Supernatural VS Superstition

(Warner Joseph Miller) #1

Hi there, Connect community! Back again with another question hot off the press! I wasn’t too sure on how to ask/word this, so I humbly lean on your grace as I ask.

Anyway, the question is: where is the line to be drawn between supernatural and superstition? In some Christian contexts, you’ll hear things like, “don’t make a negative confession” or “speak it into existence”. Verses like, “life and death are in the power of the tongue” are readily used as reference verses, among others.

Correspondingly, in recent conversation threads on Connect about the potential dangers (or not) of yoga, secular music, art, etc. there can sometimes be a divide in thought amongst sincere Jesus-followers: some who regard and heed the “spiritual-ness” in these things and others who, while not rejecting the spiritual, outrightly, may disregard the fears of the former as being just north of superstition.

So again…where is the line to be drawn; the distinction between supernaturally adroit and superstitiously overcautious? How do we tell the difference? How do we lovingly and effectively explain it to someone else?


Hi Warner,

What a great topic! First, isn’t there a danger to taking scripture verses out of context? Yes, “life and death CAN BE in the power of the tongue” but I see this metaphorically as well. Paul exhorts his readers not to indulge in “coarse jesting” and we’re told that we’ll give an account for every idle word uttered. However, John tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Doesn’t James say that with the same tongue we praise God but curse too? I think the Holy Spirit within us convicts and thus curbs the power of the tongue. As for “speak it into existence”, don’t we have to know that we are doing God’s will before we make such a pronouncement? I hear many believers talk about dreams or some physical affirmation of something they desire and they automatically say its God’s will. Just because I get a new roommate who is a Jehovah’s Witness, I can’t assume that God is telling me that A The JW has a new light, OR, B. That I am meant to lead the JW to faith.Sorry, its been a long day, I might be going off topic.
Hope for more replies. Have a blessed night everybody, Carmen

(Lakshmi Mehta) #3

@WarnerMiller, this is a question that I have been thinking about too since the recent thread on yoga. Thanks for posting the question. All supernatural things are in a way superstitious for someone with a naturalistic mindset. A Christian however, who believes in the Bible, accepts that a belief in God and Satan is not superstitious. Superstition to me is a myth that has no empirical basis or reality. Something supernatural on the other hand is based on empirical evidence that has no natural explanations but still is real.

When we look at stories in the Bible, we see examples of both superstition and ‘real’ supernatural phenomenon attributed to either God/ Satan. God and Satan can both affect the physical realm.

Mark 9:22 (speaking about evil spirit in a boy) It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!

In this verse, we have empirical evidence recorded of a supernatural phenomenon where a boy is involuntarily being controlled by another spirit. So evil spirits can affect the physical realm.

John 11: 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

In this verse above, we see how God can supernaturally affect the physical realm.

Habakkuk 2: 18 -19 Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

In this verse above, we see an example of superstition where people believed that idols would actually come to life. But clearly, there is no physical evidence of it!

I think belief in supernatural phenomenon is extremely difficult for someone who has never experienced it. Lack of experience is not sufficient proof however that a supernatural phenomenon does not exist. The ‘supernatural theories’ behind supernatural phenomenon can be in the realm of superstition but the supernatural phenomenon itself is not superstition, especially when natural explanations fail.

Another factor that must be taken into consideration is evaluating the source behind supernatural phenomenon. What historical /biblical evidence is available for the phenomenon? If someone claims the phenomenon is a miracle of God, does it align with revelation in the word of God? Can there be any association made to occult practices/ false religious systems? While the Bible says that an idol is not anything, it still prohibits the worship of foreign gods and refers to them as spiritual forces (Col 2:8). This shows not all gods are myth!

So I think empirical evidence, origins of a phenomenon, lack of natural explanations and agreement with the scope of possibilities presented in the Bible are all important considerations in deciding if something has a supernatural cause.

I hope this helps some. I am refraining from examples to keep the post short.

(SeanO) #4

@WarnerMiller Very intriguing question. I appreciate @carmen’s caution regarding the meaning behind our experiences and @Lakshmismehta’s acknowledgment that there are such things as spiritual forces. To me personally:

A supernatural worldview is one which acknowledges the existence of a sphere outside of the natural world - a world of spirits - angels, demons, deity.

A superstitious worldview is one that thinks that we mere humans are able to harness that spiritual world for our own purposes through formula, chants, postures, or manipulation.

