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

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One response to “Reclaiming supernaturalism II: on my problem with christian materialism

  1. I think this is especially true in experience the presence of God on the earth. There have been times in my home, sitting around my dining room table with friends that I have been able to visualize the spiritual connection between God and us. It is as though we are the ark of the covenant and the pillar of smoke or fire is rising up from the middle of the table. We have even been able to hear the angels singing. The strong presence of the Lord is but one aspect of this supernatural that so many seem to ignore.

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