A Proper Christian Mysticism?

mysticismIs there a place for Christian “mysticism?” Thinking of the various incense-laden mysticisms of the East, some implying a denial of the Creator/creature distinction or a strong doctrine of Revelation, many Christians, especially Protestant ones, would vigorously reject the notion. Writing about the “intimacy of relation” we find in our Union with Christ, Reformed theologian John Murray does not shy away from suggesting properly Christian “mysticism”:

Here indeed is mysticism on the highest plane. It is not the mysticism of vague unintelligible feeling or rapture. It is the mysticism of communion with the one true and living God, and it is communion with the one true and living God because and only because it is communion with the three distinct persons of the Godhead in the strict particularity which belongs to each person in that grand economy of saving relationship to us. Believers know the Father and have fellowship with him in his own distinguishing character and operation as Father. They know the Son and have fellowship with him in his own distinguishing character and operation as the Son, the Saviour, the Redeemer, the exalted Lord. They know and have fellowship with the Holy Spirit in his own distinguishing character and operation as the Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Sanctifier. It is not the blurred confusion of rapturous ecstasy. It is faith solidly founded on the revelation deposited for us in the Scripture and it is faith actively receiving that revelation by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. But it is also faith tha stirs the deepest springs of emotion in the raptures of love and joy. Believers enter into the holy of holies of communion with the triune God and they do so because they have been raised up together and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). Their life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). They draw nigh in full assurance of faith having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and their bodies washed with pure water because Christ is not entered into holy places made with hands but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for them (Heb. 9:24)

-Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, pp. 172-173

So is there a place for a properly Christian mysticism? Yes–within the coordinates of trinitarianly-conceived Union with Christ, the Scriptures teach us that we can rejoice and delight in communion with Father, Son, and Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria

6 thoughts on “A Proper Christian Mysticism?

  1. “Mysticism” as a term is a bit like “spirituality”.

    One must necessarily ask ‘what kind?’ There’s orthodox spirituality, nutty spirituality and everything flavour in between.

    Lots of Christians use the term mysticism and never come close to anything ‘new-agey’. Your point is well-taken that we should look to what people actually mean by it. It’s refreshing to hear a ‘Reformed’* guy not jump to conclusions and tear down everything mystical. *even if he’s just kind of reformed’ish’.

  2. I agree, Christianity needs to be reintroduced to the Divinity within and when we listen to Christ in the boat of mysticism we won’t be afraid to follow His commands even when their is a storm outside.

  3. Is it possible then – in our modern day way of speaking – to include “rapturous” experiences in our worship of our triune God, even for us Reformed guys? I have had too many such experiences in my own prayer and worship to doubt that it is possible. What say you?

  4. One of the great tragedies of splitting the Unidivied Church into East and West was that the West, further divided by all the reformative disputes, lost touch with the mystic inheritance of Christianity. Christ, who is always right on time, was incarnated in an age that was fascinated by mysticism—Platonic, neo-Platonic, Alexandrian, and even Roman (cf. Vergil’s fourth Eclogue, which many Christians—including myself—have perceived as a mystic poet’s prediction of Christ’s incarnation). I do not think this is coincidence. Just as Christ used Hebrew monotheism, Greek Koine, and Roman roads and jurisprudence as components of His Church’s ministry, I think, also, He used the world’s need for a spirituality, expressed in the yearning toward mysticism, as part of that same ministry. The plain superficiality of “aw shucks—slap each other on the back—shake the preacher;s hand—and start pickin’ the banjo” style of worship needs to be jettisoned and replaced by a more mystical, liturgic worship in which the Eucharist is at least as important as the sermon.

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