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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


Announcing New Titles from   Sacred Tribes Press for Spring 2010  Sacred  Tribes  Press  is  a  partnership  between  Sacred  Tribes  Journal  and  the  Western  Institute  for  Intercultural Studies. Out of a desire to make quality academic resources available to students and  academics,  Sacred  Tribes  Press  utilizes Volume innovative  technology  to  provide  electronic  books  at  Sacred Tribes Journal 5 Number 1 (2010):61-62 affordable prices without impacting the environment. Powered by ebook technology, our books are  ISSN: 1941-8167 available for download to a Kindle Reader, Sony Reader, MS Reader, PC, iPhone, or iPad. Whether in  the  classroom,  airplane,  beach  or  mountains  you  can  take  a  Sacred  Tribes  Press  book  easily  wherever you go. 

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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