Category Archives: emerging church

A rant on Christian modernism and stuff…


uk1999fi

I just posted this on twitter (in 11 parts) as ‘a rant that might cost me followers’:

I think I do know why the America-centric Christian blogosphere seems to irritate me and feels so irrelevant so much of the time. I realised just don’t even care about the fundamentalist/liberal dichotomy as both seem equally irrelevant to me as a Charismatic (as I am probably to them…) and 2 sides of the same old boring utterliky unrealistic ugly modernist coin to me. Even if I’d lose my Christian faith I’d rather follow the closest new-ager or any tribal pagan than fall for naturalist materialism anyway, which is the privilege of ivory-tower Westerners and solipsistic academics. And although I liked the ‘emerging church dialog’, where the ‘emergent’ stuff falls into some kind of liberalism 2.0 it just loses any credibility to me. I can understand liberalism as the godless capitalism it is in Europe, it is honest but evil, and I don’t care for it. Socialism, non-marxist communism, anarchism, even monarchism, whatever… Bring on organic church, neo-anabaptism, Eastern Orthodoxy, indigenous expressions of Christianity, even insights from all kinds of other religions and philosophies where the Creator has sown the seeds of Truth. But please no modern Western liberalism, ‘new atheism’ or modern Christian fundamentalism please, they all seem connected to me and don’t convince me at all. The world is already ugly enough, thank you…

Maybe I worded it too strong, but it’s how I feel…

Any pushback or questions?

peace

Bram

to the guy searching for ‘brambonius cools emerging’


(warning: just a rant full of christian theological  lingo)

Looking at my stats today I saw that my blog has been found 5 times today looking for ‘brambonius cools emerging’. Makes me wonder if anyone still uses the term ‘emerging church’, and why people would bother finding out if I (using my internet nick) have something to do with it.

To be honest, I don’t even know myself :p

I can’t deny that I’ve been following the ‘emerging church dialogue’ (even if I was quite late to the discussion.) and that I have learned a lot from it. I am a postmodern evangelical after all, so I found in it the words to explain how I look at the world; On the other hand, I think I’m too post-modern and too evangelical (once a charismatic, always a supernaturalist…) to ever fall for modernist forms of christianity, be it either fundamentalism or liberalism. Thank you very much, both are completely inconceivable for me… So if you mean some kind of ‘liberalism 2.0′ I’m not your man. I’ve found out that I’m allergic to all forms of liberalism, from liberal theology to liberal humanism and oldschool liberal politics and economics (like the stuff they call ‘conservative’ in America).

So if you mean the ‘tall skinny kiwi‘ type of emerging church, or the Shane Claiborne type of christianity, yes!: I’m in…

If you mean some kind of updated liberalism, as some seem to use the word ‘emergent’ (maybe mainly the critics, see cartoon) count me out. It won’t ever work for me. I’m a supernadoctrinemongersturalist who is quite critical towards the enlightenment.  For me that’s just the negative-picture version of fundamentalism… I will readily affirm the apostles and Nicene creed, but I will also place them alongside the sermon on the mount as foundational to Christianity. And I believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today (and the fruits), Christian non-violence and peacemaking, equality of the sexes [and egalitarianism], the priesthood of all believers, the trusworthiness of scripture (I don’t care about the modern concept of ‘innerancy’ though),  creation care and stewardsghip over nature, and the incompatibility of capitalism and christianity… I believe God works in all of His Church, even though I have no use for a lot of things in various traditions that I believe to be abominable (like double predestination, rich TV-preachers asking money from the poor, relic worship, christian materialism etc…)

To satisfy the heresy-hunters even more some labels I could wear: I’m a Wesleyan anabaptist-inspired postmodern charismatic evangelical with both orthodox and organic church sympathies, inspired by Francis of Assisi, christian mysticism and apophatic theology, who thinks Christianity is a way of life restored in relationship to God than accepting all the right theologies.

Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. In the end after the day of Judgment that’ll be all that’s left, with all evil and everything incompatible with God erased….

