Monday, February 18, 2008

Mystical Life of Communion (notes) V

Today Stephen broke into discussing Mysticism. This was mostly new ground for me, although I had read a little on the Desert Fathers and a few of the more modern mystics like David Brainerd. Stephen put forth very thorough disclaimers on Mysticism, while also stressing the value of studying them. He helped dispel many of the misconceptions and skepticisms that are common to protestants concerning believers who lived prior to 1500. He did an amazing job of giving history and context for the mystics.

On mysticism Stephen said, “it is almost impossible for one with a belief in an orthodox witness to truth to say, “I embrace mysticism.” He followed that up by saying with confidence, “I embrace the insights mysticism offers concerning the Biblical reality of communion with God.”

On the significance of mysticism he pointed out that mysticism (mystical theology within Christianity) as well as monasticism (which relied heavily on mystical theology) have been very influential in the ideological history of IHOP.

So, to answer all your questions, “Yes, I am becoming a monk. Or at least monkish.”


There are three ways in which mysticism can be defined:

1. Part or Element of Religion
Almost all mystics considered themselves Christians in the normal sense, while embracing “mystical theology and exercises in order to further their practice of Christianity.”

2. Process or Way of Life
“While the goal... of mysticism may be a specific kind of encounter with God, the whole way of life leading up to that encounter falls beneath the banner of mysticism.” “Practice and theology are both shaped and altered by that attainment of certain experience.” -- Encounter God, and your theology and practices will be changed.

3. Effort to Express the Direct Consciousness of God
Mysticism is all about preparing for and reacting to the immediate or direct presence of God.
Much of the goal in the writings of the mystics about their experiences were not to brag, but rather to spur others on to attainment. They expressed their encounters as beyond normal, and out of their own control, thus not promoting themselves to a place of elitism, but rather rightly giving the credit to God for the encounter.

The benefit of looking at the mystics is to learn from Church History so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel, in a sense, on pursuing communion with God. Many wise men have gone before us, and it is wise for us to glean from their experience while keeping our reference of the Word of God, as they did themselves. They also spur us on, and show us what can be possible. They disprove cessationism by their lives and testimonies. God is still very active in this world, especially towards those who seek his presence.

Mystics were those who took Mathew 22:1-2’s invitation to love seriously. They gave all they had to encounter the love of God.

Mystics often used a hermaneutic that was heavily allegorical and typological. This is often bad, as we don’t believe most scripture to be allegorical or typological, although some of it is. On the portions that are, the mystics have incredible insight as they meditated on them heavily. This is especially true of the Song of Songs.

Union with God is one of the most consistent themes in mystical writings. This is often attacked, as it occasionally became extreme (deification, divinization).

Another notable theme is apophatic theology, in which they believed God to be altogether unknowable. While it is true that scripture does not promise exhaustive knowledge of God, it does exhort us to seek knowledge of Him, and God does reveal significant parts of himself so that mankind can know him. Our belief that God is knowable is known as cataphatic theology.

Mystics focused much on the eternal, but also took that hope into their daily lives. They talked much of the journey of life toward eternity. They saw life as an opportunity for purification to arrive at perfection in eternity.

Origen, the first major mystic, had a huge amount of writings, and is foundational. His influence is everywhere!

The Desert Fathers & Monasticism.

Healing, miracles, visions, etc.

Gregory the Great, Rule of Benedict (RB).

Coenobitical, practice of community
Eremitical, practice of solitude, hermitism.
Mellifluous, sweet, pleasant
epigrammatic, clever, precise
Mendicants, men like Francis of Assisi, who possessed nothing, later to be associated with beggars.
Benguines, women like Francis, under Saint Clare.


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Kansas City, Missouri, United States
I'm a full-time lover of Jesus. I work, learn, and pray at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. I live simple, and seek God with all my heart.

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