So What Is "Supernatural"?

14 Sep

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Common usage of the term “supernatural” means a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

We live in a four-dimensional universe commonly referred to as the “natural” realm where the laws of nature and science are known and observable. However, the supernatural involves other dimensions beyond those four. Increasingly, science points to those realities whereby there could be multiple dimensions beyond the four in our universe.

For people for whom a biblical worldview is normative, we come to this discussion with the presupposition that the supernatural exists and that the bigger picture—our natural reality and all that the Bible describes that is beyond it and interacts with it—is actually biblical reality. The Bible is a book all about this bigger, cosmic picture that includes the natural and the supernatural, and how they meet and overlap.

That’s a significant assumption, particularly in light of the broader cultural context in the Western world. For those of us who are Westerners, our predominant worldview is very naturalistic; we are still sons and daughters of the enlightenment, which means anything beyond naturalism, scientism, and rationalism (what is normative in our four-dimensional universe) is usually relegated to the domain of myth or superstition or something that is not yet explainable by science. But if we are to be truly biblical people, our worldview must be greater than the prevailing culture around us. Brad Jersak writes:

The modern mind concludes that the physical realm alone is the “real world” in contrast to visions and dreams that are “not real.” This kind of materialistic worldview infects much of the church. It allows that God exists, but he must be silent and distant. This is often referred to as practical deism. It believes in angels and demons but is ignorant of their activity today. It nods politely to a spiritual realm but judges it as sub-real. Ezekiel would beg to differ. (Ezekiel 43:1-5)

Cultural anthropologist Charles Kraft makes the same observation:

Indeed, unlike most of the peoples of the world, we [Westerners] divide the world into what we call “natural” and what we call “supernatural.” And then we largely disregard the supernatural. Our focus is squarely on the natural world, with little or no attention paid to the supernatural world.


Coming Next Week: The Tension Around Supernatural Reality...



This is an excerpt from Sam Metcalf’s booklet, Engaging the Supernatural: Experiencing the Reality of God’s Presence and Power. You can request a free PDF version of the booklet on our website.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Metcalf has served as the president of CRM-US since 1985. His passion for leadership development, discipleship, and the spread of the good news of Jesus around the world has led CRM into over 85 countries and a variety of innovative ministry models contributing to contemporary movements of the gospel. He and his wife, Patty, are based in Fullerton, CA. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.


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