A Rabbi Looks At The Supernatural: A Revealing Look At Angels, Demons, Miracles, Heaven And Hell, by Jonathan Bernis
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books/Baker Books. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Titles can be important for a variety of reasons. In this case, the title is slightly misleading, since even though the author comes from a nominally Jewish background, his knowledge of the Bible was slight before his conversion to a belief in Yeshua as the Christ led him to study the Bible in more depth. To be sure, the author’s knowledge of the Bible is still not particularly profound, as his beliefs about heaven (to give but one example) are far closer to Randy Alcorn  than to Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) or Yochanan (John). The author cites some Jewish authorities and admirably uses Stern’s translation of the Bible in his scriptural citations, but that does not make him a rabbi, and it is likely that many people will find fault with the author’s self-identity. Even so, this book does give a mostly biblical look at matters of the supernatural and is on those grounds worthy of reading for believers who want to know how it is that we can come to an understanding of the supernatural from our normal existence within the natural world.
For a book about the supernatural, this book spends a lot of time on the natural, critiquing beliefs in naturalism, evolution, and commenting on matters from the Big Bang to quantum mechanics . The larger organization and structure of the book, though, makes this choice easy to understand. The author begins by challenging mistaken worldviews in science that close off belief in the supernatural and the metaphysical to begin with, often through the debates among scientists about cosmology and consciousness and the high degree of tuning faced within the universe and so on. After this the author turns to scriptural and anecdotal evidence concerning the existence and activity of angels and demons, looking at the dangers of Eastern meditation as well as the scriptural tests for discerning spirits. The interest in demonology here mirrors some of the publisher’s other offerings and appears to be aimed at the same audience . The author closes with a discussion of near death experiences as being evidence for the existence of heaven and hell as they are conceived by a contemporary evangelical perspective, saving the ultimate questions of the timing and nature of the resurrection until the end and showing no awareness of the biblical doctrine of the first and second resurrections.
So, given the author’s lack of a genuinely rabbinical background and his lack of biblical knowledge apart from a somewhat faulty base, what appeal does this book have? For one, it provides at least some anecdotal evidence about the accounts of people who have delved into the supernatural either by choice through séances and meditation or as a result of accidents and health disasters and experiences with miraculous faith healings. For another, the book ought to appeal to evangelicals who want to see the grounds within contemporary science that allow a belief in the supernatural, even if such matters remain a bridge too far for many scientists, some of whom have been a bit loose with their admissions about the nature of groupthink within much of the scientific community. The book presents a fair discussion of the tension between what the Bible says and how the Bible is understood with regards to the supernatural, and if its opinions and positions are not one that all readers would wholeheartedly endorse, it does present a worthwhile examination of the supernatural in the contemporary world.
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