Apr 21, 2014

What's Missing In The World? A Supernatural Church!

2Ti 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;   Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

by Cris Putnam

In the one area where the church is supposed to have specialized mastery, it is failing to be salt and light. Through either ignorance, incredulity, or both, we’re not providing convincing answers when it comes to paranormal phenomena. 

Naturalism has not convinced a large portion of the population who are now turning to the occult. Research indicates that a large portion of the population believes in paranormal phenomenon like: extrasensory perception (60.1 percent); extraterrestrials visiting earth (35.2 percent); precognition (42.4 percent); and ghosts (45.5 percent).[i] Some phenomena are more consistent with a biblical worldview (Acts 16:16) than others and likely have a factual basis. Even the more fanciful variety could still be demonic deceptions that deserve a thoughtful analysis. Lost in a sea of naturalistic nihilism, it shouldn’t be so surprising that non-Christians make the existential leap to a sort of upper-story hope. 

In his groundbreaking work, Escape from Reason, Francis Schaeffer explained the divided-truth concept by making an analogy to a two-story building. The upper story, nonreason, hosts spiritual beliefs and morality while the lower story, reason, still claims to have universal, objective truth.[ii]
Rather than holding a holistic concept of truth, modern man has divided it. The two-story grid functions as a gatekeeper defining what can be taken seriously as genuine knowledge and what should be dismissed as irrational. All spiritual claims are relegated to the upper story as subjective opinions that can be true for you but nor for me. Nevertheless, because secular folks cannot live without some sort of hope, they inevitably make a leap into the upper story of nonreason. Schaeffer observed how the occult attracts the secular world:
Though demons do not fit into modern man’s concepts on the basis of his reason, many moderns would rather have demons than be left with the idea that everything in the universe is only one big machine. People put the occult in the upper story of nonreason in the hope of having some kind of meaning, even if it is a horrendous one.[iii]
Why should we allow the devil a supernatural demesne? The church actually has the one thing the secular world does not and desperately needs: the truth about the supernatural realm. However, Western evangelicalism’s assimilation into technopoly has diminished its ability to speak such truth into the culture. Most pastors are not equipped to handle questions about the occult. Hiebert’s missional concern applies at home: “Because the Western world no longer provides explanations for questions on the middle level, it is not surprising that many Western missionaries have no answers within their Christian world view.”[iv] It seems likely that Western churches don’t have those answers for their own people concerning the paranormal. Even so, the Bible implies that the middle realm is more active than we expect, “for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2b). The obliviousness to angels implies that we are inclined toward a blind spot.
As a result, spiritual warfare considerations are often low on the list of ministry priorities. Keith Ferdinando, a theology professor in Zaire, observed: “The skepticism of society has often been reflected in the life of the church and its theology too, in practice if not in theory.”[v] The spiritual weapons and armor listed by Paul seem ethereal and impractical by worldly standards (Ephesians 6:12–18). All too often, Christian counselors concede to the world’s methods steeped in naturalism. As implied in my discussions with Tom Sappington, a BIOLA New Testament scholar and Indonesian missionary, we are unnecessarily medicating thousands of folks who need deliverance.[vi] Even among conservative Bible believers, we’re hesitant to ascribe events to supernatural agency.