So here’s the final part of this paranormal series. If you’ve held on with me, you deserve a pat on the back and one of my chocolate marshmallow scones. Thanks a whole heap, y’all!
Here’s the rest of my hubby’s thoughts on things–at least the thoughts he’s written down.
The Spiritual Materialist: In the World and of It
Our final category (for now) involves what I think is probably the most ironic type of mindset we’ve considered thus far. It is also probably the most common. It involves Christians scoffing at all paranormal claims reflexively because “everybody” knows things like that don’t exist.
I say this is ironic, because if ever there were a people who had reason to take paranormal claims seriously, it would be Christians. In theory, our entire life is based on the existence of a world beyond the natural realm, from which incredibly powerful non-human entities regularly enter in order to influence our reality. Of course, the ultimate example of this is the Creator of the Universe passing into our space-time to sacrifice Himself and pay for the sins of our world, but there are plenty of other instances. We also say we believe in angels, demons, cherubim, seraphim, prayer and miracles. The list could go on for some time.
And yet, if someone comes up and claims to have seen anything out of the “ordinary,” what is the average western Christian’s most common reaction? Denial. Sometimes mockery. In short, they react very much like your average atheist or secular humanist We see this beautifully illustrated in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Lucy first returns from Narnia and tries to convince her siblings of where she’s been. Edmund immediately declares her to be “Batty!…Quite batty,” while Peter and Susan come to believe that she’s mentally ill.
The end result is that those who are best equipped to look at the world beyond the normal—the paranormal—through the lens of spiritual understanding are in fact blinded by a bias that has nothing to do with what they really believe.
I think the reasons for this sad state of affairs varies from person-to-person. Many people have absorbed so much of the pseudo-scientific nonsense spouted by the secular world that they have accepted the false idea that in order to be “intelligent” one must reject the supernatural entirely and think wholly as a materialist.At the same time, they hold to Christian beliefs that positively require the presence of the supernatural to make any sense. Both of these mutually exclusive propositions somehow co-exist inside their heads until such time as one or the other wins on a practical level. From my experience, very rarely are either thought through.
All this reminds me of definition from Donald T. Williams’ excellent foray into the mind of Hell, The Devil’s Dictionary of the Christian Faith: “Liberal 1 (n): One who believes that Jesus never said most of the words or did any of the deeds attributed to him, but that, for some reason which remains unclear, we should follow him anyway” (52). It is one of the best ploys of Screwtape’s “Father Below”; the “faithful” do not have to actually believe in much of anything in any practical way beyond mere hypothetical assent. They never expect to really meet any of these entities, and when they do, the refuse to accept them. That means they are prevented by default from developing any tangible relationship with a Christ in whom they have no real belief, and are not on their guard against interference from devils who they do not think exist. From Hell’s perspective, it is a perfect arrangement.
Clearly, I’m not suggesting that Christians are somehow bound by honor or logic to accept every half-baked claim of a supernatural occurrence that somehow floats our way. Far from it. We are told, in fact, to “test the spirits.” Demons are not hiding behind even a large minority of bushes. Still, we should at least be consistent enough with our own presuppositions to keep a truly open mind and not preclude any possibilities for no other reason than vague preference or mindless prejudice.
Besides, I think a Christian who, in practice, does not allow for the existence of spirits or the supernatural in some real way has some serious self reflection to do on what, and in whom, they actually believe.