BRECKSVILLE, SEPT. 4 — On an eight-hour drive in the summer of 2017, Clay Myatt tackled something his parents had strongly discouraged him from doing when he was younger. Going from his home in Cleveland to Eastern Tennessee to attend a college classmate’s bachelor party, Myatt began listening to a Harry Potter audiobook.
The more Myatt heard – and later read – of Harry Potter, the more intrigued he became.
“When I was young, there was a Christian backlash against J.K. Rowling’s writings and a lot of Christian and conservative groups admonished parents against letting their children read Harry Potter books,” Myatt recalls. “Even the Pope condemned the books, saying that they were a threat to religion.
Myatt isn’t exaggerating.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of Vatican Doctrine and later Pope Benedict XVI, described Rowling’s writing in 2003 as “…. A subtle seduction, which has deeply unnoticed and direct effects in undermining the soul of Christianity before it can really grow properly.” Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson called the Harry Potter book series dangerous. “We have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products,” Dobson said in one of his daily radio broadcasts.
But the more and more Myatt read of Rowling’s books, the more clearly he discerned patterns and connections between the narrative in Harry Potter novels and the Bible message. What he discovered surprised him.
“Over time, I started to see some fairly explicit overtones to both the Gospel and Biblical story lines, Christian themes in the Harry Potter series,” Myatt explained. “As I saw more and more of this, I asked myself ‘why haven’t I heard of these before?’
“I’ve heard dozens of sermon illustrations based on the works of C.S. Lewis, such as The Chronicles of Narnia novel series, and J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings novel trilogy, but I’ve never heard a pastor make a reference to Harry Potter in a sermon.”
The more Myatt looked into Rowling’s works, the more obvious the overtones presented themselves. As he began researching the connections, he discovered that Rowling herself (who’s pretty reclusive) has admitted to writers profiling her that these connections exist.
“To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious,” Rowling said in a 2007 interview. She has also stated to multiple writers that she believes in life after death.
This investigation launched Myatt onto a two-year writing project. He began it in 2019 while serving as an assistant pastor in residence in Gainesville (Fl.) after completing his studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Myatt also earned a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University. The culmination of his project is a book, titled Echoes of the Gospel in Harry Potter, available beginning on September 10 from Wipf and Stock Publishing. Here’s a link to details and ordering information: https://wipfandstock.com/9781666708684/echoes-of-the-gospel-in-harry-potter/.
The 20 chapter, 168-page book is a deep dive into the interrelatedness of the storylines and themes from Harry Potter with themes in the four Gospels and also the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul.
Three key themes from the Bible
In his research and writing, Myatt discovered that there are many ways that the Harry Potter series echoes the gospel. There are three main themes — found in many books in the Harry Potter series — that come straight from the Bible. Those three are: Sacrificial Love, Death, and Resurrection.
“Both Harry Potter and Harry’s mother Lily exemplify the virtue of love,” Myatt explains. “In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Lily protects her son by giving up her own life to save him from the evil Voldemort. Her sacrifice makes the curse intended for Harry instead rebound on Voldemort, marking his first defeat and prompting Harry’s rise to unexpected fame.”
Myatt sees parallels with this and with Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life protecting the sheep.
“By the end of the Harry Potter series, Harry embodies this self-sacrificial love himself as he lays down his life to protect his friends,” Myatt says. “This love has, in part, been formed in him through the manifold suffering he has had to face throughout his life as the object of Voldemort’s hatred.
“Contrary to the prevailing narratives in our culture that tend to view suffering as only something to be avoided or fixed, the message of Harry Potter is that suffering can be meaningful, that it can make one more loving and courageous, that it can even create the circumstances out of which heroism arises, and that it will ultimately end,” Myatt adds.
The second theme, death, is one over which the Happy Potter character Voldemort becomes obsessed. “The villain Voldemort’s goal in life is to conquer death. He’s pursuing immortality,” Myatt explains. “Voldemort does this through Horcruxes, objects in which a dark witch or wizard can hide a fragment of his or her soul for the purpose of attaining immortality.”
