“To a simple question, sir. In the past, magic was done as a matter of course. It… it was as much a part of this country as the rain. Then 300 years ago it died, seemingly overnight. We wish to know… why magic has fallen from its once great state. We wish to know why is there no more magic done in England?”
I don’t know why, but for as long as I can remember I have really enjoyed Charles Dickens-like stories set in old England; Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Story,etc… I’m also a sucker for Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim’s Progress and Gulliver’s Travels .
I recently stumbled across a BBC miniseries aired on Netflix. It’s based on a best-selling novel by Susanna Clark- “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.”
The story opens where the book does: in the fall of 1806 on a meeting of the men of the Learned Society of York Magicians. They have gathered as they do on the third Wednesday of every month “to read each other long dull papers about the history of English magic” (Note it is a discussion about magic, not practicing magic!).
But a Mr. Segundus, much younger and more earnest than the rest, interrupts. He has recently begun to wonder, he questions, “Why the great feats of magic that I read about remain in the pages of my books and are not seen on the street or on the battlefield… In short, gentlemen, I wish to know: Why is magic no longer done in England?”
(Derisive laughter erupts from the other attendees)
“It is a long question, Mr… Segundus.
Magicians study magic, the history of magic. We do not perform it. You don’t expect an astronomer to create stars, eh?
(They all chuckle)
Or a botanist to invent new flowers, eh?
(They all laugh)
It is a child’s question, I appreciate, but no-one else… Classical magic, sir, is not a thing for the gentlemen of this society. Nor any… gentleman. I do hope that you have not been trying to cast spells, sir.”
(They all laugh)
As I was watching this conversation unfold, it seemed as if God was stirring in my heart that the same things could be said about the church today!
What Does Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Say About the Church?
I couldn’t help but think of the “conversations” (more arguments actually) currently going on in the church…
* Miraculous spiritual gifts TODAY for every believer vs cessation of same (They have gathered as they do on the third Wednesday of every month “to read each other long dull papers about the history of English magic” (Note it is a discussion about magic, not practicing magic!). It’s actually a PROMISE that Jesus made. John 14:12-14
* Resistance to the 7 Mountain Maindate (spheres of cultural influence) and bringing the Kingdom of God into the marketplace (Why do the great feats of magic that I read about remain in the pages of my books and are not seen on the street or on the battlefield?)
* The requirement to be “apprenticed” by so-called “experts”…when the apprentice may have greater gifts than the “teacher;” and without biases and ulterior motives that “experts” have (In the story, Mr. Gilbert Norrell is a self-proclaimed “practising magician” …”The greatest magician of the age” and owner of the most extensive library on the subject. While Jonathan Strange naturally practices magic, both in greater degree and in the battlefield to help England’s war effort; without “knowing” how he’s doing it!?)
* Opposition of the current established leadership to new ways, ideas and leaders- to extent of being enemies of the new move of God. Gilbert Norrell desires to make himself the judge, jury, and executioner of any kind of magic that he disagrees or disapproves of- under the guise that he wishes to make magic “respectable.” ”Sometimes the greatest opposition to what God wants to do next comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God did last.” R.T. Kendall
In the story of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, amidst the chaos and destruction that he himself instigated, Mr. Norrell sees the error of his ways and helps Jonathan Strange; even embracing the new found ways. Let us hope that the same will be true for the church- that the “old guard” will not not only help the new leaders, but also embrace the new move of God…glorifying Him TOGETHER!