Christian magicians are rising to defend themselves against assertions made by a Christian Post columnist that the performance of magic may involve the occult.
They are upset with columnist Dan Delzell's opinion that the U.K.-based magician Dynamo's illusion of levitating alongside a red London double decker bus was real. Delzell related the performance to "witchcraft and contact with evil spirits, and the presumption that the art of magic is a gateway to demonic involvement."
Delzell's column incited a number of Christian magicians to leave comments criticizing his assumption that magic performances are linked to demonic power. These magicians included Jim Munroe, who works with worldwide ministries; Rob Robinson, a Christian magician and mentalist; and Joe Turner, who is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians and served on the board of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
Munroe, who has worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, I Am Second, and Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ), told The Christian Post on Monday that he received Delzell's column through a secular magician friend and felt compelled to respond to it.
He is concerned that statements such as Delzell's can hurt the Christian witness. He wrote a comment under the opinion piece, "The Illusion That Seduces and Bewitches Magicians."
"I can tell you, with full authority, that the 'magic trick' created by Dynamo is in fact a 'trick,'" Munroe stated. "Its effect is in no way achieved by supernatural means. It was achieved by natural means, and its purpose was to illicit a reaction similar to Steven Spielberg's when he created the dinosaur in Jurassic Park: that of wonder … Don't write about things that you don't know anything about because you widen a gap with individuals that I am trying to shrink. You counteract the very inclusion that Jesus shared."
Munroe told CP that Christians should be accurate in their assertions in order to share the Gospel intelligently, "We run the risk of pushing people farther away when we don't know what it is that we are even talking about and this [opinion column] is a perfect example of that."
When asked by CP for his response to the controversy, Delzell wrote via email: "I believe people will disagree on whether or not Dynamo's levitation was real. Unbelievers may disagree about it, and Christians will likely disagree about it. There are many issues in life and spirituality and theology where Christians agree to disagree with one another."
He said he believes his column is a good and faithful witness to the truth of God's Word, and to the dangers of sorcery and levitation.
"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."
Delzell said that perhaps "Christian magicians" should be called "Christian illusionists rather than magicians."
"There again, I suppose Christians may not all define 'magician' the same way," he stated. "We find Simon the sorcerer in Acts chapter 8. Was he a 'magician,' or not?"
In his column, Delzell writes that "paranormal things happen when people engage in practices that are rooted in sorcery, magic and witchcraft," and that it is best to stay away from anything surrounding magic.
"It turns out much better when you trust in Jesus than when you live life obsessed with magic," he writes. "So don't fall for the illusion. Don't be seduced by the power, even though the power is very real and alluring. If those evil spirits could levitate your soul to heaven for eternity, they would be worshipping the Creator rather than tempting people to dabble with the counterfeit practices of the occult."
Turner, who wrote a response piece to Delzell's column for CP, argues that the columnist should have researched Christian "magic" better and went way too far in condemning the practice.
"In a world where Christians and the church are – often rightfully – criticized for lack of intellectual rigor, this kind of unnecessary incident does nothing to elevate Christ," Turner told CP. "We don't need the riches or accolades of the world and we aren't supposed to be looking for them, but there's no need to give those already hostile to Christ's witness another legitimate example to point to when they try to anti-evangelize people away from Christ's message.
"Given an entertainment experience we don't understand, I hardly think Jesus would want our first reaction to be an accusation of sorcery. As Christians, we have enough work to do against the real destructive forces in the world; let's not be distracted by fearfully imagining new enemies where none exist."
While Dynamo has not revealed the exact method he used for his levitating trick, other magicians and illusionists around the world, however, have been weighing in, with some even suggesting that they have performed the same trick.
A few potential methods for the trick have been touted, but the most likely seems to be that Dynamo's arm seen holding onto the bus is not his real arm, but a mechanical metal arm attached to the bus. Apparently the metal arm goes down Dynamo's sleeve where it connects to a larger metal contraption, and eventually down to a platform at the shoe area where Dynamo stands.
The result is an illusion that gives the impression that Dynamo levitated up to the top of the bus and then magically floats alongside it.
"Magic is all about illusion. Giving the illusion that the impossible is happening. This man that levitated was performing an illusion. It's not a mystical power from the devil … I am a magician and a Christian. Please don't write this stuff," wrote Tracie Sanner in the CP comments section.
Rod Robison commented, "…I know of at least one professional magician who is an atheist who has posted your article as yet another example of gullible Christians. As a Christian and professional illusionist and mentalist, I can assure you that Dynamo's levitation and every other levitation (not to mention everything magicians perform) are simply very clever illusions. As an example, in my Mentallusions show I levitate a table. It looks incredibly real. That's why I paid big bucks to buy it. It's a really good TRICK! I 'read minds' in my show as well. Guess what. It's a TRICK! But to those who do not know the trick, it looks very, very real. ... I'm sorry that in the pursuit of warning others about deception, you have fallen into deception yourself."
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