From the January/February, 2004 issue of Touchstone

Between Icon & Idol by S. M. Hutchens

Between Icon & Idol

Harry Potter & Imagination’s Symbolic Life

by S. M. Hutchens

J K. Rowling has, like C. S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia, created an exciting story of redemption within the world of modern ugliness and alienation, a world in which a drab and common boy with dismal prospects is revealed as what he has in fact been from birth: someone who counts for something, whose well-intentioned labors count for good and are rewarded with appreciation, understanding, and the hope of greatness.

It is a world in which good and evil stand out in high relief and strong contrast, where the quest for mere power is clearly and forcefully identified as wicked, and good triumphs in the end. More than this, Harry takes his place in the Great-Story-from-Which-All-Stories-Come as the Prince born hidden and in hostile obscurity, who, with his friends and companions, overcomes the powers of evil at the risk of his life. He is a Christ-figure, the sign of his anointing a wound on his brow.

In these stories, however, the Christ-figure is, intolerably to Christians, a witch, whom the law of God says should not be suffered to live. Surely if the witch is to be removed from the real world and its history, neither should he be allowed to thrive in the imagination. This is the problem that faces the morally serious Christian at the threshold of Harry Potter’s world, for he has been clearly warned in his own Scriptures to flee the false Christ, and surely a witch-Christ is a false one. Against this prohibition many of us, I would suppose, have little more to plead in Harry’s favor than our desire to be entertained.

Alternating Reactions

Given these considerations, the unaccomplished task of reviewing the Harry Potter books pressed hard upon me for many months. Looming before me was the question of whether these, and now their cinematographic offspring, should be taken in by Christians and their children. Strong and intelligent arguments have been made on both sides. Let me unburden myself at the outset of the two alternating reactions at the poles of my own dilemma:

The first, and one to which I am more naturally inclined, is that Christians—or their children by the time they are old enough to read Harry Potter—who are so ill-prepared for life in the world that they are afraid these books will inevitably damage the spirit, seem to me culpably weak, impressing me as people who can never make much progress in the faith. They have not put on the armor of God, as they are bid. They are retreating, empty-handed, rather than advancing, sword in hand. Morbidly dependent, their spiritual immune systems are so bad that everything they take into themselves must be sanitized by some religious censor, for they cannot do it themselves.

Christ’s teaching that they are clean but must be washed by him of the dust of everyday traveling is usually incomprehensible to this sort of person, for he is unable to understand the concurrence of purity and the necessity to be purified from the elements of the world that inevitably come to lie on the surface of his being. He is caught in the intolerable position of having to declare things evil (or good) without sufficient evidence, and, unable to separate good from evil where they appear together, believes he cannot look far enough into the life of the world to judge it without falling victim to what he may be obliged to reject.

This makes him not only anti-intellectual, but virtually autistic in his manner of life and thought. He cannot be educated, for education by any reasonable definition requires critical interaction with what is unfriendly to Christianity. This interaction, necessary to the development of moral fiber, requires daily striving in which the life of the spirit is always at risk—and this from youth forward, for God does not withhold temptation from children. But this sort is ill fitted to do battle with evil, since he is too fastidious to cross swords with it. His problem, manifest in fear, sloth, and the unwillingness to engage his critical faculties to the degree necessary to sustain Christian life, is a lack of faith in the power of God to deliver him from evil as he makes his way through the world.

The opposite pole of my dilemma involves Christians who see no problems in Harry Potter or similar fantasies, who fail to warn their children not only against the portrayal of witches as good, but against dependence on fantasy in general. These are as guilty of presumption as their quaking counterparts are of oligopistia—deficiency in faith. Here I find a good many Christian intellectuals. This type typically underestimates the power of evil. They bring up children in their own image, who, but for the grace of God, shall quickly be overtaken by it. Careless of the existence of real lions in the way, they regard real dangers as chimerical, and may be relied upon to mistake the prudence of others for lack of faith, judiciousness for cowardice.

They typically regard themselves as Christian humanists—enlightened, educated, and sophisticated, at home in the world, free from fundamentalist punctiliation, enemies of censorship, the cultured despisers of all indexes and inquisitions, apt to teach and fit to lead. I have seen the sloughs on the left side of the Narrow Way as filled with their decaying bodies and the sinking ruins of the institutions they have influenced as the cliffs to the right are full of the broken remains of those who have made themselves so closed and brittle that they can no longer think, speak, or walk.

