Why is it important to stand against mysticism?

[1] Because mysticism’s emphasis on personal spiritual experiences as the source of truth overlooks the clear Biblical teaching about the sinfulness and ignorance of the human heart and mind.

Jeremiah 17:9 states: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ Romans 1:18-31 points out that mankind in its sinful rebellion against God persistently takes hold of revealed truth and distorts and corrupts it beyond recognition; how much more will the thoughts of its own heart and imagination be subject to corruption and distortion! Ephesians 4:17-24 commands us to avoid the futile, darkened thinking which characterizes those who do not know God, and Colossians 2:8 warns us to have nothing to do with ‘deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.’ 

Israel, abandoning God’s objective Word of truth, also abandoned the one, true God, and put in his place powerless gods of human creation:

‘But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ says the LORD.

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
 and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’
       (Jeremiah 2:11b-13)

These verses speak of physical idolatry - the creation of gods conceived in the human mind and formed by human hands. In mysticism a philosophical idolatry takes place - the creation of gods conceived in the human mind and formed by human perceptions and emotions. This sinful desire of mankind to create its own gods is its historic, habitual inclination, and is at the centre of mysticism.

Mysticism assumes that what the human heart and mind perceives is good and true. The Bible assumes the opposite: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away ...’ (Romans 3:10-12a). Mysticism assumes that inner impressions are the voice of God: the Bible records that such a concept of God’s truth is wrong. Eliphaz, gaining his understanding of God from his experiences (Job 4:12-16; 15:17), was rebuked by God: ‘I am angry with you ... because you have not spoken of me what is right ...’ (Job 42:7,8); God referred to his ideas as 'folly' (Job 42:8). 

[2] Because the mystical concept of truth undermines the finality, authority and authenticity of the written Word, and the completeness and finality of God’s self-revelation in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Mysticism assumes that there is more truth and reality to be discovered within. The Bible teaches that the whole of Scripture speaks of Christ (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; John 6:39-47; Hebrews 1-10), and that Jesus Christ is the full, complete and final revelation of God (John 1:18; 10:30; 14:1-9; Colossians 1:25-2:9; Hebrews 1:1-3).  In seeking additional truth beyond Scripture and beyond Jesus Christ mysticism within the church assumes and affirms that it is legitimate to add more truth to the truth revealed in and by Jesus Christ. Effectively, if not knowingly, denying that Jesus Christ is ‘the light of the world’  and ‘the truth’ (John 8:12 & 14:6, emphasis added), mysticism searches for additional light and truth, thus diluting, distorting and destroying the perfection of truth known by knowing Jesus Christ.

The future of Biblical Christianity hangs in the balance here. Either the Bible is the final, authentic and authoritative Word of God, and therefore the sole source of true truth, or anything is truth. Either Jesus Christ is the complete and final revelation of God, and therefore the only true God, or anything is god.  If mysticism, the way of personal inner impressions, is the right road to truth and the right road to knowing God, then ‘truth’ and ‘God’ have no objective meaning and cannot be defined.

It is imperative that Christians reclaim the once-for-all given objective Truth revealed in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.  This eternal Truth is, by God’s divine power, recorded for us in anticipation in the Old Testament and in reflection in the New Testament.

[3] Because the subjective theology of mysticism, with its personalised understanding of truth and reality, effectively reduces, and even denies, the significance of the death of Jesus Christ.

The death of Jesus Christ is an objective, changeless fact. So also is the meaning given to it by the Word of God: He died so that all who believe that he is who he claimed to be are, by that death, reconciled to God, declared right with God, and live within the presence of God without condemnation and guilt (John 3:16-18; 8:24; Romans 3:21-31; 5:6-9; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Hebrews 10:11-22).

Peace with God is an objective fact, grounded in the death of Jesus Christ, and not dependent on our subjective impressions (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20).

Union with God is an objective fact, grounded in the death of Jesus Christ, and not dependent on our subjective impressions (Colossians 1:19-22; 2:20; 3:3).

True joy is grounded on the objective facts of the good news about Jesus Christ (Luke 2:10; Philippians 3:1-9), and not dependent on our subjective impressions.

Irrespective of anything it might say about the death of Jesus Christ, mysticism cannot offer the glorious objective certainty contained in these and other verses. As long as truth and reality are perceived and determined by inner impressions of whatever kind, assurance of salvation is dependent on those impressions. Feelings rather than facts dictate one’s perception of salvation. The peace, the joy, the reconciliation with God, the forgiveness of sin, the removal of guilt, the freedom from condemnation - all are adrift at the mercy of the changing winds of our own inner feelings and fantasies. There is no stability. There is no real assurance.

Thus mysticism destroys the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, rendering irrelevant and impotent all the suffering that he endured on our behalf. 

[4] Because Biblical faith and Biblical repentance are both rational decisions based on objective facts, not irrational emotional responses.

Biblical faith is always grounded in facts. 

Jesus said: ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32).

Paul said: ‘I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day’ (2 Timothy 1:12).

The Bereans, hearing the Gospel preached by Paul, ‘examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ (Acts 17:12).

Paul encouraged Timothy ‘continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (2 Timothy 3:14,15); and he also told Timothy to be correct and diligent in the way he handled ‘the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).

Luke, introducing his Gospel, wrote ‘since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:3,4); and introducing Acts wrote: ‘In my former book ... I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach ...’ (Acts 1:1).

John makes it clear that his Gospel records facts about what Jesus did and taught, and that he recorded these facts so that we who read them could believe in Jesus Christ (John 20:30,31; 21:24,25).

Biblical faith always believes facts. It is never faith in fantasy, or fiction, or the figments of our imaginations. Nor is it open ended allowing the possibility of further revelation. The facts the Bible requires us to believe are the facts that it presents to us, centring in the person and work of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

This Biblical faith is an act of the mind and will: it is an act of obedience. It is the act in which I repent of (that is, change my mind about) my own concepts of who God is and believe what he has revealed in Jesus Christ his Son. Thus Biblical faith/repentance is the rejection of human ideas about God and spirituality; it is the deliberate rejection of the imaginations and impressions of the human mind. Biblical faith and repentance stand in direct contradiction of mystical spirituality.

Deep emotions will accompany and result from this biblical faith and repentance, but they are never the cause or the source of that faith and that repentance.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012