Defanging the Supernatural
Published on: November 26, 2010
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  • Loved your article! If you are quite serious about defending God’s revelation in power, you might want to check out Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Or “That’s Supernatural” with Sid Roth–if you haven’t already–or Chad Dedmon, among many others. After all 88% of Americans in a Harris poll agreed with the statement: God performs miracles today by his power. Why would they claim that if not based in some sort of experience?

    I bailed out of seminary teaching after 18 years because of exactly the attitude toward God in his revelation that you describe in your article. I’m working on a book on the central theme of the Bible: the voice of God and it’s power. God bless you in your trenchant observation.

  • Mahesh Shankarmahesh

    Why is the “super natural” dangerous? It makes no sense. Exorcism is for “evil spirits” not for the “religiously obsessed.” They need the help of psychiatrists and professional counseling (if they go ‘out of control’) and not ‘religious exorcists’ who would in my opinion come under ‘purveyors of superstition.’

    Yes, Khadija is the first Muslim and was as important to Mohammed as Mary Magadalene was to Christ.

  • Interesting article; thank you.

    The Catholic church holds that the supernatural is in some powerful sense more real than that of mundane reality; and it seeks to help humans negotiate this reality through sacraments, rites, prayers, and so on. The American Academy of Religion in contrast wants to reduce all reality to the mundane and quotidian version that the Enlightenment tells us is real: ultimately matter and motion, Jeffrey Kripal notwithstanding. So while Berger is correct that both want to keep the supernatural at bay, they want to do so in very different ways: the Catholic church wants to keep the negative supernatural at bay, keeping only the positive accessible through rites. The AAR in contrast wants to keep the supernatural at bay by denying the validity of the sacred as such except as a subjective phenomenon with power due to human ignorance.

    This difference is why all academic study of religion in the post enlightenment academy will be fatally flawed: it is ultimately patronizing and crippled by its own profoundly limited epistemological assumptions.

  • Andrew Harris

    The “numinous experience” puts me in mind of What Ernst Kassirer described as a “tro” in his work “Language and Myth.” He traces the development of explanations of these experiences through languages and mytholgies and then the differences in the Western way of articulating them through complex vocabularies and languages and the Eastern way of leaving much unsaid which would be revealed after extensive thought and meditation–similar to when Lao Tzu said “the Dao that can be spoken is not the Dao.” I strongly recommend it.

  • Adam Garfinkle

    Really brilliant. A genuinely new thought; how rare and precious.

  • Pingback: Religion means “be careful” | Cranach: The Blog of Veith()

  • John Barker

    The spiritual is already making inroads into everyday experience in a practical and non-threatening way. “Mindfulness” is a variation of Yogic and Buddhist meditation practices used in psychotherapy, which lead those suffering from mental or physical distress to an inner calm and a sense (for some) of a loving and numinous presence in the center of the psyche.

  • Michael Korcok

    So if I understand this through the absurd academic trash-prose, it comes to: both scholars and zealots who believe imaginary magical beings and processes are real are attempting to get a handle on their nightmares and fantasies? Something like that? Why?

    Adult humans who believe they can levitate to the ceiling or that epilepsy is caused by demon possession need medical attention, not obfuscatory prose. Berger: you could do some good in the world by writing something like the above instead.

  • I’d buy the view that originally the numinous was the main thing to religere. Nowadays it’s more likely scientism (which avails itself of science to make its case but is not science). Is it worth propitiating? I mean, its main tool, science, claims it can ever be falsified.

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