To Read or Not to Read

The Corinthian question to the apostle on whether Christians should eat food sold in the marketplace that had previously been dedicated to idols is at base whether we are compromised by taking into ourselves that which, while otherwise nourishing, pagan action and intention has identified with an evil we reject. I suggest a clean analogy may be drawn between this question and the one being raised about Christian ingestion of the Harry Potter books. We, like the Corinthian believers, wish to have a simple answer to a vexing question: “Should we or should we not eat? Should we or should we not read?” and tend to fall out into Yes or No parties over the matter. St. Paul gives us what is, one supposes, an answer unsatisfying to both.

There is liberty to eat, for what we take into ourselves by way of sustenance is in itself of no consequence to God. This is necessarily corollary to what is among us sinners the highly counterintuitive teaching of the Lord that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him; that is, that no external evil is able to attach itself to the self apart from the complicity of the will. This is a foundation stone of Christian moral teaching. It is what allows the pastor to tell the victim of rape that it has not cost her her purity in the eyes of God; it is what warns even the holiest (and therefore manliest) of men away from pornography.

The teaching also means that no such accepted influence remains confined within the accepting self, since it alters the man who accepts it, and “comes out” of him, thus altering his relations to and effects upon what is external to him. It is not as though participation in evil that rests unconfessed in the self remains as a kind of “sin-unit” that one may by some exertion of the will confine, and so keep from turning loose in the world. Sin by its nature alters the self, and so inevitably affects others because man is by nature a social creature whose person, and therefore whose interactions, are re-formed by his sin. (This is the Christian rebuttal to the allegation that there are strictly personal, “victimless” sins and crimes.)

It is also entirely consonant with what Jews and Christians have been taught about the nature of God and man: that God, who created all things in their original forms and blessed them as good, and seeing everything, including the deepest evils performed in and upon his creation, himself remains wholly pure, undefiled by evil uses of that which he has made, that man has by an act of his own will taken evil within himself, and therefore finds that which in a sinless state had no hold on him is now a danger, and that Christ, who bore all sin, becoming sin for us, did so in spotless holiness and purity.

Man is surrounded by mortal dangers, by symbols and carriers of evil on every side, not because these dangerous things are evil in themselves, but because the whole world has become to the sinner a sacramentum mali. We are told that the first communion element of this evil was nothing more terrible than a piece of fruit, so that only by an act of divine grace could that which is required to sustain human life—for man must eat the fruit of the earth to live—not be to him an insufferable anamnesis of his sin. Everything a man takes into himself, no longer pure by nature, must become pure by grace, from the Table of the Lord and so out into his intercourse with all creation, as elements no longer of the body of sin, but the body of Christ.

We associate things we find in the world with evil not because they are evil in themselves, even if they are devoted by their inventors to evil purposes, but since, because of our weakness, they draw forth the evil in us and create occasions to sin. Mark that I understand certain inventions of men have practically no other use but evil, for they are the creatures of evil intent, designed for evil use. But still they have no power to defile—none whatever—unless they are met by evil within those upon whom they act. To the pure, all things are pure, and lead him to God; for the wicked, the opposite.

The Christian answer to the pneumatikoi of every age is therefore not to tell them they are wrong when they say, “He who abides in God does not sin.” To deny this would be to deny Christ. Rather, it is that “if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar, and the truth is not in us.” Let every man judge himself in such things, understand that his soul hangs in the balance, and that error shall take him to hell.


In Corinth the problem was, in the first order, one of conscience, which the apostle chooses to turn back upon the party that believed itself strong enough to eat the sacrificed meat. Even if one’s own conscience is strong enough to remain undefiled—and he freely stipulates, using himself as an example, that this may indeed be the case—the duties of charity require consideration of the consciences of others who cannot partake without moral reservation, whose attachment to idolatry is so fresh or strong that they do not fully believe in their hearts, as stronger Christians do, that “an idol is nothing.”

With respect to the Harry Potter books we are perhaps speaking of believers with recent or still unresolved connections to actual witchcraft, or of young children, for neither of whom is appropriate intellectual control of the issues yet possible. We do not mean those who are, merely on principle, offended by the magic of fairy-tale witches.