A Christian worldview is one that acknowledges that we must humbly submit our requests to God and leave the results to Him and that any attempt to manipulate the spiritual world will only result in self-destruction and alliance with forces that wish nothing more than to steal from you and ultimately destroy you. The Christian knows there is no way of using the supernatural world for power, but that by humbly submitting themselves to Christ they receive an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and unfading with God. The authority and power and glory all belongs to Christ, from whom, and to whom, and for whom are all things.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #5

@SeanO, those are great thoughts! I especially like what you shared-

I think I agree with you. If we think we can manipulate God, we align ourselves with spiritual forces that have nothing to do with God. That was part of the revelation I had when I first turned from Hinduism to Christianity as I read Isaiah 44:19-20. Trying to please God through sacrifices made to a man-made idol means nothing to God, He wants our repentance from our dead works and rest in His work and His will. However, I have a question from you from the statement below:

A superstitious worldview is one that thinks that we mere humans are able to harness that spiritual world for our own purposes through formula, chants, postures, or manipulation.

What do you mean by spiritual world in the statement above?

We agree that we can’t manipulate God through a formula but can man harness other spiritual forces through a formula? If man ends up aligning himself with other spiritual forces while trying to reach God by a formula, it means man can connect with other spiritual forces through a formula. Is it superstitious to believe that man can harness ungodly forces through formulas?

(SeanO) #6

@Lakshmismehta I think it is superstitious, or foolish, to think that we can manipulate any supernatural forces through our actions. Evil spirits possess people, they torment them, they mislead them - but they do not submit to them. One of the things so amazing about Jesus is that the evil spirits submitted to Him as they must to God.

So while I think that people can and do align themselves with evil spiritual forces, I think that it is only a fool who thinks that they are getting the upper hand out of such an alliance. We cannot ‘harness’ any spiritual force. But we can choose to serve a wicked and cruel master - for the god of this world has no love, even for his own.

Our choice is to choose a master to whom we will submit - Christ or the evil one. Christ is the Good Shepherd. The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy and his servants abandon the sheep at the most inopportune moment.

John 10:7-13 - Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I think it is clear from Scripture that mankind does not possess power over evil spirits apart from God. This quote from Jude is from Enoch and may simply be a sermon illustration (I tend to think Jude is a sermon on 2 Peter 2) rather than a true story, but the author’s point for his audience is that only God has the authority over such spirits. As an example, the sons of Sceva tried to cast out evil spirits in their own strength and received a lashing. People who think they are ‘in control’ of spiritual forces are either deceiving themselves or they are the ones being manipulated by the evil spirits.

Jude 1:8-10 - In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.

Acts 19:14-16 - Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Of course, we have no need to fear if we are walking with the Lord! He is the Master and the Maker!

James 4:7 - Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #7

@SeanO, thank you for clarifying further, especially the word `harness’. I too believe that man does not have an upperhand or have any control over other spiritual forces unless he is in Christ. Thank you for the scriptural references. It would be superstitious to believe a lie.

When I asked the question, I was not thinking along the lines of man having an upperhand when I used the word `harness’ but about man connecting and utilizing some spiritual abilities/ forbidden knowledge through some special means. You made it perfectly clear that all of that comes at a great price. Thank you!

(LaTricia J.) #8

This is actually something that I think of frequently. As a former pagan, everything was steeped in superstition. Every occurrence had a ‘meaning’, every rock/stone had a purpose or some energetic signature, every word uttered had power to create, the Law of Attraction and The Secret eventually became all the buzz, every dream conveyed meaning, and any animal that stuck out carried a message from the far beyond… If it wasn’t for the intervention of God even before I was saved, I would have been experimenting with mushrooms, and I have no idea what door that would have opened or what the greater impact would have been for my life.

So, I tend to steer clear of anything that under the light of careful examination looks like superstition and definitely anything that is blatantly superstitious. Superstitions are tiresome and burdensome for me, and this played a major part in my submitting to Christ and taking on His yoke rather than continuing on with authority I had been living under.

Under Christ’s leadership and authority of my life, I did find rest from applying subjective meaning and fear to so many things. I remember making a comment to a friend of mine, saying, “Now, I just need for Jesus to be Lord of my dreams,” because for some time when I came to Christ I had dreams that would leave me ‘shook’. My friend said something to me that was so empowering - he explained that Christ was Lord of everything in my life, and dreams were included. That must have struck a subconscious chord because since then, when I’m having horrid dreams, even as I dream, I call out to Christ. I have found a great deal of freedom in Christ, far more than I could have imagined was possible before ever coming to Christ.

I have come across many believers who hold superstitious views on different things. There are times when I engage in a gentle way, but there are other times when I have chosen not to engage. I have a coworker who is a believer, goes to church, praises God, yet is highly superstitious about so many things. With her, I just call it what it is because we have that type of rapport - I just say, “Oh, that’s just superstition,” or “that’s not even biblical, you know?” And we go on from there. I think that having questions and keeping a door open to some level of ongoing dialogue can be extremely helpful in understanding where another person is coming from and how they are understanding scriptures and the supernatural world. I do my best in my personal relationships to say or do something that would cause another to stumble or lose any amount of hope or faith in Christ. However, if asked my thoughts and experience, I do share in a tactful way.