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Three years ago, I wrote about a local church's Halleluia Party which was a substitute for children enjoying traditional Halloween festivities. They are still doing it, and the bulk mail invitation arrived in my mailbox last week.
Among the advertised attractions, they were featuring a Gospel Illusionist.
I had never heard of a Gospel Illusionist before, but the concept cracked me up, particularly the idea of performing magic tricks and sleight-of-hand at an event supposed to turn kids away from Halloween and its implications.
These people regard magic as evil, and want to banish Halloween for its supposed association with, among other things, witches and wizards. Yet, they are going to put on a magic show for the kids. Suddenly magic is OK if somehow a gospel message is included and the kids are told it is all an illusion.
I googled the term, and found that there are quite a few Gospel Illusionists out there. Apparently they are quite popular on the Baptist circuit.
I don't get it. Doesn't performing magic tricks undermine the supposed reality of Jesus's miracles?
It strikes me that miracles are one of the significant elements of the gospel. Whether it is water into wine, feeding the multitude, or the resurrection, miracles are supposed to be evidence of the divinity of Jesus.
Doing some magic tricks to communicate a gospel message seems to me to undercut the entire concept of miracles. If an entertainer can create an illusion of magic, then surely Jesus could have faked his way through his miracles.
Children aren't stupid. At least some of them will make the connection. For some of them, those seeds of doubt may grow into mighty trees of disbelief.