A Christian book for 'children' & teens?
Berit Kjos - February 2005
"A tale of sorcery and fantasy, Shadowmancer may seem a likely choice for fans of the Harry Potter books. In fact, United Kingdom publisher Faber and Faber have declared it a challenger, saying it's 'hotter than 'Harry Potter.' Non-Christian readers, however, may be surprised to discover the many Christian themes throughout the plot." Christian Music Planet"
"Vicar Obadiah Demurral no longer wants to worship God -- he wants to be God! Craving total power, he opens his life to darkness. An ancient relic holds the key to his terrible purpose.... A gripping tale about the unseen war for the souls of humanity." Disciples Cornerstone
"Shadowmancer is flying off the bookshelves as if a wizard had incanted a charm on it." Endorsement by the London Herald on the back cover.
Evil is popular these days! Magic, occult images, and scary suggestions sell well, whether it's packaged in books, movies, anime or role playing games. So it's not surprising that Rev. Graham P. Taylor's "allegorical novel for teens about the battle between good and evil, has... been translated into 20 languages." The "good" may win the spiritual battle in the story but, for many readers, the "evil" will plant stronger memories.
Though marketed to ages 12 and up, Shadowmancer is easily available to younger fans. In fact, the likeable Rev. Taylor is described as a "best-selling children's author." Naturally, many parents wonder what kind of message this "tale of sorcery and fantasy" communicates to their children. Is it really a "redemptive story," or does it fuel today's growing fascination with occult thrills, magical forces, and corrupt spiritual masters?
What about its "Christian themes"? Do they justify the dark and scary scenes that make it so popular among adults as well as teens? Or do they -- like the counterfeit truths taught by Jehovah's Witnesses and other adaptations of Christianity -- make deception all the more believable? Finally, is it right to expose our children to forbidden forces that have such addictive appeal to human nature? As one reader said,
"I decided on reading Shadowmancer because of the hype that it was receiving in Christian circles. Being the Christian that I am, I was very excited about a book that combined a spiritual otherworldly subject matter with an adventure story set in a very exotic and fascinating world of 1800 England."
In this fast-paced story, three brave teenagers conquer overwhelming occult forces because they supposedly trust the Biblical God! Here's a glimpse of the thrilling battle from its publisher's perspective:
"Vicar Obadiah Demurral isn't satisfied running the affairs of his village—he foolishly wants to control the world. And if his plan works, he will obtain a weapon so powerful that all of creation will fall down at his feet.....
"Who will stand against him? Raphah, a young man on a godly mission, has come a long distance to reclaim the ancient relic Demurral has stolen—dangerously volatile in the wrong hands—but he can't do it alone."
Published in the U.S. by Charisma House, part of Strang Communications, Shadowmancer gained a quick entrance into Christian bookstores and websites. And Stephen Strang's honored place among Time magazine's most influential Christian leaders (such as Rick Warren and Brian McLaren) didn't hurt its sales.
"Shadowmancer is what I would consider an A-level fiction release for us," says Jon Wilcox, book buyer for Family Christian Stores. According to the author's own website, sales have been so promising that the Universal Pictures bought the movie rights last year.
Some argue that this "Christian version" of Harry Potter brings the gospel to children who wouldn't think of opening a Bible. Wouldn't such outreach justify its scary images? Can't the good overshadow the evil? Besides, it's just fiction! Can't an author freely adjust truth and historical facts to fit his story?
Well, yes. But such a story can't be trusted as a Christian book! A "Christian book" can't deviate from the truth. It can't reinvent God and spiritual warfare without misleading readers and distorting their understanding of our Lord and His Word. In light of today's tendency to blend "soft" Christian messages with multicultural pragmatism -- those misconceptions may never be corrected. As reporter Mike Oppenheimer warns:
"We are watching a metamorphosis take place inside the church at large. Some call it a movement of positive alternatives to doing church, others see it as a trend. What we see is many moving from a biblical emphasis to anecdotal storytelling and experimenting with new methods invented by men."
