Will We Recover a Supernatural Character to our Christianity?

September 17, 2010

For sometime, Christianity Today (both print and online) have been running a series of articles titled, "The Global Conversation," where various key leaders from various continents opine about the future  of twenty-first century Christianity. The final installment was just published in the September issue. The series anticipates the Cape Town 2010 Lausanne Conference happening next month.

One of the articles, "Recover the Supernatural," is written by Hwa Yung, who is a bishop in the Methodist Church of Malaysia. In that article, Yung claims that a revolution is happening in global Christianity for which the Western church is not prepared.

What is that change? An explosion of the supernatural all over the world with biblical support coupled with strong empirical evidence that exorcisms, signs and wonders are happening.

Why is the Western church not prepared for this? We have inadvertently accepted a naturalistic, scientistic worldview in which we tend to believe that God only speaks through Scripture, miracles largely happened in biblical times, and yet demons manifest themselves overseas. Yung makes this observation:

"The resultant denial of the supernatural has crippled much of theology, leading to at least two serious consequences. First, most present-day Western systematic and pastoral theologies fail to address the demonic at both the personal and cosmic levels ... The other consequence is that Western Christians often fail to fit the 'signs and wonders' of the Holy Spirit into their theological framework ..."

In my book Kingdom Triangle, I identified and explained in some detail the very passion that Yung states, and I refer you to that book for a more in-depth analysis of the problem. I also urge you to read Yung's article and to think through what it means for our church practices in the West.

I also wrote The God Question to be an evangelistic and early discipleship tool for unbelievers and new converts, and I explicitly try to adopt a supernaturalistic approach to Christianity in that book. It is an example of how a change in perspective on these matters can result in practical differences in ministry.

Lastly, for those of us who are Western Christian scholars, we need to be mindful about how our work impacts the non-Western church. This is a point that I made at the 2009 reception of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. For example, we should require a burden of proof before one adopts a view, e.g., Christian physicalism, that if read by brothers and sisters outside Western culture, would it hurt their supernatural faith, especially if the view is not one held by a significant number of people in church history and if it is "politically correct" to adopt it under pressure from the academic community.

There is much to attend to in this discussion, and we should do so prayerfully and with focus on what God is doing in His Kingdom today.

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5 Responses to 'Will We Recover a Supernatural Character to our Christianity?'

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Naismith and Ronald, jpmoreland. jpmoreland said: Will we recover a supernatural character to our Christianity? http://bit.ly/cfMJpm […]

  2. Bobby Sparks says:

    I’m excited about what God is doing around the world. I’m also excited that over the last twenty years theologians like Jack Deere, RT Kendall, Sam Storms and yourself have embraced the power of the Spirit. I believe for the western church to embrace the supernatural it is important for theologians to come out of the closet and preach and write about our supernatural God. Thanks for writing The Kingdom Triangle!

  3. […] merely a backwash from our western mindset? J.P. Moreland, noted Christian philosopher, has recently been advocating the view that western Christians lack a proper supernatural mindset for experiencing the fullness […]

  4. R.A.L says:

    Thanks for the great post, J.P. Moreland! I think your last point is especially poignant. I have often been deeply distressed about how well-known cessationist ministers have attacked those moving in the power of God (and even more so, the whole phenomenon of heresy-hunters online, who are almost always anti-supernatural in their outlook or at the very least reject any example of God’s overtly supernatural activity in post-Biblical history.) I am concerned we are now exporting our ‘proper’ non-supernatural (in practice, at least) theologies outside the West and that this is causing division and a quenching of the Spirit, especially in places like China.

    Keep up the good work!