| "Mysticism" in Context |
By: James S. Stewart
We have had occasion more than once to use the word "mysticism"; and it is necessary to grasp quite clearly what this term means, as applied to Paul's religious experience.
Efforts are periodically made to banish this conception altogether. But it is hard to destroy; it has a way of reasserting itself, and coming back into its own. Indeed, the stubborn survival-power of this term, in face of trenchant criticism and attack, suggests that it stands for something quite indispensable and essential in religion. Many imagine that mysticism represents something so shadowy and ill-defined and non-intellectual that to use the term is simply to "darken counsel by words without knowledge." Others go further, and proclaim a personal aversion to the mystic and all his works. He is accused of a selfish aborption in his own individual experience. He is regarded as culpably negligent of religion's roots in history. He is criticized for an alleged indifference to moral judgments.
Behind all this there lies a serious confusion of thought. The type of character which seeks emotions and ecstasies for this own sake, which dissolves history in speculation and is defective in respect of moral duty, is unfortunately not unknown: the pity is that to religion of this kind the noble name of mysticism should ever have been applied.
For Paul, it was in the daily, ever-renewed communion, rather than in the transient rapture, that the inmost nature of Christianity lay. This was the true mysticism. This was essential religion. This was eternal life.
Paul, by the grace of God, discovered the glorious experience that was waiting for any soul which gave itself in faith to Christ. Not only so: such union with the divine, he knew, need be no transient splendour, flashing for a moment across life's greyness and then gone: it could be the steady radiance of a light unsetting, filling the commonest ways of earth with a gladness that was new every morning. It would make men not less efficient for life, but more so. It would vitalize them, not only morally and spiritually, but even physically and mentally. It would give them a verve, a creativeness, an exhilaration, which no other experience in the world could impart. It would key life up to new pitch of zest and gladness and power. This is Pauline mysticism; and great multitudes who have never used the name have known the experience, and found it life indeed.
In some degree, then, every real Christian is a mystic in the Pauline sense.
From: A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of Paul's Religion.
| 2012/1/23 13:00||Profile|
| Re: "Mysticism" in Context |
This is the nature of Mysticism, a word that could be construed as "Out of the myst"...as seeing a reality in the fog.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
Also, the word "Mystery" is derived from the same root....out of the myst.
There is obviously, both a "mystery of iniquity"; Thessalonians 2:6-8
"And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:"
And...The mystery of Godliness.
1 Timothy 3:15-16
"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
So, in the religious world, there are TWO Myst's.....and the real issue, is when one of these portrays itself as the other.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
"Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
Many receive a mysticism that portrays itself as Christian, as belonging to Christ, but it is not...it is a destructive lie.
All true "mystic" ascension must be derived at the right hand of God, where Jesus sits...and intercedes....as the Father beholds His shed blood for those who receive it. There is only one Intercessor there. All others are liars and demons, who just appear to be so.
I like the word Prophetic, or gifts of Charisma...along with the true experiences that may come from that true and holy relationship that may be graced on the individual.
Mystic...opens too many doors,such as the venerable Todd Bentley, who many believe was a mystic.
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
"For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him."
| 2012/1/23 13:44|
| Re: |
Mysticism is simply having a direct experience with God that is positive and edifying with God being the center. Some would like to seek only experiences and "manifestations" without proper respect or reverence for God or his glory. Some would dispense with all experiences altogether and simply content themselves with a conceptual apprehension (doctrine and teaching) only. There is a place for mysticism which is not at either of these extremes but exists somewhere in the middle.
| 2012/1/23 15:38||Profile|
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I get accused occasionally by some of these hard-edged theologians of being a mystic, which I don't deny. A mystic is simply somebody who believes it is possible to commune with God Almighty right now through Jesus in the Spirit and know it and have a sense of heaven all around him and being in the presence of God even when He's in the presence of men. If that's being a mystic then I plead guilty and I am. - A.W. Tozer
| 2012/1/23 15:47||Profile|
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Nice post Pilgrim,
Great quote Miccah, Tozer always seems to cut through the clutter of religious minds. Paul indeed, and the Apostles had many divine encounters and it thrilled them to serve and commune with the Living God. Like Tozer, then I too am guilty of such a charge......... bro Frank
| 2012/1/23 15:58|
Whittier CA USA
| Re: "Mysticism" in Context |
Interesting thread. Pilgrim777, I have no problem with your OP, other than a slight concern with the term "mysticism" because of so much associations it has had with doctrines of demons, as BrotherTom pointed out quite well.