Facing the consequences of market-driven, dumbed-down learning (both secular and Biblical), many church leaders hide the truths that would warn their flocks. In their quest to "grow" their churches, they trust modern psychology and entertainment more than the Holy Spirit. And as biblical literacy fades, we see the rising tolerance toward occult philosophies, pagan practices, gender diversity, illicit sex, and twisted truths in churches as well as culture. Books that popularize Christianity by adapting it to tantalizing tales only fuel this process.
In this compromising atmosphere, it's not easy to provide convincing reasons to mistrust a book that has some good points. But I will try. Ponder the following list of questions and use them to evaluate not only Shadowmancer, but also other forms of popular entertainment that claim to be Christian. Then pray that God will enable all of us -- and especially our children -- to discern distortions and accurately communicate His gospel, so that His name will be honored and His people love truth more than myth.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things..." 2 Timothy 4:2-5
1. WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU ABOUT GOD?
Newsweek magazine wrote, "It goes where 'Potter' didn't, tapping into spiritual themes that credit God as the force of all good." Newsweek is right. Mr. Taylor does give God credit! The God in this story is presented as the almighty Creator, the King of kings, the Lord over all.
An Ethiopian teenager, Raphah, survives a shipwreck caused by the deadly magic conjured by Obadiah Demurral, the Vicar of Thorpe, who hides his evil intentions behind his pastoral image. Raphah, a healer, had traveled to England, in search of a stolen "Keruvim" -- apparently a mythical name for one of the two golden, winged Cherubim placed over the Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's ancient Temple in Jerusalem. (Today, Ethiopian church leaders claim to have the actual Ark hidden in a sacred place under constant guard.)
With help from Thomas and Kathy, two teenagers who distrust the evil church leader, Raphah continues his search in the dangerous territory ruled by Demurral and his demonic guards. "Lord Riathamus," he prays, "Creator of all that is good, fill us with your Spirit."[8 page 26]
2. IS GOD'S HOLY WORD USED OUT OF CONTEXT?
As you will see later, both friends and foes quote Scriptures throughout the book. But usually the words and context distort the true meaning.
For example, in the opening chapter, a dark-skinned Ethiopian trader sells the stolen Keruvim to the evil Demurral. "It has powerful magic, and they will stop at nothing to get it back," warns the trader. Demurral laughs and quotes the Bible: "Fear not that which can destroy the body, but that which can destroy the soul."[8 page 174-175]
Demurral's mocking statement seems to turn truth upside down. The actual Scripture is anything but smug. It calls us to be sober and fear God who has power to judge us severely if we don't follow His ways:
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6
3. WHAT DOES IT TEACH YOU ABOUT THE INVISIBLE FORCES OF EVIL?
The evil forces are truly demonic, and these scenes describe the raging arrogance of Satan well. But, in some scenes the battle between good and evil look more like the age-old warfare between "white" and black magic. Such battles have always raged in animist cultures where devoted idolaters offer earnest prayers to "friendly" spirits who might defend them against the cruel powers of darker demons. Their shaman or witch doctor might act like Demurral:
"Stand back, Beadle, this is holy work," orders Demurral. He pulled out a black magical stone, a gold wrapped acacia rod and finally the stolen Keruvin. It "glowed with a ghostly radiance." Lifting the latter he shouted to "waves and wind, fire and water," summoning a demonic horde of alluring feminine spirits [Seloth] and commanded them to "crash this boat to this shore" and "bring the [second] Keruvim to me."
The forces of darkness obeyed his command, and the evil pastor is soon searching the shore littered with bodies of drowned sailors for the second winged figure. Eventually he realizes that the Keruvim #2 is not another gold statue, but the Ethiopian boy, Raphah. The heart of this boy must be sacrificed during the next full moon before his vision of universal control can be fulfilled.
