When you hear the word “supernatural,” what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Now, when you think about “supernatural” in regard to the Bible, what is the first verse or story from scripture that comes to your mind?
I’ve been in one church service and two conversations recently where I’ve sensed a real fear when the term “supernatural” is used. This “S” word is not exactly a “bad word” for believers, but a concept that seems to be really unsettling for many.
One of my friends recently made this statement: “My theology has room for the supernatural, but we shouldn’t base our theology on the supernatural.”
At first, I thought it was a solid statement. It seemed true and balanced. But the more I thought about it, the more my thought was, “I actually think that’s wrong. Most, if not all, of our faith is based on the supernatural work of God in some form.”
I started making a list and I was actually very surprised. Take a look at these events and concepts crucial to our faith. Would you agree that they are all supernatural—not possible through purely natural or human means?
- The creation of this world that we live in
- Many of the Old Testament stories like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, or God’s interactive relationship with Moses or Noah
- Jesus’s birth, life, and ministry: born to a virgin, his baptism, and all of the miracles and healings that came during his ministry
- The resurrection of Jesus from the dead
- The life of the early Church in Acts: the coming of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s conversion, healings, and other miracles
- The experience of the believer: being born again so that you see and enter the Kingdom of God, forgiveness of sins, receiving of grace and mercy, and emotional, spiritual, and physical healing
- God’s promised work in our lives that we can actually become like Jesus, be hidden in him, and transformed into something new
- Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit which will indwell us and serve as our Helper
- Scripture being “God breathed”
If you agree that all of the above is supernatural, could it be that our definition of supernatural is the actual problem? What I’ve observed is that when the supernatural is mentioned, people often associate the word with “spiritual” practices that feel overly emotional, manipulative, spooky, or just a little crazy. Those practices fit into the supernatural category, but they are less common experiences. These experiences are supernatural, but so is the birth of Jesus, forgiveness, being born again, salvation, the resurrection, the Holy Spirit—I could go on and on. Although we sometimes miss it, the truth is our entire faith is based on a belief in the supernatural.
Instead of associating supernatural with weird, wacky, or extreme, what if we normalized it? Said another way, what if we realized that the supernatural is actually normal and the basis of our faith? What if we could live naturally supernatural lives?
One way Dallas Willard describes salvation is that we are “saved from a mere fleshly existence.” He references being born again, that our spirits are awakened and we begin living a “spiritual life.” We go from living just a natural or fleshly life, to one that is beyond the natural, where our spirits are awakened and we get to interact with a Spiritual Being. This is just the beginning of the naturally supernatural life I am talking about. From being born again, to partnering with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in bringing the Kingdom to earth with the power and spiritual authority we have been delegated, it is all supernatural.
What could change in the current state of the Church and the world if we shifted from a theology with “room” for the supernatural, to a theology that’s based on it? How would this change the way we interact with God and the way we live our lives as sons and daughters of the King?
Questions for Reflection
- Before reading this, how would you have defined the supernatural?
- As you look at the list above, which of those things surprised you as being supernatural?
- Take some time and list out the ways you have experienced God. Are there any ways you would like to experience him more fully?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Thrash and his wife, Jamie, live in San Juan Capistrano, CA, with their three kids. In addition to thinking deeply about living out our faith and actively following Jesus in new ways, Mark heads up CRM’s Partner Development Team.