Allow me to paint in broad brushstrokes. The world in which we live, the modern West, is a “disenchanted” world in which many people have come to view the world in a mechanized way. Science is seen by many as being able to explain any and all phenomena, from earthquakes and lightning, to altruism and human love (brain chemicals in motion). Religion is frequently viewed as passé, a vestige of a more superstitious or less sophisticated time, something that our world has essentially “outgrown.”
A disenchanted outlook tends to shut things down, viewing the universe as a closed system of inputs and outflows. There is an understandable order to the world, and whatever seems inexplicable is believed to be the result of ignorance, not mystery. Religion, whose root meaning is “to bind together,” is no longer viewed as capable of providing a coherent understanding of life.
But here’s something interesting. No matter how disenchanted the world grows, people still yearn for a deeper understanding of life’s overarching meaning. As humans, we are endlessly fascinated by what is mysterious and unknowable. Consider how the whole “Star Wars” franchise combines high-tech science-fiction with the mysterious power of the Force. Or how the incredibly popular “Harry Potter” series combines a story of friendship, the struggle between good and evil, and magic. Even as our part of the world trends secular, we humans never outgrow our need for meaning, purpose, and connectedness.
As believers living in an age of disenchantment, the story of scripture offers us an enchanting alternative. Follow the narrative arc from creation, to the call of Abraham, to the Exodus, to Israel’s monarchy, to the Exile, into the New Testament story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection, and finally to the establishment and expansion of the early church. If we learn anything from this biblical journey, I would say that it’s a vital sense of enchantment. By this I mean that we should be radically open to God’s surprising and ongoing work in the world, to fresh inbreakings of God’s Spirit in human history, to God doing something new or fresh among us and within us.
In the story of scripture, God is always doing something fresh, something unexpected, something surprising. In our world of disenchantment, we need to cultivate and practice a faith that is open to the God who is not done with transforming the creation. We need to practice living in a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, who is very much alive in the New Creation. We need to be receptive to God’s Spirit who moves in unexpected and mysterious ways. May we walk with Christ as believers who are enchanted by God’s surprising story of grace, reconciliation, and redemption.