by Noel Santiago
I’ve been reading and studying The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural World View of the Bible by Dr. Michael Heiser. I have found Dr. Heiser’s work immensely helpful in providing a framework for understanding the supernatural worldview of the Bible.
Beginning with the idea of a divine council, as noted in Psalms 82:1 where God takes “his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment…,” and unpacking what he calls the “Deuteronomy 32 world view” (especially verses 8-9), Heiser brings forth this framework.
The basic idea is that God has a “divine council” comprised of children of God that help administer the work of God. This motif carries through the Old Testament and into the New Testament. After the ministry of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, humanity—as God’s image bearers—are invited back to a seat at his council.
Much of this framework resonates with my faith upbringing. From the time I can remember, I’ve always had a sense of a spirit realm that was active: one for God’s glory and purpose and the other for the purpose of darkness and corruption. Our church community would pray, preach, and share with and for people’s salvation to see them come to Christ. We would also pray for the sick and demon-possessed and regularly see persons healed and delivered. Regularly we would take food to a family in need, collect offerings for those who were lacking, serve and practice hospitality. All of these things were part of how we understood and practiced faith.
When I began studying and working in a different culture and context, I had to learn that others practice their faith differently. While I have valued and integrated much of these other expressions and learnings, I often noticed that the realm of the supernatural was underrepresented. It’s not necessarily that others didn’t believe it, but perhaps they focused on it less. Others acknowledged this sphere when it was discussed, but did very little to engage with it. I didn’t always know what to make of this.
When I discovered this book that highlights the ancient Hebrew and near-eastern worldview, I found myself identifying deeply with it. For me, this topic accounts for an unseen realm that is at work in interactive ways with the seen realm. We might not always be aware of this interaction but it is more present than we might imagine.
The challenge, of course, is not only seeking to know and/or understand this unseen realm and its interaction with what we see, touch, and engage; we also need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2b).