I believe in spiritual things but I don’t believe in literal magic, and I certainly don’t equate spiritual with magical. I think divine magic is particularly nonsensical. I believe that the notion of magic comes from the experience of infancy when by merely crying out, someone more powerful and knowledgeable makes our discomfort go away. But obviously there is no one for God to cry out to. Obviously, anything God does must come from His own knowledge and ability. In other words, just because God does something doesn’t mean there is no asking how, as if all it takes is for God to make a wish or give a command. And God’s omnipotence doesn’t mean He can do whatever you say by whatever means you care to dictate – logical coherence applies.
So can God literally shape something from clay and make it come “alive?” Probably – though it may take alterations of the laws of nature to do so. But the results are not independent of the means. In that case the result would not be a human being but a golem. Likewise, the redemption of human beings comes from the work of God upon us in our experiences to change how we think, feel, and desire. And the substance of our salvation is the removal of the self-destructive habits of sin, and as the Bible says over and over again, to write the law of God on our hearts (i.e. the good habits which liberate our potential so that we can come alive and learn all God has to teach us).
Jesus’ death and resurrection was to overcome some fundamental misunderstandings which were in the way of a good, healthy, and proper relationship with God. The cross was to teach us that God will do anything to help us, and the problem was always us entirely – that our sins would crucify anyone God sent to help us. Thus we are called to repent and to change, but it is only our own perversity that we quite often do not change unless the innocent suffer because of us. The resurrection was to teach us that physical death is not the end, for our spirit can be reborn to life more substantial and real than anything physical.
It was first by Adam that we were born of God with an inheritance of mind from God speaking to him. But then this was corrupted by self-destructive habits. Jesus was the second Adam and through Him came a restoration the inheritance by which we can literally be reborn as children of God, when we put our trust in Him.
Is there some power of necromancy in the divine-human sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? No. Does God require some magical spell in order to forgive people? No. Can the innocent actually pay for the crimes of the guilty? No. Are Christians magically transformed so they are now without sin? No. Does God really have to pay something to Satan in order to save us from him? No. There is certainly a great deal of truth to all these metaphors in the Bible, but taking them literally is a mockery, like making Jesus’ parable of the sower to be about agriculture.
Is repenting of ones sins and the beginning of a personal relationship with Jesus an important tool in God’s arsenal for restoring a life-giving relationship with God to remove our self-destructive habits and write the law of God on our hearts so we do what is right for its own sake? Yes. It was blaming God for our problems which separated us from God, and it is sin which causes the spirit to die. The death and resurrection of Jesus overcomes that separation so that God can work in our lives to overcome the bad habits which are destroying us. But that takes a great deal of time, and it is referred to as sanctification in the Bible. We are reborn to a new relationship with God, but that is only the beginning of a life of faith, in which there can be no entitlement.
Faith is not is an agreement to a set of doctrines interpreting the Bible in some approved way. That is a Gnostic gospel of salvation by knowledge of sound doctrine. I believe in this stuff for one reason only – because I believe it to be correct. It does not earn me anything. This is not about making a deal with God that you can be saved if you believe the right things, perform rituals in the correct way, obey enough commandments, or do enough good works. This is about God changing us to be the kind of people who inhabit a heavenly kingdom – because as it is we will make any place we go to into a living hell.