On Mysticism

Mysticism is an interesting word. You can honor a person with it or you can damn them with it. It really depends on what you mean by it.

Like T. Austin-Sparks and A.W. Tozer, I don’t like the term at all. One of the reasons is because it’s associated with the new age movement, Buddhism, and Hinduism, all of which run contrary to orthodox Christianity as embodied in the Scriptures, the creeds, and the historical Christian faith.

The word is also associated with what is known as “mystery cults” of the first century which were antithetical to the early Jesus followers.

Whenever I’ve shared on the book of Colossians, I’ve been quick to point out that Paul was dealing with a mysticism that was contrary to Jesus Christ.

Another reason I don’t like the word is because it’s associated with people and movements who deny the authority and reliability of the Scriptures . . . something which I fiercely believe in and defend.

Much of my critical mail comes from postmodern Christians who object to my belief that the Bible is completely true, trustworthy, authoritative, and divinely inspired. My critics find this belief to be naïve and foolish. Yet none of them have persuaded me to view the Scriptures as anything less.

All of my work is based on the fact that the Scriptures are wholly true and reveal God-in-Christ, His mind and His will. This is why I give abundant references to the Sacred Text in all of my written work. I won’t apologize for that, even if it makes some people upset.

In Revise Us Again, I say a good deal about mystical experiences. I critique what I call “the Charismatic conversational style” which takes a mystical view of the Christian life that sets aside the Scriptures and appeals to subjective feelings and impressions as being more authoritative than the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. (I also critique this viewpoint in Reimagining Church.)

In addition, I address the overemphasis by some to overstate mystical, ecstatic experiences. And I discuss the sectarianism that is often attached to such overstatements.

Some people use the term “mystical” to refer to a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and the belief God still speaks today by the Holy Spirit.

While I certainly believe that God still speaks by His Spirit today in and through God’s people and that a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord is available, I think that using the word “mystical” or “mysticism” is a poor way of describing such beliefs.

Like T. Austin-Sparks, I believe the New Testament word “spiritual” is much better to describe such things. The same is true for the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (known as “spiritual gifts” in the New Testament). As I’ve stated elsewhere, I believe all the gifts of the Spirit are in operation today.

In that connection, here are my five favorite quotes on mysticism. They, along with what I said about it in Revise Us Again, pretty well sum up my view.

“Mysticism begins in mist and ends in schism.”

~ John Henry Newman

“Some of my friends good-humoredly – and some a little bit severely – have called me a ‘mystic.’ Well I’d like to say this about any mysticism I may suppose to have. If an arch-angel from heaven were to come, and were to start giving me, telling me, teaching me, and giving me instruction, I’d ask him for the text. I’d say, ‘Where’s it say that in the Bible? I want to know.’

And I would insist that it was according to the scriptures, because I do not believe in any extra-scriptural teachings, nor any anti-scriptural teachings, or any sub-scriptural teachings.

I think we ought to put the emphasis where God puts it, and continue to put it there, and to expound the scriptures, and stay by the scriptures. I wouldn’t – no matter if I saw a light above the light of the sun, I’d keep my mouth shut about it ’til I’d checked with Daniel and Revelation and the rest of the scriptures to see if it had any basis in truth.

And if it didn’t, I’d think I’d just eaten something I shouldn’t, and I wouldn’t say anything about it. Because I don’t believe in anything that is unscriptural or that is anti-scripture.”

~ A. W. Tozer

“Perhaps the greatest failure to make the great discrimination with which we are concerned is in relation to the difference between mysticism and spirituality. It is here that not only the world is mistaken but Christendom is deceived.

Indeed, an overwhelmingly large proportion of those who would regard themselves as Christians are unable to distinguish between mysticism (pertaining to the sense of the beautiful) or asceticism (the practice of self-denial) on the one hand and spirituality on the other.

The fact is that these belong to two entirely different realms, and the Word of God cuts clean in between them, dividing them asunder.

Whether it be in such extreme form, or in much milder, mysticism is not practical in the sense of changing fundamental character, but puts people in a false realm, and deceives them into an idea as to themselves. It is an illusion, a false spirituality, and is – in its finest and also most evil forms – the devil’s delusion. Religion, as such, can be just mysticism, without life-changing power; whether it be ‘Christian’ (?), Hindu, Buddhist, or any other.