It would appear that the apostle gives, with one hand, complete liberty to take into oneself whatever one finds harmless and sustaining, then turns around and with the other removes the privilege on behalf of Christians for whom this may create a stumbling block for faith—for where among Christians is there not an abundance of weakness with regard to every possible temptation? At this point the call for teaching on the subject has been entirely satisfied, but not the perplexity of those who wanted a Yes or No answer amenable to their predispositions. Christian intuition should be satisfied that we have been placed exactly where we need to be in order to consider the matter properly and reach the proper conclusions about our actual conduct of affairs.

I suggest that where we need to be—the mark of the path that needs to be taken—is always where one is suspended between manifold truths, the claims of all of which must be honored and obeyed entirely. In cases such as the present one the most prominent are, on one hand, the just claims of liberty, and on the other, charity to the weak, which seem to conflict, but which we must believe in God cannot. The answer we seek, and which we must reckon as possible in the life of the God in which we claim truly to partake, is that which does entire justice to both.

In the penultimate end, of course, even our best judgments must be placed before God as offerings, in the knowledge that even the wisest among us are sinful men who may err. We are also called to believe that judgments and actions that meet the full approval of God are, in Christ, both required and possible.


My own intuition, informed, one hopes, by Scripture and tradition, is that the magisterial disposition of such matters is not best trusted to a single teacher in the church, although a single teacher may execute the magisterial consensus. Rather it should be a matter of council and counsel, the desired end of which is “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” My own contribution to such a discussion would be this:

The problem of Harry Potter, as it presents itself to my mind at this time in history, has little to do with Harry or his friends at Hogwarts, taken in isolation, but with the temptations of fantasy in general. In this, Harry takes his place with literature and its cinematic offspring more generally approved by Christians. There is in the modern West, among its Christians perhaps no less than others, an inability or unwillingness to live in and deal honestly with reality, an unwillingness that has been exploited very efficiently by the church’s enemies, who understand that the world that one likes, rather than the world that one has, is a place to which, in face of the fears and sorrows of life, we tend to withdraw reflexively, and with predictably ill results.

This has come to me most powerfully in watching the recent self-delusion in which some of the highest officials in the United States government, along with the generality of our media, are indulging themselves and the people of the United States with respect to the character and intentions of Islam, fantasized as a religion of peace that can in accordance with its deepest nature live amicably with the Christian faith and the cultures that have been formed and influenced by it.

This extraordinarily powerful wish-fulfillment fantasy ignores the realities of New Testament teaching on the anti-Christian nature of any religion that denies the incarnation of God in Christ, and of Koranic teaching about the necessity of overcoming Christianity and Christian nations, whether by peaceful or violent means—the differences among serious Muslims having to do not with their understanding of the meaning of these teachings, but of whether they are to be pursued literally, that is, violently, in the manner of Mohammed himself, or not. One wonders at what point Americans, addicted to their fantasies, can actually be convinced that they have a real enemy in Islam that needs to be treated as such, and that the strength of that enemy is not in the corruption, but the expression, of its teaching.

The point at which imagination becomes dangerous is the very point at which it crosses the subtle line between informing and in-forming—when imagination leaves the reality it was meant to serve and attempts to create its own truth. When it operates in subordination to and for the advantage of the truth that was, is, and shall be, begotten of the Father, as a faithful iconographer of the deep reality from which it arises, which participates in that reality by pointing to it (whether or not this is perceived by those who produce or consume the product), the imagination is sacramental, no less than a means of grace to draw men to God through Christ, and part of the intentional life of God himself, informing us in fundamental ways about who he is and laying open the choice between him and that which opposes him, between good and evil.

Christ Portrayed

In this sense and form imagination is proevangelical, in and through which one must suppose God weighs the heart, especially in places where the gospel has not been preached, or where it has been heard so badly that the heart desiring Christ rejects, as it thinks, the Christian God. This writer supposes Christ can be truly but imperfectly portrayed, in accordance with the true but imperfect knowledge we have of all things, by Odysseus or Roland or Beowulf or Prince Charming—perhaps even by the Son of Heaven in China, Krishna, or Muslims’ Allah—in the elect imagination that is opening to the true God, while the opposite is true of that which is closing in upon a lie.

