Uncertainty in Christianity
At our church, much of the preaching during the Fall season has dealt with the afterlife and the unseen spiritual realm. Also this year, members of our church have gone on mission trips to Ethiopia and witnessed exorcisms. The direct confrontation with the demonic is not a normal part of our practice of Christianity. Many in our church have never seen exorcism and do not know what to make of it when they hear stories of it actually happening in the 21st century. A lot of Christians today would say, yes they believe in demons when reading about them in the Bible. But, no they have never encountered demons and do not really expect that will happen in their lives.
I believe the exorcisms are real, and I am not upset that I had not been a part of that prior to my Ethiopia trip last March. I was not upset that I had never seen or experienced an exorcism; nor was I upset or skeptical when it happened. I am aware that Christianity is bigger than me. There are places in the world and places in our own country and even our own state where Christianity is lived in forms and language that is very foreign to me. My experience of following Jesus is not the experience.
We easily accept the variety that exists in the faith when we think of worship forms. We know in some churches everyone dresses in “their Sunday best.” Worship is very structured, very formal. There is a lot of responsive reading. In other churches like ours, there is structure, but not as much. Ours is a bit more free-flowing time. We have several elements on Sunday morning (offering, praise singing, preaching, benediction), but not as many as say a Catholic church. And there are churches with far less structure than even us. In some, especially newer, start-up churches, everyone is in blue jeans or very casual dress, the pastors included. There is a period of 45 minutes devoted to worship singing. Then there is 45-60 minutes of preaching. That is it.
In worship the fact that there are many different forms does not bother us. Neither should it bother us that discipleship is lived out in different forms. I often talk about how science and faith are complementary. I give a lot of attention to formal education and high-levels of expertise in different professions. I note how those specialties co-exist with and relate to living as a Christ-follower. Why? We are a church with many experts, specialists, and people who are in graduate training to become experts and specialists. We need to deal with the interchange of science and faith.
In other churches, the needs and issues are different. The culture is different. The Gospel remains the same. God is the same. However, from perspective, as wide as we may think our worldview is, our view of God is limited. That does not make it less than someone else’s, just different. Some of us get a little freaked out by the thought of exorcisms. One guy I talked to in Ethiopia was confounded. He could not understand that we don’t do exorcisms. It is a normal part of his faith life. And, as he astutely noted, exorcism is right there in the Bible (Mark 16:17). How could we not do it?
I did not have a great answer for him. I simply invite Christians I meet to enter into uncertainty when, in their Christian walk they encounter uncertainty. I don’t mean rashly go in where angels fear to tread. But I do mean that just because something is foreign to you or me, does not mean it is an illegitimate Christian practice. God will reveal the truth if we humbly seek it as we see Him. Prayerfully enter the unknown unless God forbids it. Doing so can expand one’s view of God and grow our faith.