"There is only one thing worth dying for," he tells his servant Beadle, "and that is power. Power over people, power over the elements and ultimately the power to be God. With the Keruvin I can control the elements. When I have them both, I will change the world and I will bring about the death of God. This time he'll be nailed to the tree forever."[8 page 77]
Later, Raphah tells Thomas about the nature of the Glashan, the demonic servants of Pyratheon (Satan):
"'They are creatures... so evil that you could not even dream what they could do in this world. Before the start of time, the Glashan rebelled against Riathamus. ...The one who leads them was cast to the earth; he has tempted men since that day. The power of the Glashan has been bound since the time of the Great Capture, when Riathamus defeated them at the Battle of the Skull. Their leader was a creature called Pyratheon; he has wanted the Keruvim since its creation.... My family has always guarded it from him, but one of our own helped to bring it here and sold it to Demurral.... There are two Keruvim in the world, one is made of gold, the other of flesh. Today we stand in your midst.'
"'So that's why Demurral wants to kill you,' Kate said."[8 page 191]
Skipping the gross images of serpentine creatures, demonic possession, "goodhearted whores," a seance, and divination using the zombie-like body of a murdered girl, we come to the last chapter in the book. As earthly realities often suggest, it looks as if evil has won:
"Pyratheon lifted the Keruvim above his head and closed his eyes. ... The church began to shudder as the Keruvim pulsed out a blinding light. The night sky faded to day; the sun rose, then set and rose again. ... It was as if the whole earth was spinning faster and faster through space.... All light had gone from the world. The sun, moon and stars had vanished from the sky.... It is finished,' Pyrotheon said triumphantly. 'Riathamus is dead. ... Eternal Law is now mine to dictate. The Battle of the Skull has been overthrown."[8 page 272]
This suggestion is ridiculous, if not blasphemous. Yes, it's fiction, but an unthinkable notion is planted in the minds of readers. Christ's victory on the cross can never be cancelled! And to use the Keruvim -- a fictional figure modeled after the historical Cherubim in the holiest chamber of God's Old Testament temple -- as a magical power-source or amulet corrupts what God had called holy.
God has won an eternal victory, which the final chapter affirms. But even here, the story distorts the truth. Whether Raphah lives or dies, no man-made winged figure has "real power." No amulet, icon, symbol or idol can be used to channel or transmit the mighty power of God. Yet, in today's pluralistic culture, many attribute sacred power to such physical objects. Idolatry is being revived in America!
“There shall not be found among you anyone who... who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord." Deuteronomy 18:10-12
4. DOES IT DEMONSTRATE FAITH? (What kind? In whom or what?)
Yes, it does. But that faith is usually built into settings or contexts that create a revised and confusing version of God's guidelines and Biblical history.
Raphah believes in Riathamus, but also in the power of the Keruvim. One of the reasons for God's judgment on Israel in the Old Testament was not that they failed to acknowledge Him as God, but that they also believed in their idols. Rapha's purpose-driven mission in this venture was primarily to rescue and return the Keruvin -- an idol -- to its hiding place in Ethiopia. If anything, his mission blurs our understanding of Old Testament events and their significance to us today.
For example, when offered an easy escape from Demurral's deadly clutches (but without retrieving the stolen Keruvin), Raphah answers,
"Thank you, but I won't be leaving unless I take with me what I have come for. It is worth more than gold. Whatever happens in there, I know that Riathamus will be with me."[8 page 148]
"He had traveled many miles across land and sea to this place and to these people. This was the promise he had sworn to his father Abraham on the steps of the temple. He would not return empty-handed."[8 page 149]
Demurral's faith rests in other matters: "It's a matter of faith. All I can think is that it concentrates a forgotten power into a form that is unlike anything seen for thousands of years. The Keruvim has not been used since the time of Moses."[8 page 176]
Such suggestions leave the reader with a false understanding of Moses, history, God's commands concerning idolatry, and Cherubim who stood over the ancient Ark. Moses never used the cherubim to "concentrate" power or manipulate spiritual forces as in occult magic. In fact, this was totally forbidden. But years later, disobedient Israel did put their faith, not in God, but in the holy Ark as if it contained its own power. Of course, their battle against the Philistines ended in total disaster.[1 Samuel 4]
Here is the actual truth behind the "Christian" myths told by Hollywood and popular storytellers. God gave Moses the following instructions for building this most holy Ark of the Covenant:
"And they shall make an ark of acacia wood.... And you shall overlay it with pure gold.... You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners... And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them....
