Apr 17, 2014

Giants And Demons Within the Excluded Middle

This is part of a series of article being published by Cris Putnam. This is a very revealing article and points out how Western Christianity (North America and Europe) has lost sight of the spiritual entities that are part of daily life. You can follow the links to read the previous articles in this series.

Devout Christians with a strong faith in God have a blind spot due to Western education and living in technopoly. Anthropologist and missiologist Paul Hiebert wrote concerning the error of this "excluded middle":
I had excluded the middle level of supernatural... beings and forces from my own world view. As a scientist, I had been trained to deal with the empirical world in naturalistic terms. As a theologian, I was taught to answer ultimate questions in theistic terms. For me the middle zone did not really exist.[i]
By “excluded middle,” he does not mean the one used in logic that argues a statement must be true or false, allowing no middle position, but rather the middle realm between God and man. In other words, many in the West have a two-tiered view of reality with religion (God, miracles) over science (natural laws, matter), but the realm between has been excluded (demons, angels, spirits). 
Whereas fewer than 18 percent of Christians in 1900 lived outside Europe and North America, today more than 60 percent do, and an estimated 70 percent will by 2025.[ii] These Christians, largely charismatic, have no problem seeing and dealing with the activity of the middle realm. This means the Western, “excluded middle,” cessationist worldview is, in fact, on the fringe minority of the majority church. In his treatment of African religion, Dr. John S. Mbiti notes that Western scholars “expose their own ignorance, false ideas, exaggerated prejudices and a derogatory attitude”[iii] when they fail to take seriously genuine supernatural experiences pervasive in Africa. Whereas evangelical leaders are fairly open to hearing this sort of criticism in a missionary context, I am strongly suggesting it applies even more to our North American outreach to people coming from an occult background facing spiritual warfare. Some Christian counselors will likely suggest that these people see a psychiatrist for medication rather than offer deliverance. It is no wonder many have a hard time taking Western churches seriously when the excluded middle is on display. 
In 2013, Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett’s book, I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare, set a new standard in conservative Lutheran scholarship dealing with spiritual warfare. It provides his firsthand account of the dynamic spiritual warfare within the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. Part one provides an introduction into the Malagasy Lutheran Church and the traditional Malagasy worldview and discusses how the Western worldview varies radically from how Christianity is understood in most other parts of the world. Part two handles the biblical material as well as various aspects of Lutheran thought. Bennett suggests that the Enlightenment ethos has promoted an overconfident dismissal of spiritual warfare. Recognizing the paranormal paradigm shift underway in our own culture, he suggests we learn from these third-world contexts:
As the western worldview continues to shift toward animism and the philosophy surrounding post-modernity, western views of rationalism appear to be on the decline and a new acceptance of the spiritualism seems to be the way of the future. If this is true, the Malagasy Lutheran Church’s methods of contextualized catechesis and exorcism may lead the way to reach the lost within the western world.[iv]
For those ministering within confessional Lutheranism, this work is sure to be helpful for what is around the corner. Most denominations have missionaries sounding a similar alarm.
Of course, things were not always this way. The middle realm has captured the hearts and minds of many great thinkers throughout history. Even modern science grew out of alchemy and occultism. For example, Isaac Newton, widely heralded as the father of modern science, was deeply involved in the quest for the philosopher’s stone. After purchasing and studying Newton’s alchemical works in 1942, economist John Maynard Keynes, for example, opined that “Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians.”[v]
Paul Hiebert explained, “Belief in the middle level began to die in the 17th and 18th centuries with the growing acceptance…of a science based on materialistic naturalism. The result was the secularization of science and the mystification of religion.”[vi] What an interesting paradox we now face in that today we find an exact reversal with the secularization of religion through demythologization and the mystification of science via quantum theory. 
The excluded middle seems applicable to Western Christianity as a whole. A new nationwide survey conducted by the Barna Group suggests that Americans who consider themselves to be Christian have been strongly influenced by technopoly:
Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.[vii]
Adding the two skeptical categories “strongly agree” and “agree somewhat” together yields a shocking 59 percent of professing American Christians who do not believe Satan is real. The “greatest trick the devil ever pulled” turns out to be much more than a clever line. Views on the Holy Spirit are just as dismal, with the survey indicating that “38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is ‘a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.’”[viii] Taken together, these statistics suggest that spiritual warfare has largely been abdicated in favor of worldly activism and politics.
