Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Many American Churches Dismiss the Supernatural and Miraculous

Jet, taking off at Detroit Metro Airport

I want every follower of Jesus to read Lee Strobel's The Case for Miracles. It's all very good. Especially good for the Church is Strobel's interview with theologian Roger Olson. It reminds me, just a bit, of Karl Barth's discovery of, and return to, "the strange world within the Bible."

In the a-Western, odd world of the four Gospels, we see Jesus praying for the sick, healing people, casting out demons, and raising the dead. (Jesus believed demons were real, correct? How fantastic for us not to!)

In the even stranger world of the American Church we are praying, not for healing, not against demons, but that God would (supernaturally?) "guide the doctor's hands" and "comfort the person in their suffering" (supernaturally?) As nice as that sounds, this strategy is not found in the strange world of the Gospels.

Olson challenges this. Strobel writes that Olson's point is that, "whether they recognize it or not, many American evangelicals have relegated the supernatural and miraculous to the past (biblical times) and elsewhere (mission fields) rather than seeing them as an ever-present possibility in their lives." (pp. 219-220)

Olson asks Strobel, "What's missing in the Church today?"

Strobel: “Asking God to supernaturally heal them.” 

Olson: “Precisely. The Bible says to pray for their healing, lay hands on them, and anoint them with oil, but mainstream evangelicals tend to look down their noses at churches that do that. They suspect those churches are cultic or discourage ill people to seek medical treatment. What’s more, they avoid any mention of demons, and they shun exorcism as primitive and superstitious—unless Jesus did it.”

In thinking this way American evangelicals have unwittingly adopted "the teachings of Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern theological liberalism, who denigrated petitionary prayer as something that children do because they don't know any better." (Olson, in Ib.)

When people were sick, or troubled, WDJD? What did Jesus do? 

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation