The following is a guest column by David D. Seel, medical doctor, Houston, Texas.

Returning to america after years abroad one lives for a time soaking up vivid impressions of abundance, material beauty, and progress. Sooner or later a little bell starts ringing in the back of one’s brain, insistent, persistent. It is a bell that calls us to beware the culture, to fear the direction toward which the stream of Western life is flowing, to swim once again against the current. And one need not have been away from America to sense the forces that are eroding traditional community values, family structure, and personal ethics.

The conflict is, in fact, universal. The disciple of Christ is involved in a battle of cosmic dimension: it is the conflict between the prince of this world and the forces of the Lord of Hosts. There is an inescapable intellectual struggle, a conflict of fundamental premises raging about us at every moment.

In order to understand the conflict, we must remember that the biblical perspective is that we exist in a universe that is not only natural but also supernatural. The prevailing thought pattern of our culture is naturalistic, the assertion that we can know only that which we can prove with our senses or with scientific data. According to naturalism, the universe is confined to that which we observe by using the discoverable laws of cause and effect.

Christians too believe in the uniformity of natural causes, but for us the system is not closed; God cannot be confined within it, nor can God’s image-bearer, man. There are two parts to reality: beyond the natural world there is a supernatural universe where love and goodness and ultimate values and absolute truth exist, and where God dwells. He is there. As Francis Schaeffer has emphasized, Christians are called upon to demonstrate in history that the supernatural world exists, and that God exists.

This was the reality that Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and Augustine perceived. It is not a mystical world of the imagination; it is not some twilight zone of the human psyche, but a real universe of personhood, and communication, and content—where truth and love are waging war with falsehood and apathy, where the Lord of Hosts encounters and demolishes the fortresses of Satan. This universe permeates and underlies our visible world, and the conflict in this supernatural sphere is the ultimate battle for men’s minds.

Occasionally, this supernatural universe has tangibly become part of the human experience. So it was on the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus his forthcoming death in Jerusalem, an event to which they looked forward with gratitude and hope. Supernatural intervention occurred also during the dialogue on the walk to Emmaus, when the Stranger joined two minor disciples to reveal to them God’s plan for the ages. He sat down to eat with them, blessed the bread and broke it, and then vanished from their sight: the resurrected Christ! A supernatural event occurred also when this same Jesus blinded Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road and spoke to him in the Hebrew tongue: “Why persecutest thou me?” Notice that in each of these encounters there was communication of truth, meaningful dialogue, and purposeful confrontation with the ultimate realities of the universe.

The disciple of Jesus Christ is to live basing his decisions on the reality of the supernatural universe. He is to struggle knowing that the ultimate strife is spiritual. And he is to carry on his fight with the weapons of God rather than by human methods. It is a struggle against the forces of darkness, against the principalities and powers that dominate our age, and is therefore a battle that takes place in the world of ideas. As Paul wrote:

We are not engaged in a human conflict; we are not involved in a worldly war. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations, we demolish every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, to bring every thought captive to Jesus Christ.

The words of Paul are so challenging that they border on fanatical bravado. Paul is boasting in his weakness again, knowing that only when he recognizes his human ineptitude can God take hold of him for some explosive new manifestation of His power.

Paul is speaking here of the conquest of peoples, of cultures, and of nations for Christ. He grasps the cosmic nature of the struggle against the forces of evil in the total universe, particularly in the sphere of thought and mind and spirit. This theme was taken up in 1912 by J. Gresham Machen:

The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection to Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom must be advanced not merely extensively, but also intensively. The Church must seek to conquer not merely every man for Christ, but also the whole of man [reprinted in Banner of Truth, June, 1969].

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We have defrauded ourselves with aims too small and goals too simple. The universe is our arena. We perform before a stadium filled with the witnesses who have preceded us over the last twenty centuries. Every eye in heaven is observing us; all the angels hang upon each play on the field of our time. It is a cosmic struggle, and we cannot rest until we have fulfilled the purpose stated in Second Corinthians 10:5: “to bring every thought captive to Jesus Christ.”

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