Saturday, November 11, 2006

Supernatural Christianity

I've recently been listening to a set of tapes loaned to me by a friend from church. He gave them to me after I gave my "spiritual gifts" lesson in an adult Sunday School class a few weeks ago. Anyway, the album is entitled "The Fourth Wave" by David Pawson.

In this lecture, Pawson approaches the schism in Christianity that has long separated the evangelical and the charismatic Christians. I disagreed with many of Mr. Pawson's assertions, but he raised some interesting points about what brought on the schism and how we may go about reconciling it.

He points out that in these two different perspectives on Christianity, the focus of faith gets shifted according to each group's bias. He gives a tongue-in-cheek example by pointing out that "to the Reformer, the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Scripture. To the Catholic, it's Father, Son and Holy Virgin Mary."

His point was that as Christians, we often ignore the work of the Holy Spirit in the church and substitute Him for an unhealthy infatuation with relics and mysticism, or exegetical dogmatism.

Pawson really got me thinking on this topic. Truly, if God is still present in this world and actively working in our lives, why do we (as evangelicals) tend to limit that action to the ways we apply Scripture to our lives? I'm not saying that most evangelicals believe God doesn't work in any other way, just that we tend to believe it happens largely by reading the Bible.

I think it's a natural tendency to minimize the spiritual aspect of Christianity in it's more "intellectual" cultures. That is, the more we focus on the exegesis and exposition of Scripture, the more we tend to think of the supernatural aspects of Christianity as being past events, not a present reality. That's something which charismatics have rejected outright, and rightly so.

Paul pointed out that our battle is not with the flesh and blood, but "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

Paul was explicit that we are at war and the war far exceeds the reality that any of us percieve. While I don't believe every misdeed is a result of demonic attack, I do believe that when we choose to follow God, Satan raises the stakes. We battle not only against our flesh, but inevitably against demonic forces. I don't pretend to know what the spiritual war Paul indicates looks like, though I can clearly point to episodes in my own life when I am certain my struggle was with more than just my own flesh.

When I compound my own experience with that of others, the evidence is too great to ignore. I've listened to friends describe their (sometimes physical) encounters with demonic forces. One pastor in our denomination described performing an exorcism which immediately healed a woman. I cannot (and dare not) discount the supernatural aspect of my faith.

I have long held that the major difference between a charismatic and an evangelical is the charismatic tends to embrace the supernatural with alarming disregard, whereas the evangelical tends to regard the supernatural in terms of disbelief, suspicion, and even fear. Whether we see our faith in charismatic or an evangelical terms, we can neither fully understand or comfortably ignore it's supernatural aspects.

By definition, the supernatural supersedes reality as we know it. Christianity teaches that it defines reality, whether we acknowledge it or not.

- Graffy

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

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