The task of evangelization is to show Christ to such minds as the true object of every holy desire, desire that has heretofore attached itself to what is unworthy of it, but which may stand, to a point, as a sign of the Object. (I am reminded of a story I heard a missionary tell. He was standing on the banks of the Ganges, listening to a tour guide explain that Indians had many gods. Overhearing him, one of those reputed polytheists, an old man prepared to dip himself in the river, cried out, “No! There is only one God!” If we were allowed to know other people’s stories, his would have been interesting.)

When the imagination seeks to liberate itself from the good, true, and beautiful and seeks other paths, it becomes parasitic on life, no longer feeding it, but feeding upon it, seeking to in-form it after its own corrupt image rather than inform it according to the truth that is outside of it and from which it arose. As is true of everything diabolical, it can never corrupt completely. All bad art remains art—anti-art rather than un-art, as we have been shown by the swathers of nature in pink plastic, immersers of crucifixes in urine, and architects of churches that look like rubbish heaps. (The most revealing evidence of their attachment to the world they reject is the inevitable insistence that it reward them for their demolition work.)

We may rely on the corrupters’ insistence on the priority of an autonomous artistic self, on subjectivism in art and literature: the drawing of life and nature not in accordance with the Truth that is in the first order other than man, but the desires of the heart for which truth has become a drawing tool in the service of chaos—what was attempted in the Crucifixion.


What we call intelligence—the capacity to understand—in both human beings and animals, involves the ability to identify and act upon symbols. All plants and animals are symbolists in their ability to recognize, in a way and complexity of apprehension appropriate to their species, that one thing may stand for another—as a plant turns toward the sun, as a protozoan knows that certain stimulation means satisfaction of its requirements, as a dog learns that the smell of meat stands for the proximity of food. One might reasonably imagine an unusually intelligent beast, Klug Hans on a maximal scale, who could be taught to read, write, do mathematics, and function in many ways as men do if the reward suited him, the difference between the orangutan who rings a bell for his banana and the human being who devotes himself to acquisition being of degree rather than kind.

Readers of Lewis will recall the Oyarsa of Malacandra’s observations on Lord Feverstone—that the merely acquisitive has given up his humanity and would therefore in a properly ordered world be destroyed. One also suspects that those who can see no qualitative difference between men and other animals—or, as in novels of Asimov or Clarke, or Star Trek’s Mr. Data, elaborate machines—do so because they have been functioning at a complex but subhuman level so long that what is peculiarly human in themselves and others has been lost to sight.

What sets man apart from the other animals as the souled—not simply the most intelligent—creature is eternity set in his heart, his capacity to conceive and recognize the permanence of the permanent, to understand the impermanent as capable of representing it, to know the ephemeral as the sign of the eternal as its necessary foundation and end. Within this capacity lies the intuition, where it has not been killed, that the symbol is not merely one mutable thing representing another to consciousness, but also a means of communion, and so a means of one’s own transformation to the imperishable for and in which it may stand. Man, as man, has the fundamental intuition that he is an eternal creature who looks beyond the impermanent to his own place in what endures, and strives to find it.

This is why orthodox Christianity does not recognize the central symbols of its own sacramental life—the sacrament or mystery being a symbol of communion and transformation established by God—as “mere” signs in which what they signify is present only to the mind as a simple memorial evocation, as though we were intelligent animals who strove for nothing more than the practical end of bringing Christ into welcome and perhaps useful remembrance, but rather as symbols in the uniquely human sense of communion with God by those who are like him, the receiving into one’s self the eternal, permanent, life of his Son. To remember him in this fashion is to accept his symbols not as mere memory associations, but as what he said they were, as a true participation in his life, as making his own eternal self—his life, his death, and his resurrection—the necessary and transformative part of our own being as eternal creatures.

Foundational, however, to the understanding of the divine law, hence the character of God as holy, is that the instantiation of symbols, the making of images, which man to be man must make, and in which his salvation lies, is positively forbidden to man the sinner. The sentence of death that is passed upon the disobedient is that what he must do to be a man is forbidden him, so he is cast into a search for and reliance upon a humanity that is true but different from his own, a humanity in and by which the sinner may re-qualify as a whole man and maker of true images after the manner and craft of his Creator, in whose image he himself was made, and into whose image-making labors he must enter to establish himself as a bearer of the image of God.