And as you might have noticed, I’m as non-reformed as a protestant can be…

May the Spirit lead me and bring me to the right path… May God bring His Kingdom and reveal Christ to me more and more, so that I can follow Him!

peace

Bram

An apophatic video interlude with Peter Rollins…


I’ve been talking about apophatic theology, and the limits of language earlier, and the idea will come back in some future posts. Apophatic or negative theology is a very important way of doing theology in the Eastern Orthodox church and some church fathers. The basic idea is that God the Creator does not exist like we do, and is not bound to words and ideas that are derived from what we know as created beings in Creation, so the only way to speak of God is to say what God is not…

Another tradition that is very suspicious of the preciseness of language, when speaking about anything actually, not just God, would be postmodernist continental philosophy, which is quite popular in certain parts of the emerging church. So here is for you the guy with the coolest accent and the weirdest background music in postmodern christianity, Peter Rollins himself.

And no, whatever the description on youtube says, he could actually not be further away from classical christian liberalism, and fits more between old orthodox mystic apophatic negative theology and postmodern linguistic deconstructionism… Both thought systems that couldn’t be removed further from the rationalist roots of the original Christian liberalism… And yes, some of his stuff here is just semantic wordplay probably… Some atheists would object to his definition of atheism probably, but I see where he’s coming from.

What do you think? Is Pete making sense here? Or is he just talking heresy or plain nonsense to you?

shalom

Bram

Language is quite fallible (Chesterton)


What I see in a lot of discussions is how people are just not understanding each other because the same words do mean different things for other people.

Losing my faith in language, and realising I could never naively believe in language as a  trustworthy way to describe the world, and communicate my feelings and ideas to others was probably a big day in my postmodern evolution, but the sentiment of language being quite fallible to communicate sometimes even the most basic things, let alone important matters of Faith, Love and Life, is not new. The Orthodox tradition knows that the most important things that can be said about God are what God is not… More eastern traditions like certain streams of Buddhism and probably Taoism could teach us exactly the same, as could the continental postmodernists like Derrida.

But you don’t have to be Derrida to know this; I found this beautiful Chesterton quote that expresses it very well…

Every time one man says to another, “Tell us plainly what you mean?” he is assuming the infallibility of language: that is to say, he is assuming that there is a perfect scheme of verbal expression for all the internal moods and meanings of men. Whenever a man says to another, “Prove your case; defend your faith,” he is assuming the infallibility of language: that is to say, he is assuming that a man has a word for every reality in earth, or heaven, or hell. He knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest; he knows that there are abroad in the world and doing strange and terrible service in it crimes that have never been condemned and virtues that have never been christened. Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them, in all their tones and semi-tones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals.

G. K. Chesterton, Watt’s allegorical paintings

I know, we all need to trust language enough to use it, but it’ll fail us. A lot of discussions between Christians and atheists, or moderns and postmoderns, are bound to fail because of a paradigmatic and semantic disconnect that goes undetected, and even if detected it would take a lot of time to just make clear from which worldview one comes, and what he or she means with the terms used. And most of the time both sides don’t want to listen to that…

  (And I’m not even talking about linguistic relativity here, which words and concepts that exist in a certain language will shape the worldview and thinking patterns of the persons using it. Some things I can explain much simpler in dutch, and I need more words to explain them in English. Or there are misunderstandings that lead to weird doctrines like John Piper who builds a whole doctrine on Adam meaning ‘man‘, that helps maintaining an injust system. )

So, my question is, what do you people feel about the fallibility of language. What are the implications? Is there any way we can communicate that is misunderstandings-free and if not (which is very likely) what does that mean? And isn’t it true that most things that are Real and True can be described more in poetry, story, pictures and art than in technical and systematic lingo?

Or even be shown in deeds instead of spoken in words?

Shalom

Bram

Moving east to find lost treasures…


In the light of the current Rob Bell controverse (if you don’t know what I mean just google his name and ‘love wins’)  there are some thoughts that are not new, and there’s probably nothing new about them… For example, Kingdom Grace has made similar remarks earlier, but I’ll try to explain how I see it.

