Capture their attention and show them Jesus!
Is there a Biblical justification for using magic (Illusions) to present Scriptural or Spiritual Truths?
The first thing to consider is the illusionist is NOT performing magic or sorcery. He is very clear and upfront about how his illusions work. He explains that everything is done by mechanical means or takes a lot of practice. There is no special power associated with the sleight of hand. Yes, it is entertaining, but the message conveyed is very powerful.
Consider Jesus’ own use of parables–object teaching. Jesus could have paid his taxes without pulling them from a fish’s mouth. His parables (not true stories but illustrations) (Matt. 13:34) served as a means of getting the attention of his listeners and getting his message across. Sleight of hand and illusion provide a way of presenting some very powerful spiritual messages in a visual way. When a dirty handkerchief is transformed into a clean one representing the blood of Christ washing our sins away, the object captures the attention of the crowd and thus the message is recieved.
Many visual means have been used throughout the years such as puppets and flannelgraph. We all know that people retain more of what they hear if it is not only heard but visually presented. The same with ventriloquism. People know that it is not the figure talking but the use of puppets are very effective in working with children.
Many of the prophets used spectacular visual aids such as shaving their head, wearing a rotten garment, making a model of Jerusalem. And what a sight Jonah must have been, bleached from the digestive juices of the great whale, as he paraded through Nineveh proclaiming the judgment of God.
But perhaps most spectacular of all are the descriptions of the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. It could have happened without a lot of fanfare, but Christs death was accompanied by darkness and earth- quake. The resurrection was accompanied by a blast of light that left the guards stunned and dazed.
I have seen some very impressive and effective use of “illusions” to illustrate principles from the Scripture. When sleight of hand and illusion are harnessed for the purpose of explaining Gospel principles, it can be very powerful.
A serious objection is that when people are amazed and admire the perform er, this leads to pride on his part. This is certainly a possiblity, and the Christian performer (no matter what art form) must guard against pride. This is true of the Christian singer, actor, magician, ventriloquist–and even preacher! Let us condemn pride in any form and in every presentation, but the possibility of pride should not deter from the exercise of a skill that can point people to God’s Truth and lead them to Christ.
To wind up this brief treatment, let me make several practical suggestions about your own attitude towards “Gospel Illusions”:
1. Enjoy “illusion” presentation. Don’t worry about being fooled. You don’t need to understand how every trick is done in order for it to be all right.
2. Pray for the Christian Illusionist. He wants to present Gospel Truths in an effective way, without violating what is proper. It is easy to give in to the sins of pride and presumption. He needs your understanding and support. Praise God that He has given this performer opportunities to present a message at times where someone might not listen to a sermon.
3. Seek God’s mind. Be sympathetic and ask God to help you understand what attitude is right to have towards forms of ministry that you do not whole heartedly understand or endorse. Realize that the same skill may not be best for everyone, but God can bless it and use it for His glory.
4. If you continue to have reservations, work them out. Talk with me. I will be happy to discuss them with you!
I hope these suggestions have helped you to gain a new perspective. Read Mark 2:1-12 and rejoice that God has given many ways to reach people with the never changing message of salvation.
A person only retains a small percentage of what they hear, but if you give them visual illustrations along with the lesson, the retention factor increases greatly. Add to the illustration a mystery, or surprise ending, and you lock in on their curiosity and they will remember what you have said.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” – Colossians 3:17
“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” – I Corinthians 9:22b
“Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!