Author: Ann Thomas
Rev Graham Taylor assures us that he is “a born again – spirit filled – evangelical Christian of over 25 years in the faith”. We are pleased to pass on this information along with his assurance that he “spends most of his time helping people escape from occultic bondages and lecture constantly on the dangers of the occult”.
However the following article expresses some serious concerns about the theology of his books. In response he has said that in order to understand the books, a person should “have a degree in NT Greek and a full theological background”. Since we consider that most of his readers will not have such qualifications, our objections stand.
In the desire to be fair we have given Graham the opportunity to respond and put his point of view. When the article is received we will link to it here.
For a synopsis of Shadowmancer go here.
For a synopsis of Wormwood go here.
Shadowmancer is being hailed by some as ‘The Christian Harry Potter’. My answer to that is ‘Definitely not!’ Admittedly there are Christian sentiments expressed in the book, but the gospel does not appear, nor is there any mention of Christ. The ‘God’ character is called Riathamus and the ‘devil’ character is called Pyratheon, so it is not clear whether these are meant to be the Christian figures or just some fictional characters. Indeed, the author himself, although he is a vicar, has said that the book is not a Christian book.
“It’s not a Christian book, I refuse to have it called that.” – G. P. Taylor
As an example of how the book sounds Christian but misses the mark, here is a quote:
“Many people start off on the right path, then greed or envy start to burn into their hearts. Soon the things of the world take over and they are far from where they started. Power has always been more sought after than love and yet the true power comes when we find the one who can bring us perfect love. We must cling to that with all our hearts.” [Shadowmancer p.233]
This is an opportunity missed – we should be looking for a Saviour who can bring us forgiveness for sins and newness of life, not just perfect love. There is no challenge, just a play on emotions.
The book is full of occult characters and rituals. The most spectacular event is when the key character Raphah heals a deaf boy in a room full of miners and their families. The quote is quite long, but gives a real flavour of the tone of the book:
“‘Tonight the one who sent me will show you something that will change your lives forever.’ Raphah stepped towards her holding out the [divining] cards.
‘What if we don’t want to change?’
‘Then he will open your eyes so that you may see the dung heap in which your soul is sleeping.’ He prodded her in the shoulder with his finger. ‘Wake up. Rise from the dead. And let the light shine in your darkness.’
The deaf boy pushed him away from her. Raphah grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him into the lap of Mrs Landas.
‘Hold onto your son, Mrs Landas. You’re about to get him back.’ He then placed two firm hands upon the boy’s head. Before she could speak Raphah began to call out in a language she could not understand.
‘Abba-shekinah, El Shammah, soatzetlay-isthi hugiez.’
He spoke at the top of his voice. Everyone in the room stood back, unsure of what he would do next, frightened by the force of his words.
It was then that something strange and frightening began to happen. It felt as if the whole building was beginning to shake. The children dived under the table while the men looked at each other in complete disbelief. A loud creaking made everyone in the room turn to see the large wooden front door beginning to bend inwards. With a sudden crack it broke open, smashing against the wall. Streaks of silver and white lightning crashed in and arced across the room … A fine gold mist quickly filled the room. Small round globes of rainbow light danced through the air above the heads of the frightened onlookers.
Raphah, oblivious to the manifestations taking place around him repeated the words over and over again. The young deaf boy began to shake, every muscle and sinew of his body jerking with the power that swept through him…
It was the sudden screaming and jumping around of the deaf boy that broke the silence. He had never made a sound in his life but now he began to whoop and holler like a young dog.” [Shadowmancer p.115-117]
There are many concerns about the ‘theology’ in the book, which have been admirably examined on the web site of Christian Answers for the New Age. With the permission of the author I quote two of her concerns here.
In addition to unclear identities, there are also several places where Biblical verses are oddly juxtaposed or meshed with other statements that do stay true to the Biblical meaning. To take one example, we find Raphah telling Kate, who believes that “life is only what you can see,” that “You can protest all you like, Kate, but inside you 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 shall set you free . . .Don’t fear that which destroys the body, but fear the one who can destroy the soul” (174). The statement that we were made to live in this world and be transformed in the next is quite broad and could be applied in many ways and to many beliefs.
The statement that the truth sets you free is said by Jesus in John 8 to the Jews “who had believed in Him” (verse 31), and it is said in context with being His disciple and obeying His teachings, and that anyone who sins is a slave of sin. Jesus goes on to say that it is the Son who sets people free (verse 36). But in the book, the statement has no resemblance to the Biblical meaning, instead implying that the truth that sets Kate free is that we are made to live in this world and be transformed in the next, which in and of itself is vague and meaningless here.
The other statement about fearing “the one who can destroy the soul” is from Matthew 10:28 where Jesus is talking to the twelve apostles. The full statement in Matthew is: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Raphah actually misquotes the verse. In Matthew, Jesus is sending His apostles out into the world and warning them about how they might be flogged and beaten, but it will be done to bear witness before the Gentiles (verses 17, 18). Jesus goes on to encourage them not to be afraid because they are of value and that “everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (verses 32, 33).
These quotes as used in Shadowmancer completely lose the original meaning from the Bible and would make no sense to Kate, who has not even come to believe in Riathamus, as well as probably making no sense to most readers as they are given. This kind of quoting, partial quoting and misquoting of the Bible is found in several places in the book.
