Choice, Free Will, and The Prophecy

PDF Transcript of Choice, Free Will, and the Trelawney Prophecy

Link to Potter Pundits Online Survey: “What One Question Would You Ask Me?”

Exciting times! Next week is the launch of a fifteen years effort, online classes for serious readers of Harry Potter, classes that are affordable, interactive, accessible, and even alchemical, and I am over the top delighted that it is finally happening.

Today’s video entry is about another meme in the way we think of Harry Potter — that the Hogwarts Saga is a celebration of choice as the gauge of character and token of our free will to shape our lives and events — and how that is certainly true but still deceptive without some serious qualifications. Please let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

AND! Because we’re just about to start filming the Potter Pundit Summer School free classes and live Q&A webinar midstream that will launch next Sunday (they’ll be available by subscription only for two weeks at; I’ll explain how that works in the next few days), I want to be sure I’m talking about what you want to discuss, I have put together a 20 multiple choice question survey. I sufficiently eager and grateful for your prompt feedback that I’m offering a $100 Amazon gift card I’ll be giving away in a drawing from the names of those who fill it out (it takes less than five minutes).

Click the link above or right here to take the survey and to let me know what you want to hear in the free online classes that will be available starting next Sunday. Affordable, interactive, accessible, even alchemical Hogwarts Magic! At last! Thank you again for your help in making sure these first classes answer the questions you have.


  1. Brian Basore says

    “Ah Bartleby! Ah Humanity!” – Herman Melville, 1853 (bemusement at the effect of insistence on free will in the face of determinism). I think Melville agrees with you.

  2. Suzanne Lucero says

    The fist thing I thought about while listening to your (most excellent) lecture was an article I read some years ago, in which the `author (whom I forget) explained why some people in the Christian religion are dead set against fighting climate change. Climate change, they argue, is God’s way of bringing about the Apocalypse. Why fight the will of God? All true Christians should welcome it because of the glorious future promised (to a select few, which would include them, of course) beyond the End of the World As We Know It. *headdesk*

  3. John, I truly love contemplating your writings. I grew up in a “free will” church and converted to the reformed view of grace. Rowling also grew up “free will” (Anglican) and converted to the “Predestinationist” Church of Scotland later in life. Dumbledore explained that the prophecy acted as one of the means by which Special Providence shaped Harry’s will.
    Compatibilism, thy name is Predestination.

  4. Viktor, where did you read that Rowling has become a Presbyterian or Church of Scotland? If it was something I wrote, I was wrong.

    She is in the Anglican Communion’s Church in Scotland, that country’s equivalent of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA).

  5. J.K.R. confirmed her conversion in the”Telegraph” interview: ‘Christianity inspired Harry Potter’ By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
    12:01AM BST 20 Oct 2007.

    The Church of Scotland was founded by John Knox and has always been Presbyterian and Calvinist. It is a member of the World Council of Reformed Communions.

    The Scottish Episcopal Church separated from the Church of Scotland in 1689. This is the Anglican communion in Scotland.

  6. I went to the article you suggested. You can read it here:

    There is no mention in it of a “conversion” or Presbyterianism.

    The interview she did with James Runcie, also in 2007, spelled out her baptism in the Anglican communion and continued worship there.

    Again, if you have any evidence that she is a Presbyterian, I welcome it!

  7. “However the author, who was brought up an Anglican and is now a member of the Church of Scotland, said she still wrestled with the concept of an afterlife.”
    “The Telegraph interview”

    “J. K. Rowling grew up near Bristol, England in an Anglican family. However, she converted to the Church of Scotland later in life.”
    Tom Kershaw, March 16, 2012.

    She was baptised into the Anglican Church in England as a young girl, converted after moving to Edinburgh around the time she was planning HP.

    The Church of Scotland is not Anglican, it is Calvinist and Presbyterian according to its founding, its history and its governing documents.

    “The Bible is the basis of faith of the Church of Scotland, and the Westminster Confession of Faith is the subordinate standard”
    CoS website

    Of God’s Eternal Decree:
    I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
    VI. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.
    Chapter III Westminster Confession Of Faith.

    Of Free Will
    I. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.
    II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.
    III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
    IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.
    V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
    Chapter IX, Westminster Confession of Faith.

    In my careful reading, I find Rowling’s CoS/Westminster Confession understanding of “freewill” to fit everyman Harry the chosen (elect) one, Valdy the preordained son of perdition and everyone in between.
    CoS = Church of Scotland where the sinner is powerless and dead until regenerated by Christ’s Holy Spirit.
    CoS = Chamber of Secrets where Harry is powerless and dead until regenerated by Faulks.
    Intentional acronym? Probably not but interesting.

    Love you Professor Granger

  8. Sorry, Viktor, I’m not convinced. I think the “conversion” story just reflects the inevitable confusion between ‘Church of Scotland’ (Presbyterian) and ‘Episcopal Church of Scotland’ (Anglican). Rowling’s website desk as late as 2010 had a card for the church parish she attended on its bulletin board — which was an Anglican parish.

    Short of a statement from The Presence Herself that she is Church of Scotland, I will have a very hard time believing she “converted” to that relatively Calvinistic faith as early as 1998. Thank you, though, for your love and for sharing your conviction as ardently as you do!

  9. Beatrice Groves says

    Hi both,

    Just to agree with John that Rowling belongs to the Scottish Episcopal Church – the Scottish province of the Anglican Communion – something she confirmed in an interview in 2012 (with Mark Lawson, Frontrow, 27 Sept 2012

    If memory serves me correctly, Smith (in his 2002 J.K. Rowling: A Biography) also notes that her 2001 wedding to Neil Murray was conducted by an Episcopalian minister.

  10. The Lawson interview is unavailable to US listeners, alas.

    My edition (2001) of the Smith biography ends before the wedding (it only says that Dr Murray was separated from his first wife but filed for divorce after beginning a relationship with JKR. The ex wife’s thoughts on the subject were all amicable; she was pregnant with another man’s child at the time of the divorce).

    I could not find confirmation of the Episcopalian minister at the Boxing Day wedding in her home.

    The Scottish Episcopal Church, however, claims her as one of their own. I think that is about as definitive as the Rowling testimony in the Lawson interview; what reason would they have for claiming this if not true?

  11. Thank you both for the links to the Front Row interview and SEC page in which She corrects the religion editor for the London Telegraph and me on Her denominational affiliation. I should know better than believe anything from Rita Skeeter inspired “journalists”!

    Which leaves me with the old question of whether it is the intention of the author or the perception of the reader that counts most.

  12. “Harry Potter’s real heroism is his choice to submit to the
    circumstances of his life, the Prophecy, that he cannot escape and confront
    them head on rather than as a victim.”

    Very descriptive, then. It’s not that he could have had a different choice. Just because he happens to have the elements in his brain aligned to make this decision, you would call that kind of resulting attitude “heroism”. But since reading “heroism” will usually come with an understanding of positive judgment, many listeners/readers of your take might mistake what’s actually luck as something else.
    I agree that the attitude you are describing is helpful for the lucky individual but there is nothing heroic really.

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