The dominant way of perceiving today can be described as disenchanted. For many, the world is not seen in its proper light. We think the world is ordinary, or every day, or mundane. But this is not what the world is actually like. In reality, the world is deeply beautiful. It is mysterious. It is sacred. It is a gift.
What is needed, then, is re-enchantment. We need to begin to see and delight in the world the same way Jesus does. How might we join with the Holy Spirit to see and delight in this world made by God? Here are five practical ideas:
1. Immerse yourself in the world of the Bible.
In the Bible, we find a world full of drama. The living God made a very good world. But something went wrong. Yet, God is active in the lives of humans and active in the world, entering into the story so that we can be made whole. In the pages of Scripture, you’ll find the true story of the world. You’ll find God, and you’ll find a God-bathed and God-infused world. How might we practically immerse ourselves in the world of the Bible? Three ideas are to read the Bible daily, memorize key passages of Scripture, and to cultivate the habit of praying through Scripture. It doesn’t matter where you are with these practices. The important point is to begin somewhere. Enter into the divine drama and get to know the God who created you and lovingly cares for you.
2. Cultivate the habit of looking for God at work in and through you.
I’m often reminded of the apostle Peter’s example in Acts 3. He and John are on their way to the temple to pray when a crippled man asks them for money. They immediately stop, not to give him money, but to heal him by the power of God. They were attentive to God’s leading and expecting God to work in and through them. And God does work in and through them. The same is true for us. Each day is an opportunity to meet with God and be used by God. God is fully present with you and he wants to use you to bless others. Cultivate the habit of looking for the divine fingerprint in your life and the lives of those you interact with each day.
3. Read books from authors who hail from a more enchanted age.
For the Ancients, and for the Medievals, the world was enchanted. One never knew if she was going to come face to face with the divine. Divine judgment was a constant worry, divine provision a constant hope. The social and natural order was intimately connected to the sacred order. Not so today. Our experience of the world is diminished. The world has been emptied of the transcendent. Humans exist “late and locally” on this insignificant orb called earth on the arm of an average galaxy in a sea of billions of other galaxies. This shift in thinking took place roughly 500 years ago. My third suggestion is to read from those who lived and understood their lives in the context of God’s ongoing story. Read Athanasius or Augustine or Boethius or Anselm or Aquinas or Calvin or Edwards and notice how they see the fittingness of all things in Christ. Notice how they understand all of life as a story of wander from God and return to God. Embark with them on the quest to organize our lives around the good that is God.
4. Cultivate a love of art and those artists in our own day who encourage us to see the sacredness of reality.
While many of us see the world as ordinary, there are some, particularly artists, who can help us see more accurately the world around us. Artists explore the nature of beauty—in fiction, dance, painting, or poem—and serve as a kind of John the Baptist, preparing the way, if faithfully followed, for an encounter with the divine. Is your world characterized by the felt absence of God? As odd as it may sound, consider picking up a good book, a book that offers genuine consolation and recovery from the horrors in this world. I’m thinking of authors like Marilynne Robinson, Wendell Berry, Thornton Wilder, Flannery O’Connor, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and George McDonald (to name just a few). Enter into their fictional world for escape from the pain of this world. Find consolation in the secondary world of their imagination. And then, after finding consolation and recovery, put the book down and take up your place in the primary world of experience.
5. Commit to making and enjoying the beauty and beautiful things in your life.
In the things you make—omelets, tweets, powerpoint presentations, landscapes, bridges—create with beauty in mind. Seek and delight in the beauty around you: the everyday beauty of a well-planned urban park, the awe-inspiring majesty of the Rocky Mountains or a Texas sunset, the elegance of a dance move or a batter’s swing, the sublimity of a melody or poem, or the beauty of an act of mercy. There is beauty all around, look for it, curate it, and create it for the good of your own soul and the blessing of others.
Disenchantment has changed everything. It has made unbelief possible and belief more difficult. The felt absence of God is not just a problem for those “out there” in culture. It is a problem for us, as believers, too. As a result, many today view Christianity as implausible, undesirable, or both. As cultural apologists, the path of return begins with us. May we join with God to re-enchant the world so that others may see that Christianity is both true to the way the world is and true to the way the world ought to be.
To learn more, watch the series of lectures on cultural apologetics by Paul M. Gould.
Paul M. Gould is the author of the newly-released Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World. You can find out more about Paul at www.paul-gould.com. You can also watch Paul’s lectures on Cultural Apologetics with a free trial to MasterLectures.