SHADOWMANCER: A TANGLED TALE

By Marcia Montenegro (page 4 of 5)

Written April/May, 2004

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 unsavory character say something akin to Jesus' words?

Dreams, Wonders, Magical Objects

Raphah is constantly telling Kate and Thomas that Riathamus has sent him, and urging them to trust him (Raphah), but the main evidence he gives them for this are what seem to be dramatic supernatural actions and experiences for Kate, Thomas, and sometimes the smuggler, Jacob Crane (27-30; 115-118; 158-159; 224; 265, 266). At one point, he even tells them that "dreams are a shadow of the future or of ourselves; they are never to be feared but embraced and used for our good" (30). God certainly sent dreams and visions to the prophets of the Old Testament before His written word was complete; and He sent dreams to Joseph, the wise men, and a few others in the New Testament, most of which had to do with the protection of the Christ child, and one being a warning to Pilate from his wife. Dreams are not the normative way for God to speak to us today because we have the canon of scripture, and we are told that it is "useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16). Even if dreams in this book are a literary device, the statement by Raphah that dreams "are a shadow of the future or of ourselves" is not Biblical at all.

Although the apostles were given supernatural powers by Jesus to show an unbelieving world that they were followers of Jesus, who himself performed miracles to fulfill prophecy and give evidence of who He was, we are told to preach the Good News and proclaim Christ: "With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me'" (Luke 24:47); "Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is free from all guilt and declared right with God" (Acts 13:38a); and in Romans, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Romans 10:14,15).

The story is set in motion by the Vicar Demurral's magic causing a shipwreck in order to steal an object, the Keruvim, from the sunken ship. He already has the other one and needs a matching pair in order to work his magic. However, he fails at getting the other Keruvim. The one Keruvim owned by Demurral is described as having golden wings and "the head of a beautiful child with eyes of purest pearl" (8). Though we are not told what the Keruvim are, the term sounds like "cherubim" (elsewhere the term ‘Seruvim' seems to be used for Seraphim, p. 54) and seem to refer to the cherubim made for the Tabernacle according to God's instructions in Exodus 25:18-20. The Exodus passage gives little information on how the cherubim look; it mentions wings and God directs that the cherubim are to face each other (see Ex. 25:20, 22; 37:9). Most believe these cherubim are representations of angelic beings. Ezekiel chapter ten describes cherubim has having human hands under their four wings (verses 8, 21), and having four faces: the face of a cherub, a human face, the face of a lion, and the face of an eagle (verse 14), but there is no indication that the human faces are the faces of a child. The cherubim in the Tabernacle are statues whereas the cherubim in Ezekiel are actual living creatures. As there were two cherubim in the tabernacle, so in Shadowmancer the Keruvim are a pair.

However, in Taylor's book, the items called Keruvim have magical powers, something entirely absent from the Biblical objects representing cherubim, and it is a concept not only foreign to, but in opposition to any Biblical concept about any object from the Tabernacle or made for God at his request. The belief that objects have magical powers is part of animism, the belief that spirits and forces inhabit inanimate objects, imbuing them with good or evil powers. It is also part of the occult worldview that objects can be empowered with supernatural or magical powers through various methods. One can see this in our culture through the belief that four-leaf clovers bring good luck; in New Age beliefs, there is the idea that certain stones can heal, bring peace, or protect; and in Feng Shui practice, various objects are place to attract or repel good or bad chi.

Even more disturbing, this belief that the Keruvim are magical is not only held by the villain, but by the good guys, Raphah and Thomas (28, 48). This belief as having substance is borne out by events later on in the story, particularly when it is revealed that Raphah is the other pair of the Keruvim that Demurral needs for his sorcery to work. Raphah reveals rather dramatically to Thomas and Kate, "There are two Keruvim in the world, one is made of gold, the other of flesh. Today we stand in your midst" (208). It is interesting that here Raphah clearly seems to be an angelic being, when the author stated that Raphah could be Jesus to Christians, the coming Yeshua to Jews, or the Prophet to Muslims ( see quotes below from http://www.rejesus.co.uk/encounters/interview/04_gp_taylor/text_interview.html ).