The Second Commandment introduces us to despair, forbidding the creation of images in the heavens above or the earth beneath, establishing that the making of them by the sinner ineluctably involves “serving” them as idols, and in that act the re-creation of God and his creation (most frequently in the misrepresentation of God through the creation that mirrors him) after his own fallen image and likeness, which is to say, in the corruption of the imagination. Image-making in this singularly human sense by fallen man is not simply picture-drawing, but the putting forward, in any way and by any medium by which it is possible to do it, of alternative realities—the telling of stories of how the permanent and impermanent are related, of getting the stories wrong, thereby misrepresenting and denying God with an anti-Christology.

I am inclined to regard the perpetual conflict between the iconoclasts and iconodules in the Church not as at bottom a clash between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, but between unreconciled orthodoxies, between those who correctly understand the making of images as necessary to humanity and its worship of God and those who, just as correctly, understand its dangers, that every image in its context carries a story in which God is the principal, bent men being unable by nature to draw them aright, and redeemed men still liable to indulge in idolatry.

Image & Communion

The faculty we call imagination is not simply the ability to form pictures in the mind, but to make stories—to project symbols of meaning upon the backdrop of reality, by which and in which it is interpreted. It is the ability of man the maker to form and live by interpretive images of what is real while not present to the senses, and not seen in the world except by images—by the shadows on the wall of Socrates’ cave, by what is seen in St. Paul’s dim mirror, by what is bread and wine, while at the same time the Body and Blood of Christ.

This image-making is forbidden to man as a sinner but just as strictly enjoined as the very form and constitution of life to man as the recipient of grace. It is what makes the brazen serpent that when gazed upon gives life, and later makes the same, when seized by the corrupt imagination, an idol to be destroyed. The capacity to make images is necessary for the apprehension of what is not seen, of what should be but is presently not, of what shall be and ought, but also of that which is desired, but should not and cannot be. It is the medium both of worship and of lust, of hope and devotion in the graced part of man, of hopelessness and degradation to the man of flesh.

Thus the commandment points toward the necessary advent of a human being who gets the story right—who is, in fact, in his own person, the Right Story—and thus can redeem the entire human image-making and story-telling enterprise from beginning to end by making it possible for images made by men, faulty and ephemeral by nature, to take on, by participation in his, a new, redeemed nature, as part of the story of the first and final Teller.

And we must come to this question, upon which I must give my answer: Are some signs reserved by God as invariably efficacious means of communion? I must conclude they are not, for the foundation of each sacrament is the good pleasure of a God who does not traffic in magic: the attempt to make the eternal serve the temporal, to make God serve man by controlling the symbols of transformation apart from the divine will.

Satan can quote Scripture verbatim, and as such it is not the saving Word of God, for it is within his power, as it is within the power of every spirit, to use the symbols, in this case words ordained for our salvation, as something that no longer serves it, in fact, into a lie: something that resembles the true and the real, but is not. It would appear that all the sacraments, all the symbols and acts of communion and transformation, may be abused and become anti-sacraments by which a man eats and drinks not salvation, but death.

While there is much grace in the world, much kindness and forgiveness of God toward sinners, and much strength in the faith of the Church, all supporting the sacraments as sacramental, there appears to be no such thing as an invariably efficacious sign, effective simply because it is executed according to form, whether it is a baptism that is thought automatically to confer regeneration, a conversion experience that eternally secures the soul, or the power of “holding God to his promises.” As I once heard a wise Orthodox priest say of the epiclesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Liturgy, “We are not commanding God, but entreating him.” Just so. As the prophets so clearly indicated, our solemn feasts, with all their symbolic content, can be an abomination to a God who does not honor them, and who will not submit to religious magic.

The consistency in all matters sacramental is the constancy of the living God, who has made it plain in Scripture that holy things are not to be presumed upon. If we think that the abandonment of the temples once inhabited by the glory of God, in which he met and saved his people, is strictly an Old Testament phenomenon, it is time we had a better look at our own solemnly dedicated places of worship, defiled by lies and deserted by the God of Truth, who abides in the places where he is welcomed.

This is not a Donatist conclusion, for the Donatists believed that the sacraments depended on their ministers. Augustine was, it appears to me, closer to the truth when he insisted that the efficacy of the sacraments depend on the power and will of God, but the term ex opere operato lends itself to a more automatic and mechanical view of matters than I believe helpful or true, and I suspect this is because he and all Christians are frightened of the true maxim, ex opere Dei, as lending itself far less to our control than we like.

