FREQUENTLY  ASKED  QUESTIONS
ABOUT  "CHRISTIAN"  MYSTICISM

 

Index of FAQ about "Christian" Mysticism

 

What Is Monastic Mysticism?  /  Are Protestant Churches Practicing Roman Catholic Monastic Mysticism?  /  What are Some Synonyms for Monastic Mysticism?

 

Many within the Evangelical, Baptist, and Reformed camps have sought ways to include the Holy Spirit in their spiritual lives without falling into the extremes of the Charismatic movement. This pursuit has led many to the monastic mystical traditions. These are mystical practices which find their origins in the seclusion of Roman Catholic monasteries. Often, Christians are drawn to these monastic traditions because these mystical monks are perceived as being very spiritually disciplined. This is in contrast to the Charismatic which is perceived to be governed by a lack of self-control. In any event, there is a modern revival of monastic mysticism.

Today, the essential elements of monastic mysticism bear the title “contemplative spirituality.” Other titles which are used within this movement as synonyms for “contemplative spirituality” are “spiritual disciplines,” “the contemplatives,” and “spiritual formation.” All of these are modern synonyms for “monastic mysticism.” Be very careful as numerous modern-day authors and preachers will refer to “the spiritual disciplines” without clearly identifying these disciplines as belonging to the monastic mystical traditions. These are spiritual disciplines which were formed within Roman Catholic monasteries. They are not the same spiritual disciplines which were taught by the Apostles. An illustration of the intentional misrepresentation of these terms can be found in a CD set by Mike Bickle1 titled, “Contemplative Prayer: The Journey into Fullness.” This CD set is promoted on The International House of Prayer’s (IHOP) website. This organization actually belongs to the Third Wave movement; nevertheless, this is a great example of why religious teachers today choose to use vague terminology instead of clearly identifying their teaching as belonging to the monastic mystical traditions. In it, Mike Bickle makes the following statements:2

[M]ystics is a legitimate term… I don’t want to fight the war …so I’m just saying contemplative prayer, but I mean the mystics—even here at IHOP I say, let’s just stay with contemplatives …I don’t have time to argue… so I call them the contemplatives…. I don’t want to go into the semantics, the debates…so, I’m calling it the contemplatives… I don’t have time to argue… but I need the mystics. … a study of the lives of the mystics, the contemplatives, through history, and clearly the most inspiring, compelling examples of history, in my world, have come out of the Catholic dark ages. I can’t find anything like it in modern times, in America, in the Protestant world.

Monastic mysticism is simply being renamed. People know what Roman Catholic monastic tradition entails, but they don’t know what “contemplatives” means. Too many people realize that the majority of the monastic traditions were not based upon an accurate understanding of the Bible. In fact, there was a reformation movement which separated many Christians from these errors. Because of this, many Evangelical, Baptist and Reformed churches would not allow Roman Catholic tradition to be taught within their churches. They would be opposed to a book titled Catholic Monastic Mystical Prayer Methods, but it seems that they would welcome the same book if it were titled Contemplative Prayer. The reason is that most Christians do not associate “contemplative prayer” with monastic mysticism. However, Mike Bickle reveals that they are one and the same. “The contemplatives,” “contemplative spirituality,” the “spiritual disciplines,” and “spiritual formation” are all simply a modern way of saying “monastic mysticism” without invoking the controversy that would usually arise from teaching monastic mysticism within Protestant churches. The willingness of the proponents of these types of mysticism to deceive others so as not to evoke criticism or opposition is in itself a sign of the working of the spirit of antichrist!

The teachings of monastic mysticism—contemplative spirituality—have been introduced into churches today through a renewed interest in the writings and teachings of the early Catholic mystics—particularly the Desert Fathers. The Desert Fathers were Christian hermits who lived in the wilderness in order to fully devote themselves to God. They dwelt in small isolated communities and spent their lives seeking a deeper relationship with God. Today’s contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks. It is these monks who were the first to promote the mantra as a prayer tool within Christianity. Daniel Goleman, a meditative scholar, writes in his book The Meditative Mind, “One meditation scholar made this connection when he said: ‘The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East ... the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.’”3 Ray Yungen, a researcher who has extensively studied mysticism within the church, adds, “Consequently, the desert fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere—anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus.”4

The Desert Fathers were influential in merging Eastern spirituality with Christianity. Recognizing this, Ray Yungen makes a wise observation, “In many ways the desert fathers were like Cain—eager to please but not willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord and do what is right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can for their lack of discernment.”5 In the Biblical account of Cain and Abel, God made His wishes known regarding the acceptable sacrifice. Abel obeyed God and his sacrifice was accepted, but Cain chose to ignore the desire of God and offer a sacrifice of his own will. According to Scripture, his sacrifice was unacceptable (Gen. 4:3–7). In looking at the testimonies of the Desert Fathers, these were very committed individuals. We can’t fault them for their desires. They seem to have genuinely desired intimacy with God, but they turned to the wrong source to accomplish this. They displayed a lack of discernment,6 and we certainly can fault their methods. It is these methods which have laid the foundation for a form of spirituality that is popular among most Christian denominations today and which is directing people back to gurus and Eastern spirituality. But this shouldn’t be surprising considering that the Desert Fathers originally derived their methods, in part, from gurus and Eastern spiritual practices.

 


1. Mike Bickle founded the Kansas City Fellowship which is now known as the Metro City Fellowship. While pastoring this church, he led a group of men which many today refer to as “the Kansas City Prophets.” Additionally, Mike Bickle founded the International House of Prayer (IHOP), an organization which spawned the International House of Prayer University. Mike Bickle is also well known for organizing the annual OneThing youth conference.
2. Mike Bickle, “Contemplative Prayer pt1,” Source: “Dangerous doctrinal trends,” 13.
3. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (1988), 53, Source: Yungen, “The Desert Fathers.”
4. Yungen, “The Desert Fathers.”
5. Ibid.
6. God expects His people to discern between right and wrong, and between those who serve God and those who do not:
 
Hebrews 5:12–14: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
 
Malachi 3:17–18: “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Works Cited

1. “Dangerous doctrinal trends that are growing in the Body of Christ.” Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/dangerous.pdf.
2. Yungen, Ray. “The Desert Fathers – Borrowing From The East.” Lighthouse Trails Research Blog, August 23, 2011. Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=930.

 

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