Great quote from Tozer Miccah.
Sort of like the issue concerning "Fundamentlism" I posted on. It all depends on what you mean regarding any given term.
| 2012/1/23 16:12||Profile|
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Glad we are in agreement that good words can be given bad "reputations".
The Revelation of John was quite "mystical".
He'd be run out of town, today. Diotrephes certainly did not like him.
Great posts everyone, I'm feeling quite gay now. Oops, can't use that word anymore.
| 2012/1/23 16:22||Profile|
| Re: "Mysticism" in Context |
Like the post Pilgrim. If mysticism is defined as you defined it I guess I am a mystic. The point made in the 3rd paragraph is a good point. If we define the term in its original context it is not a bad thing. If we define the term by those who get their eyes off of Jesus and begin to seek "mystic experiences" for their own sake and wind up in error we will reject all true mystic experiences. The word has gotten a bad rap. I recall a time when I was 16 and was seeking God intensely. I prayed at an altar at a church camp from 9 pm until 2 am and was not even aware of the time that passed. During that time I would be so overcome with the glory and presence of God that I felt what can only be described as rapturous joy. I left the altar physically exhausted but spiritually awake and refreshed in a way I cannot describe. It should be the norm for us to hear from God on a regular basis, if not daily. I have had dreams, a vision, and have had God reveal things to me that I could not have known. But all of these things were not for their own sake, nor were they to make me feel more "spiritual". If I were to put my eyes on these things and feel that I had to seek the experiences I would get off the road very quickly. God used these things to accomplish in me or in others a more important and eternal purpose.
| 2012/1/23 17:35||Profile|
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Awesome testimony, Twayneb.
Mysticism in its proper context is what we are all engaged in when praying and hearing the Lord in the Spirit.
Look at how often Jesus talked about His Father speaking to Him and how He always did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what His Father was saying. What?
The one overriding thing that comes through with Paul, is not the doctrine of sanctification, or justification or any other doctrine (thank God for them), but what really comes through is "Union with Christ" or "Communion with Christ".
Take away the Spirit of God and the indwelling Lord and what does Christianity have except the same thing that every other religion has. A book. Without the Spirit of God indwelling man, Christianity would not have survived throughout the centuries, especially when the Bible was not available or in scant supply.
Islam says we are the "people of the book". But, they don't understand that we are people of the Spirit (the Holy Spirit). And thank God for the Scriptures.
But if we did not have the Holy Spirit, we would not have communion with the Lord. Fellowship, comfort, guidance, counsel.
In the OT, they were people of the book for the most part (except for a few individuals here and there that the Spirit came upon).
But now the Lord has written upon the tablets of our hearts, and guides us by His indwelling Spirit.
God bless you guys,
Thanks for responding with your contributions,
When Phillips Brooks first spoke to Helen Keller of Christ, she at once exclaimed, " Oh, I never knew His name before, but I always knew Him." She was acquainted with Him as the Christ of experience, the Universal Christ who lighteneth every man coming into the world; but she did not know Him as the Christ of history, the Christ who lived a human life in Palestine long years ago. Alas! There are many who know Him as the Christ of history who do not know Him as the Christ of experience. They know His name, but they do not know Him. They are familiar with the facts of His earthly life, they accept His system of teaching, they follow Him as an impersonal and abstract ideal, but they have not experienced the dynamic power of His living personality. They know Him as the Christ who came, but they do not know Him as the Christ who is here. The complete knowledge of Christ is possessed by those alone to whom the Christ of history has become the Christ of experience.