While not much seems to be happening here in Flanders in the (very small) evangelical world, it seems like the internet is announcing over and over the end of evangelicalism in the US, or its split. The fights over Rob Bells new book (ironically called ‘Love wins’, how naive of him, you know christians will never exhibit love if they disagree… hmm ) seems to make a division between the hardcore reformed who hold to a theology I find very troubling sometimes (and I’m not the only one) and all the others, who are not considered ‘in’ for some of those… But frankly,  I don’t believe calvinism is the most helpful tradition here.

I don’t think we need to return to seventeenth century ‘orthodoxy’ if we want to find our roots again, and neither do I think we need to read the bible through a few elect pauline verses… Yes we need to go back to our roots, but the problem with sola scriptura is that where we had 4 schisms in the first 1500 years, we have had 30000 church splits since protestantism, so even when teh bible is infallible, everybody seems to have another opinion about what it says… So we don’t just need to go back to the bible, but also look at the others who are going the same way as we do, and/or those who did in the past.

Yes I think that the ‘modern’ protestant church has been navelgazing too long, blinded by our cultural assumptions, and it might need some input from other traditions to refresh its vision (and more open ears to the Holy Spirit!!!). I might be quite unmodern being both pentecostel (which according to some is more pre-modern) and influenced by C.S. Lewis, who called himself the last ancient westerner, but I’m not going to do all the emerging church babble about postmodernism being better than modernism. Still I’m affraid that I’m convinced that modernism and Christianity don’t mix very well. Both fundamentalism and liberalism, the 2 polar opposite adaptions christianity made to late modernism are not the most vital and life-bringing forms of Christianity, and did much harm to the gospel.

So my proposal is to learn from non-modern christian traditions to find back what we’ve lost with the blind spots of our modern eyes. Thats’s in fact one of the things happening in and beyond the ‘emerging church’, and one of the problems for some is that those traditions are far away from standard dispensationalism and calvinism. One of those traditions which we can learn a lot from is the (neo-)anabaptism which probably is the most attractive side of the emerging church to me. A focus on discpleship and following the Jesus of the gospels is something we surely need in our churches! Every church a peace church!!

(another one would be the charismatic tradition, of which I am already part, which is frustratingly ignored in some parts of the emerging church tending too much to naturalism!)

So what’s the ‘new’ one I’m finding more and more interesting? It’s actually a very old one, and unlike anabaptism undeniably totally outside of protestantism, and it was even left out of Brian McLarens ‘generous orthodoxy’, but I don’t think it can really be considered ‘unorthodox’ in any way at all, since I’m talking about the so-called eastern orthodox church here. They own the word!

People who read here regularly know that I recently was very impressed with a video pointing out the differences between the orthodox and protestant view of salvation. I do indeed think that the orthodox have a much more complete, biblical and coherent view on salvation than the good-friday-only penal substitution some of us protestants preach! And we can and should also learn a lot from their non-dualistic view of reality, their insistance of the presence of God, and their embrace of paradox and mystery instead of trying to push all of reality into systematic theology!

And I’m not the only one who has been discovering this, even people in my own denomination (the vineyard) are discovering that the the eastern orthodox are theologically very interesting and very close to the ideas some post-evangelicals are (re)discovering. Yes indeed, the ‘heresy’ of some of Rob Bells or even NT Wrights views is in fact much closer to eastern orthodoxy and the church fathers than to calvinism, which is in return a heresy condemned by both the catholic and orthodox church… The whole idea that Jesus came to save us in the first place from the wrath of God would be totally alien to them. To quote American orthodox priest Father Stephen:

Intricate theories of the atonement which involve the assuaging of the wrath of God are not worthy of the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I can say it no plainer. Those who persist in such theological accounts do not know “what Spirit they are of.” It is not ever appropriate to exalt a Biblical system over the plain sense communicated to us in the Gospel. No matter the chain of verses and the rational explanations attached – we cannot portray God as other than as He has shown Himself to us in Jesus Christ. To do so makes the Bible greater than Christ.