On the other hand, what the Bible (particularly the New Testament) means by the spiritual is immensely and unavoidably practical. Basically it means a change of nature, as, said Christ: ‘That which is born of the Spirit is spirit’, and thus ‘Ye must be born anew’ (John 3:5,7). That is a statement of fact.

The classic on the difference is by Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter two. The contrast there is, in the first case, between the intensely religious, intellectual Ruler in Israel, Nicodemus, and a man born of the Spirit. In the second case, the contrasting of the ‘natural’ (Greek ‘soulical’) man, and ‘He that is spiritual’, and the focal point in both cases is understanding.

Spirituality, therefore, according to the Bible, is essentially practical both as to the origin and the progress of the true Christian life. It is nothing less than a difference of species. The New Testament is founded and built upon this differentiation and contrast.”

~ T. Austin-Sparks

(Despite these two quotes, both Tozer and Sparks were routinely accused of being “mystics” and of advocating the dangers of “mysticism” in their day.)

“A more positive definition was offered by Evelyn Underhill, for whom mysticism was ‘the name of that organic process which involves perfect consummation of the Love of God: the achievement her and now of the immortal heritage of men.’

This definition may cover Paul’s religious experience, if we bear in mind that for him the love of God was mediated and indeed embodied ‘in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:39). According to Albert Schweitzer, Paul’s mysticism is unique because, in spite of is high intellectual level, it does not take the form of direct union with God but rather of union with Christ.

‘In Paul,’ he says, ‘there is no God-mysticism; only a Christ-mysticism by means of which man comes into relation to God . . .’ This ‘being-in-Christ’ is the prime enigma of Pauline teaching: once grasped it gives the clue to the whole.”

~ F.F. Bruce

I have often stressed in my writings and spoken messages that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and that He still speaks and acts today. However, He will always lead us according to the Scriptures (as Tozer pointed out).

The Scriptures, understood by the interpretative community of the church (past and present), will either confirm or correct what a person believes to be the leading of the Spirit. So we need the Scriptures, we need the Spirit, and we need the tempering of other believers in order to properly follow the Lord.

That brings us to my fifth favorite quote on the subject, given by Jesus Himself.

“You commit error because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

~ Matthew 22:29

Note these two elements: The Scriptures (the written Word) and the power of God (the living Spirit of Christ). The two should never be separated.

Ironically, the Lord said these words to the Bible experts and scholars of His day who seemingly “knew the Scriptures.”

According to Jesus, however, they knew no such thing.

See also Is the Bible Reliable?

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Comments

  1. says

    Thoughtful post. William Booth (cofounder of The Salvation Army) said: “I don’t bring men to a book, I bring them to God.” Western Christianity has often put Bible knowledge above direct encounter with God. As you point out, both are important. However, I think there is much more danger of Bible religion without God than of Christ-encounters without the Bible. My encounters with Jesus always drive me to the Bible.

  2. says

    Can’t express how much I really appreciated this post, given my personal background and coming out of it during a great but hard season of detox. While I never say I was too far in the ‘deep end’ here, I have seen numerous people hurt and confused outside of the scriptures but over incidents of what many, I feel, wrongly labeled as the mysticism of Christ. Frank, I so appreciate your gift of writing and those you have shared life with to be able to express it!

  3. says

    Whether we call it mysticism or spirituality both are subject to misunderstanding and used so broadly as to require definition early on in the discussion. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets, that is everything in Scripture hangs on relationships, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself. ” Relationships are subjective, as is mysticism and spirituality and we are to live in that subjective world. But subjectivity is easily distorted and misunderstood and we are in grave danger of creating an image of God. So being rooted in Scripture is essential, though still often run through the lenses of our own bias. Thus the need to do all this stuff in the context of community. I liken the subjective side to the branches on a very large tree and the Scripture studied in the context of community as the root system. The deeper the roots the farther the reach of the branch.

