By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
The purpose of this post is to warn against Christian mysticism, which, know it or not, is common today. But we need to know what is meant by “Christian mysticism.” Here is my own simple definition of it: it is the belief that God not only speaks to us through the pages of his inspired and infallible Word, the Bible, but also speaks directly to us, as he did to persons we read about in the Bible, such as Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, John, and others. Just as he spoke to those persons of long ago through dreams, visions, voices, revelations, inner impressions, angels, and perhaps by other means, Christian mystics think he does the same thing today.
But historic, orthodox Christianity says that those means of communication from God served their purpose long ago, and ended with the completion of the contents of the Bible. In other words, historic, orthodox Christianity believes that if we want to hear from God, we don’t need new dreams, visions, voices, revelations, inner impressions, or other experiences. Instead, to hear from God we need to read the Bible. And, though he will not speak to us through the Bible in an audible voice, he will speak through to our hearts and minds. Perhaps we can compare it reading a letter from a friend. We do not hear the friend’s voice, but he or she speaks to us through his or her words.
Here are some quotes about the importance of the Bible. These quotes are representative of what has always been believed by orthodox Christians.
The first quote is taken from the doctrinal statement of the Baptist Bible Fellowship, International, as found on that organization’s website. It says: “We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men supernaturally inspired; that it has truth without any admixture of error for its matter; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the age, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man; the true center of Christian union and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.”
This same point was made in William Cathcart’s Baptist Encyclopedia, written in the 1800’s. Part of the last paragraph of its article on the inspiration of the Bible says this:
“…we believe that we have in these Scriptures the sole and sufficient divine authority and rule regarding the way of salvation, and regarding every Christian doctrine, duty, and hope. Christians ask no other standard. No human authority can for a moment take its place. What it teaches they feel bound to believe; what it commands they feel bound to practice, and that only.”
The next quote is taken from Bible-believing theologian John L. Dagg’s Manual Of Theology, which was written in the 1800’s. The quote is taken from his chapter on the origin and authority of the Bible. It was taken from the Reformed Reader website.
Dagg wrote: “Whether, as a rule of faith, of duty, or of hope, the authority of the Bible is supreme. We may rely on the testimony of men, but they sometimes deceive us. We may regulate our conduct by the command of those who are over us, or by the dictates of our own conscience, but rulers may command what is wrong, and conscience is not infallible. We may cherish hopes founded on human promises, or the natural tendencies of things, but human promises are often delusive, and the promises of Nature are buds which, however beautiful and fragrant, are often blasted before they produce fruit. God never deceives. ‘The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.’ When the Bible speaks, all else may be silent, and its decisions leave no room for doubt and admit no appeal.”
The previous quotes have something in common: they were written by individuals that did not, and that do not, believe in receiving new communications from God in any way. And quotes affirming the same thing could be multiplied by the thousands from many other sources.
To go along with the foregoing quotes, here is a link to an excellent article on what is called “the sufficiency of Scripture,” in contrast to the idea that we can receive new communications from God: http://www.gotquestions.org/sufficiency-of-Scripture.html.
Christian mysticism is dangerous. While one can be a true and dedicated Christian and a mystic, Christian mysticism is dangerous, for it opens up the door to so-called communications from God that contradict the Bible. I think all mysticism, including Christian mysticism is a fulfillment of the apostle Paul’s statements in verses 1 – 6 of the fourth chapter of his first letter to his preacher-friend, Timothy. Here is what he told him: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
Some of the foregoing statements from Paul to Timothy do not apply to Christian mystics. But I am convinced that these statements do apply to them: “Now the Spirit (and Paul means the Holy Spirit) speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” Christian mystics have been misled by “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” These spirits have convinced them they are hearing or seeing new messages from God, and sometimes the messages are “doctrines of devils.”