It is very difficult in our culture, where the wrathful God has been such an important part of the gospel story, to turn away from such portrayals – and yet it is necessary – both for faithfulness to the Scripture, the Fathers, and the revelation of God in Christ.

I commend the referenced work, the River of Fire, for its compliation of Patristic sources. I also beg other Christians to be done with their imagery of the wrathful God. They do not know the God of Whom they speak. Forgive me

So, I think we can and should learn a lot from the orthodox (among many other traditions), who have a much more complete view of salvation, and who seem to be able to make a lot more sense of the ressurrection, without which our hope is in vain according to Paul, but which is reduced to just some counterintuitive fact that should be believed in to be saved by some fundamentalists.

but no, I’m never ever going to become eastern orthodox myself. My theology of church would fall somewhere between those of Frank Viola and John Wimber and is quite opposite to the hierarchical liturgical view of an old church with only male priests: I believe in the priesthood of all believers, where ‘everybody gets to play’ and where men and women can excercise the gifts the Spirit has given them. And I don’t buy the stuff about relics and saints (even though their theology of the communion of the saints and the witness cloud sounds interesting to me!)

So if we want to restore a truly ‘evangelical’ faith, we have to recover the good news of God redeeming all of creation and of the hope Jesus brought in the resurrection. The vision of Gods kingdom as layed out in the gospels is incompatible with a gospel that is only concerned with saving individual souls from Gods wrath, it’s about the restauration of all of creation! And here I think can learn a lot from those older brothers in our faith in Jesus Christ.

(Even if we’ll still disagree about a lot of things and not be able to be in communion with them because different views on church, priesthood and eucharist. )

But it’s not about which tradition is best. It’s about understanding God more, and participation in the mission of His kingdom.

shalom

Bram

ps: I am in no way an expert in orthodoxy, so if anyone has helpful links or book titles to enlighten me more, please share them with me and my readers!!!

please don’t call me ‘arminian’!


warning: this post is for all those christians who identify themselves with the ‘calvins-ist’ or ‘reformed’ tradition and who feel the need to dub me or others ‘arminian’ because I’m not one of them…

All my life I’ve been a Christian, and I’ve encountered a lot of traditions in those 30 years (wow, am I that old?). I must say I’ve learned a lot from all different streams of Christianity. I’ve been a pentecostel kid, and now I’m a part of the vineyard movement with it’s centered ‘radical middle’ approach. I’ve been learning from a lot of traditions over the years. My charismatic background and the wesleyan evangelicalism underneath it were enriched by the human solidarity, charity and ‘creation care’ -as I’d call it now- that I picked up from the (otherwise mostly dead liberal-on-slippery-slope-to-atheism) catholicism of my catholic school. (did I tell you that I grew up in a dechristianising post-catholic countrty?)

I think that I’ve picked up what I would call now ‘a generous orthodoxy’ from C.S. Lewis, and I learned to find things of value in most Christian streams, and I read books, articles and websites from all kinds of traditions over the years since my teenage years, which enriched me a lot.

There were at least three streams of thought that never resonated with me within the broad range of Christian thought, without beginning about the pope and the magisterium that is… The first one is the so-called ‘liberal’ impulse to explain everything away that doesn’t fit with modern science, which is just unrealistic to a charismatic like me. The second one is the ‘I am right on all details or you can just throw your bible and faith in the trash’ approach of fundamentalism. and the third one is the weird doctrine of double predestination, which I find a blasphemous idea, even if it’s supposed to give God the most glory according to their philosophical framework.

I must say that honestly I’ve never encountered much calvinism before I got into some debates on the internet. And it never interested me, I didn’t recognise God, Christ and the bible like I knew them in their way of thinking. But one of the things I noticed when in debate on some websites was the label ‘arminian’ that some used to describe me or any other person brave enough to admit not to believe in the ‘TULIP’-doctrines. I soon learned that it was a derogatory term used by some calvinists to label anyone they disagree with, so they didn’t have to take them seriously. I later found out it had something to do with some Arminius guy, but reading about the guy he didn’t stir much interest I’m affraid.

