Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mysticism Is Not Christian Spirituality

True biblical spirituality consists of having communion with God in Christ. Whenever people lose sight of this, they tend toward natural speculation, which they imagine to be extraordinarily lofty and spiritual. So-called Christians commit an especially grievous error when they walk this path. Removing Christ from the equation and looking inward to find God is the exact philosophy of Pantheism. It is not, nor ever will be, Christianity. Hinduism and other such Pantheistic religions busy themselves in such meditation and speculation.

The Dutch theologian Wilhelmus à Brakel, writes:

“The difference between the self-denial, love, beholding of God, etc., of the mystics and of the truly godly consists in this: The mystics comprehend, say, and do everything according to their natural intellect, fantasy, and imagination, doing so without the Spirit. They do not make use of the Lord Jesus (that is, as a ransom, and righteousness unto justification and peace), as being the only way of approach unto God, and unto true and genuine sanctification. Such exercises and this way are hidden from them. Those, however, who are truly godly, regenerate, and who truly believe, live by faith and not by sight. In all things they make use of the Lord Jesus. They come to the Father by Him, accustom themselves to behold God in the face of Jesus Christ, do everything as in the presence of God, and walk before God’s countenance in humility, fear, love, and obedience. These are the old paths. From this you can observe that the difference between the mystics and the truly godly is as the difference between imagination and truth; between being natural and without the Spirit and being led by the Spirit; between worldly and heavenly; between seeking an unknown God and serving the true God; and between being engaged without, and contrary to, the Holy Scriptures (dabbling with invisible things), and living according to the written Word of God. A truly godly person remains humble and serves God in Spirit and truth, and is thus kept from the temptation of entertaining high-minded and fabricated imaginations.” (1)

After reading that paragraph, one should easily see why mysticism has such an appeal for Charismatics. The whole Charismatic movement condones and practices spiritual behaviors, often called disciplines, never once recorded, let alone commanded in Scripture.

For instance, where in Scripture are we taught all the barking and laughing nonsense of the Toronto Blessing types? Where does Scripture teach mapping out cities and binding the spiritual ‘strong men’? Nowhere! But does this fact stop people from dreaming up this stuff? No it does not. I’ve recently heard of something called “third day prayer.” I haven’t the foggiest clue what that is supposed to be, but I can tell you this: It isn’t in the Bible. Where in the Bible are we told that evil spirits are causes of everything undesirable? I am not kidding when I say that I have heard people pray against the demon of post-nasal drip!

When I was young, I remember hearing some of the mothers at church talking about how they comforted their frightened children at night. The little impressionable children who were afraid of the dark, or perhaps afraid of the numerous evil spirits their parents constantly obsessed over, were told to hold their blanket as if they holding a hand and to pretend (read: visualize) that they were holding Jesus’ hand. Not only was this considered good Christian advice, despite that fact that Scripture nowhere teaches this, but it was strengthened by the supposed testimony of some of the children that they actually felt like they were holding a real hand! Any Christian who is not troubled by such behavior needs to have his head examined. Where do these people get the notion that it is permissible to make up spiritual exercises nowhere taught in Scripture?

1. The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 2, ch. 43


  1. You must be getting awfully tired of having me come in here and "Amen!" your every expose of mysticism/charismania. For several years I chased down this path to nowhere, and was upset that I didn't experience what others claimed to. The Scriptures are so clear as to what God expects of us!

  2. No, Marie, I can use all the "Amens" I can get. This subject is personal for me. When I was a teenager, I read lots of the so-called Christian mystics. Thomas a Kempis is the only one who wasn't out in left field most of the time. Thankfully, God never permitted me to have any "experience." Plus also I have a cynical side to me that questioned the validity of any "knowledge" about God that does not come from Scripture.

  3. I read Kempis' "Imitation of Christ" some years back, and the red flags were going up all over the place for me. I was shocked last year when a fellow Bible study leader mentioned him in a positive light.

    The biggest stumbling block for me in that book was when Kempis quotes "Jesus" as saying, "if you cannot endure the present sufferings, how will you endure the fires of Purgatory?" Also there was a lot about transubstantiation and Eucharistic adoration. I figured if the "Jesus" of Kempis' visions is contradicting the Jesus of the Bible, they couldn't both be right.

    Nowadays, it's bizarre how much the contemplative spirituality is invading otherwise-sound Protestant churches.

  4. Julian of Norwich is the one who scares me. By the way, many reputable scholars think that the 4th part of the Imitation is not genuine. it is excessively superstitious and romish. I haven't read it in ages and don't plan to either.

    Fenelon is another character that has good press in many evangelical circles. I find this troubling because he was a leading figure in the Counter-Reformation.


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