  4. Pam says

    I think the crux of this issue is an inability to properly define what is spiritual. God’s Law is spiritual and natural man is unable to keep because we are not born as spiritual beings. Jesus was a man conceived by the Holy Spirit, because He was of the Spirit He was born with that which enabled Him to keep the Law, the Holy Spirit and He became the Living Word. Likewise, when we are born again in Christ, we receive that same Holy Spirit Who reveals truth to us and also, reveals through Christ the mysteries hidden since the foundation of the world. That which is spiritual and scriptural will never contradict because they are both of the Spirit, of God. Christian teachings may seem mystical to those outside of Christ because they haven’t received the Holy Spirit, are carnal, and can’t discern the things of the spirit.That doesn’t mean that some Christians are mystics. None of us have any special powers over another but some of us walk closer to the Lord in obedience. When I encounter such a believer, I know I see, Jesus living in them and through them but to a non-believer, their behavior and the words they speak seem mysterious and could lead to them being labeled a mystic. I don’t believe in Christian mystics and I think those who follow a spirit that doesn’t agree with the written revelation are following a false spirit.

    Pam

  5. says

    Frank,

    I appreciate this in-depth article. But I have a few questions in regards to your stance on mystical traditions.

    1) How can anyone read Revelations and not see the thread of mysticism running all through it. This spiritual book has “mystical” written all over it. Couldn’t this be the reason why so many people have a hard time with Revelations? It isn’t a straightforward book. Usually, religious leaders that reject mystical tradition in the Bible teach that God is straightforward in the Bible. But this isn’t so with Revelations, Ezekiel, etc.

    2) I also wanted to ask why you think the earliest Gnostics (Christian mystics) taught that St. Paul was their greatest teacher? Paul’s language, especially in Ephesians, has been pointed out by many scholars to be the language of a Gnostic.

    3) The very definition of Christian mysticism seems to be more in line with what Jesus taught in the Gospels. In other words, Jesus taught us to have a subjective, personal relationship with God. All personal relationships have to be subjective by their very nature. Jesus makes this clear when he says the kingdom is “within” us. The Gospel of John also uses the language of the mystic. Jesus taught us to be ONE with God, which could only be accomplished by a type of union that is clearly laid out in Christian mysticism.

    4) Finally, how can mystical symbolism, such as Moses holding up a bronze serpent and all that looked on it were healed (from Exodus) be reconciled with the orthodox views of Christianity without resorting to explanations that don’t make much sense. When one studies all these strange Biblical symbols in context of Christian mysticism the true intent of the Biblical author seems to make so much more sense.

    I don’t mean to be critical, but these are tough questions that I have not seen answered very logically before. What do you think?

    Thanks

    • says

      Joshua: What do you mean by “mystic”/”mystical”? That’s one of the key points of the post, and without answering that, your questions cannot be answered as I don’t know what you’re talking about exactly. I suggest you re-read the post carefully and get clear on the two ways the term is used and what I believe and don’t believe about it. Once you do that, you will have the answer to most of these questions.

  6. ValeriaT says

    Brother Lawrence’s book on the prayer is great! I read it a few years ago after reading a few Orthodox authors on this subjuct.

    “Mystical” in your mind is not at all the same as “mythical” in regards to Christian experience, right?

  7. Genoise says

    Frank: Thanks for being actively involved in the comments. Your article was insightful, but what I gleaned most from was your answers to the questions that followed. Some of those questions were ones I had myself. :-)
    Godspeed!

  8. says

    What a wonderful article to read, refreshing and it speaks truth. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He gave us the Holy Spirit, not mysticism. Thanks for an inspiring article. It makes one eager to read and study the Word of God more.

  9. says

    Frank,
    In line with the subject of Mysticism I would like to ask your thoughts on what to me seem to be under the same category concerning dualism and non-dualism. How do you understand dualism and non-dualism in the context of our oneness with Christ yet Christ being completely other at the same time?

    I have other questions in this line and realize this may or may not take us off topic. Nonetheless I believe it is an area that needs some helpful dialogue and clarity.

    Thanks.

    • says

      Platonic dualism isn’t really compatible with biblical Christianity. Thus there is no secular/sacred – this bleeds into the clergy/laity divide which is built on the same concept. Also, God wants to bring heaven to the earth, “thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So the popular idea of detaching from the earth and waiting to go to heaven instead doesn’t square with the NT. Christ is other; but He’s also forming Himself into us and God has placed us in Him, thus He receives us “in the Beloved.” The “formation” part is what transformation is all about. His otherness becoming part of us. It’s a process . . . a long one.