(I’m fully aware that not all calvinists and reformed Christians are like this, but this is part of my experience that I can’t deny. My excuses to all good christians in the reformed tradition who don’t use the word ‘arminian’ as a synonym for ‘bad christian’ or even ‘heretic’. It’s the loudest ones that get heard and that spoil the reputation of the group for all of the rest…)

I’m sorry, but I reject the label ‘arminian’. I don’t follow the guy named Arminius. In fact the guy was, unlike me, a calvinist. He might even have been a better calvinist than the guys of the synod of Dordt, who made up the 5 points of calvinism (TULIP) but history is always written by winners, and he and his followers were the losers… But that’s an in-house discussion for calvinists and those inside the ‘reformed’ tradition, and none of my business. It’s as relevant for me as what’s going on in the vatican…

Calling all evangelicals, or more or less protestant Christians who believe in free will over predestination ‘Arminians’ is just plain nonsense from a calvinistocentric worldview, creating non-extisting dichotomies where there’s a whole lot of traditions of which the ‘reformed’ is only one. It would be the same if I as a Charismatic would call all non-charismatics ‘darbyists’ and trace all forms of cessionism or otherwise non-charismatic christianity back to Darby. The guy has nothing to do with most of non-charismatic christianity, and it’s the same with Arminius and non-calvinists…

So, I’m a Christian, and I believe in free will, or more exaxtly the synergy of Gods grace and free wil, it’s not that we do everything alone. I reject the ideas of irresistible grace and limited atonement. If you use small letters I won’t be offended with labels as evangelical, charismatic, or even (neo)anabaptist or wesleyan.  All these traditions are part of my roots I guess, and I’m even inpired by the eastern orthodox and greek church fathers lately.

But I’ve never cared about that rebelious and rejected calvinist called Arminius. And I don’t need to be named after the guy… There are followers of him who still identify with him, so keep the name for them!

shalom

Bram

Why fear non-violence as a christian?


Scot McKnight, who himself self-identifies as an anabaptist, links on his blog to an article from the American spectator that poses the question if a ‘mennonite take-over’ is going on.

Now i’m still a european who doesn’t understand much of American politics, but after reading the American Spectator I sense a bit of fear of what they percieve as ‘mennonite’, even though most of the names they give are in fact not at all mennonites. What they seem to be affraid of is the growing influence of peace church thought and pacifism in christianity, which they for some reason see as agressive.

(I guess they are affraid of the other side of the american 2-party system, and of the ‘socialism’ monster of the cold war indoctrination, but what I see in both Shane Claibornes ‘Jesus for president’ and Greg Boyds ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ is rejecting both parties alike, and not putting much faith in governments at all, and it shows more a down-top grass-roots anarchism which does not wait on the State to do things…)

Most of the names they give, like Greg boyd and Shane Claiborne, are in fact not mennonites, but it surely can not be denied that they are gravely influenced by postmodern neo-anabaptist christian non-violence. Which is why I like them by the way. One of the things I like most about certain parts of the post-evangelical christianity and the emerging church dialogue is exactly that: a commitment to Jesus and His words, the sermon on the mount and to radical discipleship, even to enemy-love.

I do think this ‘neo-anabaptist’ emphasis in post(modern) evangelicalism is not only very important, but also a move of the Holy Spirit and a call to go back to the core of our faith. A call to first be a citizen of the Kingdom of God before being part of the systems of this world (or ‘empire’) I’m not only thinking of Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd, but of Scot McKnight himself, and Rob Bell or even Brian McLaren.

Like Derek Webb sings:

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom

We as Christians need to be serious that our first commitment is not to any nation, but to Jesus, and to the ‘transnational church that transcends all artificial borders’, like Shane Claiborne says in his ‘litany of resistance‘, which the reporter of the American spectator finds “angry and defamatory“. The first Christians were known to be willing to die for their faith, but not to kill. This is a serious way of following Christ, even into a possible death, but it’s also very powerful. It trancends the so-called myth of redemptive violence.

Like Bonhoeffer said, “…when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.” (thanks to JoeyS) Or like Walter Wink says “Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough.”

