Monday, February 23, 2009

Living with the Underworld - Pt 6

Thinking about the final chapters and knowing where the book's heading, my mind turns to how I could make use of it beyond just reading it for my own enjoyment. My first thought is ‘what a great thing to look at in a youth bible study group!’. The book has several elements to capture their attention, it focuses on issues normally the fodder of side-tracking questions, and it addresses an element of teen sub-culture (what teenager doesn't watch horror or fantasy films at some stage, and some of the TV shows these days are saving them the trip to the video store). Yet this book won’t be used merely as another attempt to keep the youth on a vaguely Christian topic, for it tells them the gospel very clearly. Then again, what a great evangelistic book to give to anyone, particularly if you couldn't get away with giving one titled to the effect of 'The Basics of Christianity'.

After spending several chapters getting us to see mankind's key problem, Peter unveils the gospel in its full detail in chapter six. Page 105 would be an awesome thing to read if you've never heard the gospel before! Peter tells it assuming we haven't, so that even the Christian readers can see the situation afresh. We're all invited to reflect on the Jesus who lived a full life and died a horrific death, and to have a new think about resurrection as not at all as natural as the corn harvest (don't you love how he puts that?) but rather something momentous, and life changing for us all.

Then we go on a cosmic bus tour with Jesus! What a great touch, and a marvelous direction for this book to travel in (pun intended ... sort of). What an example of how to talk about the gospel in a completely appropriate way for the subject at hand! (See page 110 if you're not sure what I'm talking about: explaining the gospel through Jesus’ tour of the underworld ala Philippians 2 is brilliant!) And so we’re reminded of the main argument of the book once more, that the focal point of this subject of the underworld is not ghosts and associated phenomena, but indeed John 3:16 and the issue of not perishing (succumbing to the underworld) but having eternal life.

This chapter isn't all smooth sailing (to change my travel metaphors): there are a few new thoughts which I'm not so sure about. Peter is ambiguous about whether Jesus' dying ‘in the air’ has something to do with meeting the underworld spirits where they're at (page 112). Hmmm, although I get the point that it spoke to the cosmology of the time, I'm not sure that this idea has a biblical basis. I'll keep mulling over that one. It was great however to see Peter confront the issue of how Jesus defeated the devil at the cross. To read that he was neutralised comprehensibly, and not battled with and overcome with difficulty is worth underscoring as so many Christian teachers write or speak as if this was the case. (Not naming names this time ...)

Chapter seven goes on to apply this victory to us. And it’s another good example of how to write in a way that connects with the non Christian audience. References to popular novels, movies, music and society in general abound, and are critiqued gently and persuasively. This is the point where I begin to think that my (allegedly demon free) brother may well be interested in reading this book, and discover to my surprise that I may be holding in my hands the latest evangelistic tool at my disposal. What wonderful words for a broken world, to go from the problem of rehab to the safety of Jesus! Peter taps into society's deepest fears and longings and argues the case for Christ filling them all, and more. And he manages this by means of sophisticated argument, never spelling things out as if to the uneducated, but at the same time making them fully comprehensible. Certainly a good read for someone who likes grappling with new ideas. It’s a great book for thinkers: musicians, poets, and philosophers, not just for teenagers. So who will you give it to?

Click here to make a comment, ask a question or read the comments.

No comments: