Book Review: “Ascent From Darkness”

21 Sep

I’ve always been interested in Christianity, spiritual warfare, and the occult. Some of my favorite books include Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness,” Ted Dekker’s “Showdown,” and the like. Thus, when I ran across Michael Leehan’s recently released book, “Ascent From Darkness: How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior,” I couldn’t resist snagging an advance-review copy.

As its title would indicate, the book is essentially an autobiography. Leehan describes (in excruciating detail) his spiritual deterioration and embrace of Satanism, before devoting a few pages at the end to his salvation experience. His story is dark and grim, true – but it is undeniably compelling.

Leehan’s style is authoritative yet personal. He speaks bluntly about the sins he committed, the relationships he ruined, and the dark forces he served. There’s no attitude of superiority or self-aggrandizement; rather, the book exudes humility, stemming from a genuine awareness of one’s own brokenness.

Perhaps the most fascinating element of the book is the way Leehan describes life from a demonized perspective. According to Leehan, he was able to preternaturally discern individuals’ spiritual strengths or weaknesses, a gift he retained after his conversion to Christianity. It makes for captivating, and sometimes frightening, reading.

Far be it from me to doubt the veracity of an individual’s spiritual journey, but at times “Ascent from Darkness” feels somewhat sensationalistic. The book is packed with graphic descriptions of blood sacrifice, seductions, mutilation, satanic murder missions, and demonic infestation – to the point where it feels more like a Stephen King novel than a story of Christian redemption. (Part of this may be due to the length of time spent discussing Satanism, and the relative brevity of Leehan’s redemption scenes). While describing the depravity of man is certainly important, I would have appreciated a deeper analysis of Leehan’s post-conversion experiences.

I enjoyed reading this book, but the constant inclusion of “shock” material made it a little difficult to take seriously at times. I’ve read plenty of supernatural fiction (by both Christian and non-Christian writers) and “Ascent From Darkness” felt much more like a novel than an autobiographical account. (If any readers are interested in a more scholarly analysis of these subjects from a Christian perspective, I highly recommend Malachi Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil.”)

Would I recommend this book? Probably, but only to a very specific subset of Christian readers. Many will be put off by the seemingly unending depravity on display, but for those who persevere, the ending is genuinely moving. Leehan’s story is a clear testament to the love and power of a sovereign God, and a hymn of praise to His saving grace. This, if nothing else, renders it worth a look.

A compellingly told journey from darkness to light, though marred by excessive sensationalism.

* I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Contemporary


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