These are the things that make me want to be a christian. But it seems that exactly these things scare some people, even some Christians… They are too far from our natural human way of thinking. But isn’t that exactly what Christianity is supposed to be. Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be boxed or put before our cart, and neither can any genuine follower.

No we should not completely withdraw from the world, as some anabaptists tend to do (think about the Amish) Neither should we take over all the values of the world, we belong to Christ. We are to be in the world, but not of the world, like light and salt… We are not to take over with violence, but to love the hell out of this world…

Not by might,
Not by power
by my spirit
says the Lord

Shalom

Bram

book review: Jonathan Brink – The God Imagination


Not every day you read a book that asks if we have the gospel wrong as christians, and proposes a new way of reading the bible… (Hmm, maybe there’s too much of that kind of books in some circles…) But this one called ‘the God imagination‘ by misional Church thinker Jonathan Brink more or less tries to argue for that thesis. Supsicious as a I am of people who think that they can re-invent the wheel without having it to be round I didn’t know what to expect. Especially with the esotheric-looking cover and title… But I know Jonathan Brink as an interesting Christian blogger, and if the book would’ve been new age I wouldn’t have bothered reading it.

So the book tries to look at the nature of atoment, and  to frame the problem that Jesus came te solve.Jonathan does this by thoroughly going through the whole narrative of the bible, starting with the genesis accounts of the fall, and seeing what happens. Pointing out that the problem that had to be solved was not located in God or the devil, but in the first place in ourselves. The separation we experience from God, the self, our fellow human and the rest of creation is not reality, it’s a lie that’s been rooted deeply within us. ‘The God imagination’ then is the process in which we learn to see the Truth. And Jesus came to teach that truth, and be the ultime example and sacrifice.

So where penal substitution portrays a wrathful God who needs to punish someone before He can forgive, and in the Christus Victor view jesus gives himself over to Satan in our stead, according to Jonathan the problem is located elsewhere, namely in ourselves. It’s not that God (or even the devil) needs a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven; we are the ones who need it.

The main point of the book is that we need to look through Gods eyes, with what he calls ‘the God imagination’, to restore the image of God within us, to uncover our dignity that establishes us as good. To abandon the false and limiting identities, the victim or perpetrator mentalities, idols and comparisons, and to embrace the freedom that is found in grace, the courage in loving, and the wholeness in being. And that ‘the fullness of life resides in the act of love’, which is the judgment of good, and any act that validater, holds or restores a persons dignity to wholeness. Like Rom 13:8 says.

I might not agree with everything in this book, but the overall point he makes is not one that can be ignored, and it’s an important book to wrestle with, and to sharpen ones view of the story of the bible, the atonement, Gods justice, and the condition of mankind. And in the debates about the atonement Jesus brought us on the cross, this is a voice that should be given a place at the table!

I’ll end with a quote:

a quote:
Jesus is giving us perhaps the most unorthodox idea ever presented. We often think that the way to overcome evil and death is to refuse it, to deny its power in our life and even pretend it’s not true. Our resistance to evil and death actually fuels its power over us. To deny its existence is much the same as covering it. Our primary concern is its capacity to fundamentally change us. We assume that if we experience it, it will make us evil. We cover what is true, pretending to hide it, and in doing so, partner in our own demise.

What Jesus is revealing is that the way to overcome evil and death is to surrender to the presence of it. By surrendering to the presence of evil and death, we’re destroying its hold over us. We’re calling it out and addressing it for what it really is. We’re being honest that it exists in our lives. And it is only then that we can overcome it. It is only by surrendering to the reality of evil that we discover we are not changed by it. It is only by surrendering to death that we can discover that it is not our end. (p 153)

Amazon page

shalom

Bram

N T Wright is a sound theologian (new song)


I’m aware that there is some blog silence here… I don’t even know why exactly…

But to fill the holes until something new appears here, some music. I’ve been working on some songs, that are more electronic than I’m used to (so I won’t be able to play them live…) for an album that’ll be called ‘cyberluddism’. One of those songs is an industrial triphop tune with the weird title ‘N T Wright is a sound theologian’, that I just posted on youtube (without a real video though…)

Anyone who likes it?

shalom

Bram

Reclaiming supernaturalism II: on my problem with christian materialism


I’m in a blogging streak right now. so one more post in this ‘open-source theology project’ on post-evangelical thought and supernaturalism in Christianity, and I hope that after this one I’ll be writing one more post about Dan Brennans book on cross-gender friendships (see posts  -1, 0, 1).

