There have always been degrees of tension within the Christian movement when these two worlds, the natural and the supernatural, meet—particularly regarding the frequency and nature of the overlap. Much of that tension and disagreement is also rooted in one’s view of scripture and the nature of biblical revelation.
On one hand are those who downplay the role of the supernatural and who, in the extreme, are actually functional deists. Sure, the Bible is true and authoritative, but when it comes to anything outside of the natural world, these folks back off. It is unsettling. It’s outside their experience. Sometimes, sophisticated theological paradigms are constructed to dismiss anything beyond the natural and to relegate it to another dispensation or unique time in redemptive history. The in-breaking of God and his Kingdom in the natural world is therefore an aberration and beyond the ordinary.
As an undergraduate, I studied at the university founded by Thomas Jefferson. At Jefferson’s home, Monticello, there is a copy of the famous Jefferson bible. Jefferson, being a deist, had a difficult time with anything that smacked of the miraculous. So he took a razor blade and systematically went through the text and cut out anything that he believed to be extraneous and non-irrational according to his definition of rationality. He also wanted to just get at what he considered the central thrust of the Bible. Anything miraculous or that referred to supernatural reality was excised. Jefferson’s bible has page after page with sections cut out and paragraphs missing.
Likewise in the Christian world, many of us give lip service to believing the Bible and defending its authority, but in our actual belief system and how we live, we are no different than Jefferson in his cut-and-paste bible. We conveniently overlook, ignore, or dismiss those sections of scripture that describe supernatural reality in the here and now. Usually it is because such reality is outside of our experience or because if God actually did break into our experience—no differently than he does throughout scripture—we would be freaked out and wouldn’t know what to do. At least Jefferson was an honest deist.
On the other hand are those of us for whom the distinction between the natural world and the supernatural world is blurry, and we have a hard time determining which is which. Those who live in that extreme can exhibit a super-spirituality that lacks basic intellectual integrity and sometimes exudes an ethereal perspective that is of little earthly good.
Too many have been subject to abuse where subjective experience goes wild and unchecked. People have done awful things with the preamble of “God told me...” or “God told me to tell you...” And in the popular culture, it is easy for religious experience to be written off completely because of perceived nuttiness and the misuse of subjective truth. We should cringe at what gets done sometimes “in Jesus’s name.” It’s understandable why Jefferson would react to the supernatural when some of the expressions in his day and ours are simply forms of emotional nuttiness.
So how do we navigate between the two extremes? Is it possible to believe that both our four-dimensional universe—the natural world—and what’s beyond it in multidimensional reality—the supernatural world—not only exist but intersect and interact? It’s possible, particularly if we understand and live out a solid, biblical theology of the Kingdom of God.
Coming Next Week: How the Kingdom of God Must Influence Our View of 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.
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.