Raphah states that 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," but that if Demurral kills him (Raphah), then the Glashan will be released to fight Riathamus (208). Pyratheon (the Satan figure) wants the pair of Keruvim, too, because that will enable him to fight Riathamus. So Raphah confirms that there is a power in the Keruvim that can be used for evil. Raphah says that if Demurral is successful in getting this power of the Keruvim, then "the moon will turn to blood, the sky will grow dark, and the earth will be struck by a falling star that will poison the seas," and there will be plagues, wars and earthquakes as well as the "earth will then fall into the captivity of Pyratheon for one thousand years" (208).

Aside from Raphah being the other Keruvim, this is very strange theology. It is apparent that the author has taken some predictions about the end times (from Joel, Acts, Mark, and Revelation) but given them a new twist so that not only do the Keruvim have such power if controlled by Pyratheon or Demurral, but their power will be to the extent as to give Pyratheon dominance over the earth for 1,000 years. This is in direct contrast to Biblical prophecy that Jesus will bind Satan and reign over the earth for 1,000 years (interpreted differently by various theologians). Personally, I find it disturbing that the Bible is being misused to introduce an idea that Satan can gain power through a pair of objects (even if one is a living angel) from the Tabernacle. If the Bible is to be used in a story, let it be used correctly and with respect.

Elsewhere, Abram gives Kate some crystals which she throws against a wall to get rid of some Glashan (278). Kate is told by Abram that "Riathamus has given all things in the world," and here he enumerates cures from plants and trees, honey, bitter nuts, and also "Abaris crystal to send fallen Seruvim back to where they belong" (280). Here is another portrayal of objects with magical powers, this time given by Riathamus himself.

Although reading cards is presented as an evil activity, the card reader actually predicts something that is at work and may come to pass (113). Raphah speaks against the cards and talks about the one who can set people free, but he never names who it is, he does not talk about repentance, and he only says that "the one who sent me will show you something that will change your lives forever" (115). A dramatic shaking of the earth ensues, with lightning and loud noise, and a gold mist fills the room. Following this, the card reader's deaf son is healed (116-117). The card reader is filled with joy and decides not to read cards again (118) but there is no information given as to why all this has happened or who specifically has set the card reader free. Not only that, there is no mention of the card reader's change of belief, only that she no longer will read the cards.

Raphah has powers and ideas that closely match the occult, such as scrying, when he shows a jet black stone to Thomas so that Thomas can see images in it (26-27); Raphah makes the statement about dreams showing us the future and ourselves (31); Crane feels heat from Raphah's hands when Raphah heals him (224) – (the description is similar to those of psychic healing that I encountered in the New Age); and when Raphah urges prayer, he does not use words but tells Kate and Thomas to just close their eyes and think of Riathamus, and "let him speak to you" (265), a rather mystical approach not taught in Scripture. When prayer is presented in the Bible, it is always presented as speaking words to God.

The Fairness of A Response

Since this book presents a Godlike figure and oblique references to what seem to be Jesus, we cannot bypass evaluating the theology that is expressed. The author thrusts these figures, along with numerous quotes from the Bible, into the story and thereby into the reader's line of vision. Therefore, it is only fair to respond to what is presented.

In interviews, Taylor has expressed his fear that the church is alienating young people and downplaying the power of God, something he tried to fix in his book. This is a valid concern. However grand his intentions, in trying to make the book attractive to several religions, Taylor ends up with a God that does not belong anywhere, and an obscure Jesus figure that is not clearly the revealed Jesus of God's word or of history. In trying to depict a God who appeals to so many, we end up with a generic God and only mystical, subjective ways to know him -- a dismissal of God's clear revelation of his truth through the Bible and through Christ.

This does not mean that one cannot use the story as a springboard to dialogue on spiritual issues with those who read this book. In fact, using the book for such dialogues is a good way to perhaps untangle some of the unclear theology that is presented. However, no untangling would be necessary if the book had been clear rather than confusing or blurry in the first place.

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