While some Western evangelicals give verbal assent to the existence of the powers and principalities in Paul’s letters, few reflect such belief in their methodology. It seems fair to argue that the major evangelical ministries are more prone to political activism than spiritual warfare. Rather than working in such a way that assents to Paul’s teaching, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12a), American evangelicals have frequently overemphasized politics that do just that. 
Reflective of the excluded middle, the public witness of the church has been political and largely negative. Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, details how an elite group of neoconservative insiders organized the well-attended weekly prayer meetings for members of Congress and annual National Prayer Breakfasts attended by most presidents as a means to promote ostensibly Christian values.[ix] However, the book exposes that their methods are more manipulative and worldly than Christ-like. Hunter argues that this political strategy has not only failed, it has diminished Christian influence. Accordingly, he advises “for the church and for Christian believers to decouple the ‘public’ from the ‘political.’”[x] The single-minded quest for political power overlooks the spiritual warfare aspect of biblical theology. Refreshingly, Hunter acknowledges that the narrative of the Gospels reflects spiritual warfare between Jesus and the powers. By “the powers,” he really means supernatural agents who influence the power structures of this world and cites passages acknowledging the devil as holding sway for now (John 12:31, 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19). Breaking stride with naturalistic social science, Hunter interprets the culture war through a Supernatural Worldview:
Much of the gospel story, of course, can be read as a commentary on Christ’s relationship to power and “the powers” generally. Consider the period of Christ’s temptations in the wilderness at the start of his ministry. Here Satan offered to Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matt. 4:8). Satan’s implicit claim was that he possessed a ruling authority in and over the world. The biblical narrative makes clear that the scope and time of Satan’s power were limited by God’s sovereignty, and yet within those parameters he declared that power in the world was his to wield. Importantly, Jesus did not take issue with this claim. Indeed, Christ himself called the evil one “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 16:11). This is a description that Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, asserts as well, describing Satan as “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). It is also an account affirmed by John’s first letter where he declares, “that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). If this reading is right then the spirit that animates worldly power—whether held by individuals, social groups, communities, institutions, or social structures—naturally tends toward manipulation, domination, and control. Rooted in the deceptions of misdirected desire, it is a power that in its most coarse expressions would exploit, subjugate, and even enslave. Within a fallen humanity, then, all power is tainted, infected by the same tendencies toward self-aggrandizing domination. The natural disposition of all human power is to its abuse.[xi]
This supernatural-saturated critique coming from an elite social scientist like James Hunter is to be commended. His argument suggests that the evangelical church, in its quest for political power, has played right into a cosmic bait and switch. Adding to the problem of demythologization is that many otherwise conservative pastors are taught that Satan was so completely defeated at the cross (Colossians 2:15) that they do not have to concern themselves with him. While his defeat was secured for the future, it is not yet fully realized, and, for now, we are still at war. Consider than when God gave Israel the Promised Land they still had to fight the occupying Nephilim and Canaanite hordes. Our situation is similar. Years after the cross, Peter wrote that our adversary, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and Paul called him “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2, underline added). Also, as Hunter mentioned above, John was perhaps strongest of all in offering “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b). Making a modern analogy, Kraft has aptly pointed out that during World War II, D-Day had assured the Nazis’ defeat, but the war didn’t end for eleven more months—during which time more Allied troops were killed than in all the previous months combined.[xii] In like fashion, please do not doubt that Christians today still face a very serious challenge. Satan is alive and well and more active than ever because he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). 
Furthermore, readers should be shocked to learn that Paul N. Temple, an alleged Christian leader of “the family,” the supposedly Christian political lobby group, is also the chairman emeritus and cofounder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), a group promoting occultism, to be investigated and unveiled in chapter 7 of the upcoming book, The Supernatural Worldview.[xiii] The overemphasis of politics also explains the shocking ease with which a Christian school like Liberty University allowed a bishop from within the cult of Mormonism to deliver its 2012 commencement address.[xiv] The corrosive ethos promoted pragmatism over spiritual faithfulness, and Liberty students will not easily transcend their leadership’s failure. Worse yet, the Billy Graham organization purged all references to Mormonism as a cult from its websites.[xv] The powers and principalities have subverted the church’s mission by diverting it into partisan politics while convincing the rest of the West they do not exist.

Read the full article at - http://www.raidersnewsupdate.com/Supernatural6.htm