By the time we get to the seventh Harry Potter book we are introduced to the Deathly Hallows, or three components which, in combination, allegedly can help overcome death. They are the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility.
“In the seventh and final Harry Potter book, we learn that the Deathly Hallows are another way that one can become master of death, and when Harry first learns about them, he initially becomes obsessed with finding them,” Myatt explains. “But Harry realizes that the only way for him to defeat Voldemort and evil is for him (Harry) to give his own life as a sacrifice. Ultimately that’s how death is defeated.”
That leads to the third theme, the one of resurrection.
“”In the seventh and final Harry Potter book, we learn that the Deathly Hallows are another way that one can become master of death, and when Harry first learns about them, he initially becomes obsessed with finding them,” Myatt recalls. “Harry sees a Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 15:26, on his parents’ grave. “The verse reads that the last enemy to be destroyed is death, and in the Deathly Hallows, we have Harry coming back to his body in the final chapter. Just like Jesus, he’s alive and living a bodily state, not an ethereal one.
“Evil is finally subdued, as Harry defeated the dark lord Voldemort and there’s no chance for evil to re-enter the world of Harry Potter,” Myatt adds. “The ending of Harry Potter has direct correlations to the Bible, specifically with 1 Corinthians 15 and also to Revelation 21 and 22, especially Revelation 21:4.”
Myatt points out these parallels extend even to the conclusion of Rowling’s final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. “Resurrection is not the end though — it is a new beginning. In the Epilogue we get a glimpse of what life is like post-Voldemort, and the last line encapsulates it perfectly: ‘The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.’
“The scar remains. Just like Harry, Jesus keeps his scars after his resurrection (John 20:27). But the pain is gone,” Myatt writes in his book. “And what was a cause of pain and death — nails driven into his hands and feet and a spear piercing his side — becomes a sign of victory. The scars become a sign that death has been defeated. The same is true of Harry’s scar: It marks him as the Boy Who Lived, the one who finally defeated Voldemort.”
What others say about Myatt’s book
Ben Lowe, founding spokesperson of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and author of Green Revolution and Doing Good Without Giving Up, has a lot of praise for Myatt’s writing.
“With the eye of a scholar and the heart of a pastor, Myatt deftly unpacks the many rich and often overlooked connections between the biblical narrative and the Harry Potter series,” he writes. “(This is) an excellent and eye-opening resource for all fans of Harry Potter as well as anyone interested in exploring how these wildly-popular works can help us better understand and appreciate truth and beauty in this world.”
Professor Scott Manetsch is chair of the church history department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Manetsch was one Myatt’s instructors. Here is his take on the work.
“In this deeply insightful and wise book, Myatt shed lights on important themes in J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter series and shows why it matters for friendship and faith, sacrifice and suffering, love and courage, death and resurrection,” Manetsch says. “Clay Myatt is insightful, creative, humble, extremely bright, and a good writer. I have been impressed by the courageous, cheerful, and faithful way he has handled serious medical challenges.”
Rick Duncan, founding pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church, saw Myatt come to maturity. He’s also been a mentor to Myatt in the area of church planting.
“Reading this book made me want to read the Potter series again and, more importantly, made me want to reread my Bible with more perceptive eyes,” Duncan says. “Myatt’s book is a series of thoughtful essays that help one see how the characters and the context of Harry Potter serve as metaphors that powerfully illumine historic, orthodox Christian truths. Over and over, Myatt finds points of application for everyday believers in our current cultural context.”
EyeonCleveland Founder John Kerezy wrote this article. Comments welcome. You can also connect at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts after reading “Echoes of the Gospel in Harry Potter” for a possible follow-up story.
Interview with Clay Myatt, September 4, 2021
Rowling, J.K., “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Scholastic, 2007
Myatt Clay, “Echoes of the Gospel in Harry Potter,” Wipf & Stock, 2021