Mike Horn asked a great question on the Tim Tebow post this week:

I was hoping you could elaborate more on this … 1) What are the “interventionist assumptions behind a supernatural world view?; 2) the antiquated relics of a pre-modern understanding, which are untenable in the 21st century? I read the “pentecost for progressives” summary but didn’t see anything that really explained questions (1) and (2). Does my belief in the supernatural make me a “pre-modern” in my thinking? “Post-modern emergents” don’t believe in praying for the sick? What does “untenable in the 21st Century” mean? I was hoping you could elaborate further. I love the conversation. Thanks!

A couple things as we begin:
a diagnostic question: If you have the following formula anywhere in your faith “If its good – its God, if its bad then you don’t have enough faith … unless you do, then its the devil.”  then I am talking to you.
if you think that God talks to your heart and are comfortable talking about demons and spirits and the enemy, then I am talking to you.
If you think that world works the exact same way as it is described in the Bible ie. Gender roles and that science proves that a man can live the belly of fish for 3 days, then I am talking you.

Now, to your question:

The assumptions behind a supernaturalist worldview can be framed in a 3-tiered view of the universe. God is up (in the heavens) and this transcendent God is so good and so pure that ‘He’ can have nothing to do with our sin and fallen dirtiness.  NOW – we quickly run into two problems:

  • How was Jesus fully God and fully man? Traditional Answer: it is a mystery.
  • How does God answer prayers and work in the world?  that is the problem

The way around the problem (if you insist that God is only transcendent) is a mechanism called intervention – what I call interference. In this view, the world is set up to run by certain predictable laws (like gravity) that once in while God interferes with or suspends (what is called a miracle). These events are different than the natural trajectory that things would be expected to go on – and thus it is ‘super’ natural.

The problem with the supernatural worldview is multiple and multiplies quickly!

  • How does this God decide what to tinker with and what not to? Traditional Answer: don’t question God. God’s ways are higher than our ways. God  chooses to ____ who ‘He’ chooses to ______ .
  • If God can do something (suspend a rule) and doesn’t (lets someone die or be raped) are we allowed to be angry with a God that could have but wouldn’t? See #1.

It just doesn’t make sense anymore and the further you press in the more unreasonable it becomes to hold to this kind of thing in the 21st century. We don’t have the luxury of resting in pre-modern naiveté or medieval superstition.

Now, having said all that … I want to be clear:

  1. I believe in miracles that are not supernatural. They are not the same thing – people just assumed that they are because we have absorbed this stuff unquestionedly and called in ‘having faith’.
  2. I think that we should pray expectantly for each other. Both because it aligns us with God but also because God is in the world by Holy Spirit presence … imminently.

Experiencing the presence of God is real. Being surprised by the miraculous is possible. Neither of those is necessary to see as ‘super’ natural. We have bought into a bad world view and think that it is an all-or-nothing package deal. It isn’t.

It is possible to say two these things in the 21st century without A) your fingers crossed or B) being bound in pre-modern frameworks or buying into superstitions from centuries past:

  • God is not behind a veil and only periodically and erratically pokes through to intervene in the world. God is present by God’s Spirit.
  • God is actively working for the good and that is the most natural thing in the world.

I am working on 2 post for next week, one is called “Making Sense of Miracles” and the other is called “Deconstructing Demons”.

I hope that this was helpful. Thank you so much for the great question and I hope that you will continue to give me feedback, push me and participate in the conversation!  -Bo