      That’s a very short answer to a complicated subject. My 13 cents in seed form.

      • says

        Thanks for responding and I do realize that is a big subject.

        And thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord Who is the way, the truth and the life!!!

      • John L says

        Excellent, Frank. Formation as a perfect whole, not a fragmentation (think Trinity). We need the courage to move beyond “identity” dualities that posture religious systems (contemplative vs. fundamentalist, lay / clergy, etc.) above transcendent and unconditional love. Religion can harden us into “us/them” duality, which looks nothing at all like Jesus. Common to historical contemplatives is this sense of a flattened family that transcends our tribalism — replacing it with a deep, abiding love for all others, even our most entrenched enemy. Bede Griffiths once said that Jesus did not die for a religion, but for the unity of the whole of humanity.

  10. rafael ortiz says

    The Bible is a God-given tool to safeguard us from error. The Spirit and the Bible must work together because the Same Spirit who inspired the Bible is the Same Spirit that dwells in the true christian and He will not contradict the Scriptures. But beware of worshipping the Bible, the Bible is important, but the Bible is not God. Here we call for a balance. The Bible and the Spirit must be symchronized or combined for a our spiritual safety. There are too many heresies out there, too many error. What matters is to keep Christ central in the Bible. Remember He is the Central Person, not the Bible. We are not bible-centered, we are Christ-centered. The Bible is essential, but Christ in us is also essential. The two must work together as Spiritual Compass to guide us organically in the context of true church life. May God’s Love-purpose be fullfilled in us all . amen.

  11. says

    I would beg you Frank to consider the simularities of man’s cultural and religious beliefs rather than the differences. Mysticism deals with the highest self/ soul or that spark that is God. Jesus experienced it, as did Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tzu and others. All of them tell the same story as it pertains to the human being. The problem enters the picture when we get too wrapped up in the various different ways each culture has chosen to explain these experiences to their people. To stay pure to the truth, one must find the simularities found in each of these cultural stories and overlook the part that you are hearing these stories from a people that are different than ourselves. Religions are developed around this higher self/ God and that alone being the same in all human beings on this planet, makes any division of religion, based on culture, wrong.

    I’ve had this mysitcal experience and being raised a Christian, the experience has shown me that Christianity is off base and not the other religions of the world when it comes to the creator. You can’t imagine the shock that raises up in a person when they are shown the truth and then must face the reality that what they previously beieved was taught to them by a religion that never really got the point.

    So yes, the authors of the bible absolutely got it wrong and for any of us to understand the words in this book, one must read into the symbolism behind the words–not the words themselves.

    In closing… let me say that if Jesus were alive today, he would completely change what was written in our bible.

    Again, the truth goes beyond religious dogma. If you understand mysticism you would see that this place within each of us is so deep, not even the present concept a Christian has of their God can reach this place.

    In order to experience yourself as the soul one must leave everything having to do with this world behind. This means every idea you have about yourself and every concept you thought you knew about God too.

    • says

      Like I said in the post, I’m not backing down on my belief that Jesus of Nazareth is who He said He is – the resurrected Lord of the world, Savior, Messiah, King, God incarnate – and the Scriptures are inspired and all point to Him. If we set aside the Jesus of Scripture and the Scriptures to which He Himself pointed and believed in, we fall into error. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  12. says

    Hi Frank,
    I have been pondering the term and meaning of Mysticism lately. It seems to me that it gets a bit confusing because some practices that are truly spiritual and edifying to our life and faith in Christ do fall under that heading of mysticism. For example I read a small book called “Letters of a Modern Mystic” by Frank Laubach. This little book talked a lot about beholding the Lord and giving special attention to the Lord’s presence by intentionally staying focused on the Lord. Beholding his beauty in creation, etc.. Very similar to what Brother Lawrence talked about.

    Another thing that gets a bit confusing to me is the term contemplative. The reason is as I am reading about the formal practice of contemplative prayer which includes a type of mantra to help the mind turn from the mundane to the Lord more completely (I am still learning about it so that may be a bad paraphrase)is besides the mantra portion Contemplation seems a very acceptable and encouraged practice. From my point of view when I for instance get quiet before the Lord usually in a place outside and I just turn my attention completely to Him and converse with Him and hear the still small voice of the Lord speaking and confirming in my heart and mind (which has never detracted from the scripture by the way) this just seems like a normal and natural part of the Christian life and relationship with Jesus. I guess you could put that under the category of contemplative or mystical but yeah spiritual may be better.

