The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not as simple as it is often made out to be.  Many preachers have tried to make the story about homosexuality.  I actually think the story actually has little or nothing to do with homosexuality. 

As we will see in a minute, the citizens of Sodom want to rape the angels who God has sent to the town.  Rape is about power and hate not sexual orientation.  

Moreover, Ezekiel 16:49-50 also has something to say about the story.  It reads:

49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

The sin of Sodom is primarily one of refusing to help the least among them but more on that later.  

For now, let’s look at Genesis 18:1-21

18:1 And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

Note that the Hebrew for “outcry against” Sodom is the same phrase used by the slaves in Egypt.  Again, this had more to do with oppression than sexuality.

Now let’s look at Genesis 18:22-33,

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

Notice Abraham’s intercession for Sodom.  Those who trust God always go to the throne to intercede for the wicked because they know they are no different!  More on that later as well.

Genesis 19:1-29,

19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” 3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab.  He is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

Notice that God saves a man who was willing to give his daughters to an angry mob of gang rapists and then lingers around his house when he is told to leave probably because he is looking around his place for stuff he wants to take with him.  Why does he save Lot and fry the rest of Sodom?  After all, we have seen that God refuses to totally turn his back on Adam & Even even though they screw up all of creation and don’t even apologize! We have seen that God protects Cain even though he commits the first murder and also fails to even express an ounce of regret.  We have seen that God covenants with Abraham again and again even though Abraham offers up his wife and tries to gig God’s promise by sleeping with Hagar (thus giving birth to the entire Middle East conflict…thanks Abraham!).  God is very merciful.  Why wasn’t he so merciful with the people of Sodom.

Good parents with multiple children tell me that problem children dominate their thoughts.  They love all of their kids equally but can’t stop thinking about the child that is hurting–maybe that is why God is harsh on those who oppress the poor and the needy. 

So many of us in this country are convinced that we are in poor because we don’t live like a Kardashian or a Hilton.  Yet, across the world while we complain about the luxuries we don’t have, children will look up at their mothers and say with longing eyes, “Mommy I’m hungry.” 

Why wouldn’t God lose His temper for those who ignored the needs of those truly in pain? 

We have seen that God is a god of mercy but that mercy has limits especially when the sin in question has to do with oppressing the poor.

Okay, but what does this story have to do with the cross?

The most terrifying display of God’s wrath was not showcased at Sodom but at Calvary.  On the cross, Jesus takes the wrath of God upon himself in order to save many among whom none are righteous!  He was abandoned, humiliated, tortured, killed and, most importantly, ripped from the presence of the Trinity for the only time in eternity so that we would be spared from the righteous wrath of God.  Moreover, he continues to intercede for the unrighteous.   

None of us our righteous but our perfect king took the wrath of God upon Himself to save us and when that truly sinks deep into our hearts then, and only then, will our hearts break for those whose are truly in pain and we will join our Lord in redeeming His fallen creation.   

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Tonight at Revolution Church, we continue our series The Gospel according to Genesis with a look at the Sodom and Gomorrah story and how it points to Christ.  After the teaching, Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will lead us in worship.

Revolution Church meets every weekend at 315 Chillicothe Street.  Coffee & Community at 6:30 with music courtesy of DJ Franky Frank.

Worship kicks off at 7:00 p.m. with childcare next door at Revolution HQ and plenty of parking in the back of the Rev buildings.

Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.

MISC.

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

First of all, the UK-OSU game was epic and, thankfully, the Lord’s team won! 

Here is my two-cents on what is worth your time and attention on the interweb:

1. Justin Taylor posted a lost letter from the Galatians churches to Paul (note: it’s a satire!): http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/03/25/a-recently-discovered-letter-of-critique-written-to-the-apostle-paul/

2. Alex Speaks is trying to figure out success http://alexspeaks.com/2011/03/24/how-to-be-successful/#more-685

3. Jonathan Acuff may be the funniest Christian alive but his post on taking platforms seriously is…well…serious and well worth reading: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/03/the-problem-with-a-platform/

4. A moving post from Pastor Mike Cope http://preachermike.com/2011/03/10/the-vacant-centerfield

5. Jeff Cook stirred over at Jesus Creed this week by asking if Rob Bell’s new book says anything different than C.S. Lewis ever said: http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/03/23/rob-bell-and-c-s-lewis-by-jeff-cook/

This week at the Pastor Matt blog: More of Carl Henry’s God, Revelation & Authority Vol. 2 (I really mean it this time!); a review of Tim Challies’ forthcoming book (so far it is very, very good); a post on lust and the Sermon on the Mount, a call to celebrate and more notes from The Gospel According to Genesis.  Be sure to check back and GO BIG BLUE!.

