I recommend Roger Olson’s blog post, “Embarrassed by the Supernatural?” to everyone, especially evangelical pastors like me.
In spite of the fact, Olson says, that we evangelicals “claim to resist over accommodation to the Enlightenment, modernity and secularity” and “claim to believe in and abide by the worldview of the Bible,” these claims are often not reflected in how we worship and practice our faith.
My claim is that most contemporary American evangelical Christians only pay lip service to the supernatural whereas the Bible is saturated with it. To a very large extent we American evangelicals and Baptists have absorbed the worldview of modernity by relegating the supernatural, miracles, scientifically unexplainable interventions of God, to the past (“Bible times”) and elsewhere (“the mission fields”).
This is obvious in how we react to illness among ourselves. We pray for the sick—that God will comfort them and “be with them” in their misery. We pray that God will give their doctors skill as they treat them. But we avoid asking God to heal them. We avoid any mention of demons or demonic possession and strictly shun exorcism as primitive and superstitious—except when Jesus did it. We look down on churches that anoint the sick with oil and pray for their physical healing. We suspect they are “cultic” and probably encourage ill people not to seek medical treatment. We (perhaps rightly) make fun of evangelists who claim to have prayed for God to re-route hurricanes but never ourselves pray for God to save people from natural disasters. We have gradually adopted the idea that “Prayer doesn’t change things; it changes me” and, like Friedrich Schleiermacher, regard petitionary prayer as something for children.
Olson’s words about praying that God would “be with” the sick in their misery convicts me. I’ve prayed a prayer like that far too often!
So if, like me, you think Olson is right, what should we do about it?