    The point is it seems to me that there are true and pure ways to connect deeply with the Lord. Some of the various mystical practices that are viewed as taboo touch or tap into that pure spiritual vein and may tag on excess baggage that just keeps people who are wary from being deceived from experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ.

    This is a big subject that I have a lot to learn about and one that truly needs a lot of clarification mainly because it seems to me anyway that we as Christians tend to be afraid of things we don’t understand and can very much be missing out on a much richer deeper walk with the Lord simply because confusion has surrounded that which is meant to be a simple connection with the Lord.

    I also want to high five Mike Singer by saying yes the Busyness of our culture and lives robs us of a much deeper connection with the Lord simply because like Martha it is difficult to choose the better part because we think we are wasting time and other things need to get done.

    • Brenda says

      I agree Seth, I have felt the closest to him when praying and focusing on Jesus, telling him how thankful I am for everything he has done for me and how much I love him. I believe these kinds of prayers are like the incense that the High Priest used to burn in the Temple. A sweet fragrance.

  13. says

    This post comes at a very timely point in my walk.  As someone who has been steeped in reformed traditions and teachings for quite some time I guess I’m coming at this from the opposite end of the spectrum as someone from the charismatic tribe.

    Most of the teaching I have sat under has been expositional in nature from teachers who very cautiously and adamantly proclaim “sola scriptura”. Recently I have begun to step out of my box and embark on a journey to find out what it means to be a spiritual man because I had discerned that what I had been practicing was no more than an academic exercise of my flesh.  In doing so it has been a somewhat scary road to take.  My faith has had to branch out from being built solely on the promises of God found in the Bible to being built upon the Christ who is written of in the Bible and who dwells with and within me as he is the living Word of God.  I have been very thankful for the foundations in scripture that I was granted which have kept me from straying away from God’s revealed truths.

    We are privileged to have a book which we can consider authoritative.  We are also privileged to have an indwelling Lord who leads and guides through our spirit and not only our eyes and minds.

    What a Christ, what a Lord, and what a high calling we have as saints!

    • Ken says

      Thanks, Bobby for your candid comments. You describe the path I believe I’m on too. I don’t want an academic relationship with Christ, and while everyone can make statements like “we only follow the Bible” or, more spiritually-sounding, sola scriptura, there is at some point the need to have the Holy Spirit illuminate the meaning of the text to us.

      To avoid the never ending conflict of opinions and interpretations one must ultimately rely on the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, to provide true understanding that the text is incapable of doing alone.

      Just as we must not be afraid of allowing the Spirit to orchestrate our gatherings and lead us in our corporate worship and fellowship, we can rely on Him to lead us to the proper and ever unfolding understanding of the scriptures. He is the Word. The scriptures point to Him.

      Ken

  14. Mike Singer says

    In review of the scriptures such as Daniel, Ezekial, and Revelations, Elijah/Elisha – there are plenty of insights into the spiritual realm. Both Elijah/Elisha said” the Lord God of Heaven before whom I stand” and Paul in Col 3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. There is a spiritual life that Western ignores due to the surrounding culture ( action, entertainment, constant stimulation with little prayer and fasting).
    The West is simply to busy to sit still and find God on His terms. It was customary for Jews to pray 3 times a day ( ie Daniel privately & Apostles in the synagoge) which is a far cry from a meeting once a week. Hence daily prayer is a discipline and a way of life (consider Islam converts – 5 times a day- Muslim Christians are real deal saints and “get it”). Btw, never mind that Christ was in the habit of withdrew Himself to the mountain all night to prayer (whoa !!!)

    BUSYNESS KILLS ALL SPIRITUAL LIFE – ALL

    I have found the writings of Sundar Singh, Madam Guyon, and Brother Lawrence to be insightful into prayer and the spiritual life which is really ignored in the West – we are NOT a meditative/reflective culture.

    Get some alone time with Jesus and one might be surprised at how He reveals Himself in the little details of daily life (this is very cool and gives a constant interaction and strength to be in constant communication with Him).

