Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Fate or Freedom

Theological Reflection

The Tri-Wizard Tournament has come to Hogwart’s bringing with it a cavalcade of interesting characters from two of the wizarding world’s other boarding schools. Hogwart’s was only supposed to be able to enter one contestant in the games, but somehow Harry’s name belches forth from the magically-binding, movie-title-bequeathing Goblet of Fire as well, and away the story goes. Oh yes, and don’t count out the evil Lord Voldemort. He has a way of popping up when you least expect him. (Though by this point in the series, aren’t we always expecting him?)

Having established a few key players and filled in a bit more of the world’s back story in the previous episode, The Prisoner of Azakaban, The Goblet of Fire begins to move the story forward at a dizzying pace. The film seems to assume that the audience is by this time firmly rooted in Harry’s world and wastes little time establishing rules and priming audience expectations. The uninitiated viewer is going to have a lot of unanswered questions.

Destiny casts a shadow across this film. The story’s conflicts come to Harry this time instead of him having to search them out detective-style. His name mysteriously comes out of the contestant-choosing goblet, thrusting him into the competition. He “luckily” gets just the help he needs to complete each tournament task. He’s even whisked away to his final confrontation with Voldemort at the end, a confrontation there is no way he can win, though he somehow comes out victorious.

Destiny is a topic familiar to Christians. Sure, we give it other names, like “predestination,” “election,” and “God’s will,” but to an extent, our meditations are the same. We all want to know if we are on this Earth for a reason, and if so, what that reason is. Is there something we are bound to do, a grand purpose and plan we somehow fit into? Do we matter in a way that is different than everyone else? Are we special?

This debate has been raging for centuries. Humanity doesn’t seem to know if God has a definitive plan for our lives or not. We don’t know if we are each destined to do something that no one else can do. Personally, I hope not. That’s a lot of pressure. I’m not sure how Harry handles it.

We do know that God is good, so whether we miss God’s perfect plan for us or not, or if that perfect plan even exists in the first place, we can rest in the promise that God will be with us through it all, come dragon fire or Tournament Cup.

In the story, of course, Harry does indeed have a destiny. However, our complex lives can’t be contained in a book. We need a third way. We need peace, one way or the other, because if thousands of years of debate amongst the brightest minds our world has ever known can’t solve the riddle of fate versus free will, how can we?

And we’ll have to leave Harry to a Riddle of his own.

Discussion Questions

1) Mr. Crouch says the Goblet of Fire’s choice is inescapable. The core of Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape’s argument has to do with whether they should try to effect what’s happening or simply let it unfold. Can we effect the course of events in our lives? Must we let them simply “play out?” Is anything inescapable?

2) How does Harry survive Voldemort’s attack? What price does Harry pay? How does he suffer?

3) Read Romans 8:18-30. What did God “decide in advance” for us? What is our destiny? In the mean time, what must we endure? Is this also God’s will? Does this give you hope?

Related Scriptures

I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters.Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified.
(Romans 8:18-30)