“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold.... And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end.... And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another.... And there I will meet with you...." Ex 25:10-22
5. MIGHT THE IMAGINED SCENES STIR INTEREST IN OCCULT POWERS?
The following dark and blasphemous scene might help readers understand the depraved thinking of people captivated by Satan's corrupting ideology. On the other hand, the same words planted in a child's memory bank -- strengthened by the emotional impact of the story -- could return to haunt him later. For when God's Word is used in occult contexts, its message can easily be compromised.
"Demurral... was dressed in a long white robe.... By the altar was the acacia pole complete with stone hand. In the middle of the altar was the Keruvim, its pearl eyes sparkling in the light from the altar candles. Set against the wall were three high-backed wooden chairs with golden cords draped over the armrests.[8 page 149] [Apparently for the three victims of the planned ritual sacrifice]
"He squeezed the Keruvim even tighter to his chest. "Doesn't God realize that he's finished? People are tired of him, they've forgotten about him.... Tonight I will bring an end to death. With the power invoked from the Keruvim, I will never have to fear standing before God again. The god within is far greater than the god without."[8 page 151]
"After all, three hearts are better than one. Haven't you realized that all this is about sacrifice? Even your God knows that. A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, wasn't it?"[8 page 153]
"'Sorry my young friends, business is business and life is but a vapor, and a cheap one at that. Thirty pieces of the King's silver.'... Demurral turned to Beadle. 'Prepare them for the ritual.'"[8 page 154]
The three teens escape, but the next day brings greater battles. "Both the Keruvim are near," says Demurral, as the ritual sacrifice is once again being prepared. "When the moon strikes the stone, it will be time."[8 page 240]
The satanic character, Pyrotheon, speaks next:
"I have waited many lifetimes for this... and look -- we even have the tree and the apple. All we need is an Adam and an Eve and the Keruvim [the 3 teenagers would fit the need], and we will have the fall of man and the fall of God, once and for all and this time forever, without any interruptions from Riathamus.... I am Pyrotheon; that is my true name. I am the one behind every deity that is not him."[8 page 241]
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light... finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light....
"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:2-17
6. DO THE HEROES IN THE STORY USE MAGIC?
Yes they do. The three teens must escape the deadly ritual planned for them, but they are trapped. So they pray to Riathamus, trust the power of their crystals, enter what seems to be a trancelike state, and are filled with "positive hope" -- whatever that is. Their "experience" became the guide that would lead them "wherever it wished to go." That's dangerous theology in today's experience-oriented culture! If we ask a god we do not know or follow to speak to us, we may well hear the voices of demons.
"The three got down on the floor and closed their eyes. Kate clutched a crystal in each hand. ....
"'Think of him,' Raphah said. 'Let him speak to you.'"
"In the midst of the chaos all three began to concentrate on Riathamus as the Glashan hammered on the door.... Even with all the noise and fear, Thomas and Kate slipped into a place of complete peace.... In a moment the fear subsided and a sure and positive hope filled their hearts and minds. They did not question what was happening, or why; they just allowed this strange new experience to gather up their thoughts and lead them to wherever it wished to go.
"Kate clutched the crystals; it felt as if the hard surface of each stone was melting in her hands. In her mind she saw the paneled wall of the room. Her eyes were drawn to a small piece of wood.... the panel opened...."[8 page 244]
Near the end of the book, the pace quickens and the three friends are pursued by a horde of evil, demonic characters. Once again, they put their faith in physical objects supposedly imbued with power -- a church and its altar -- instead of God.
