Sacred Tribes Journal
Volume 5 Number 1 (2010):61-62 ISSN: 1941-8167
BOOK REVIEW The Kingdom of the Occult, by Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, and Kurt van Gorden. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 732 pp. + xiii. $29.99 hardcover. Readers who approach this book thinking it written by Walter R. Martin, Jr., founder of the Christian Research Institute and author of one of the most popular countercult compendia, The Kingdom of the Cults, will be disappointed. Using edited versions of Martin’s lectures and “sections of his writing” (xii), Martin’s daughter, Jill Martin Rische, and her collaborator, Kurt van Gorden, added “chapters, comments, and critique where necessary” (xii). Although the book is presented as though it was authored by Walter Martin, this seems not to be the case. He is quoted throughout, but the flow of the writing, the depth of thought, and the consistency of presentation are simply not comparable to The Kingdom of the Cults. Whatever disagreements one might have with Walter Martin—and there are many from which to choose—The Kingdom of the Occult overall is a pale imitation of his work, at best. While many of the entries do ring with his voice—often set off in a text box—others read like extended Wikipedia entries and offer no more insight than one can find with any reasonably competent Google search. These are especially easy to spot given that they often discuss cultural phenomena that appeared after Martin’s death in 1986. In a chapter entitled, “Tools of the Occult,” for example, which includes the usual encomium of fundamentalist Christian bugaboos—crystals, tarot, chakras and yoga, horoscopes, runes, magic, and so forth—Rische and van Gorden include brief sections on “occult-influenced media,” including MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) and video games with occult themes. As with most of the material in the book, there is no serious attempt to explain why the authors think these products are harmful. Rather, they begin from the assumption that they are harmful—perhaps because they have been gathered under the umbrella of “the occult”—and then proceed from there. The prose is repetitive, the chapters, programmatic, and the theology entirely predictable.
Cowan: Book Review
There does not seem to be a coherent rationale for what is included in the book or where it is placed. Indeed, the book itself reads like a collection of pamphlets, though for this kind of thing one could more profitably turn to Zondervan’s series. Rather, chapters on “Kabbalah,” “Psychic Phenomena,” “UFOs,” “Satanism” (which butts up against “Goddess Worship, Witchcraft, and Wicca”), “Traditional Religions,” and “Demon Possession” are book-ended with general commentary on “The Occult Revolution,” “The Jesus of the Occult” (clearly a play on W. Martin’s “Jesus of the Cults”), “Spiritual Warfare,” and “Christian Counseling and the Occult.” One of the two appendices offers a “Counseling Assessment Sheet” for those encountering the dark side. Replete with charts and lists of talking points, none of the chapters displays any real depth of knowledge of the religions, beliefs, practices, or traditions the authors discuss. Instead, just enough material is presented to conclude that, per the fundamentalist Christian theology that drove Martin’s entire countercult enterprise, these things are Dangerous and Something Must Be Done. Like most examples of countercult literature, however, depth of understanding is not really required. Few countercult apologists write to convince the members of target religious groups to change their ways and convert to the apologist’s version of Christianity. Most of these materials are produced for people who are already convinced of the dangers of this, that, or the other phenomenon and want little more than to be affirmed in their convictions and confirmed in their sense of spiritual superiority. Although the book is replete with this, the hubris that marks nearly all countercult apologetics comes through most clearly in Rische’s introduction. After lamenting the fact that her father did not live to write The Kingdom of the Occult, Rische comments that she “knew God’s plan” for the book included her. “In the midst of all the evil things that needed to be read and evaluated,” she continues (xi), “the presence of the Holy Spirit constantly protected us.” That is, like so many countercult apologists, she locates herself on the frontlines of the spiritual battle and accords herself a central role in the conflict. “We are the winners,” she concludes, laying bare the foundation that underpins every aspect of the countercult enterprise, “we are the chosen children of God” (xii). In the end, few minds will be changed by this book. Those who are already prone to see the occult everywhere will find their fears reinforced, if not necessarily their faith. Those who wonder why anyone’s mind would be changed by this book will continue to do so. Douglas E. Cowan Professor of Religious Studies Renison University College at the University of Waterloo
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Apologetics, Mission and New Religious Movements: A Holistic Approach By Philip Johnson "It is this search for balance, and his real desire to speak into living situations, that sets Johnson’s work apart from earlier studies of cults and new religions. At the same time his work is innovative in other ways. Recognizing the limitations of a purely rationalistic approach to the beliefs of non‐ Christians, he points out the importance of understanding why people believe what they believe, and the social costs and benefits of such beliefs." Professor Irving Hexham, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary
Man of Holiness: The Mormon Search for a Personal God By John L. Bracht “Serious efforts to understand Mormonism in a non‐confrontational, non‐polemical way are few and far between. In this book the author, John Bracht, has drawn together a multitude of LDS sources in order to demonstrate differences between Mormonism and ‘traditional’ Christian views on the nature of God and the Godhead. While most LDS readers would no doubt disagree with some of Bracht’s conclusions, they would at least have to admit that he has paid a price to grapple solidly with the available evidence and has done so in an irenic and dignified manner. This is a work worth engaging.” Robert L. Millet, Professor of Ancient Scripture and Religious Education, Outreach and Interfaith Relations at Brigham Young University
Perspectives on Post‐Christendom Spiritualities: Reflections on New Religious Movements and Western Spiritualities Edited by Michael T. Cooper "The chapters that follow are especially significant for several reasons. First, the authors draw upon the best of recent scholarship in the field, and indeed among the contributors are some of the leading scholars in the study of new religious movements. There is here a wealth of information and careful analysis which will enable better understanding of an often confusing subject. Second, the authors adopt a respectful tone toward their subject, rejecting the “cult bashing” attitudes of some Christians. The concern throughout is to understand the phenomena, not to castigate or ridicule. Third, while the contributors’ objective is to understand these movements and to portray them accurately they also write from a desire that followers of the new religious movements would come to faith in Jesus Christ." Harold A. Netland, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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