Grace and peace.

Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God’s People (Zondervan 2010) was one of the best books of last year and on every few pages it quoted works by John Dickson.  After reading Dickson’s The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan 2010), I understand Wright’s appreciation. 

Dr. Dickson is a missional minister laboring on Sydney, Australia’s  North Shore who has written a clear and compelling outline for evangelism. Dickson argues with careful attention to the Biblical text that Christians must engage in the following “gospel promoting activities”: “flexible social relationships, financial support of the gospel, prayer, good works, the praise of God in church, answering for the faith, and, of course, the work of evangelists.” 

None of these “gospel promoting activities” are particularly new to the modern missional conversation (with the possible exception of his implication that the church needs professional evangelists, which I will turn to in a moment), but Dickson’s passionate prose serves as a reminder that a truly evangelistic church must balance out all of these activities at once.  Churches that long to be truly biblical must encourage their members to be “friends of sinners” (i.e., avoid the evangelical subculture and go to where “sinners” hang out), pray for the lost regularly by name, give generously to the work of evangelism, glorify God through good deeds and worship for the sake of doing the deeds and honoring God alone (i.e., good deeds and worship don’t need to be “seeker sensitive” for when they are done with passion they become evangelistic anyway, know the Gospel and look for moments to communicate it with grace and identify those with true gifts for evangelism and support them!

Dickson will face some push-back for following N.T. Wright in defining the Gospel as the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus rather than primarily along the lines of substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness (although he believes in both) and his assertion that the church needs professional evangelists.  Dickson contends that it is not Biblical to argue that every Christian is to be an evangelist (although he does believe that every Christian should look for opportunities to speak about Christ to non-believers).  Dickson argues from texts such as Ephesians 4:8-12 that the early church had full-time evangelists who were so gifted by God and that the modern church should follow suit.  I haven’t extensively studied the issue but Dickson makes a compelling case.

In sum, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission is a clear, well-written work that should be on the shelf of every church leader, especially those like myself who laments the poor outreach efforts of the local evangelical church.  I highly recommend it.

When the new Pastor Matt blog launches, I will have a regular column entitled, “Ghosts, Ghouls and God” to discuss the rise of neo-paganism and gothic culture.  I hope you enjoy this little preview.  

I am currently writing a book about zombies.  Why would a minister and attorney spend his few free moments writing about the stuff of schlock direct-to-DVD movies?  

As conservative as I am, I appreciate the theological method of the late great liberal theologian Paul Tillich.   Tillich argued in Theology of Culture that one with eyes to see and ears to hear can discern the deep questions of meaning that those around us are asking by studying culture and that theology can answer those questions.  Tillich called it the method of correlation.  

I believe that which frightens us, says a lot about our culture and, at least for now, zombies are the hottest monster on the block.   Why?

First a little background, zombies are really the only truly American monster.  One finds little or no mentions of zombies before the publication of the travel book The Magic Island by William Seabrook in 1929.  The book focused on the little known culture of Haiti and became a bestseller thanks largely to the tales of the island’s “undead.” 

The book quickly spawned plays and films such as the classic Bela Lugosi movie “White Zombie.”  These early fright fests kept the zombies in the background as strong but mindless tools of evil voodoo chieftains.  George Romero changed all of that in 1968 with the film Night of the Living Dead

Romero took the mindless zombies of voodoo lore, deleted the evil priest in exchange for radiation from a fallen satellite that re-animated corpses, added the horror of cannibalism and paid homage to Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend” by placing the characters in a home under siege.  Thus, Romero, a native of Pittsburgh, created the modern zombie archetype.  Werewolves, vampires and witches all travelled the Atlantic from Europe to reach our shores but flesh-eating zombies were made in the USA.

Night of the Living Dead, which was a clever commentary on the Vietnam War and racism (something I will unpack in my book…I’m too conservative to give the good stuff away for free!), was a smash hit and defined an entire genre of horror.  Romero’s sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978), (a great commentary on western consumerism), was an international sensation as well but zombie cinema largely faded in the eighties only to storm box offices again roughly 10 years ago in the wake of September 11th. 

9-11 was obviously a force behind the zombie revival, especially the zombie apocalypse tale.  The terrorist attack fueled fears of society falling apart leaving us to fend for ourselves.  Yet, while the shock of the fallen twin towers and the smoldering pentagon has largely faded (for good or for ill) from the public’s memory, the living dead remain more popular than ever.  There is a hit television series (The Walking Dead), bestselling books & graphic novels, games and scores of new films on the way.  Why?

