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R.C. Sproul: Christianity Is a Supernatural Faith

The God hypothesis is no longer necessary to explain the origin of the universe or the development of human life.”

This assertion was at the very heart of the movement that took place in the 18th century that we call the Enlightenment or the Aufklärung. This movement spread from Germany to France and then to England. The French Encyclopedists (writers of an encyclopedia during the 18th century that promoted secular humanism) were militant in their denial of the need for the existence of God. His existence was seen as no longer necessary because He had been supplanted by the “science” of that period that explained the universe in terms of spontaneous generation. Here we see an example of pseudoscience supplanting sound philosophy and theology.

Added to this, we have the agnosticism of the titanic philosopher Immanuel Kant, who argued that it is impossible for science or philosophy to acquire knowledge of the metaphysical realm of God. It was declared that all knowledge must be restricted to the realm of the natural. With the combination of Kant’s agnosticism and the hypothesis of the Enlightenment, the door was open wide to a thoroughgoing philosophy of naturalism. This philosophy captured in its wake the academic theologians of Europe in the 19th century.

Out of this came 19th-century liberalism with its militant antisupernatural perspective. The liberalism of that era denied all of the supernatural elements of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles, His atoning death and His resurrection. The supernatural was stripped altogether from Christianity. Commenting on this in the 20th century, the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner described 19th century liberalism as mere “unbelief in disguise.”

The 20th century saw a continuation of the impact of naturalism with the so-called neo-liberalism of German theology, particularly as it was manifested in the writings of Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann saw the Bible as a mixture of history and mythology. He believed that which was mythological had to be removed from the text of the Bible in order to speak relevantly to modern people. Of course, from Bultmann’s perspective, the supernatural trappings of the New Testament were all a part of the mythological husk that had to be stripped away from the ethical core of the Bible. The impact of liberalism and neo-liberalism on the church left it basically as a worldly, nature-bound religion that sought refuge in a humanitarian social agenda. This is the approach to Christianity that has all but completely captured many of today’s mainline churches throughout the world.

However, in the last few decades, we have witnessed a comeback of sorts of the supernatural. Yet, this increasing interest in the supernatural has been driven in large measure by a fascination with the occult. People are now interested in demons, witches, spiritualists and other occultic phenomena.

If we take away the supernatural, we take away Christianity.