Does Doctor Strange Open a Doorway to 'Demonic Occult Deception?'

A prominent Christian film reviewer has declared that Marvel's new film Doctor Strange is "a dangerous introduction to demonic occult deception." The visually stunning film does introduce metaphysical ideas which arguably conflict with an orthodox Christian view of the world, but the fictional story also has a very Christian moral message. Overall, the movie is surprisingly low on story, but high on spectacle, and it does not always make sense.

Doctor Strange is truly mind-blowing. Like Inception (2010), it features buildings twisting around, turning in on themselves, and the very Earth folding as if it were a piece of paper. This trans-dimensional psychedelic experience is best in 3-D, where the stunning visuals take on an even more impressive pseudo-reality, and the audience is immersed in another world. This explains why the movie has racked up a stunning $325.8 million so far, keeping the top spot in the box office for its second weekend.

Partially due to this money-making immersion, however, Dr. Ted Baehr, critic and co-founder of the Christian Film & Television Commission, denounced the film as "a dangerous introduction to demonic occult deception." In a press release, Baehr quoted scripture against the film.

The Bible clearly warns against the kind of occult practices and sorcery the hero in this movie learns to do, in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and Galatians 5:20. Also in the movie, the hero's New Age, occult guru teaches there may be no afterlife, that death is truly the end, and that this is a good thing.

The editorial staff of Baehr's site Movieguide went further, arguing that Doctor Strange does "not only distract some people from the Truth, but introduce[s] completely new paths for people to follow that will lead them away from eternal life with Jesus Christ and away from loving their neighbors as themselves." The staff mentioned one die-hard fan of the comic books, named Forrest, who was driven to extreme forms of New Age occult exploration to try to enter the world of the comic book character.

With all due respect to Movieguide, there are crazy fans of all sorts of science fiction and fantasy, and just because one person tries to find the psychedelic experience of Doctor Strange in things like drugs and the occult does not mean the film is a gateway to Hell. Many of us have the ability to enjoy fictional stories without going to insane lengths to make them real.

The more serious critique comes from scripture. The Deuteronomy passage warns against worship practices of foreign peoples: things like sacrificing sons and daughters in fire, practicing sorcery and witchcraft, or consulting the dead. Anyone who does such things "is detestable to the Lord." The Galatians verse also lists sorcery along with hatred, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and debauchery as "sins of the flesh," saying that "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Make no mistake: sorcery is off-limits for Christians. But Doctor Strange is a fictional story, and it does not provide specific instructions on how to use occult practices in the real world. Like Harry Potter before it, this movie uses magic to tell a story. No one who reads J.K. Rowling's series of novels would take away the message that he or she should go buy a wand and become a wizard. That's not the point of the story, and that's not the point of Doctor Strange either.

Instead, Doctor Strange is entertainment, the 14th (!) film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following The Avengers (2012) and most recently Captain America: Civil War (2016). It tells the story of the rich and famous neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, 2014) who suffers a serious accident and goes on a voyage of discovery to cure his wounded body by empowering his mind.

"Forget everything you think you know," urges one of Dr. Strange's mentors. Strange learns that he does not just have a physical body, but also an "astral body." Using the "multiverse" theory — which teaches that our universe is one of an infinite number of universes — the film explains magic as a way to "conjure power from the multiverse," where "mind and matter meet, thoughts shape reality." There are multiple dimensions, and sorcerers tap the power of the multiverse with a "sling ring."

Next Page: How the real message of Doctor Strange actually falls in line with Christian morality.