"The sound of the Sword of Mayence whirling above her head and the screams as it sliced through flesh and bone made her tremble with fear.
"'Run for the church. Get to the sanctuary by the altar, nothing can harm you there. I will follow."..
"They ran through the gravestones of saints and sinners.... until they reached the tall oak door. Raphah looked up. Above his head was a painting of a white stag impaled with an arrow. The stag wore a crown and a holy wreath around its neck....
"They... went through two wooden doors. Before them is a long aisle lit by candles....
"'We're nearly there, come on, Thomas, we'll be safe soon, they can't get us in the sanctuary,' she said.
"'No -- but I can,' came the voice from the pulpit. 'Glashan and Varrigal may be bound by the law of sanctity, but I am not.' It was Demurral....
"Raphah turned. There stood Pyratheon. (Satan)
"'How?' Raphah asked....
"'You forget I was once an angel. I stood in the presence of God. I may not like it here, but I can cope for a while.' Pyratheon walked toward Raphah. 'So you are Raphah, the healer, keeper of the Keruvin.'"[8 page 270]
To the ancient Celts on the British Isles, the stag represented Cernunnos, the antlered god of woodlands and animals – and one of many patron gods to hunters and warriors. Later, Wicca made it the male consort for its pagan goddess. In other words, Wiccans took one of many male gods from the Celtic polytheistic (many gods) religion and reinvented it as the single male deity in their duotheistic (female/male) system.
Since human nature doesn't change, it's not surprising to see the stag reappear as a symbol for Jesus Christ in a christianized monotheistic [one God] culture. This shift is rooted in syncretism -- the tendency to blend religious customs in order to win converts, please pagan neighbors and justify the thrills of new, "fresh" religious expressions. Since G. P. Taylor is an Anglican Vicar, he would be familiar with the merging of pagan symbols with Catholic and Anglican traditions.
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil...." Isaiah 5:20
“What profit is... the molded image, a teacher of lies, that the maker of its mold should trust in it, to make mute idols?" Habakkuk 2:18-19
7. WHAT DOES IT TEACH YOU ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH?
Raphah's explanation of death makes no Biblical sense. Our hero, who earlier spoke with a measure of Biblical understanding (though twisted), now explains demonic bondage from an occult perspective (a perspective that is amplified in Taylor's even more oppressively occult second book, Wormwood):
"What Demurral wants is me.... If I die, then he will grow stronger. As we are bound to these chairs in life, so we will be bound to him in death. Our spirits will find no rest. He will call upon us and we will have to answer, trapped between life and death, between captivity and freedom....
"Whether you believe or not, you can never alter the truth that each one of us is body, soul and spirit. You can protest all you like, Kate, but inside you there is a spirit that is eternal. You were created by Riathamus to live in this world, then be transformed in the next. This is the truth and the truth will set you free.'"[8 page 158]
There is no indication that Kate has heard and believed the gospel, yet Raphah implies that she and others already have the eternal spirit within -- as if there is no spiritual regeneration or transformation in this life. In fact, the last paragraph suggests that transformation takes place only in the next life. Such "truth" does not lead to saving faith. It does not "set you free" from bondage to sin and enable you to walk in His victory as Jesus indicated in John 831-36:
"Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you 'abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 'And you shall know the 'truth, and 'the truth shall make you free.”
"...whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
An angry and resentful Thomas grabs the Keruvim and leaves his friends to see if he might heal his mother who is dying in an institutional hospice. He fails in his mission. As he leans over her, she suddenly clasps him with her long nails and sinks her teeth into his neck. She had turned into a Glashan (demon). His friends, who had been searching for him, arrive in time to see a strange sight -- the souls of the dead leaving their bodies and turning into demons. These kinds of experiences might be claimed by occult visionaries or pagan myths -- but never by God's Word! Demons are fallen angels, not transformed humans.
