I hear so many Christians talk about how they want a “supernatural experience” of God, or they pray that God will intervene “supernaturally”. Well, frankly, I don’t believe the categories of “natural” and “supernatural” are valid. That is, I don’t believe that they are biblical categories.
Let me explain. Natural and supernatural are categories established by Western philosophy and scientific thought. A “Natural” phenomenon is one that can be measured by empirical observation, either with the naked eye or by the use of some sort of machine or instrument such as an oscilloscope. A “supernatural” phenomenon is one that cannot be measured like that and therefore, for Western people, does not exist.
What I think my Christian friends mean is they want people to have a “Spiritual” experience. Or they want their non-believing friends to have an experience that cannot be explained by any other means and so will “prove” that God is at work. This leads to the idea that their are two “planes” of existence: the plane of humanity, driven and dominated by “natural forces” and a divine plane driven by “supernatural forces”. These natural forces are gravity, mass, etc. The supernatural forces are God, the Satan or other non-measurable actors.
The Bible, however, doesn’t speak in terms of “natural” and “supernatural” but in terms of the “physical” and the “spiritual”. Biblically speaking God works in both spheres, in fact we mostly hear of God working in the physical world; that is to say, in history. It is true that Jesus does things that are not explainable by scientific experiments, however, they have effects on the physical world. In the Bible, the physical and the spiritual interact constantly.
The effects of such a dualistic mentality for the non-believer is, as I say, that they dismiss anything they cannot measure as myth. The effect on the believer, especially the Christian believer is far more serious. What happens is that the Christian starts to equate the “supernatural” with the religious and not with the spiritual and the “natural” they equate with the secular. We then fall into a dualistic way of thinking. Science rules the natural world and God is confined to the supernatural world. This is what we call the “sacred-secular” divide.
This missiologically causes various problems. Christian mission gets divided into the evangelism, which given priority over everything else, and social action or justice or environment, which are relegated to a secondary or even non-existent role.
Also, religion becomes super-inflated in importance. In my opinion, the Bible is pretty anti-religion. A couple of quotes will illustrate this. Amos 5:21-24 says.
“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
James 1:26 says,
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Luke’s account of the Greatest Commandment also demonstrates Jesus’ attitude towards religion. After Jesus says that to love God and neighbour are the most important,
32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
So what is being spiritual. Galatians 5:22-23 says,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
All of these qualities pretty concrete and relational and certainly not religious.
What do you think?