The (Modern/Baptist) Worldview

Real quick: on this blog ‘modern’ is not an epithet.

Is cessationism not definitive of the modern view of reality, vis-à-vis the ‘enchantment of the world’?

The Baptist view of reality seems to be (to me, a Baptist) that miracles can happen, that they’re rarely seen, that they have happened in the past and that supernatural things will occur again.  We do not believe in a ghost world regularly irrupting into the corporal world.  While we do believe in the Spirit and in humans (and animals [<‘anima’]) being spirited, we believe in the invisibility of spirit.  Depending on our theological strain, we may suggest that God’s work and that of humans are not competitive, that God (for the most part) only builds the house that humans build.

Baptists have little to fear from a temperate empiricism.  The miracles we believe in are Scriptural, that is one-off, historical events.  They cannot be disproved (though likewise can’t be proved).  I’m not aware of many supernatural occurrences Baptists today have seen in broad daylight.  Much of the supernatural experiences we report occur in the invisible realm of the Holy Spirit and our spirits.

I do not think it’s the case that Baptists disbelieve in the supernatural and self-deludingly say otherwise.  We do not live in a regularly supernatural age, ever since the cessation of apostolic signs and wonders (by the way, check out cessation in the ANF and NPNF).  But, we do not deny the possibility of miracles happening today.  Indeed, we watch the Eastern skies for our Savior coming bodily down out of heaven.  And never having seen a miracle with our own eyes we believe fervently in the truth of those recorded in the Bible, most of all, our God’s assumption of flesh, his sinless life and obedient death, his genuine resurrection and his ascension, and foolishly, we expect his return.

That Baptists believe in miracles yet seem not to believe as some other do is, I hope, honest faith in God.  It is honest in its recognition of our lack of experience with the supernatural overwhelming the material (I hope; perhaps we blind ourselves to some of God’s actions today).  Yet with these desert eyes, it still believes in God’s promises and trusts the record of his extra-ordinary activity in the past.  It lives between the times with faith in what God has done and what God will do.

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  • Stephen  On January 20, 2011 at 2:28 am

    My only concern is that the view that you espouse cuts all sorts of things out of the church, including virtually every Celtic saint (e.g., Patr…ick, Columba) and a lot of the things that went on in Russia as well. That’s not to mention all sorts of supernatural intervention in the Mediterranean world (“take and read” in the case of Augustine as a bare minimum; or, for that matter, did St. Francis think that the animals could actually understand anything? Such a belief would be consistent with the way that St. Columba treated animals as spiritual beings who were either good or evil, which echoed the story of Balaam and his donkey. That is to say, Christians very rarely read the world as “natural” even after the age of the Apostles.).

  • gestalttheology  On January 20, 2011 at 6:52 am

    I think my argument works even without pressing too hard for cessationism. I mean, have you ever seen a miracle? Have most Christians, even those who believe in them/their possibility? I don’t think so. We don’t expect them in our world (and I doubt you’d consider treating animals as good or bad).

    • Stephen  On January 21, 2011 at 2:16 am

      (This doesn’t actually answer your question; I don’t disagree with you so much as come at things from a different angle.)

      You make a good point. I’m ok with holding two contradictory views (the one described by pentecostal belief or by Balthasar’s notion of Theo-drama and also a secular modern view of the physical world). I think that when people appeal to things like relativity theory in order to explain miracles they indulge in non-sense (by thinking so literally about such things – some Pentecostal theologians do that sort of thing).

      At the same time, I think that we need to live in a Christ-haunted world in an aesthetic sense (as Flannery O’Connor would imagine it). Obviously, there is tension between such a literary imagination and “the real world,” but the question that someone like Balthasar raises is “Which world is more real? That of ‘fantasy’ and mystery or that of paper-pushers and balance sheets?” Some people would call that an “apocalyptic worldview” – a perspective in which the Good, True, and Beautiful are more real than is the physical world that serves to illuminate them. In this way, Christian belief necessitates that we speak as if certain things are so even in the modern world – including angels, demons, principalities, judgment, and resurrection.

      • gestalttheology  On January 21, 2011 at 5:16 am

        Right on. However, I don’t see myself (and Baptists) as holding contradictory views (especially since I personally don’t insist too strongly on cessationism; nor do I feel so confronted by the miraculous that I would need to insist upon or reject it). It’s more of something like a depth view and an everyday experience. We hold to miracles; we don’t see them (at least not regularly)/(at least not in this time between the times).


  • […] of Capitalism, but I thought I’d offer some comments on theology and discourse in response to a recent blog discussion.  Although I initially thought that I disagreed with the post (on a modern Baptist view of […]

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