FREQUENTLY  ASKED  QUESTIONS
ABOUT  "CHRISTIAN"  MYSTICISM

 

Index of FAQ about "Christian" Mysticism

 

Does God Want His People to Stop Thinking?  /  Is Mysticism Reliable?  /  How Does God Speak to His People Today?

 

Mysticism is deceptive. At its heart, mysticism denies the authority of Scripture. As such, it belongs to the spirit of antichrist. It teaches that truth is relative because truth can be based upon subjective personal experiences. Once again, “mysticism” according to Merriam-Webster.com is, “The belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).”1

Too many Christians today are being encouraged to seek God’s truth and guidance for their lives through mystical experiences instead of through the Bible and Biblical prayer. Pastor John MacArthur poignantly expresses the thinking behind this mystical movement within Christianity:2

[T]he Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually. In neo-orthodoxy, that same subjectivism is imposed on all the doctrines of historic Christianity. Familiar terms are used, but are redefined or employed in a way that is purposely vague—not to convey objective meaning, but to communicate a subjective symbolism. After all, any ‘truth’ theological terms convey is unique to the person who exercises faith. What the Bible means becomes unimportant. What it means to me is the relevant issue. All of this resoundingly echoes Kierkegaard's concept of “truth that is true for me.”

By removing the Bible as our objective standard for truth, it becomes little more than other mystical guide-books such as The Kabala, the Vedas, and the Tipitaka. In his book Velvet Elvis, founder and former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church Rob Bell writes, “Is the Bible the best that God can do? With God being so massive and awe-inspiring and full of truth, why is his book capable of so much confusion? Why did God do it this way? Where does one go in trying to make sense of what the Bible even is, let alone what it says?”3

Despite the opinion of Rob Bell and other Christian mystics, the truth of the Bible is not subjective or open to personal interpretation. The Apostle Peter teaches in 2 Peter 1:15–21 that the truth of God’s Word trumps all personal experience because it is free from personal interpretation:

And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Peter references his personal experience with God. While on the Mount of Transfiguration, he saw Jesus transformed into His future glory (Mark 9:1–13). He also witnessed Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus. Furthermore, he heard the voice of God declare Jesus to be His Son. Nevertheless, the Apostle Peter does not present these personal experiences as evidence of the gospel and doctrines that he has been preaching. Instead, Peter declares that there is a more sure reason to believe these things. That reason is prophecy. It is the speaking forth of God’s Word which has today been compiled into what we know as “the Bible.” The Apostle Peter teaches that the Bible is a more certain foundation for determining truth because it came directly from God, and it bypassed human interpretation in its transmission.

Personal experience is always subject to personal interpretation. Any method which emphasizes spiritual growth or enlightenment through combining Scripture with personal and subjective interpretation is unbiblical. Similarly, any method which emphasizes spiritual growth or enlightenment through bypassing Scripture in search of a personal and subjective experience is unbiblical. Mystical methods, such as contemplative prayer, body prayers, and lectio divina, are unbiblical because they elevate personal experience above the objective truth of Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that the Bible contains all the truth that we need to correctly serve and honor God. It is sufficient. We do not need to combine Scripture with some mystical method in order to properly receive and understand what we are reading. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to pursue the principles of contemplative spirituality. Instead, the Bible is the standard for truth by which men will be judged (John 12:48). God will not judge men based upon any revelation received outside of Scripture. There is only one revelation that we are expected to know and follow, and this revelation is the Bible.

Never does God encourage His people to stop thinking. On the contrary, Solomon warns us to guard our hearts in Proverbs 4:23. We cannot do this when we disengage our minds and stop discerning between truth and error. The way that we guard our heart includes remembering the Bible’s instructions according to Prov. 4:20–23, and 26, “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. … Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”

Rather than tell us to place a cloud of unknowing and forgetting over our minds, we are told to remember God’s instructions and to ponder them in relation to our lives. We are to test every spirit, according to 1 John 4:1, to determine whether it is from God or from Satan, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We cannot test a spirit if we are not thinking. God does not desire that we disengage our minds in order that we might better commune with Him. This is why the Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:14–15 that we should pray and worship with our spirits and with our minds, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” God is not pleased by worship which does not engage the mind.

Jesus never taught contemplative prayer. Jesus never taught that prayer is seeking silence before God. Rather, when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray, say …” Prayer is us talking to God. According to Jesus’ example, we talk to God in the same way that we talk to anyone else (Luke 11:1–4).

When we want to hear God talk to us, we turn to the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The Holy Spirit teaches us by bringing to our remembrance what Christ has already said (John 14:26). Note that this is different from what lectio divina teaches. Lectio divina teaches that God speaks to us as we read His Word; however, careful study of this practice reveals that the intent behind this teaching is that God speaks new revelation to us as we read His Word. Lectio divina is a false teaching. God does not give us new revelation; God reminds us and teaches us to understand the truths and principles already revealed in His Word.

Jesus never taught contemplative prayer. He did not teach breath prayers and mantras. At its core, mantras and breath prayers—such as the Jesus Prayer—teach prayer through repetition. However, Jesus taught us to avoid vain repetitions in Matthew 6:7,4“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (KJV). The heathens practiced mantra prayers. Jesus taught that we should not copy the heathen method of praying.

God commands His people not to learn the way of the heathen. Jeremiah 10:25 says, “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen,” (KJV). In another article we considered Tilden Edwards’ statement that, “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality”6 Tilden Edwards is admitting that mysticism—or contemplative spirituality—is the church learning the ways of the heathen. Ray Yungen observes, “A Christian is supposed to evangelize those from Eastern religions, present them with the gospel rather than assimilate their mystical insights. That’s what the great commission was all about. That is what the crux of our opposition is all about. As a movement, those who practice contemplative prayer, on the whole, tend to develop spiritual kinship to Eastern religions, especially Buddhism.”7

The allure of mysticism is powerful and dangerous. It is an unbiblical practice—regardless of whether it is dressed in Christian terminology. As such, Christians should avoid “Christian” mysticism.

 


1. “Mysticism,” Merriam-Webster.com.
2. MacArthur, Reckless Faith, 26.
3. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith.
4. Matthew 6:7 (ESV): “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
The author chose to use the KJV translation of this passage for the sake of clarity in establishing his point. The KJV translation does not change the meaning of this passage because the Gentiles were heathens. They were foreigners who did not know the God of Israel and who practiced mantra prayers. As such, they were, indeed, heathens who repeated (heaped) empty (vain) phrases upon one another in their prayers.
5. Jeremiah 10:2 (ESV): Thus says the LORD: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them,”
The author chose to use the KJV translation of this passage for the sake of clarity in establishing his point. The KJV use of the term “heathens” is an acceptable translation of the word “nations” in this verse because the foreign (Gentile) nations did not follow after the God of Israel. As such, they were, indeed, heathens. God’s command was intended to prevent Israel from learning the spiritual depravities of these foreign nations.
6. Edwards, Spiritual Friend, 18–19.
7. “Thomas Merton – Contemplative.”

Works Cited

1. Bell, Rob. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. Zondervan, 2009.
2. Edwards, Tilden. Spiritual Friend. Paulist Press, 1980.
3. MacArthur, John. Reckless Faith: When The Church Loses Its Will To Discern. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994.
4 “Mysticism.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed September 24, 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mysticism.
5. “Thomas Merton – Contemplative, Mystic, Panentheist.” Lighthouse Trails Research Blog. Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/merton.htm.

 

The above comes from our book Sinister Spirit. Check out this book to see how "Christian" mysticism is linked to the spirit of antichrist.

 

Author: Timothy Zebell, 2014