But how could God be dead? Especially in Australia with our megachurches and worship albums and holy hand raising… God couldn't possibly be dead here, right? Not when God has servants here sharing fuzzy memes from Facebook groups like Jesus is my Homeboy and Inspirational Message of the Day. And clearly all the Christians in the "Great South Land of the Holy Spirit" are wonderfully well meaning when we declare again and again to take this land for the Holy Spirit. Whatever that's supposed to mean.
The Holy Spirit. We either expect Him to do all the work for us, or pay lip service without any real desire to change. But we're used to living in a world that wants change without actually having to do anything about it.
Death from Excluding the Supernatural
It's a two pronged death in my view.
First, by the prevalence of naturalism in our culture. The Flaw of the Excluded Middle written by Paul G. Hiebert captures this perfectly; he expresses what it is like to be a missionary in India and how many Western missionaries miss the point of embracing the reality of the supernatural.
There's the three domains of the world: (1) a seen world (that which is of this world and seen), (2) the unseen of this world (that which is of this world but not seen), and (3) an unseen transempirical world (that which pertains to heavens, hells, and other worlds).
According to Hiebert, the Western scientific movement with its emphasis on naturalism has dissolved the second domain for many of us. For example, in China the spiritual force of qi can be the cause of all sorts of physical problems, it's part of the second domain. You can't find qi by doing a scientific diagnosis but it is taken for granted in much of their medical practice.
We in the West don't believe in a thing called qi and when we talk about spiritual things it's always in that far off realm, not the one that's intertwined with what we experience. We know that there is God in heaven and a supernatural realm but it's out there on the third plane, it doesn't really interact with us. So all our praying to the Holy Spirit is just glorified lip service because it's not really real to most of us. We know the Holy Spirit is there, but it doesn't make much of a difference in our lives either way.
Death from Gorging Ourselves on Entertainment
The second part of the death of God in Western Christianity is about how distractions and entertainment take centre stage in our lives. Sure, it'd be nice to do things for God, right after I've seen the most recent episode of the Block. Sure, we're "engaging the culture" or however you want to justify it… or maybe we're just soaking up the culture like a sponge. But of course people out there will understand us much better if we throw in a Simpsons or Big Bang Theory quote for clarity, otherwise we'll just look like freaks with no interest outside of Jesus and nobody wants that. Being seen as boring and offending the masses are the ultimate sins it seems.
Most Christians in the West have the reaction that C.S Lewis mentioned in Mere Christianity: "I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap." We've let the world hijack the word "saint" and now it just means being a very good person and in that respect no one likes to call themselves a "saint" for the fear of seeming too self-righteous or conceited.
But we should expect to be saints if we are Christians and we should not feel too self-righteous to aspire to live up to that title. But instead we're stuck with convenient Christianity – it's only applicable to be a Christian when it suits and forget about all this sanctification nonsense, I'm quite comfortable being unchanged. We have churches full of babies, and not the good kind of babies either but baby Christians who have no interest in growing up because God wants us all to be petty, immature children right? He did say "Let the little children come to me".
Who's Really Dead?
Maybe I'm not merely the madman crying out for the power of God to return, maybe I'm also the hypocrite. It's easier to identify the problems than to change anything. It's easier to take the half-hearted approach to Christianity and live in a comfortable world with my comfortable Christianity in my self-indulgent church.
But perhaps instead I was wrong all along and the Newsboys are right. God's not dead after all… we're the ones who are.
Bridget Brenton has been researching apologetics, philosophy and the paranormal for years. You can check her apologetic effort out at 101arguments.com
Bridget Brenton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html