 I think there are a number of reasons for the ongoing popularity of the undead that Christians should note in order to be better missionaries in the culture we are called to reach.  First, the zombies are us.  In every post-Romero film, book and game, ghouls attempt to eat the living even though they don’t need food.  Their existence is meaningless.  Many in our culture (even many in our churches) feel the same way.  Second, zombies are most frightening when they are loved ones.  Why? I think it is because we are such a co-dependent culture (i.e., we define ourselves by our standing in the eyes of others) that we fear betrayal by a loved one above almost all else.  Third, oddly enough, zombie apocalypse films nearly always balance the fear of betrayal by a loved one with a new community of persons forced to rely on one another.  We are lonely people and there is an appeal to belonging to such a group, especially one that lives to combat evil.  It is exciting…and most of us (in or out of a church) are bored.

Does theology have anything to say to these issues raised by zombie films, books and games and readily embraced by so many? Absolutely! 

Scripture presents us with the opportunity to live a life defined by a God who loves us and will never turn his back on us rather than defining ourselves by others who are often motivated purely by self-interest.  It is a life that matters and calls us into a community of meaning that has pledged loyalty to the one true king of creation.  Lord Jesus has commanded this community to go into the darkness and fight on behalf of the Kingdom of God.  Such a life may be difficult, even painful, but it’s not boring!

The church can learn a lot from the undead and it has a lot to say to those who are captivated by the zombie apocalypse.  

This has been a wee taste of the book I am working on and would appreciate feedback. 

Grace and peace.

Via Media?

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

The controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book highlights the current division among professed evangelicals into the neo-reformed camp (Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Joshua Harris, John Piper, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, etc.) and the progressive camp (Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Miroslav Volf, Donald Miller, N.T. Wright, etc.).  Dr. Scot McKnight over Jesus Creed recently wrote about this division (you can find it here: http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/03/18/a-tipping-point/).

While I fall more into the neo-reformed camp than the progressive tribe, I am disturbed by the increasing vitriol between the two camps.  I hope and pray that those who occupy “the slim middle” can serve as productive mediators.  My desire to see this happen is partially motivated by self-interest. 

You see, I pastor a church (therevolutiononline.org) whose membership is very, very young.  The average age is roughly 24.  On any given Sunday evening, we will have more than 50 college students from the local university sitting alongside 40 or so men and women from local rehab programs and another 50 or so young professionals.  They are largely de-churched (i.e., having been raised in church and even made a profession of faith at a young age but left as teens and have only reluctantly returned).  They are largely “postmodern” and a-political.  

The church is broadly evangelical and, with the occasional hiccup, has rolled along with few doctrinal divisions…but the Bell controversy has already raised a few (thanks Rob!).  I want the members of my young church plant to hold sound doctrine that they can defend with Scripture but I don’t want them to divide into tribes that refuse to do anything but battle with one another.  There is a strange tendency among Christians who begin to form theological positions to retreat into their own doctrinal ghettos often with disastrous results.

Fortunately, there are strong and compelling evangelical voices who occupy “the slim middle” that should be brought into this conversation in order to avoid hard divisions.  I am thinking of Dan Kimball, who I have always found to hold the best that bought camps have to offer.  Dan is always willing to converse with anyone about anything in a graceful way.  Moreover, he maintains friendships with leaders in both the progressive and neo-reformed wings.  For example, Dan recently penned a fine column on hell for Outreach magazine that is well worth reading (  http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/3582-Teaching-the-Truth-About-Hell.html)

I hope and pray that in this firestorm that threatens to further the divide between the two tribes that voices like Dan’s (and others associated with The Origins Project) will be granted a hearing, so that we can spend our time reaching out to the unchurched and de-churched rather than waste precious time yelling at each other to little or no effect.

The Last Exorcism was a 2010 hit “found film” mockumentary that recently dropped as a DVD.  The film focuses on semi-successful pentecostal preacher and exorcist Cotton Marcus who was raised by his father, (also a pastor/healer/exorcist), to approach ministry in a way produces the maximum amount of tithes for “the church doesn’t run on love!” 

The young Rev. Marcus has lost his faith and invited a documentary film crew to follow him on his last “exorcism” in order to expose the whole process, which he believes in totum is fraudulent.  Of course, you can see what is coming next for a country mile…the last exorcism may very well present Rev. Marcus with a true case of demon possession. 