    Shalom

  15. says

    Spiritual is a difficult word. It germinates from spirit, and even that we don’t define we’ll. We can be ‘under spiritual attack,’ be listening to a ‘spiritual message or song,’ or suggest that ‘someone is spiritual.’ And doesn’t even include what we mean by saying someone or some place ‘has a good or poor spirit out them/it.’

    Nevertheless, it’s better than mystic or mystical.

    But what is spirit? What is spiritual? I see at least three possibilities that we currently use:

    Spirit the being
    Spirit the attitude
    Spirit the motivation

    There may be more.

  16. says

    A response to someone’s question:

    I’ve never called myself a “mystic.” I only recall using the term “contemplative prayer” once or twice in my life. And at the time, I had no idea that some Christians were using it in ways I don’t agree with at all. I was using it in the way that John Piper used it in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTbX_88vJyY

    I don’t subscribe to the kind of contemplative prayer that Jessie Penn Lewis warned about in “War on the Saints” … which involves a passive mind. Nor do I hold to chants which are parcel to Eastern mysticism. I never have.

    I’ve not read enough of Meister Eckhart to know his theology, but as I’ve done with many other writers (including atheists, agnostics, etc.), I found one quote by him to be interesting. But that’s not an endorsement on his work and I’ve never held him up to be model for anything. Tozer and Sparks are models for me in the area of prayer.

    So the simple answer to your question is: I’ve always believed what I’ve written in this post. Peter Toon, a respected evangelical, wrote about Christian meditation from the Reformers’ writings in some of his books on Christian meditation. I see those practices as going deeper than traditional prayer (asking God for things) and traditional Bible study (studying for knowledge) … that’s what I meant by those terms. Lectio Divina, the way some of the Reformers practiced it, is simply reading the Bible and talking to God about what one reads. I don’t think anything is wrong with that, though some teachers of the past who taught it held to theologies I don’t agree with and added elements to it that I am not comfortable with. Namely Catholicism, etc.

    Any practice that takes a believer away from the Scriptures and from the testimony of the church (in the creeds, etc.) is something I don’t hold to and never have.

    • Tom says

      I heard you speak about prayer years ago and remember you warning about certain kinds of eschatic kinds of prayer with a passive mind. What other models or books do you recommend on prayer besides Tozer and TAS?

      • says

        Tom, Andrew Murray, Ros Rinker (conversational prayer – one of my top 100 books – http://frankviola.org/top100), I found Brother Lawrence’s book on “Practicing His Presence” helpful, though I’m not a Catholic. Jeanne Guyon’s book about praying while you read the Scriptures is good and is based on Augustine’s method. But that’s another situation where it was taken by people and brought into Catholic theology and other things. To my mind, we have to be careful to “find” and eat the fish but spit out the bones. Not everyone agrees with this, but I believe we can learn from people with whom we disagree. I don’t fully agree with Reformation theology on some points, but the contribution has been very strong in some areas.

    • says

      Here’s a response to someone’s question:

      Yes, the article on prayer is worded much clearer in “Revise Us Again.” And this post expounds the points. I don’t consider myself a leader of any tribe and don’t wish to be; just a small (and relatively weak in comparison to others) voice among others who are seeking to reaffirm biblical Christianity.

      One of the frustrations of a writer is that there are always some who misinterpret and misread what we say. Part of that is my fault as I’m still learning how to writer more clearly. Another part is the natural proclivity by some to interpret what one says to fit their own agenda.

      Clarifying what one believes and means is a good function of a blog, I’ve found. I wish every author of books would have a blog to answer questions from readers and clarify things, but many do not and they are completely inaccessible. (Whenever I read a book, I’m often asking, “what did he/she mean by this?” And I try to take everything they have written into account before concluding.)

      It’s unfortunate to me that anyone would take my writings and misquote me as saying that all the things you listed as not being important. Jesus was pretty clear about the consequences of those who teach others to disregard His explicit commands. This is part of the problem with libertinism (which I’ve critiqued) and with certain forms of mysticism that put subjective experiences above Scripture. (I saw a lot of this when I was part of the Charismatic movement.)