"...more Glashan rose from the bodies of the sick and the dying....
"Where are they coming from?" Raphah shouted...
"They use the moment of death as a doorway to this place."[8 page 267]
Later, in the sanctuary scene, an enraged Pyratheon lashes out at Raphah who apparently dies:
"They could see the golden shimmering over the body as his soul clung to the last few seconds of life."[8 page 270]
"Abram knelt and breathed on Raphah. 'Receive that which hovers over the waters,' he said as he placed his thumb into the middle of Raphah's forehead. Kate watched in awe as she saw the life and warmth flow back into his cold body."[8 page 273]
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Col 2:8
8. IS THERE A CHRIST-LIKE PERSON IN THE STORY?
Yes. In the first encounter, Thomas meets the King in a dream. This scene will be described later.
Second, the three teenagers meet a man with "dark skin that looked burnt from years of toil under the sun. Around his eyes was a myriad of lines that spoke of hours of laughter." The man shared his food with them and announced that "The cattle on a thousand hills belong to me, not even Solomon in all his glory had the wealth that I possess."
"Solomon?" Raphah looked at the man...
"Solomon," the man replied quietly. 'The great King, the one who built the temple to place in it what you carry. ... You know of Solomon, your people are descended from him. It is your task to keep the creature that you hold on to so tightly from the world. You have done well to save the Keruvim from those who would use it for evil.....
"You are....' Raphah could hardly speak.
"I AM WHO I AM. That is all you need to know...."[8 page 218]
Aside from the two identifying statements -- "the cattle on a thousand hills" and "I AM" -- everything is false! Because King Solomon became such a corrupt idolater later in life, God divided the kingdom and left his descendants with the smaller portion. With few exceptions, God's people continued to ignore His commands, turn to other gods, marry pagans, trust their idols, and sacrifice their children to demons. The last straw was bringing occult idols into God's holy temple. Therefore God "gave them over" to their enemies and Solomon's beautiful temple was totally destroyed. To imply that it was still standing would amount to deception.
There's no valid evidence that Ethiopean Jews are descendants of Solomon. Why put such speculations into the mouth of the character who supposedly represents God? We are told to trust and honor His Word, not distort it for literary purposes!
Third, the three teens meet a man who calls himself Abram. Notice the clues suggesting that he represents our Lord. And don't miss His strange teachings, inappropriate references to Scriptures, and unbiblical confidence in a special crystal and the golden Keruvim:
Abram: "'If I can show you one thing to prove to you who I am, then look at this.' He opened his hand. Inside was a crystal egg just like the one they had found in the bag."[8 page 254]
"The mist grew deeper and thicker.... 'Kate, the crystals,' Abram shouted. 'Throw one at the wall.'
"She quickly reached into the bag, took hold of the smooth crystal and hurled it as hard as she could.. There was an earsplitting crack followed by a blinding flash of light and a thunderous roar..... The mist had completely vanished and the creatures have gone....
"'It worked well, my dear girl. The Abaris crystal has many uses and it is up to you to find them out.'"[8 page 255]
"Kate looked at him ... he was old yet looked so young, so wise... She kept her eyes fixed upon him, as if she knew that as long as she gazed upon him, she would be safe.
"'The Abaris crystal, what did it do?' she asked....
"'It is something that humans know little about. Riathamus has given all things to the world. A cure for every disease in the plants and trees. The sweetness of honey to lift the sadness of winter, bitter nuts to take away incurable growths and Abaris crystal to send fallen Seruvim back to where they belong,' he replied....
"'So will they return?'
"'They will be summoned back by some fool. Since Demurral used the old magic, things have not been right in the two worlds. There was a time when Seruvim and man seldom mixed, now the worlds are being slowly drawn together.' Abram pointed to the lustrous cloud. 'That cloud is like a gateway between the heavens and the earth. There are dark creatures that have found their way into this world and need to be stopped. Riathamus is preparing for a battle and I must keep you three safe.'"[8 page 257]
"It's time to fight for your lives,' Abram shouted as the Glashan stood before them. 'Kate, do you have the Abaris crystal?'