We are indebted to Paul for making known to us the spiritual Christ, the Christ of experience, the Christ of today; yet it must be acknowledged that his failure to turn back to the Christ of history and linger lovingly over the details of His life, so as to understand Him as the Christ of experience, has made His testimony one-sided (so) that some of those who came after him went to the extreme of denying the humanity of Christ altogether. The Apostle John had to set himself against their error by declaring that whosoever denied that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. In the present day the tendency in the opposite direction has often been so strong, that there may be need to declare that whosoever denieth that Jesus Christ is come in the spirit, is not of the household of faith.
The Church of today needs Paul's mystical message that she gain a revived consciousness of the presence of her Lord. She needs to realize that the same Jesus of whom we read in the Gospels, the same Jesus whom the disciples saw going up into heaven, has returned in another form, and is now in her midst. This truth is the life-blood of her faith. This truth, and not the doctrine of justification by faith, is the article of a standing or a falling Church. Take away from the Church the conviction of the presence of a living, working, and abiding Christ, and you tear the very heart out of her religious life.
The world, too, needs Paul's mystical message to give it a new sense of the reality of Christ, a vivid realization of His actual presence. It is not enough to know that He once lived on earth, what men want to know is that He now lives, and that His saving help is now available. Important as it is to know what He has done for them, it is still more important to know what He can now do for them.
From: Paul the Mystic: A Study in Apostolic Experience. By: James M. Campbell
| 2012/1/23 19:27||Profile|
| Re: |
I too an appreciated with this thread, but want to address the Elephant standing in the room ignored; the Roman Catholic Mystics that hold fame, or infamy, however one may be skewed.
These are the people, knee jerk or not, that are first associated with Mysticism when the word is mentioned. Though the definition of the word may address Holy knowledge not yet realized, it, in itself, may also address a Pandora's box of Babylonian proportions; New Age Transcendentalism wrapped in the robes of pure Apostolic doctrine; which IT IS NOT.
There seems to me to be a narcissism associated with the personal ideas of those who model themselves as mystic...with a more complicated explanation of faith and experience that elevates the mystic ideal in cloudy terms far above the simplicity that is in Christ, and develops an elite class that prides him or her above the common.
This is a thing that Jesus, nor his Apostles NEVER did. They walked , taught, loved, and revealed God in simplicity and Godly sincerity without the unknown intrigue that the mystics always have wrapped around their belt. The Gospel was always presented in a holy finality; a "This is That" presentation, that wrapped up TRUTH as it is.
Imagine a gutter poor infidel in India, recently born again, but illiterate, confronted with a Fenelon or Guyon as the gospel. Spinning head, confusion, and bewilderment would be an apt description.
I, by grace, have led those that have never heard His name once, to Jesus, through the preaching of the Word. I believe that there is a super-spiritual enticement in the ideas of the "mystic" that should be avoided, as many may see it as an advancement in Christ that is false, and cannot be attained.
Spiritual Growth comes one way; Abiding in Christ, and overcoming, in a simple daily walk, as we learn how to Love. "They overcame came him..[ the Devil ], by the Blood of the Lamb, The Word of their Testimony, and by not loving their self-lives unto death....not by super-spiritual experience or ideals..[ mysticism ].
It is not a New Testament Doctrine, though the semantics of the word may imply many ideas in the Prophetic experience that indeed may be authentic. God has called us right where we are, in the middle of our common lives unto all people, to walk with Him as we become effective Ambassadors conformed to His image as life-givers.....among the Prostitutes, the sick, the drug addicts, and the very least.
Has the mystic learned how to love, and nurture, show mercy in forgiveness, and heal the brokenhearted? This is what God looks upon; not ones exalted spirituality whether it be True, or counterfeit.
| 2012/1/25 0:06|