Pastor Wade's Blog

The Powerlessness of the Excluded Middle Worldview

By “excluded middle,” I am not referring to the principle used in logic that argues a statement must be true or false, allowing no middle position, but rather the middle realm between God and man. In other words, many in the West have a two-tiered view of reality with religion (God, miracles) over science (natural laws, matter), but the realm between -- of a devil, demons, and angels -- has been excluded.

Anthropologist and missiologist Paul Hiebert calls this dimension of the spiritual world, "middle level." Hiebert points out that most people around the world recognize three realms of this seen-unseen dimension. He then asserts that he, and most missionaries  from  the  Western  world  have  been  ineffective  in  their  work among other countries, cultures, and worldviews because they have excluded this middle realm that deals with the supernatural reality of angels, demons and spirits. Hiebert writes, “I had excluded the middle level of supernatural but this-worldly beings and forces from my own world view. For me these belonged to the realm of fairies, trolls and other mythical beings. Consequently I had no answers to the questions they raised.”

Charles Kraft felt well prepared theologically, culturally, and linguistically when he arrived in Nigeria as a missionary. However, he quickly realized that despite all of his seminary training, he was totally unprepared to deal with the Nigerian view of the spirit world. The missionaries Kraft met never connected Jesus or the gospel to dealing with infertility, relational issues, or troublesome weather. The result was that the Hausa would come to church to learn about how to get to the afterlife but then go to village witch doctors for day to day needs and to gain the spiritual power needed to prosper in life. Kraft felt the Western perspective on Christianity was severely lacking to meet the needs of the Hausa. Kraft looked at the practices and results of Western non-believers and believers alike in matters of handling illness, accidents, education, fertility, and agriculture. The practice and results were the same for both camps and Kraft concluded that something needed to change. This reality hit home when a medicine man began attending Kraft’s church in Nigeria. After a few weeks, the man stopped coming. Kraft wondered what had happened to push the man away. The answer was that the man heard sermons about an amazing miracle worker named Jesus who once lived and manifested great power but the local Christians had none of this power. There was no greater power among the Christians than what the medicine man already possessed so why should he join the church?

Angels and the spiritual world is not a major topic in Christian theology and discussion among Western pastors, theologians, missionaries, or typical Christians. When there is any discussion, it usually centers around whether or not they exist.

Issues like spiritual warfare, deliverance from demons, the ministry of angels, and other supernatural dimensions as recorded in the Bible, are not of any concern to many Christians. Spirit beings, whether angels or demons, are not a perceived or functional part of how they view the world and the way they live.

The Western world-view has excluded the middle level of the unseen world of angels and demons. It teaches that every effect has a physical cause. If you can't see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, or hear it, it probably doesn't exist. In addition, all phenomena can or eventually will be explained or accounted for scientifically and reality is material and mechanical. And even if there is a spiritual realm, it has no relation to or impact upon the physical realm.

A research developed by Barna Group confirms the fact that many professing Christians in American have been influenced by this naturalistic and materialistic worldview:

Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan. [And] Much like their perceptions of Satan, most Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living person, either. Overall, 38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity” (BARNA GROUP, 2009).

Pastor Sam Storms sums up the consequences of the "excluded middle" view of the Christian life: "Many Christians remain functional deists. They don't deny that God exists or that there is a spiritual realm in which angels and demons are active. They simply live as if neither God nor spiritual beings of either sort have any genuine, influential, interaction with them. God isn't dead, but He might as well be. Angels and demons might exist, but what does that have to do with my life?"

Timothy Warner observes, "With the secularization of our worldview, the reality of spiritual warfare has almost disappeared from our thinking; and rather than risk the scorn of our peers, we seek to have as little to do with the world of demons as possible, being content to leave them in the realm of theory or theology. To bring them into everyday life would be to risk ridicule."

"In simple terms, the affirmation of the biblical world-view relative to angels and demons carries a social stigma that not many are willing to endure. Acceptance with one's peers often becomes a more powerful incentive than orthodoxy.

"Some do nothing, believing that any depth of study on the subject betrays a preoccupation with the demonic and is thus imbalanced. According to Timothy Warner, a lot of Christians "have become so accustomed to operating with no demonstrations of spiritual power that they are bothered by any demonstration" at all. In other words, to those who have seen virtually nothing, any seems like too much. Likewise, to those who have seen a lot, a little seems like none at all."

If the people of God are to recover their effectiveness in setting captives free and pulling down demonic strongholds, then we must reinstate the middle level into our worldview and realize that there is an invisible, but real world engaged in an invisible, but very real war. All persons since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden have been born into a battle zone and into a battle – the Conflict of the Ages – the Battle of the Two Seeds. To become a Christian isn’t to quit fighting, but to change sides! It’s to discover whom the real enemy is and that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God. We become royal soldiers of the Kingdom of God – Kings Kids in Training for Reigning, with no conscientious objections or retirement allowed. And all enemies of the kingdom of God and all deserters from it, will eventually be arrested by the long arm of death, transported by holy angels to the final court martial, and then locked in an eternal brig called hell! 

Spiritual warfare is not a new thing. It’s not a fair thing either. The enemies of the Lord of Hosts have already lost the war and all our battling today is from victory in Christ and not for victory. Spiritual warfare isn’t the latest church fad, or a momentary gust of emotion to try and bolster our flagging faith and frighten the devil away. Quite the opposite! Real spiritual warfare is a mental and spiritual condition – a seeing with the eyes of faith the invisible, but real warfare in the heavenlies – and this demands a life

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