"'It's at Mulberry's... I forgot it...'
"'Then we must fight with what we have and make our way to the church.' ... 'Well, then: with the Sword of Mayence, Varrigal iron, the Keruvim and the hearts of the faithful, let this battle begin,' he exclaimed. ... 'Come under the sword.... Whatever you feel, keep your eyes fixed on Riathamus.'"[8 page 266-267]
"See Pyratheon, you just played with time. The Keruvim was never yours; while Raphah was dead, it had no real power. You needed them both but your own anger deceived you.... A light shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. See he is coming, the bright morning star shines upon the earth and your days are numbered.'"[8 page 274]
'"...say no more, all is new,' Abram said.... Go quickly, for Pyratheon will try again and the Keruvim must be returned....'
"With that Abram was transformed before their eyes. His clothes burnt with the brightness of heaven, his hair was polished gold. A single ray of the sun touched his forehead and in that moment he was gone."[8 page 275]
How could Abram, speaking with the authority of our Lord, declare "all is new," then send the teenagers onward on their journey -- long before the promised newness. That marvelous promise, 'Behold, I make all things new" is spoken at the end of God's word -- after the destruction of the earth, the final battle, the second resurrection, and the ultimate judgment at the great white throne!
And why would his last message before some kind of divine ascension be, "the Keruvin must be returned?" Such idols have no place in Christianity! There are no visible or sacred objects through which we transmit, receive or manipulate God's holy power. We put our faith in what we cannot see -- our holy Triune God. He is the mighty conqueror! Only, by His wonderful grace, can we share in that strength! And when we know, trust, love and follow Him, we participate in His victory for today and forever!
"I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.... Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.''
"Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'' Revelation 21:1-5
9. WHY WOULD IT BE CALLED "REDEMPTIVE"
Early in the book, Thomas -- like God's faithful servants Isaiah and Paul -- seems to be transported into the heavenly throne room described in Revelation 4:8 and Isaiah 6:3. In his dream, Thomas sees a gold altar. Behind a tall, jeweled cross hovers a golden circle set with emeralds that morph into "crisp, blue human eyes." Seven winged creatures walk toward the altar chanting holy, holy, holy. In this holy place, he had an amazing encounter:
"The man held Thomas by the hand. Thomas looked into his eyes, and he realized they were the eyes of the cross, deep blue, warm, all-seeing, all-knowing. He felt naked before him, as if this man knew all about his life. Every secret, every lie, every ugly thought was on display. Yet all of this was greeted with a smile as the man softly squeezed Thomas hand.
"'Fear not. Whatever you have done can be put right, blotted out, forgiven.' Thomas turned his face away, unable to look at him. He felt ashamed. ... He hung his head lower, unable to look up. 'Who are you?'...
"'I am a king, but not of this world. All you have to do is believe in me. Thomas, I can be your king.' He touched Thomas gently on the forehead....[8 page 47]
"You can believe in things and yet you do not have to follow them. It is easy for you to believe in me when you stand in my world. But what will you believe when you return to your world. What will you believe when you cannot see me?...
"'I will believe, here and in the world to come.' Thomas reached out to the King....
"'Thomas, if you believe in me, will you follow me?'... The man's face began to radiate pure white light, filling the chamber and bathing Thomas in its glow. It was so bright that Thomas closed his eyes...." [8 page 48]
Thomas had not yet heard the gospel, he knew little about this king, and the only message about the cross came through the inspirational image of a jeweled cross on the altar. Inspired, but ignorant, he bowed his head and said, "My Lord. You will be my king. I will follow you." When this king asked, "Do you really know what you are saying?" Thomas answered "I do."
What message does this scene communicate? Where was the gospel -- the good news of what Jesus accomplished through His death on our behalf?