      Anyways, if someone ever quotes me to support such ideas, feel free to point them to these links:

      http://frankviola.org/2012/05/25/jesusreachinghisworld/ – affirms my belief that Christians are to go out and be engaged in the culture, and support those on both the Left and the Right who are seeking to impact the lost with the gospel. Many statements against inward, navel-gazing Christianity and for reaching out by the Spirit in season.

      http://frankviola.org/2012/05/10/frankviolapodcast/ – I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I use “Christ is All,” a quote from Paul in Colossians, I mean Christ is Lord over the whole world, not just our private or spiritual lives. He’s also larger than what we can imagine and fathom, including our theological systems and ideas. And He incarnates all truth (“I am the way, the truth, the life,” etc.). Lord over all is another aspect of it. Also http://frankviola.org/2012/01/26/thegospel/

      And of course encourage them to come on the blog and ask me directly.

      Always learning, never arriving,

      fv

      Psalm 115:1

  17. Pete says

    Interesting post, Frank. I just got back from visiting a church that doesn’t seem to regard scripture so highly. I think you know the church i mean. It’s caused me to investigate mysticism, which I had heard of, but not really bothered to find out what it means, especially as it relates to Christianity. Now I do know what it means, I’m sad to say I now realise that I’ve just seen it in practice! Deception can be so subtle.

    • David Backus says

      I will say that there are two sides of the Bible. The practical daily living and core foundations that are immovable and the things which are celestial/mystical in nature. I agree with Frank here that the Bible CANNOT be compromised here. It has to be the solid cornerstone for this. You MUST have the former down first. You cannot make the path into the celestial realms without first having the essential concrete foundations in the Bible. I am just beginning my journeys into discovering the Heavens and what is actually intended for all believers to partake of. But without the proper platform of right Biblical understanding and without Christ as The Way and the Holy Spirit guiding, it cannot be traveled successfully. Already as I begin I have been seduced by evil spirits trying to sway me from what was originally given to us. If I ever have doubt or strange things try to push me off of the path I ALWAYS have to return to the core foundations. If you don’t have the correct Biblical platform and that solid foundation in Christ as Savior and Lord, either you will lose your mind, or fall prey and slave to deceptive angels of light. I have had a very solid foundation in Frank Viola’s works (thanks Frank) and in works of other authors. It took about 4 years to get me to a place where I can begin my mystical “ascent” into the Heavenly places. Now just starting, I do it cautiously “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling.” If you don’t have any trembling, any fear (healthy awe and reverence) towards God and Heavenly power, don’t start the ascent.

  18. kenneth dawson says

    the problems we run into with describing our experience as christians is largely due to our cultural influience–such things as our previous religious experiences–but i do not have that exerience because i grew up in a totaly heathanistic enviroment–when i got saved i knew nothing about the bible or church–i simply met christ–then i got into churchianity and was induced into bibliocity and thats when i discovered all the confusion because of everyones different interpretations of the bible.as time went on jesus revealed to me his indwelling and spoke to me that i did not need the bible to prove anything.

  19. David Backus says

    There is a difference between the way of the Christian mystic, and gnosticism. Unfortunately, what runs rampant today is a neo-gnostic hybrid of paganism with Christianity. That is what takes place, more often than not in these atrocious Charismatic circles. I did my research on the whole thing and much of their approach comes from the pagan mystery cults of Dionysus or Bacchus, and kabbalah. That being said, I have recently found a deep mysticism that is exclusive to Christ. What is different? the experiences and glorious visions I have had actually accent the Bible. In light of what I have received, the Bible has come alive and more concrete and amplified to me. What I have learned endorses the Bible and everything Christ has done. I think though, you are right, the word “mystic” and “mysticism” conjures a lot of bad thoughts and associations. Of course then again, as of late, I think the same thing about the label “Christianity”. That being said, I have joined Christ and the apostles, Moses and Enoch in affectionately calling my new found path “The Way.”

    • says

      Yes, I was part of the charismatic movement in my early days as a believer. And there is an element of gnosticism in some of it. I deal with it in “Revise Us Again.”

  20. Thomas says

    While I agree with the content of this post, I actually rather like the term ‘mysticism’ if only because it’s a little more edgy and provocative than ‘spiritual’. Spiritual doesn’t really mean a lot in christianese at the moment, while mystical has much stronger connotations in both positive and negative directions.

    Using the word ‘mystical’ pretty much requires you to define it afterwards, though, to avoid the confusion discussed in the post.

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