Mysticism, Part 3

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Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
—John 6:68-69

Too many people today search for Jesus where He cannot be found. They dabble in practices that only distract them from the real truth. 'The Four and Twenty Elders Casting Their Crowns before the Divine Throne' by William BlakeUnlike Peter above, they’ve opened their minds to too many foreign sources of supposed truth, only to stumble into error.

You won’t find Christ in a labyrinth. No dervish dance will reveal Him. No shortcut exists to where He’s to be found. He’s to be found where He’s always been and that place isn’t trendy, quick accessed, or “spiritual.”

With so many people seeking experiences versus seeking Christ, is it any wonder that mysticism of all kinds returns to vogue? Christians possess a rich history of mysticism, so we shouldn’t reject it outright. But in an age when the practice becomes the ends, why should we not expect a new Gnosticism to arise?

Knowledge for knowledge sake puffs up. Even supposedly Christian knowledge can do this if we miss the point of why we’re doing what we’re doing. To whom shall we go? To Christ alone. If He is not the sole reason and the sole obsession for why we end up on the mystic path, then we descend into a kind of neo-paganism with a Christian veneer.

Creatives and high-fantasy folks will suffer the most for failing to ask the same question as Peter. Tolkien won’t get you to heaven, yet no lack of travelers down the Middle Earth road exist. The allure of the otherworldly burns strong in us, yet that desire for something just slightly unearthly—if it misses the ultimate point—makes for a dangerous longing. One day you’re a simple, orthodox Christian, the next you’re Bishop Pike.

If we’re not grounded in the Scriptures, in prayer, in consistent discipleship, and in strong community, then mysticism won’t help us one iota. In fact, it may actually send us down the wrong path. For the mature Christian, mysticism’s not its own path, either. It’s not something one pursues. The pursuit has always been Jesus alone. If the Lord should decide to catch you or me up to the third heaven, then let’s enjoy the journey. But by all means, let’s not make the goal that journey or we’ll wind up someplace far worse.

17 thoughts on “Mysticism, Part 3

  1. Good conclusion. And actually, good starting point. If Jesus alone isn’t our sole “obsession” then the tools of self-help, the path of mystery, the role of church activities, the acts of service – all become ends in themselves or means to a different end which could very well lead us away from Jesus. So, again, thanks for the series.

    One comment, though. You stated that the “desire for something just slightly unearthly—if it misses the ultimate point—makes for a dangerous longing.” I don’t know that the longing is dangerous – it is God-given (a la Augustine’s restless heart analogy) but the path it could take us down may very well be dangerous. Which is what you stated in your conclusion, just looking at the sentence structure. 🙂

    Blessings, Lyn from Thought Renewal

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  3. Very ecclesiastical conclusion, (as in the book ‘קֹהֶלֶת’.) I suppose the whole concept of mysticism escapes my interest, mostly because to me, it’s a given. Our entire Christian walk is wrapped up in the huge “why?” of grace, and so we walk as though on a precipice, intrepid and fearful at the same time. But we must “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” or lose our way. We are surrounded by mysteries, the key is to focus on the right one.

    But if we lose sight of the wonder, the sheer, unadulterated wonder of the knowledge and presence of God in our lives, we are equally lost. It’s not something we can forge through intellectually. Sans childlike eyes we miss Him completely, too childishly accepting, and we are easily led astray…Ah, Paradox!

    • David,

      Yep.

      I think mysticism and wonder go together to some extent. Mystics have a healthy appreciation for Creation and how God teaches through it. And I find the strongest critics of mysticism are also the ones that downplay wonder.

  4. Peter Smythe

    Dan, I am as Pentecostal/Word as they come, but all of these paradoxes, precipices, and dabbling practices are much too mystical for me.

    • Peter,

      The paradoxes within Christianity can’t be avoided:

      The Word made flesh?
      Jesus is fully human and fully God?
      The infinite God places Himself in finite humans?
      The Kingdom is both now and not yet?

      And that’s just a few.

      • Indeed, and so many are so enthralled with one who once was, now is not, and will come up, not realizing they are on the wrong road. What is the song by Michael Card? “For the power of paradox opens your eyes, and blinds those who say they can see.”

  5. adam mcintosh

    I just viewed your post on paedobaptism/communion from July 2005. You wanted a proper reason as to why most paedobaptists are against paedocommunion. I read the comments and it didn’t seem like anyone really answered your question. I am sorry to post about this on your mysticism post, but wanted to make sure you read it!

    It is not illogical to be both paedobaptist and anti-paedocommunion. The reason many reject paedocommunion is because of the strict guidlines Paul sets forth in 1 Cor. 11:27-34. He specifically says that whoever eats and drinks, should do so in a worthy manner, examining and judging himself first, and also discerning the Lord’s body. There are different interpretations of this verse, but it seems clear to me that when someone is to eat and drink of the Supper, they should be abReasons for not partaking would be unrepentant sin, not properly understanding le to examine themselves as being worthy to partake or not. Christ’s sacrifice, or lack of faith.

    Therefore, no one should partake unless they are able to do these things. Of course, the exact age will differ from individual to individual. I personally think most young children who are properly discipled can partake worthily. But since young infants have no capability of professing their faith or using their minds to discern sin, they are prohibited.

    Blessings~
    Adam

    • Adam,

      It’s like I said. If there are strict guidelines for communion (that would preclude children from taking it), those same strict guidelines would call into question paedobaptism. The paedobaptists can’t have that cake and not have communion too. But they don’t. I find that to be massively contradictory when the arguments for one can’t be used to support the other, and the arguments against one aren’t also arguments against the other!

  6. Just read the link about Bishop Pike (I’d never heard of him)…but makes me think there is a HUGE difference between the Christian mystical tradition and the occult. Seances and spiritists are definitely occult.

    • Tina,

      It starts somewhere. People who don’t show discernment wind up going from Christian to mystic to occultist. That’s not the way it should be, yet for too many folks, that’s how it goes. Look at the huge rise in “Christian Wiccans” for more proof.

  7. Peter Smythe

    Dan, my comment was just tongue-in-cheek although I believe that most of the talk of Christian mysticism involves the introspective Christianity that is foreign to the age of the apostles and the early church to Constantine.

    • Tina,

      Yes. I’ve had conversations with Christians exploring Wicca as part of their “quest to know God.” Google “Christian Wiccan” and you’ll be amazed at what comes up.

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