Christian Animism, Secularism and the Excluded Middle

Holy smokes did this writing by Paul Hiebert really hit home. About 6 months ago I started to realize something with my prayer life: I wasn’t asking God for anything; I was telling Him what to do. It wasn’t “heal this sickness so you may be glorified” it was “make it better so they don’t hurt.”

Hiebert describes this as a type of Christian animism or magic. Both are ego-centered and focused on humans. Trying to learn the secret words so we can get what we want. Yeah I never tried to concoct a potion from rat’s blood and pig eyes (or break an egg over an irritable stomach and smear it around then wrap it with an ace bandage) but it was magic nonetheless.

The other extreme is secularism. There is no spiritual realm. Modern science anyone?

So his “Flaw of the Excluded Middle” describes a balance between the two extremes. Many of us have questions in life that aren’t explained completely by one side or the other.

Two of my favorite quotes from his writing:

“I do not want to deny the need to deal with the spirit world and related subjects. Yet we need to center our theology on God and his acts and not, as modern secularism and animism do, on human beings and their desires. We need to focus on worship and our relationship with God, and not on ways to control God for our own purposes through chants and formulas.”

“I began to realize in a new way that true answers to prayer are those that bring the greatest glory to God, not those that satisfy my immediate desires.”