Methodist blogger, John Meunier calls attention to the "supernaturalism divide" between the northern Christian church and the southern Christian church. John quotes Peter Berger on the subject:
A few months ago I was talking about this North/South split with a Methodist minister in Boston. I said that, it seemed to me, the North could be put on the defensive over this split. When he asked what I meant, I said: "I would like you to explain to an African Christian why you do not raise people from the dead in your church." I said that the African interlocutor might go on: "Jesus did. The Apostles did. We do. Why don"t you?"
Thanks to our "Enlightened" and Deistic fathers and mothers in the past few centuries we have inherited a miniature God, a God that has been tied down, a God who does not intervene in our world in any dynamic way. As N.T. Wright states, the God of the Enlightenment is one who stays upstairs and lets us have control of the downstairs. In our "Enlightened" Western world we have created God in our own image-- a powerless God who does nothing we cannot explain, an absentee landlord God who leaves us only with reason to make our way through the world, a domesticated God who never stirs things up, who is always civil and who just wants us to improve our lives instead of insisting we renovate them. In short, the modern Enlightenment God is not very interesting.
The Modern Enlightened Western God is not the God of the Bible. Indeed, the very way we structure the discussion with the natural/supernatural dichotomy is in itself problematic. The Bible makes no such distinction. The Bible does not view God as spending most of his time in the upstairs only to occasionally wander downstairs to do something miraculous and then once again retire back to the attic. The God of the Bible is here. The God of the Bible is always here. The God of the Bible is working, often behind the scenes, working in the actions of the faithful and in timely words of wisdom. But God also continues to confound us in his actions, doing the unexpected-- and not only doing the unexpected, but also performing the unexplainable.
The debate is not over the natural vs. the supernatural; the argument is over whether we are going to shrink the God of the Universe into acting in the miniaturized ways we deem appropriate, or are we going to let go of our desire to control the downstairs and let God be God and let our always surprising and untameable God work in ways God sees fit?
The question is not whether we can raise the dead. We human beings have no such power apart from the modern marvels of medicine. But God can raise the dead without the aid of drugs and machines. That very claim stands at the center of our faith. Easter is not a post-it note stuck in the margin of the Christian narrative. It is the story that give life to the narrative; it is the story that makes the narrative true. And if God can create life... and you and I are proof of that... then surely God can raise the dead. He has done so; and can continue to do so if God so chooses.
There are more than a few reasons why the church in the West is in decline. But surely one of the reasons it is so is that in our miniaturization of God, we have created a God that is simply not very interesting... a God whose favorite flavor is vanilla. We have our "Enlightened" fathers and mothers to thank for such a boring deity. But we as well are without excuse because too many Christians in the West have become apologists for such a tamed, domesticated divine being. We have created a God acceptable to Christianity's cultured despisers.
We northern Christians can learn a few things from our southern Christian sisters and brothers. I have worshiped with them. I have been part of their healing services and assisted them in their mission to the those around them. Their God is the God of the Bible. Their God is interesting.
Is it any wonder that their churches are growing? Is it any surprise that our northern churches are in decline? No one wants to watch a dull movie. No one wants to worship a boring God.