Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"The Kingdom of the Occult": A Book Review

“The Kingdom of the Occult” is the work of Jill Martin Rische, eldest daughter of Dr. Walter Martin, and Kurt Van Gorden, a minister and missionary. Dr. Martin, deceased in 1989, nevertheless, plays a major role in this work as noted by his daughter in the introduction.

Years ago, I remember my father pacing the foyer of our home, leafing through a notebook of references on the occult. It had always been in the back of his mind
to write a companion volume to “The Kingdom of the Cults”, but something always prevented him from beginning the new project.

Rische and Van Gorden have taken the skeleton formed by “The Bible Answer Man”, edited transcripts from lectures to add some muscle, and then put on their own flesh to produce this body of work. And it is SOME body!

Cover to cover, the book is 733 pages in length. It includes a very solid index, a lengthy bibliography, plus two appendices. Sandwiched in between are 18 chapters loaded with material on almost any occult practice one might encounter. Some of these practices, of course, are the usual ones which come to mind when we talk about the occult: Satanism, Witchcraft, and Astrology. But there is much more here to sample than these standard dishes. One chapter (60 pages in length) deals with Kabbalah (probably my favorite chapter). There’s a chapter discussing Psychic Phenomena. And, the authors even have material on the occult practices associated with UFOs!

Basically, each chapter takes a specific occult practice and provides a brief introduction. Then the authors discuss the basics of this practice. If there are variations within this practice, those are also shared. Included in the material are case studies (often conducted by Dr. Martin himself). The chapter comes to a conclusion by presenting a Scriptural response to this religion. Finally, the authors provide some recommended resources to help the reader if they need additional information.

In order to review this work, I read the book from beginning to end. This was quite an effort, in fact, it was pure torture! Several months have passed since I received the book and began my trek through the chapters. If you are looking for a book to sit down and read straight through, this is NOT that book.

But if you want a solid reference work on the various occult practices, this is the one for you. Although I believe Dr. Martin’s “The Kingdom of the Cults” is a better work, “The Kingdom of the Occult” deals with many difficult (and strange) religious groups and it does so in extensive detail. If you are involved with individuals or groups caught up in one of the occult movements and want to better understand the movement so you can reach the people involved, this IS the work you need.

As a reference work, I heartily recommend “The Kingdom of the Occult”.

"Fearless" by Max Lucado: A Book Review

The musical “Mary Poppins” contains a song which says “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. If my medicine is a book by popular, best selling author Max Lucado, then I have yet to find my “sugar”. Despite attempting to read several of Mr. Lucado’s works, I have yet to complete any of them other than his newest work, “Fearless”. To be frank, I struggled to complete this book as well.

My problems with “Fearless” as well as with Mr. Lucado’s other books have nothing to do with the content. I found nothing of any consequence in the contents of this work to which I disagreed. But, as with all of his works, I simply do not enjoy the author’s writing style. While he does use the Scripture quite extensively, he uses far too many examples and illustrations in my opinion. For me, these slow me down and, in some cases, distract me from the Biblical point he is attempting to communicate. As I said above, this problem for me is not unique to “Fearless”.

On the other hand, there are several positive elements in this work.

1. It is fairly brief. There are 221 pages but the actual text ends on page 180. “Fearless” is a quick read.

2. The book contains an extensive discussion guide (close to 40 pages) for those who wish to use it in a study group. This guide provides some very good questions, observations, and Scripture texts for each of the chapters in the book.

3. While I dislike the abundance of illustrations the author uses, some of them are absolutely wonderful. For example, in his chapter on worst-case scenarios, Mr. Lucado shares a story about two girls and their father at the pool to illustrate various ways to address such fears:

“He’s in the water; they jump into his arms. Let me restate that: one jumps; the other ponders. The dry one gleefully watches her sister leap. She dances up and down as the other splashes. But when her dad invites her to do the same, she shakes her head and backs away….How many people spend life on the edge of the pool? Consulting caution. Ignoring faith. Never taking the plunge. Happy to experience life vicariously through others. Preferring to take no risk than any risk. For fear of the worst, they never enjoy life at its best. By contrast, their sister jumps. Not with foolish abandon, but with belief in the goodness of a father’s heart and trust in a father’s arms.” (p. 81)


4. The subject addressed by the book is quite timely. Many people, including believers, are fearful of losing their jobs, failing health, financial trouble, or problems with their children. “Fearless” provides Biblical insight for countering these fears. As Mr. Lucado says, “Acknowledge threats but refuse to be defined by them” (p. 177).

If you are like me and have great difficulty reading a book by Max Lucado then you, too, will probably not enjoy “Fearless”. But obviously, millions of individuals do enjoy his books and I believe they will thoroughly enjoy this work as well. To them I recommend this book.