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

Living in Different Worlds

Written by: on April 23, 2015

Our previous book we read this semester Global Evangelicalism edited by Lewis and Pierard, provided a large overview of this culturally diverse and polycentric movement known as Evangelicalism. Yet there are other books such as Colonel Doner’s book The Late Great Evangelical Church that challenges and debunks many of the so called evangelical teachings that many within the movement hold dear and almost dogmatically. It is interesting to note that Doner’s book was written in 2011, When God Talks Back by Luhrmann in 2012, and Noll’s precedential work The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was first published back in 1994! A plethora of other books were written in-between these mentioned, documenting the “problems” with Evangelicalism. Granted, Noll’s work primarily focused on American Evangelicalism which we have unfortunately, exported a lot of around the world. Nonetheless, it seems that the Evangelical movement could ask the question, “Why is everyone picking on me?” It’s a wonder why those in the Evangelical movement do not take on katagelophobic tendencies. But rather than shrieking back from the tsunami of assaults, criticisms, secularization hypothesizing, and the Karl Popper’s philosophical ramblings of an open society with its science and religious pluralism, Evangelicalism has managed not just to stay afloat in the wake of it all, but to explode around the world.[1] Could this “explosion” of growth around the world be brought about by one of the things that Evangelicals do right in emphasizing a strong focus on having a personal relationship with God, including listening for His guiding voice?

Luhrmann’s thesis is not an attempt to prove whether God exists or not. She admits that she is a social scientist and her field – the study of social life of humans – cannot answer such questions.[2] As an anthropologist, or more precisely a psychological anthropologist, she enlisted her skills of careful observation and even participant observation that she describes as a “kind of naturalist’s craft in with one watches what people do and listens to what they say and infers from that how they came to see and know their world.”[3]

Luhrmann’s findings regarding our allegiance to the God of the Bible and of Jesus as God’s incarnate reality, is not a phantasmagoria of our own psychoses. As Luhrmann investigates the phenomenon of Evangelicals hearing the voice of God, she admittedly writes that those who say they hear the voice of God are not in the same category of those with either schizophrenia or other psychosis.[4] Rather than being a sign of psychiatric vulnerability, those who heard “a voice” are typical individuals who are considered normal in every other way. Of course there are psychiatric illnesses that show up in the general population including church. I had my fair share in my church as a pastor. (At times I thought that the main one stood behind the pulpit.) This theory of psychiatric illnesses distributed widely within the general population is brought up by psychiatric epidemiologists when they speak of the “psychotic continuum.”[5] Regardless of whether individuals who indicate hearing a voice as truly internal or external, the voices or “the voice” focused on immediate issues. There was no grand metaphysical theology but perhaps practical direction given and received during emotional turmoil.[6]

Regarding this entire topic of hearing the voice of God we as believers, and even more so as Evangelicals, must return back to the inspired Word of God. In John 10:27   Jesus, standing on Solomon’s porch in the Temple says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” It is for us to take Him at his word and believe, even in the midst of our clay-feet-earthbound condition and clothed in our earth suit we ought to expect to hear from our Lord God Almighty who’s sheep we are. In doing so we come to the same conclusion that Luhrmann does when she states that “as people acquire the knowledge and the practices in which they come to know God, the most intimate aspects of the way they experience their everyday world change. Those who learn to take God seriously do not simply interpret the world differently from those who have not done so. They have different evidence for what is true. In some deep and fundamental way, as a result of their practices, they live in different worlds.” To this I say, Yes and Amen!

[1] T.M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 302.

[2] Ibid., xv.

[3] Ibid., xx.

[4] Ibid., 231.

[5] Ibid., 235.

[6] Ibid., 234.

About the Author


Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

5 responses to “Living in Different Worlds”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Mitch, you provided a wonderful post and review of the book. I was surprised, as I thought maybe you would have more to say from a Pentecostal point of view about Luhrmanns conclusions. This book was challenging for me, as the Vineyard branch of evangelicalism is so foreign to me, and her particular take on it relate very little to what to what I’ve experienced as basic, Bibilical Christianity. For that reason, I appreciated your concluding remarks, putting listening to God into the perspective of Jesus’s teaching. For me, those who (as you mention) truly take God seriously will be those who are sensitive to and aware of His voice, His guidance and His presence. What I find sad is the other side of Christian community that seems content to live with a God who never shows up. Like being married without ever talking to your spouse – what’s the point?

    Thanks for all your challenging and enlightening thoughts this semester. Blessings on completing your work this weekend.

    • Hey John! Indeed there is a whole Pentecostal side that is truly out there. I sometimes refer to them as “Charismaniacs.” And, as you mentioned the other sided of the spectrum is the “frozen chosen,” those doing religion out of duty and not a relationship. There has to be a balance! We don’t keep the law because it is the right thing to do. We keep the law as a byproduct of our love relationship we have with our Savior. Yet, if “Charismaniacs” and “the Frozen Chosen” don’t ever THINK about God and theology then they will simply follow their current stream of tradition to their determent and possibly the whole evangelicalism movement. Thanks John. Crazy end to this semester. Bless you my friend as you continue to press forward.

  2. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Mitch, how do you know the voice of God? How do you recognize it? I’m just wondering… when Jesus says, “my sheep know my voice…” what does His voice sound like to you?

  3. Michael Badriaki says:

    Mitch, great overview of the book! You have written in such a well rounded fashion about of the previous readings which you ably Incorporated. Indeed Luhrmann is not writing as a Christian theologian yet she also provides a helpful outsider perspectives into the behaviors of some evangelicals.

    You are right when all is said and done, it’s really about Jesus Christ. He sheep hear voice and I am also thankful for the affirmation in the scriptures.

    Thank you!

  4. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    My sheep hear My voice.
    Yes, amen!
    However, dear Lord help us…it at times appears then that God must be schizophrenic. Think of the cacophony of perspectives that are offered telling us “thus sayeth the Lord.” Of course, this is not what I believe, but one can see surely see cause for a non-believer’s and a believer’s confusion/concern.
    Anyhow, a helpful reflection. Thank you, brother.

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