Two Extreme Views of the Supernatural in the Church

In my previous article, I mentioned that the Bible is full of stories that include the supernatural. We see angels intervening in human affairs. We see the devil and his demons working to tempt, torment, and oppress mankind.

There are miraculous stories of healing and raising the dead. There are stories of God overriding natural laws and performing powerful acts.

These stories and concepts of the supernatural are not myths or fairytales. We really do live in a world that includes both a natural and spiritual realm.

As Christians, we should expect the supernatural in our lives and churches. Considering the supernatural elements throughout the Bible, it should seem strange to us if there is nothing supernatural about our walk with God or our church life.

I have found that many Christians fall into one of these two extreme views of the supernatural, neither of which is healthy:

1. Fear of the Supernatural

Many believers see anything that is supernatural as coming from the devil. This is a very unfortunate position to have because it completely negates any possibility of God intervening in miraculous ways.

This view is especially prominent among those who do not believe that the gifts of the Spirit are available to today’s church. They say that certain gifts—such as tongues, healing, or prophecy—are no longer given to God’s people. In my opinion, this doctrinal position (known as cessationism) totally limits the work of the Holy Spirit and is grievous to Him. Not to mention that it is totally unsupported by Scripture.

It seems that in many cases, those who have a fear of the supernatural are trying to avoid deception. The Bible certainly is clear that we must be aware of deception and that Satan has his counterfeits:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
-2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

Yes, Satan can undoubtedly operate in the supernatural. But this does not give us any right to shut out the supernatural altogether. Instead, we need to walk in the genuine.

A fear of deception does not protect you from deception; a love of the truth does!

2. Fascination with the Supernatural

While some believers are so afraid of deception that they dismiss genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit, others are so desperate for the supernatural that they welcome counterfeits or go into excess.

There are those in the church who have an unhealthy fascination with the supernatural. These believers accept practically anything that is supernatural as from God, forgetting that the devil himself can appear as an angel of light (see 2 Corinthians 11:4).

I think that some Christians are so hungry for the supernatural that they throw discernment out the window. Some are too obsessed with angels or focus too much on particular manifestations. Some run from conference to conference looking for the “latest and greatest” but think that reading the Bible is boring.

If you love the supernatural more than you love Jesus, you are a good candidate for deception.

Just because someone claims to be prophesying, does not mean it is from God. Just because there is a real supernatural power at work, does not mean it is the Holy Spirit. Just because it makes you “feel good” does not mean it is genuine.

Test all Things

Given the extremes that exist on both sides, what are we to do with the supernatural? The Apostle Paul gives us a good admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21: “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” Though this verse is speaking specifically of prophecy, I believe the same principle applies to the supernatural in general. We are not to throw out supernatural phenomena altogether, and neither are we to blindly accept everything without weighing it.

I believe that the gift of discerning of spirits is a critical gift for us at this time. We need to be able to distinguish between that which is true and that which is false; between what is from the Holy Spirit and what is from deceiving spirits.

We should embrace our supernatural heritage as Christians. We must not succumb to a fear of deception that denies the reality of the supernatural work of God. And we must stay grounded in the Word and pursue knowing Jesus above all else!

Questions: Have you ever been on either of these two extremes? What is your experience with the supernatural?

 

2 Responses to “Two Extreme Views of the Supernatural in the Church”

  1. In reading this, I’m reminded of how the late Pastor Ray Stedman used to say that one of the tactics of the enemy is always to push attitudes towards extremes. Whereas the Victorians were prudish and standoffish about even alluding to sexuality, we now live in a culture that can think of nothing else. Stedman also pointed out that the Bible always deals with every topic chastely but practically.

    • That is so true Emily. There are so many areas where we can be prone to one extreme or the other. We need the whole counsel of God to keep us in check. I like how the NIV states it in Ecclesiastes 7:18: “Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.”

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