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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

But Are WE Crazy?

Written by: on March 9, 2017

When God Talks Back, Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God by T.M. Luhrmann is a compilation of stories, interviews, scientific data and research gathered and assembled from people of all walks of life and backgrounds. The pages are the result and assimilation of Luhrmann who is a an accomplished author and award winning psychological anthropologist. The author looks beyond the sea of Americans that claim a belief in God or affiliation with the church. Over a half dozen chapters in dives deeply into those whose lives and experiences have exhibited a faith that has produced miracles, signs, and wonders.

Of all the chapters, people, and accounts the chapter that stands out to me and capsulates the book is chapter eight: But Are They Crazy? In this chapter Luhrmann unpacks the parallels of an American Evangelical belief in the the supernatural: speaking to and hearing from God, the presence of spiritual beings, and the awareness and conflict with spiritual warfare. The author first looks at these beliefs from a secular perspective of a clinical diagnosis of psychosis. Although there are parallels and rational conclusions, Luhrmann informs and disarms the reader from the perspective of faith, theology, and historical data such as famous individuals like George Fox hearing an audible voice of God. This chapter is a great sampling of how the author unpacks the belief system of the American Evangelical and how a suspecting public views and categorizes American Evangelicalism. (She also quotes Dallas Willard on hearing the voice of God. Willard is one of my favorite theologians.)

But are “WE” crazy? This is a question that we have been exploring and processing these last few weeks. Are we crazy in that “what” we believe and in whom we place our trust is extremely counter to the cultural norms of our world today? Are we crazy in “how” we exhibit our faith in God through Jesus Christ, from the giving of our time, talents, gifts, and lives? Are we crazy to change a world that is so seemingly resistant to change and to the salvation that we offer? Are we crazy to think that in all of our serving, giving, and Going that we can actually make a difference today that is sustainable tomorrow? The answer is similar to how Luhrmann responds to the question concerning people who believe that God speaks, are they crazy or psychotic? “The short answer is no. The longer answer is perhaps yes, for some people, at some times. The relationship between spirituality and mental illness (crazy) is not straight forward.” (Luhrmann, 227)

For me, I do not think that we, fully devoted followers of Jesus, are crazy. However, I do think that we live in a world filled with people that are convinced we are crazy. But as Solomon states in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. The Gospels record how the religious leaders and the government officials pronounced Jesus as crazy. The book of Acts records how when an unsuspecting world came into contact with the manifest presence of God in the form of the Holy Spirit, they pronounced those in the upper room as crazy. Even the person that would write most of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul, believed Christians in the first century were crazy. My point is that the thought of an informed and inexperienced public has and will always view the way of the cross as crazy, until they experience the person of Jesus. Then we are no longer crazy, but we have the answer. But until then, we are crazy. The longer I read and process, the more comfortable I becoming with the title.

About the Author

Aaron Cole

8 responses to “But Are WE Crazy?”

  1. Kevin Norwood says:

    Aaron,
    You ARE crazy! We have to be crazy to do what we are doing. Trying to reach the world, our local cities and becoming a Dr. More in line with your thoughts. C. S. Lewis was quoted in this book concerning Christianity. His explanation was that some things about being a Christian you don’t understand until you have been on the journey a while. As you have journeyed, have you discovered that when people finally become Christians that what they once considered crazy can now become the “new” normal for them? How do you coach crazy?

    I agree with you, I’m comfortable with being called crazy.

    Kevin

  2. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    “Crazy Aaron”:

    Great post! Are we crazy? Isn’t there a certain facet to “craziness” that is in the eye of the beholder? We have read Luhrmann’s perspective, one that seems to be quite tainted as you approach the end of the book….her claim not to be saved.

    How does the saying, “A man with an argument is always at the mercy of a man with an experience”, play into this book?

    Phil

  3. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Aaron C.
    It was your topic that caught my attention, the Topic says , “But, Are WE Crazy?” And I agreed with your answer, no we are not, but we live in a world filled with people, who are convinced that we are crazy. However, there are things of spiritual nature that man doesn’t understand, to them it crazy

    .According to ( Corinthians 1:27NLT) “ …Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” This is God language of action when he talks.
    I read an article by MARK A. NOLL, dated August 24, 2012” , called “A Close Look at How Evangelicals Communicate With God”

    Noll’s remarks were about about Luhrmann’s book, including her background and why and how she wrote from some of her own experience.This is the para that caught my attention and gave me food for thought concerning Luhrmann’s book, “…When Mother Teresa prayed, God was silent. When Luhrmann’s evangelicals pray, God talks back. How can they possibly believe that? In a world desperate for meaning in close relationships, and where people have become much more adept at shifting the mind back and forth between vivid mental images and day-to-day external realities, the minds of some utterly normal people are able to experience their own mental images as realities outside themselves. Whether that experience is of the mind only, or of the mind used by God to make himself known, Luhrmann confesses that even the best social science cannot say. And how can believers keep on believing when they pray to a supposedly generous God for children to be healed and yet they die, for marriages to survive and yet they fall apart, for careers to take shape and they never do? It is because for those who have come to practice the presence of God, it is not what the presence offers, but the presence itself, that has become most important.”

    But we must review the contradictions Luhrmann identifies as central to Evangelical belief and around which she builds her argument; namely, that (1) God is both real and not really real; and (2) God is the all-powerful master of the universe and also cares about what I eat for lunch. Luhrmann argues that sustaining these contradictions necessitates a new theory of mind for converts and that this is what is developed through Evangelical faith practices.
    So you see we are not crazy!
    Blessing Rose Maria

  4. Jason KENNEDY says:

    AC,

    Do you think we pastors add to the crazy motif? I get that out message is foolishness to those perishing, but have are methods tipped the crazy scale further?

    Jason

  5. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Aaron C,

    What do you think Dallas Willard would say about the idea that people who hear from God are crazy?

  6. I think you are pretty crazy, but that’s a different story. 🙂
    Seems like such a big topic that could have filled a completely separate book. In my experience, people part of a group, say a church, kinda all want to feel normal. So maybe if we are all crazy it’s okay as long as we are normal.

  7. Pablo Morales says:

    Aaron,
    The Apostle Paul told us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but is the power of God for those being saved. As you said, there’s nothing new under the sun!

    Pablo

    1 Corinthians 1: 18-25.
    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
    20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
    22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
    23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
    24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
    25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

  8. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Aaron,
    Great blog. WE are crazy…but in the ‘sane’ way. Our Christianity centers on a belief system and sometimes the things we believe in are unimaginable. Telling the unchurched (or highly analytical) that a virgin gave birth is unimaginable all by itself, and I haven’t gotten to the part where Jesus died, rose and ascended into heaven. Until people come to an acceptance of our faith, we will always seem crazy because we believe in a God we’ve never seen. In fact, some would argue that we believe in stories of an ordinary man. Faith makes us insanely CRAZY.

    Garfield

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