be clear: I am not saying the supernatural in the Bible is ‘just the same’ as in these other works. I am saying that, to someone not raised a Christian, the differences are not so obvious as we would like. Indeed, there are several Bible stories that can be more than a little troubling.

For example, 2 Kings 13:21: “Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.”

or Acts 5:14: “People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.”

Elisha made an axehead float by tossing a piece of wood on the surface above it.

How about Jesus and the fish with a coin in its mouth to pay taxes?

Even the episode where the woman touched Christ’s robe and was healed has some magical aspects about it.

I mention these things not because I believe the Bible deals in magic; rather, I’m trying to demonstrate how some of the miracles in the Bible are not easily distinguishable from what we think of as magic.

And certainly, Christians in general are not immune from magical thinking about the Bible. More than one televangelist guarantees that if you donate a certain amount, God will automatically give you up to 100 times more money. In truth, I’ve cringed more than once at stewardship sermons–why are stewardship sermons always about money?–that virtually guarantee financial success to everyone who tithes.

So the real question is not about whether the story in question has references to the supernatural, but how to determine whether that invocation of the supernatural is healthy or diabolical. Now, the serpent, Genesis tells us, was the most subtle animal in the Garden. So it shouldn’t be surprising if the issue of the supernatural in stories is full of subtleties.