Isaiah 61 and the Pre-Modern Era?
The history of western society has been divided into three eras in the past 2000 years: the pre-modern era, the modern era, and the postmodern era.
The Pre-Modern Era
This era was characterized by a belief that the unseen supernatural world governs men’s affairs as well as creation. The embrace of demons, angels, gods, and the supernatural God of the Bible, who personally ruled over everything, was the norm. Some call this “cosmic personalism.”
The Modern Era
Around the 17th century, the modern era saw people like Isaac Newton who proved that natural laws governed the universe. He was able to show a distinction between divine revelation (the Bible) and natural revelation (science). Also, the writings of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century were a synthesis between Aristotelian thought and theology. Aquinas taught that humankind can understand some truth, with their mind, apart from divine revelation.
This Newtonian revolution in science eventuated in society moving away from theism to Deism. Deists believed that after God created the universe, He was no longer involved in the affairs of humankind. He was like a watchmaker who wound up a watch and allowed it to function without intervention.
By the 19th century, Deism eventually led to naturalistic atheism. Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin of the Species and the Most Favored Races, gave scientists a construct to use as a basis for postulating a materialistic, non-supernatural universe.
This era lifted human reason as the final arbiter of truth.
The Postmodern Era
With the failure of the modern era to bring about a societal utopia, especially after the two world wars in the 20th century, people started doubting whether there was such a thing as absolute truth. They instead embraced moral relativism and subjectivism. This eventually led to the deconstruction of all moral absolutes, including language and literature.
Consequently, postmodernism is a general and wide-ranging term applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, and literary criticism. Postmodernism is essentially a reaction to the assumed certainty of objective reality and empirical science.
The movement was launched in the 1970s when a group of poststructuralists in France developed a radical critique of modern philosophy. Its origins were traced to Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger. These became known as postmodern theorists, notably Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard.
Postmodern thought postulates that reality is shaped by social, historical, and cultural contexts rather than by Universal axioms and religious truth.
An Isaiah 61 moment for the Church
Postmodernism was a reaction against stale modernity. It only believed those things that could be proven empirically in a scientific lab. We know that we cannot prove what love is in a laboratory, even though it is the most powerful motivating force in the world. This is why there has been a revival of spirituality, witchcraft, and a longing for the gods of Greek and Roman mythology. We see these things being espoused by popular Marvel comic superheroes.
Although I disagree with the tenets of postmodernity, I also believe it has opened up a door for people to dialogue regarding the supernatural view of scripture.
Furthermore, until the last few decades, it is likely that most theologians in the West since the enlightenment were anti-supernaturalists and had a very narrow Bible and Worldview. Their theology was captivated by enlightenment philosophy whose presuppositions were based on human reason, (even if they weren’t aware of it).
Of course, this is unlike the worldview of those living in Africa, Latin America, and Asia who always had a supernatural worldview. As soon as people in these regions were brought to faith, they brought their supernatural worldview into the Church. This impacted their theology. As a result, Christianity has spread rapidly in these continents in the 20th century.
However, I believe with the advent of Pentecostalism in the early 20th century, we started going back to a pre-modern world that espoused a thin line between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and natural world. Many evangelical cessationists today are now questioning this dogma because of the rapid growth of Pentecostal Christianity in the global south.
As it relates to the Church, I believe the Holy Spirit is now focusing on Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon the Church to preach the gospel with power resulting in supernatural healing of broken hearts, deliverance, and physical manifestations of healing. (Please note how Jesus applied this passage to himself in Luke 4:14-19.)
This passage also shows that the supernatural restorative power of God is a prerequisite before the restoration of communities (Isaiah 61:1-4). We have learned in history that only transformed people can transform culture.
Thus, true renewal in cities will never come by mere activism and politics. We need the power of the Holy Spirit for qualitative, systemic change. A thorough examination of Acts also shows us that the Church was able to bless communities and spread the word of the Lord with a demonstration of supernatural power that accompanied the preaching of the gospel (which also proved that Jesus Christ rose from the dead). If Jesus and the apostles demonstrated the reality of the gospel with healings, signs, wonders, and supernatural works, how much more does the contemporary Church need this same power to proclaim the good news!
I hope that there will be a significant evangelistic assignment on the Church once again. We saw a similar demonstration during “the voice of healing” movement in the 1950s. We witnessed various Evangelists and Apostolic leaders rise with extraordinary faith to bring healing, deliverance, and salvation to masses of people.
As I end this, please take a moment and read Isaiah 61:1-4 and Acts 1:8-9. I urge you to stand in faith together, that the anointing of the evangelist will come upon the corporate Church like never before.
Come Lord and revive your Church once again! Amen!