Monday, February 2, 2009

Living with the Underworld - Pt 1

I was quite excited to be allocated Peter Bolt's 'Living with the Underworld' for the EQUIP book club. Having grown up listening to my fanciful Scottish Grandmother's endless stories about ghostly encounters, I've never been sure what to think about ghosts and associated beings. With tales as varied as the one about the day she saw her dead mother at the traffic lights, to the story about the Queen Mother's ghostly friend in Glamis castle, I've never known whether they were fact or fiction. Particularly after I became a Christian. To make matters worse, my contrastingly sensible grandmother added weight to the debate one year with a story about encountering a shadowy figure in the hallway on the morning my grandfather died! I'm still not sure what to make of that. I've been interested in reading this book for a while, and am very glad to have a good excuse to do it.

Don't get me wrong, but isn't it refreshing to have a Christian book with a really out of the box subject matter? After you've read all the books on key theological issues, matters of godly living and practical ministry issues, it's a lot of fun to read up on something you haven't been 'allowed' to think much about before. The topic of ghosts has been a bit of a taboo area in evangelical Christianity. How many conversations have you had at church or Bible study about the possible existence of visitors from the world beyond? We don't want to be accused of wandering into superstition, and we certainly wouldn't be caught reading any overly imaginative Christian fiction! We certainly, and rightly, are cautious about over-embellishing subjects that the Bible does not dare to venture too far into. It goes into the category of not talking much about guardian angels, freemasons and the daily works of Satan. But now the gloves are off, thanks to Peter Bolt, and we have permission to venture into this taboo area. As long as we don't overstep Peter's helpful parameters. The first chapter, while also being a lot of fun, sets a reassuring standard which the subject of the underworld will be measured against. I’ll spend the second post digging a bit deeper into these issues, he’s really got me thinking!

I found the opening chapter was also fun to read because of the typical Peter Bolt personal touches. Accounts of his daughter's reaction to the proposal of writing the book, gratuitous references to his moustache, and the theme of his appreciation of the TV show Sopranos (used to define which underworld he'll be talking about) made me realise pretty quickly that it wouldn't be a hard book to get through. But it's not just fun, there are acute observations from the beginning, such as his point about the fascination with demons, ghosts and dark forces being out of place in contemporary Western society. How true! I'm going to ask the next person who tells me that you can't believe in Jesus' miracles why they think that the TV mediums have something going for them. I'd never thought of that before.

If I can be superficial (and why not?) I also love the layout of this book! Is anyone else with me on this one?? Those little pictures and the end of each section, and the downward arrows on the bottom of each page, I really like that sort of unnecessary attention to detail. It tells us that in every aspect this is a fun book. A fun book about the Underworld?! Peter Bolt truly is a miracle worker. I think I’m going to enjoy sharing the experience of reading it with you all this month. For the moment I’ll just leave you with the big idea that stood out for me in the first chapter. On page18 Peter writes: “It is important to understand the underworld properly, because this will help us understand the message of the Bible better, which will benefit everybody.” No better reason to read the book hey? I’ll leave you to mull over that idea in the next few days … and I’ll pick it up again in my next post.

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