So I started with my concern about how the currend trends of accepting evolution (and other ones) to me seem to open the door to (post-)evangelicals for a christianity without supernaturalism. I know very well this such a thing is not necessary outcome of accepting a more evolutionary creation view, and also that for example in the more liberal churches that there already are pretty naturalistic forms  of christianity. But still I do see that a lot of people beyond the post-modern paradigm shift and in the emerging church discussion don’t have much to say about the supernatural realm, and tend to be or silent on this subject, or to lean more to the ‘liberal’ side, which accepts naturalism as a reality and tries to incorporate it into a more materialistic kind of christianity.

But my problem -as someone from a charismatic background who from experience cannot deny the supernatural in different forms- with this christian materialism is that I can’t see it as something other than unrealistic synchretism of christianity with the theories of post-enlightenment western thinking, without being informed by a more spiritual reality. I don’t believe that the line between natural and supernatural is more than a practical line, which has been drawn during the enlightenment period between what could be measured and investigated, and what not… So we as westeners divided the visible from the invisible and made a materialistic wordview, in which only the visible exists, the rest is nonsense, superstition, whatever. (Very safe worldview if you are affraid of the onknown and looking for security…)

I do believe that this form on naturalism is mainly a western idea, and Christians nor non-christians in other parts of the world wil never fall for it since they do experience the supernatural…

Now it is true that the one big problem with the invisible still is that it is invisible, and we don’t know much about it… We cannot research it in a scientific way, as we can do with the visible. So it’s one area that we cannot know much of, except from experiences and subjective interpretations of things that go beyond our rationality. And what I lump together here as the invisble does not have to be monolythinc, in fact I very hard doubt it is… There might be lines and divisions in the invisible that could be drawn, that are way more clear than our natural/supernatural divide…

There are cultures in which there is no divide between the natural and the supernatural, in which all of the world is one continuum including both. And even if there might be a lot superstition, wrong explanation of the invisible and even demonic influenced false information, I think they are closer to seeing the world as it is than western materialism will ever be able to be. For example I think there is more than just demonic lies behind all the talk about chackras, auras and stuff, even if the explanations given are wrong, there is some reality behind them. And some stuff in the paranormal department might also be just ‘invisible physics. The problem with us westeners and the invisible is that we are totally disconnected with it, which is very dangerous if we are going to experiment with it unprotected. New agers flashing on everything spiritual and supernatural are very likely to meet some things that are not as friendly -and useful- as they seem….

So I believe that here in the ‘natural’ world there also is an invisible half that we don’t know of, and can’t know of in the same way as we know the visible half, since we are not able to investigate it in any meanigful way according to the standards of our rational and emprical paradigms… But to dismiss it for that reason is just wishful thinking in my eyes, like the proverbial ostrich who pust its head in the sand to not see his enemy. Or is that only an expression in dutch?

(this subject gives funny conversations with new atheists btw…)

The realm of angels and demons might be something totally different than the invisible part of ‘our’ universe… I’ve even wondered if there is a category of more ‘natural’ spirits that are part of our world, and that totally different from the messenger or archangels who have their own world… But that would be more speculation…

But my proposal is that we as postmoderns, even if we don’t know how to categorise it, make room again for the supernatural in our christian worldview. And then I’m not even speaking of the works of the Spirit, just about the supernatural site of Creation (our universe, and maybe beyond…)

(and I do not say that naturalist christians are heretics, I will only say that in my opinion they might miss an entire dimension of Christianity, in which they can experience the Salvation of Christ in the ‘here and now’ part of the Kingdom…)

shalom

Bram