Meaning, which is the connection of sign with thing signified, the ligature between the ephemeral and the eternal, the forms and their shadows, and the systematic correspondence of all things and the essential power of the Mind, divine and human, is shown by the Scriptures to rest entirely in God, to be turned in any way he chooses. As the connection of the sacramental sign and its object is a matter of his sovereign will, so the confusion of tongues at Babel depicts a partial hindering of this correspondence—a diminution of meaning by a God who, as both a punishment and benefit for sinful man, halted the latter’s advance in presumption (the essential form of magic) and hence his earlier ruin, by making him unable to communicate, and so to do a great many other things, efficiently.

Human language, the characteristic sign of man created after the image and likeness of God, has a sacramental basis in that it is dependent in every moment for its meaning and efficacy on him to and for whom all things exist and in whom they coinhere. His Spirit is the personal medium of all communion, including that of communication, and so loss of coherence, wherever it appears, is a sign of offense, of the judgment of God.

Harry Potter’s Magic

It is not clear to me that magic in the Harry Potter books, or those similar, is magic strictly speaking, which is to say, representative of a deliberate attempt to manipulate God. In books of fantasy, imaginative worlds depend on the use of unseen and extraordinary powers for both good and evil. The reader understands—or if he does not we should probably not hold the author to account for it—that the worlds and their stories are not real, but to be taken, at most, as a kind of parable by which the author makes a statement about the nature of things.

These statements are, of course, to be watched; some authors of fantasy use them to say very wicked things. The witchcraft in Harry Potter is not, however, “real” witchcraft. It is the fantasy magic of Narnia or Middle-earth with bad associations in the real world. This is why it needn’t be harmful to children of an age proper to understand what they must be told about real witchcraft, of the attempt to manipulate rather than entreat God, whether in coven or church, and are schooled to avoid it.

The knowledge that fantasy is fantasy serves as a protective barrier, except where it is breached by some weakness in the spirit of its reader. The overall message of the five Harry Potter books I have read thus far, the principal statement of the imagination projected on the hard wall of reality, does not seem to be, “magic can be good, and one should seek to be a good witch,” for no one can or ever could practice the magic found in these books, but a very conventional and quite attractively put message that good is good and evil is evil: good triumphs in the end and it is desirable to ally oneself with it.

Even, however, if we take this to be so, there are serious flaws in the story that might make a Christian very reasonably reject it as reading material for the child or the adult, and I would blame no one who did it. One has been mentioned—the bad and possibly attractive associations of fantasy magic with actual witchcraft, part of which is the presentation of those who are not witches as an inferior class—although devout Christians can empathize with the witches and wizards, who are viewed by the world as a strange class set apart—and, even worse, of those who hate witchcraft, as Harry’s adoptive family does, as stupid, self-indulgent, and cruel.

The account of the mandrakes is dreadful: Here we have something that resembles little human beings being raised specifically to be killed to serve the magical requirements of the witches. One wonders if the author is naïve enough not to see the real-world associations, and if she is not, why one should support the work of someone with such monstrous opinions.

One of the most serious questions raised by Harry Potter, and where it and a great many modern fantasies fail to reach the literary level of works like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, involves the shape and meaning of the good, and hence also the Good World, to which these works of the imagination point. Thus far the Harry Potter stories, while approving good and eschewing evil, lack the dimensionality of tales carried forward in eschatological and teleological mode.

Good and its magic in Harry Potter, like the bright side of the Force in Star Wars, look more like the aesthetic preference of decent people than good in the Tolkien epic, where the principal characters struggle with the temptation to lapse into a dualism whose ends are determined by power, but whose ultimate meaning lies in committing themselves to a good perfected in a life lived toward a next, and mysterious, life and world by the sacrifice of the self—cast in Narnia and the Space Trilogy in explicitly Christian terms. If Harry Potter does not lead the reader into deeper waters, these books, while justly taking their place among the classics of children’s literature, and commendably showing good to be both difficult and beautiful, will remain at the threshold of greatness. •

“Between Icon & Idol” was given at the conference on “Christianity and the Creative Imagination” sponsored by Touchstone and the International Institute for Culture in Bavaria in July 2002.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor and the book review editor of Touchstone.

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