Why don’t believers in a supernatural faith talk about the supernatural?

There are some elements of how I came to faith that I don’t talk about much. Okay, not some. There’s one element I don’t talk about much: the overt supernatural aspect. This is primarily because when I do, someone looks at me like I’ve got two heads. (But that’s kind of what you come to expect when how you came to faith includes being physically attacked by demons.) It’s not just the non-Christians who get antsy about it, though. Christians, more often than not, are caught off guard by it.

And I get it. We don’t really know what to do with the supernatural side of Christianity. But we cannot not talk about it if express what Christianity is all about. And make no mistake: Christianity is inherently supernatural. Remember, we believe that the Creator of the Universe took on human form by being born to a virgin girl, took all the punishment we deserve for our disobedience and sin upon himself, died and came back, left the earth by being carried up to heaven, sent his Spirit to live in us and give us new life, and has promised to come back and completely remake the world.

Nope, nothing supernatural there at all.

But there’s not just that. The Bible speaks of spirits who exist in this world and who are either God’s servants or his opposition. It speaks of demonic oppression and possession, of spirits sent to frustrate, of thorns in the flesh, and more.

But we don’t like to talk about that. Why? Here are a few suggestions:

We don’t believe it

That’s really what it comes down to—unbelief. We’ve bought into chronological snobbery on this issue, having heard lots of alternative explanations for demonic possession in the Bible (including epilepsy) and having been inundated with naturalistic explanations of the world. When Emily was on a radio show recently talking about her experience coming to faith, it was obvious the host had a hard time processing what she was saying. He often brought up common objections—the power of suggestion, hallucination, mental break, mental illness, and so on. Whether he believed her or not, I can’t say, but you could tell it was outside of his comfort zone.

We fear people

Remember how I said I’ve had people look at me like I’ve got two heads? Well, that’s created a tendency to shut down when talking to people because I want them to like me. But interestingly, many people are open to the supernatural, at least judging by the rise of belief in ghosts, angels, and various spirit beings that aren’t the God of the Bible (and there’s the rub). So why would we not want to point to a greater power than those things they have no trouble believing?

We don’t want to be associated with the excesses of the charismatic movement1

These excesses are generally found within the more extreme elements of this particular movement. Unfortunately, there are many cessationists who equate with all charismatics.2 But not all charismatics are whack jobs, charlatans, and false teachers (though some have found of all the above have a home in that movement, to be sure). And recognizing the supernatural doesn’t mean you have to even hold to charismatic theology,3 any more than you have to be talking about punching demons in the mouth and performing exorcisms.

But there’s one more reason.

We don’t want to glorify evil

This is probably the most compelling reason, in all honesty. We don’t want to be the folks who are always talking about the demonic at the expense of the gospel, and as a result, inadvertently glorifying evil. And it’s a tough thing to do well, as anyone who has seen a charlatan talk about kicking people in the stomach to exercise a demon will tell you.

When I’ve spoken on my own experiences, I try not to linger on what happened, and I don’t (over) dramatize it (and sometimes it’s tempting to do because I can spin a good yarn when I want to). But I don’t make light of it, either. My goal is not to tell a story that competes with The Exorcist. My goal is to explain what happened in my experience in such a way that Jesus Christ is glorified. For me, that means explaining clearly that yes, I did experience actual, physical attacks. Yes, I did experience psychological oppression. But what overpowered that was not me saying the right words, but believing in the right Person: Jesus Christ, the One whom demons fear, my rescuer and redeemer.

Friends, let’s not forget: the Christian faith is supernatural. If we believe Christianity is true, we cannot ignore this aspect of it. We need to embrace it—and more importantly, rest in our Savior’s power over such things.4

  1. I added this point after publishing based on Ben’s helpful feedback in the comments. See below for that discussion. ↩︎
  2. For those who don’t know: a cessationist believes that the Holy Spirit has ceased to empower Christians with miraculous sign gifts, such as the gifts of healing, prophecy, and so forth. This does not, however, mean that they deny that God still works miraculously in the world. It only means they believe the purpose of those gifts—to testify to the truth of the Apostles’ message—has been fulfilled. Charismatics, or continuationists, believe that these gifts are still in given to believers today in some form. ↩︎
  3. And I should know because I certainly don’t consider myself one. Granted I don’t consider myself a cessationist either. ↩︎
  4. This post was originally published in October 2015. It was updated for style in February 2024. ↩︎

6 thoughts on “Why don’t believers in a supernatural faith talk about the supernatural?”

  1. Agreed on all points. Especially your thoughts about charismaticism in general. The term I use for myself is “continuationist”: I believe in the continuation of the gifts, but I don’t fall in with the general charismatic movement.

    I think a lot about the spiritual realm (angels, demons, etc.), but I don’t talk about it very often… mostly because people get kinda freaked out when I do. I’m convinced that my struggles with depression/bipolar and Tourette’s are physical realities exacerbated by spiritual forces. I also have the gift of tongues, so that makes things a little more… *unavoidable* for me (me, as contrasted with my dealings with others). Especially because I think deeply about Christianity, and many resources dealing with tongues are… not exactly deeply founded in Scripture and reason. Let’s just say, my thoughts about tongues are….. complex. 🙂

  2. I think you’ve missed one that’s quite prevalent – “We don’t want to be associated with the charismatic movement”. To talk about the supernatural is to invite a bunch of questions about God moving supernaturally that are uncomfortable to answer.

    Some of that is part of your “We don’t believe it” section – particularly in those brought up in a modernist generation that downplays the supernatural in order to sound logical and rational.

    But I’ve certainly seen people for whom the question of supernatural is uncomfortable because they’ve invested so much in believing that God doesn’t move supernaturally.

    1. That’s a good point and a good catch. I had actually started one under “We don’t want to be seen as ‘those guys.'” I might have to add that in. 🙂

        1. Thanks! I feel honoured. (Also, you’ve put it much more eloquently than me)

          (As an aside, I do wonder if we are moving towards a point where, because of the excesses you mention, we see increasing numbers of people who identify themselves as “continuationist” rather than “charismatic”)

          1. I think you’re spot on with your aside, yeah. I know a number of people who are far more comfortable with the term continuationist since it doesn’t have Benny Hinn-sized baggage. 🙂

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