Ignorance of the unseen

Christians are believers in the supernatural.  I would say that if one claims to be a follower of Jesus, he cannot fail to acknowledge that there is more in existence than our eyes can see; that there is a supernatural realm which has influence and direct impact on mankind.

This is perhaps a no-brainer, but it seems to me that some of my fellow believers – not the liberals, but those of us who are called conservative or evangelical – increasingly operate or think as if there is no supernatural reality impinging upon events.  As we have, rightly so, embraced the kingdom of God as an important theological paradigm and paid more attention to systemic issues or injustice and poverty, we seem to sometime forget that human effort cannot bring the reign of God, and that some things are not just social justice issues.  Some things are, quite probably, demonically inspired, if not controlled.

I am a socially minded evangelical; I believe in justice, etc.  But the more I think about the issues of the day, the more I am convinced, both by own experience and by my reading, that the devil is busy.  That sounds simple, and it is.  When an issue such as marriage between two men becomes divisive within communities that claim holy scripture as authoritative, it cannot be simply that God is neutral or that the enemy is silent. 

Now I do not claim that any particular person is demonically controlled or inspired.  I don’t know enough to make that claim.  But I believe that we err when we think of things merely as issues of justice or progress or politics and neglect the very real truth that evil exists and that it is personal.

Allow me to take the issue of gay rights.  First homosexuality has graduated rather rapidly over the course of 100 years from a behavior one engages in, to a condition one has, to an identity one is.  And many Christians have embraced this graduation, this evaluation, unthinkingly, without real regard to the consequences of that decision.  Scripture on the other recognizes no such categories for anyone.  According to scripture we are people made in the image of God, infected with a sinful nature, and yet culpable for our behavior.  Everyone of us can sin, and none of us have the option to allow our sin to become our identity.

I bring this up not because it is my major point, but because we as Christians ought to think about the spiritual dynamics around this transition. I was reared within a church tradition that was cognizant of these spiritual realities, but as I’ve been involved with more “mainstream” churches it has become clear to me that most evangelicals functionally operate as materialists.

Of course this notion of being aware of “spiritual” realities can be taken to an extreme – where charismatic becomes charismania and a demon is seen lurking behind every tree or misprint of a church bulletin. Such extremism is well documented and rightly criticized. The alternative however, is less often critiqued from within evangelical circles. If we are people who believe the scripture and whose lives are to be infused with the Holy Spirit, then should it be any surprise to us that there is demonic activity at a personal and systemic level?

Operating, as we often do, in ignorance of the unseen leaves us only the tools of essentially unenlightened reason to discern what Jesus himself said were spiritual truths that require the Spirit to illumine. At the same time, by operating in such a way, we unintentionally reduce Christianity to “‘good works” that are not really that different in practice from just being a nice person who goes to church. Is it any wonder then that our witness to the world is so weak?

Why is it so easy for us to operate in ignorance of the unseen? I believe that it is simply our fear of being out of control. By denying spiritual realities, we retain, or at least seem to retain, a degree of control over our world, and even our relationship with God. We can manage things then from an entirely man centered stance while purporting to be relying on God, when in fact we are functionally atheistic. The stakes are too high for us to continue in this way. As Jesus admonished his disciples when they fail to cast out a demon… some things come out only by prayer and fasting.

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2 thoughts on “Ignorance of the unseen

  1. powerful words. thanks for the reminder, you are right to say that we have leaned on our own understanding too much in order to have some semblance of control over the situation. there has increasingly been an divide between secular and sacred, but it’s interesting that perhaps we do that within the church as well.

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