Part of a Critical Thinking for Christians series
by Terry Craig
At the outset of this article, I must say that if you're hoping to find a really good argument to use in slamming the mystics you know: I hope you will come to understand that faith really is about transcending this physical plane and believing what is not seen. If you consider yourself a "Christian mystic" and are looking to support your view: I hope you will be attentive to the real dangers of pressing in for "a spiritual experience" without desiring to know the Truth. There are many mystics who have settled for being nothing more than mediums, allowing themselves to be used as mouthpieces for spirits who long to affect this realm for evil. Hopefully, my brothers and sisters in Christ will want to look at both sides of this issue.
In order to "test" something, you must be willing to accurately weigh it.
For whatever reason, many Christians today seem to be given to extremes. Some think that God isn't pleased unless they make enough noise to shake the roof in every public venue. Others consider themselves "seeker sensitive" and deny the God of the whole universe any expression at all outside the lines they have drawn, then call it being "in order." Isn't it tragic that in a world full of the extreme, so many of us are just another flavor of it? The same seems to apply to supernatural experiences. Some people base their entire life (in every sense of the word) on any message they feel was imparted to them by a spiritual being. Others will bolt at the first inkling of "unseen forces" at work. But our walk with Jesus need not be flaky, fearful, OR frozen. The bottom line is that no matter how we try to experience a relationship with God, if we have an improper motive (getting what we want, becoming the center of attention, controlling others, finding a way to retain sin in our lives) we will end up going the wrong way.
"Test everything. Hold on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil." —
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 [NIV]
I have some Christian friends who positively cringe at the term "Christian Mystic." They feel the origin of the word "mystic" forever taints it. The word originally pertained to mysteries of Greece and Rome or other secret practices of the occult, so my friends believe that Christian mystic equates with jumbo shrimp--it's a contradiction in terms. I must confess that using the name "mystic" regarding a brother or sister in Christ is not my first choice, but I don't believe that it always equates to someone practicing an occult or pagan rite and pretending it's okay because they slapped the word "Christian" in front of it. I don't believe there is any such thing as Christian Yoga or Christian astrology. So, what's the difference? There are two valid points to make here.
First, I looked the term up in dictionaries. There isn't even a mention of Greece, Rome, or the occult in newer editions. One of them defines mysticism as: "n: -the belief that direct knowledge of God or ultimate reality is attainable through immediate intuition or insight."
Second, "mystic" is where we get the word "mystery." Want an eye-opener? Look at the definition the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible has for the word mystery: Strong's Ref. # 3466 ". . . a derivative of muo (to shut the mouth); a secret or 'mystery' (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites)"
Jesus used the word translated mystery (or mysteries) when speaking about the kingdom of God (3 times in the gospels). Paul and John used it more than 20 times when talking about Jesus, faith, our fellowship, the resurrection and other topics. While familiar with the origin/meaning of the word mystery, Paul and those who penned the Bible still chose to use this word when defining the very essence of Christianity. Why? Because there really IS something about faith that's hidden, deep . . . and well, mysterious. It's not something you can define with science or put your hands on . . . or else it wouldn't be faith!
So, while I'm not overly fond the word "mystic," I do have to take into account what the people using the term think it means, and see that they have some legitimate grounds for using it. Many of them simply believe it means they're capable of having intimate communion directly with God. Do I believe that? Via the blood of Jesus, yes I do.
"Mystic" is where we get the word "mystery." Jesus used the word translated mystery (or mysteries) when speaking about the kingdom of God
I have known some Christian mystics and read the writings of others, and considered them kindred spirits--just as much lovers of Jesus Christ and His Word as I am. They believe that Jesus Christ is their only means of salvation, and seek to commune with God solely. They are people who have touched the hem of the Lord in prayer, who look to Him alone as their source and strength--and I will not disown them as my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I have known other Christian mystics who have wandered onto uncertain ground. They use "visions" and "experiences" to explain bizarre or irresponsible behavior. Despite this, they still know Jesus, and confess that by His blood they are redeemed. They are no less my sisters and brothers than some Christian "hyper-faith" people, some Christian legalists, some Christian intercessors, or some modern-day Christian prophets who've done their share of wandering around in the wilderness of weirdness.
There is another group of mystics who may claim they "know Jesus" but don't really know Him. They are like Balaam (who is mentioned in no less than three passages in the New Testament as a sample of someone in fatal error). Balaam, a mystic/spiritual medium of his day, thought that Jehovah was just one of the gods/powers at his disposal. Although he confessed Jehovah was a deity, he considered the God of Israel just one of many gods. Did Balaam still have an experience with Jehovah? Scripture says he did. He even heard directions and was USED by God--but scripture also says he "loved the wages of wickedness"--and says those "like him" will find the "blackest darkness" has been reserved for them. (2 Peter 2, Jude vs. 11-12, Revelation 2:14)
What often separates those who have a genuine walk with God from the others is how they go about seeking this deeper communion with God. Some erroneously equate passivity with the word "meditation" in the Bible. They also liken this passive meditation to submission or being humble. Both concepts are incorrect. Biblical meditation is active thought, rumination, pondering, weighing. The Bible doesn't ask us to blank out our minds or to blindly submit to impulses. If you leave the throne of your will empty, something may come and sit on it--but not necessarily God.
Next comes motive. Can you be honest about what you're really seeking? Passivity and motive often determine results. Scripture never encourages a passive or inactive mind, nor does it encourage us to be involved in the adoration or worship of any being other than God. The believer is to have a focused mind that is reflecting on who God is, chewing His word, seeking His face, asking for His will. (Read Psalm 1 with this in mind.)
So, should we shun deep spiritual experiences? I think not. It's like the arguments that raged over eating meat (which might have been used in idol worship) back in Paul's day. Paul said he could eat anything as long as he thanked God for it, but if it would hurt someone else's faith, he'd eat vegetables. So, for the sake of clarity perhaps people could choose use a better term than Christian mystic when describing a deeper walk with Jesus.
It is my prayer that God will sort out my motives and help me over the bumps. And, while I'm on my journey, I want to test everything, hold on to what is good, and avoid that which grieves my Savior. How about you?
Copyright © 2005 Terry L. Craig
Other articles you may find of interest:
The Series on the Supernatural in the Church
Introduction-- Prophecies, Dreams, Visions, & Angels?
Square One, What Do You Believe, PART 1
Looking for "A Word," PART 2
IS God Speaking in the Here and Now?, PART 3
Who is Qualified to Hear from God? PART 4
False Ideas We Have about People God Can Use, PART 5
Examples of Healing, PART 6
Prophecy, A Simple Description, PART 7
Personal Prophecy-- Is it Real? Should We Seek It?, PART 8
Prophets--True and False, PART 9
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.