The Last Exorcism, like the 1971 classic The Exorcist, presents a fallen minister who no longer believes in the supernatural but is confronted with a case that he struggles to fit within naturalistic categories and ultimately must re-embrace the faith. 

There are number of issues here that could be fruitfully explored but what fascinates me most is the persistence in stories that while religion may be fraud what it purports to believe may still be authentic.  Where does that belief come from? Is it just a modern example of a campfire tale or does it point to something deeper?  If it is something deeper than what do believers do with such knowledge?

This weekend at one of Revolution’s Free Seminary classes we discussed the existence of God and read the following from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

 All persons everywhere have a deep, inner sense that God exists, that they are his creatures, and that he is their Creator. Paul says that even Gentile unbelievers “knew God” but did not honor him as God or give thanks to him (Rom. 1:21). He says that wicked unbelievers have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom. 1:25), implying that they actively or willfully rejected some truth about God’s existence and character that they knew. Paul says that “what can be known about God is plain to them,” and adds that this is “because God has shown it to them” (Rom. 1:19).

Yet Scripture also recognizes that some people deny this inner sense of God and even deny that God exists. It is “the fool” who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). It is the wicked person who first “curses and renounces the Lord” and then in pride repeatedly thinks “there is no God” (Ps. 10:3–4). These passages indicate both that sin leads people to think irrationally and to deny God’s existence, and that it is someone who is thinking irrationally or who has been deceived who will say, “There is no God.”
 
Paul also recognizes that sin will cause people to deny their knowledge of God: he speaks of those who “by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18) and says that those who do this are “without excuse” for this denial of God (Rom. 1:20). A series of active verbs indicates that this is a willful suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:23, 25, 28, 32).
 
In the life of a Christian this inner awareness of God becomes stronger and more distinct. We begin to know God as our loving Father in heaven (Rom. 8:15), the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), and we come to know Jesus Christ living within our hearts (Eph. 3:17; Phil. 3:8, 10; Col. 1:27; John 14:23). The intensity of this awareness for a Christian is such that though we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, we indeed love him (1 Peter 1:8).

Wayne Grudem Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (Zondervan, 1996), 141.

In both The Exorcist and The Last Exorcism, the ministers who are the focus of the films have lost their faith due to experience.  The question of whether sin is the true reason for their fall from grace is not even considered.  The priest in The Exorcist has lost his mother who, despite his education and standing within the Catholic Church, died in abject poverty.  The priest’s training in modern psychology that dismisses claims of the supernatural provide cover for the priest to turn his back on the God. 

The pentecostal preacher in the The Last Exorcist has been raised to believe that religion is a scam and, after reading about the death of a boy the same age as his handicapped son at the hands of another so-called exorcist, the preacher decides to drop any semblance of belief.  Yet, a counter experience finally forces both men to believe once again. 

How much do these films, one loosely based on a true story and one filmed as if it were a documentary, point to our desire to experience something to confirm the seed of faith that God has planted within us?  It is my own experience that those who struggle with belief grow tired and long for their mind and heart to finally follow one path or the other. 

Should we pray that those who face existential crisis experience dramatic supernatural episodes? I find that many fellow pastors desire that God does indeed move in such a way that it cannot be explained by natural means.  Yet, doesn’t Scripture actually paint a bleak portrait of those who are attracted to “signs and wonders”?  How many truly understand and follow Jesus to the cross because of the miracles he performed?

If faith is truly written on our hearts then should we be hoping and praying for public displays of the supernatural or praying for the quiet work of God’s Spirit to do its work while we establish relationships with those struggling to suppress this inner sense?  After all, it isn’t the startling screams of demons that create disciples but quiet prayers and meaningful conversations with those we love too much to live without knowledge of the Gospel.

Yet, Scripture is filled with the mighty acts of God and to dismiss them as unnecessary would imply that God was wasting his time.  The miracles witnessed to by the Bible appear to teach believers about God and the ways of His Kingdom rather than make followers out of those actively attempting to deny belief in YHWH.  For example, I don’t believe that when Jesus healed someone he was simply attempting to gain a hearing but display the type of Kingdom that He would establish–one where there would be neither sickness nor death.

In the end, as a horror movie freak, I loved both The Last Exorcism and The Exorcist.  Both are fine films and the latter was actually penned by a believer but I think the underlying premise that experience of the supernatural may instill (or re-instill) faith is a false one.  It isn’t experience that makes disciples but the Spirit, who blows where it will, and the hard, quiet, and often mundane work of the church.