Examples of Christian mystics giving heed to seducing spirits. Maybe 50 years ago a man became convinced, through some so-called special revelation from God, that he should ignore certain doctrines in the Bible in order to have so-called Christian fellowship with the adherents of a religion that claims to be Christian but which teaches a false way of salvation. He came to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit had directed him to do so, and he, therefore, became a leader in the unBiblical and anti-Biblical ecumenical movement. Had he followed the teaching of the Bible in many places, such as in verses 6 – 10 of chapter one of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he would not have given heed to Satan’s helpers called “seducing spirits.” Here are verses 6 – 10: “6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
A second example of a Christian mystic giving heed to seducing spirits. A few years ago, I attended a luncheon for Christian pastors. Right at the beginning of the meeting, one of them stood up and said he had received a new word from God the night before, and had written it down. He then read it as God’s message to us. My thought at the time was, “We have an inspired and infallible Bible that could be preached from, and instead this man gives us a so-called new message from God!” It so happens that some, and perhaps many, of those men are very tolerant of Seventh Day Adventism, a so-called Christian denomination that began in the 1800’s, and which, up until more-recent recent years, has been considered a cult, or at least cultic. It was considered to be such because for a number of reasons, one of which is that its female leader, Ellen G. White, was a mystic who claimed to have received new messages from God for her followers. It might have been at that same luncheon that this cultic denomination had brochures at each table, and no leader said anything in objection to it. I privately voiced my objection to the reading of the so-called new word from God, and to the brochures on the table, and have not attended one since then.
It is very significant that this cultic denomination now uses Gospel concerts in its churches to gain acceptance among those who, until recent years, had rejected this denomination as unorthodox because they been indoctrinated in sound Biblical teaching and had been taught about the falsehoods of this unorthodox denomination. But these days few pastors teach Biblical theology in their churches, and even fewer will say any group is unorthodox, unless the group is so far off track it can’t be ignored.
A third example of a Christian mystic giving heed to seducing spirits. As you might know, Beth Moore is a popular speaker and author whose ministry is primarily to women. What you might not know is that she is quite mixed up in her theology. She is, no doubt, a dedicated Christian woman, but that does not mean we should overlook her doctrinal confusion and errors.
What follows is an example of Beth Moore’s claim to receive special revelations from God. She reminds me of Ellen G. White of the Seventh Day Adventists, who claimed to have received special revelations from God.The quote is taken from the July – September 2009 issue of The Quarterly Journal, published by Personal Freedom Outreach. PFO quotes from page 252 of her book, “Praying God’s Word.” She wrote:”Never in all my life had I entered the Holy of Holies with God in such a powerful and sustained way. For months I met with Him from the time my children went to school until they walked back through the door. I didn’t answer the phone. I didn’t go to lunch. I met with God day in and day out. He revealed treasures to me that I never could have articulated in words in a ten-week study. At times I literally moved to the floor to record His revelations because I was overwhelmed by His Holy Presence.”
Unless you believe God still gives revelations today, you will see that her claim to such revelations is quite dangerous. Well-taught Christians believe that the Bible contains all the revelations we need to know. It is the only infallible source for what we should believe and how we should behave.
Personal Freedom Outreach has 3 long articles about Beth Moore. Each one is valuable and can be ordered from the publisher and some of the information can be read at their website. Here is a link to it: www.pfo.org.
The articles from Personal Freedom Outreach prove Beth Moore is not a reliable student or teacher of the Bible. One article has a lot to say about her method of interpreting the Bible. After reading a number of examples from her books, I have to agree with the author of one of the PFO articles, who wrote this about her hermeneutics (method of interpreting the Bible): “This brings us to Beth Moore and the manner in which she handles Scripture. By her own admission she employs hyperbole and overstatement. And in some cases she ignores the historical, generational, and cultural setting, as well as the immediate context of the Bible. She makes up stories and meanings that are completely foreign to the text. Moreover, at times, she creates scenarios that are pure fiction, injecting fabricated information into the text. None of us would want someone saying that we said something we didn’t say. Moore’s fast and loose handling of Scripture often has God saying things He didn’t say.”
Moore does not respond well to her critics. Consider the following example. The quote is from page xv of her book, “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things”. It is taken from PFO’s July – September 2007 The Quarterly Journal: “I cannot write to please man as much as I’d like to at times. So, when you’ve turned to the last page, if you’re not pleased, kindly consider telling God and not me. My self-esteem is shakier than His.” It is quite possible that her attitude toward her critics is the result of her mystical orientation. For if God speaks directly to her, who are we to question what she says God says?
Moore’s mysticism is verified in, perhaps, all of PFO articles about her. But it is considered more fully in PFO’s January – March 2009 The Quarterly Journal. Here’s another example of her mysticism: “You know what He told me not too long ago? I told you when I first began this whole concept — He first started teaching it to me about 5 years ago — and He said these words to me, “Baby, you have not even begun to believe Me. You haven’t even begun.’ You know what He said to me a few days ago? ‘Honey, I just want you to know we’re just beginning….Honey, this is what we do for the rest of your life.'”
I have no personal problem with Beth Moore. But since she has a great deal of influence on Christian women, her mysticism needs to be made known.
I have quoted from the King James Version. The quotes were taken from this website: www.biblegateway.com.