Sovereignty of God In Question
There are two places in the book that use the term “the Battle of the Skull” (208, 297), obviously a reference to Golgotha, the term for the place of the Skull, where Jesus was crucified. But the first reference speaks of this place as where Riathamus (God? Christ?) defeated the Glashan (seemingly a term for demons) and Pyratheon, implying that the battle came about because Pyratheon wanted the Keruvim (208). However, the crucifixion is not portrayed in the Bible as a battle, but rather as the payment for the penalty of sins and as a victory over Satan. We cannot even know if Satan opposed it (though he opposed Christ), as it is not clear from scripture that Satan realised what was being done on the cross. In fact, the Bible tells us that Satan entered Judas as he went to betray Jesus, so that Jesus would be arrested and eventually killed. Even if the disciples did not understand or believe Jesus’ clear prediction several times that he would die and be raised up again, we cannot assume Satan knew or believed this. The term “battle” implies, along with other situations in the book, a dualistic battle between God and the Satan figure rather than God holding the reins of victory all along as a sovereign God, despite the opposition of Satan, who is, after all, an angel created by God.
When Raphah tells Thomas and Kate early on about Demurral being evil, he tells them that if Demurral gets the Keruvim and has his way, “he could control the world and even the power of Riathamus for himself” (28). No man or even Satan could have such power, or take over the power of God. Thomas later tells Kate that Demurral “has a power that can call up the dead, control the wind and the sea, and make those beasts in the glade follow his every word” (48). The power of raising the dead from life and controlling the elements has never belonged to anyone but God and Jesus Christ; there is no place in the Bible that gives the idea that even Satan can have such powers (the closest being Rev. 13:3, a statement that what appears to be a fatal wound [but apparently is not] in the beast is healed). Jesus raised the dead (and later gave this power to the apostles), and Jesus had power over the sea and wind (Matthew 8:23:26; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25) because of His authority as the Son of God and God the Son.
After the Glashan are set free to attack earth, Raphah says that “heaven and earth are in great danger” and that the Glashan will take over the world and will “attack Riathamus” (222, 223). An atmosphere is evoked of God being in danger of losing His power to Satan.
Additionally, there are Biblical quotes taken out of context or altered, sometimes in strange ways. At one point, a man condemned to death says to the crowd gathered to watch his hanging that he will be back to haunt them, and then he tells the judge, “As for you . . before the cock crows. . .you will be dead” (102). One cannot help but think of Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny him (Jesus) three times before the cock crowed (Matthew 26:34). But why have such an unsavoury character say something akin to Jesus’ words?
I believe the book can be summed up by a quote from the key character Raphah:
“He had met with a people who beneath a profession of faith still believed in the power of spirits. People who clung to the old gods but dressed them in new clothes; who called them different names but still believed in their power.” [Shadowmancer p.221]Wormwood
When it comes to the second book
When it comes to the second book by G P Taylor, Wormwood, the occult influence is much stronger and the ‘Christian’ content much less. I found it excessive – there are occult creatures all over the place and special powers and secret rituals. There is a book that everyone wants, which is almost alive with its power over people.
“The father of all lies scrawled on every page and has led the world a dance ever since. You see, child, your kind is obsessed by secret knowledge because they think it brings the power to influence their lives. Give a man a secret, write it in some ancient language and bind it in an old book.. Then tell him that it is from another world and if used in the right way will bring him wealth and power, and you have the Nemorensis. It is a book that loves to be loved, a book that thinks it’s a god. That’s why so many have died to find and keep it. With every turn of the page it demands a sacrifice, for every word read it demands payment and its wages are paid in death. Touch it and it will burn your hand, read it and it will burn your mind, and once read it will have you in its grip.” [Wormwood p.202]
This really sums up the plot of the book. It may be considered by some people to be a good story from a secular point of view, but I felt the occult devices were over-used, and spoiled it.
There are a few ‘Christian’ references, including some angels, but once again they are unsatisfying. For example, the quote below is spoken by an angel to the main character, Blake:
“The best you can aspire to in your own strength is like dirty rags to us. Humanity has no goodness within itself – that is a delusion of the faithless, the blind that lead the blind. Your noses are so far into the dirt that this world is all you see and you tremble with fear when it is being taken from you. Open your eyes, you ape of Eden, and see what is really happening.” [Wormwood p.260]
There is no solution offered to this dilemma, and ultimately it is the power of the angel and the destruction of the book that saves the world from destruction. There is also a quote from this book that sums it up appropriately:
“Superstition and magic fills the heart and no one can be bothered to search for truth.” [Wormwood p.180].
When G P Taylor told his congregation that he was disturbed by the amount of witchcraft and the occult in children’s books like ‘Harry Potter’, he was challenged to write his own book. The result was ‘Shadowmancer’, widely hailed as the Christian answer to ‘Harry Potter’. The story is deeply imbued with Christian imagery and set on the Yorkshire coast in the 18th century. Two local teenagers, Thomas and Kate, help a boy, Raphah, washed up on the shore from a shipwreck. They are trying to stop an evil vicar, Obadiah Demurral, from his attempts through sorcery to control the world. He already has a powerful object called a Keruvim, an object Raphah’s family has guarded for centuries, and Raphah hold the key to another Keruvim. The pair together will give Demurral ultimate power. The children are later helped by a smuggler, Jacob Crane. A God/Christ figure named Riathamus and an evil Satan figure named Pyratheon are woven into the story.
The book is set in London in 1756 and tells of the struggle for possession of an ancient leather-bound book called the Nemorensis, which holds the secrets of the universe. It is owned by Dr Sabian Blake, an astronomer, scientist and master of the Kabbalah. He is struggling to interpret a prophecy scribbled in one of the book’s margins, which could hold the key to saving London from catastrophe when a meteor strikes. Held captive in an attic is an angel, who fell to earth with the meteor, whose only hope lies in the friendship of a servant call named Agetta. The Shadowmancer web site describes the book as a ‘tale of sorcery, treachery, intrigue and supernatural strife’. The book’s title comes from the quote: Wormwood…… the bright star shall fall from the sky ……. and many will die from its bitterness. … return