I don’t think anyone reading this would disagree with the statement that people living in Westernized countries today have a dramatically different view of the world than the people living in the Levant who wrote the Old and New Testaments. Disagreement will likely arise, however, from my assertion that the Biblical worldview more accurately portrays the intricacies of the human condition than the Western worldview, especially in matters pertaining to religion and social policy. One of the major tasks facing pastors today is the need to transform the worldview of their congregations so that they more closely align with the heart of God in spiritual, social, governmental and economic matters. It is a slow and tedious process, made all the more difficult because of the lack of consensus on what God actually thinks about those things and how they should be worked out in the world. My thoughts on that subject are outside the scope of this series, so I will confine my comments to the spiritual portion things. I realize this is a superficial distinction and that our lives are interconnected and defy easy parsing, but I will try.
A major shift in human thinking occurred three to four hundred years ago. French Rationalism combined with English Empiricism and German Idealism and the result of that amalgamation was an intentional severing of society from traditional thinking and values in favor of scientific humanism. The thinkers of that time felt that humanity had finally climbed out of the dark night of religious superstition and entered the new dawn of rationalism. These thinkers were absolutely convinced that humans now possessed the means to explain everything, that mysteries previously attributed to deities and spirits would soon be revealed as nothing more than the coalescing of certain natural laws and principles. The world was merely a giant mechanism of cause and effect, a closed loop system, that humanity could exploit as we discovered its rules. Therefore, currying the favor of gods was no longer necessary, human ingenuity and compliance to the laws of nature would improve our lives far more and far faster. Religion was thought to be cute and antiquated, something that would soon slough off as humanity took the place of the gods themselves as rulers of the world.
Attempting to stand in the prophetic tradition of the Bible, I refer to this period of history as “the Darkening,” in contrast to how it is often referred to by historians as “the Enlightenment.” We acknowledge this prophetic tradition of seeing things from God’s perspective every time we talk about the events of Genesis 3 as “the Fall.” In God’s eyes, humanity fell from a place of glory, authority and perfection when they rebelled against him by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to a place of slavery in Satan’s pseudo-kingdom. No longer were they allowed to live in the Garden and walk with God in the cool of the day, enjoying his fellowship and provision. Now they had to go out into the world and work the ground. They had to provide for themselves, protect themselves and make their own way in the world.
Now, think about those events from a Western, scientific, historical mindset. Humanity was freed from an impoverished existence as hunter/gatherers with the advent of agriculture. Working the ground allowed humanity to build cities and create divisions of labor. Cities, made possible by agriculture, inspired language, culture, art, government, economics – it was the advent of civilization, not a curse! Humanity had just entered a glorious period of technological innovation and refinement. We could now build cities that reached to the heavens, nothing would be impossible for us.
Looking at history from God’s perspective, the Enlightenment was simply a continuation of humanity’s plunge into darkness. The revealed and accumulated wisdom of humanity from millennia past was set aside because of misplaced trust in man’s ability to see so clearly and think so rationally. We rejected notions of God, Satan, angels, demons, heaven and hell because they seemed silly. They were, after all, invisible and, therefore, immeasurable. Because they were not observable and testable through scientific method, they were dismissed as illusions and fantasy. Humanity intentionally forgot that the things that aren’t seen are more real than the things that are. We rejected the notion that this world will soon pass away to be replaced by the eternal and immutable Kingdom of God. What a tragic time for humanity.
I can’t see the Darkening as anything other than a result of the Fall. Satan whispered the same lie to the men and women of the 17th century as he did to Adam and Eve, “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” Human nature has not changed in thousands of years, we still fall for the same twisted logic.
This is not to say that the Darkening didn’t produce some wonderful things, it did. God works for our good in all things and this is no exception. The advances in hard science, technology and medicine in the last four hundred years are astounding and I am appreciative of them. I am not advocating for a return to ignorance as a means of reclaiming a biblical worldview – spirituality and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. I am, however, saying that a Western scientific mindset is incapable of explaining the vast majority of human life and experience and should, therefore, be viewed skeptically when applied to spirituality, psychology, social policy, government and economics – basically anything that has to do with people. The scientific method is woefully inadequate at explaining the complexities of human beings (and spiritual beings for that matter).
Getting to the heart of the matter
Simply put, all we see is not all there is. Not even close. We reject the validity of angels and demons because they seem silly and the vast majority of sane people have never seen one. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Because of our worldview, we are culturally blind to the presence and influence of angels and demons in our midst, much as ancient cultures were colorblind to the color of the sky and sea. (For a fascinating study of perception, research when the color “blue” was discovered, by who and for what reason.) But this isn’t true in other cultures of the world. Many other countries operate with a worldview much closer to the biblical one in terms of how they see spiritual forces interacting with natural ones. Christians living and ministering in these areas frequently encounter demons, see miracles and evangelize in power. In fact, spiritual power is a primary component in evangelism. In societies plagued by demons, principalities and powers, a Christian missionary’s ability to demonstrate the superior power of Jesus is an essential ingredient in Gospel presentation. After all, if Jesus isn’t more powerful than the “gods” the witch doctors serve, why would they change? Because the Gospel is more reasonable?
Profound yet impotent theology is a sham. The Apostle Paul, questioning the validity of the “super apostles” leading the Corinthian church astray said, “The Lord willing, I will come to you soon, and then I will find out not only how these people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” Power is essential to validate the exclusive claims of the Gospel.
The only way for us to be able to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel is for us to change our mindset and worldview to be more in alignment with what the Bible says is true about spiritual realities and the human condition. We really are sinners in need of salvation and grace. There really are demons who oppress people and afflict them with many different kinds of disease. The Risen Christ really is more powerful than sin, sickness, demons and death put together. That same King yearns to work through his people, advancing his Kingdom and setting his beloved friends free from the oppressive rule of Satan.
Aligning ourselves with the truths of the Bible comes at significant personal cost. Your friends and family will likely think you’ve gone off the deep end if you suggest a demon may be the source of their affliction. You might be considered simple, even foolish, for believing believing in God, especially in his power and willingness to heal. You will likely be spoken against for proclaiming the need for repentance to the people of your community. Here is the question you need to settle: is it worth it?
Is Jesus the pearl of great price in your life, the thing you would give up everything for? Is it worth bearing the reproach of your friends in order to faithfully obey everything he commands you to do in Scripture? Are you willing to put in the work of transforming your mindset and worldview to come into alignment with the truth of God’s word?
The process of maturing as a follower of Christ requires us to lay aside the pattern of this world and its presuppositions. It requires us to live with faith that God exists, that he is Good, that he is all powerful and that he will reward those who diligently and persistently seek to obey him. It requires us to risk our reputation, possibly our financial security. It requires us to bear with long-suffering grace the accusations of those we love who call us “close-minded,” “arrogant,” “elitist” and “exclusive” because of our insistence that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Ultimately, following Jesus means that we have to live in a Superior Reality, the Really Real world, the world that transcends and interpenetrates our own. Our senses are no longer our highest authority, God’s word revealed in Jesus is. It is a high price to pay, but it is worth it.
Thanks for reading friends.