Might this scene blur the difference between true Biblical redemption and today's common, cross-less references to strategies that are "redemptive"? If so, we cheapen both the significance of the cross and the cost of the victory Jesus won for us. We also build an illusion of a wide, rather than a narrow, gate into His Kingdom. By adapting the glorious events revealed in God's Word to the feel-good cravings of our postmodern times, we corrupt their true meaning.
Jesus didn't simplify His teaching in order to please the crowds. That's why so few understood His message. He told parables, not to clarify spiritual truths, but to conceal them from the masses. He didn't share his precious truths with casual seekers who wanted little more than personal healing and thrilling supernatural feats. The true meaning was only told to a select few. That may seem unfair in today's equalizing culture, but God remains our sovereign Judge, and His wisdom is the only true measure of truth and justice.
"...the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?'
"He answered and said to them, 'Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." Matt 13:10-13
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13
10. WHAT DOES IT TEACH YOU ABOUT GOOD AND EVIL, RIGHT AND WRONG?
God didn't intend for us to gain experiential knowledge about evil -- whether through imagined or actual encounters. Instead He wants us to know His Word and obey His commands. Cloaking evil in good intentions and "positive hope" doesn't diminish its pull on the heart. Decades ago, the Star Wars series illustrated this principle well. Though touted as a classic battle between good and evil, its favorite action figure was the evil Darth Vader.
The antidote is Philippians 4:8: "...whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."
But those precious truths of His Word seem boring to those who prefer to feed on Biblical truths sweetened with the pleasing honey of occultism! The pure, untainted truth of the Bible annoys those who love the world more than our wonderful Lord.
It's all too easy to "love evil more than goodI" [Psalm 52:3] God knows that well. That's one reason why He warns us repeatedly in Scripture: "Do not be conformed to this world.... Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. "[Romans 12:2, 9] Our children may tell us they hate evil, but if they crave the excitement of occult thrills, they are missing the point.
As you saw earlier, Ephesians 5 deals with some key details: "Walk as children of light... finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret."
Those who have truly received Jesus Christ and are filled with His Spirit will want to study and search out the Bible to learn "what is acceptable to the Lord." They know that His standard is very different from ours. For them --all who choose to conform their minds, not to the world but to His actual Word -- the rewards will be wonderful beyond description!
"...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39
See comments and reviews by children, teens, teachers and parents at Shadowmancer.
We may follow up with a brief review of Vicar Taylor's second book, Wormwood. Since it is far darker and demonic, we are waiting to make sure this would be according to the will of our Lord. Every supposed "truth" or Biblical phrase becomes a deceiving lie in its horrible context.
1.Review: www.christianmusicplanet.com/magazine/viewarticle.asp?id=184 .
2. Review: http://disciplescornerstone.com/product_info.php/products_id/681 
3. Review: "Shadowmancer' Touted as 'Hotter than Potter" at www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1900481
4. www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0399242562/102-7411094-3751360. Actually the setting might be in the 18th century.
5. Shadowmancer, "Description" at http://cbw.strang.com/c.cgi?ProdID=6132&Source=INTNET
6. Ayesha Court, "Christian tale takes a page from Harry Potter books," USA Today, 4/22/2004 at www.usatoday.com/life/books/reviews/2004-04-21-shadowmancer_x.htm
7. Mike Oppenheimer, "Making Way for the New and Improved Church,"2002, at www.letusreason.org/Current58.htm
8.G. P. Taylor, Shadowmancer (Charisma House (Strang Communications, 2003).
9.Randall Murphree, "Christian Fantasy Novel Rivals Harry Potter," AgapePress, 2004 at www.crosswalk.com/fun/books/1306340.html
10. Riathamus, is "a corruption of an old English word for 'King of Kings,'" according to this page: http://www.tvbn.com/Charisma/CharismaNewsUpdate20040819.html
11. Thanks to Annie Fintan, former Celtic Traditional Witch, for sharing her insights. Read her testimony:"I was a Witch for seven years"
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