As I write this article I am inside a warm cabin in Central Oregon. It is raining outside and a fire is crackling in the fireplace. Even though it is early June, the fire feels good.
Like most cabins used by lots of people throughout the year, the accumulative effect of all those visits is that people leave magazines behind. Each table in this cabin has stacks of magazines that reveal the eclectic reading appetites of past visitors. I wanted to do some reading, the kind I do when I have to kill time waiting in the doctor's office for an appointment. Laying on one coffee table was the March 31st, 2009 edition of The Economist magazine. I grabbed it and began to scan through the pages looking for something of interest.
Twenty-six pages into the magazine was an article titled, “Shocking Science” written by Geoffrey Carr, the science editor for The Economist. This science editor was trying to tackle the topic of religion and religion's frenetic response to science. I got bored with the article half-way through, but decided to hang in there since the article was only a one pager.
In the last paragraph of the article were these words, “Examining the biological and evolutionary causes of language is a respectable endeavor, so why not apply the same approach to religion? This sort of science seeks not to transcend religion, but to absorb it and reduce it to just another natural phenomenon that can be prodded, measured and explained. Such research is now going on apace – and set to provoke screams that will echo well beyond 2009.”
The words “absorb” and “reduce” bothered me. What made Jesus so dangerous to darkness was that His life and actions could not be absorbed into established world views, nor could the miracles He performed be reduced and therefore explained in the natural realm. The unmeasurable and unexplainable supernatural presence of Jesus was the monkey-wrench thrown into the wheels of human logic.
Many times throughout church history the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were the only way to make inroads into a culture. People can't argue with the absence of cancer. People can't argue when a new eyeball is formed in the socket. People can't argue when a dead person rises from the dead and starts knocking on the casket lid wanting out.
The words of the science editor are prophetic of where we can head if we fail to revisit the assignment Jesus gave His disciples to heal the lepers, give sight to the blind, drive out demons, speak with new tongues and all the other Kingdom manifestations that are not measurable or explainable. The supernatural display of the miraculous in culture is what keeps the Church from being absorbed and reduced to the status of just another natural phenomenon.
When God shows up in power, the world will realize that something is present that our limited attempts of measurement cannot define. In that moment, worship is possible because Someone unmeasurable and unexplainable is being displayed.