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Featured What exactly is "Christian Mysticism"?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Bee_Brian, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. Bee_Brian

    Bee_Brian New Member

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    What exactly is "Christian Mysticism"?



    I bought this book about religions a long time ago and only started to read it recently. Of course, being that I'm a Christian, I scanned the Christian part of the book first. I read about "Christian mysticism" and how it allowed believers to worship God without the need for a church. The idea was enticing to me and I made a little bit of research about it, but I don't know enough...

    Is Christian mysticism part of the New Age mumbo-jumbo that a lot of Christians consider Satanic? Or is it a legitimate way of being a Christian?

    Thank you.
     
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  2. bettercallpaul

    bettercallpaul I like I scream

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    Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity (both the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox traditions).

    The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied. They range from ecstatic visions of the soul's mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e., Lectio Divina).
     
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  3. St_Worm2

    St_Worm2 Senior Member Supporter

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    Question: "What is Christian mysticism?" What is Christian mysticism?

    Answer:
    The term "Christian mystic" is an oxymoron. Mysticism is not the experience of a Christian. Whereas Christian doctrine maintains that God dwells in all Christians and that they can experience God directly through belief in Jesus, Christian mysticism aspires to apprehend spiritual truths inaccessible through intellectual means, typically by emulation of Christ. The Bible tells us that Christ-likeness is achieved only by dying to self—not by self-effort at emulating anyone—and that spiritual truth is discerned through the intellect as guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who lives in all believers (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

    The closest valid experience of a Christian that might resemble mysticism to an unbelieving observer is when the Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit. For Christians, it is evident that the extraordinary wisdom, boldness, understanding, strength, etc. that such spiritual believers demonstrate is the result of being filled with the Spirit, as it is set forth in the Bible. Unbelievers cannot correctly comprehend such things. The Bible tells us why: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).

    Consciousness of God is part of the common definition of the mystic’s experience, but the only valid experience of this nature for the Christian is that which is allowed according to Scripture. "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Romans 8:16). Most modern mystical experiences suggest either things that don't really have much substance (make no meaningful contribution to the understanding of corporeal life) or things that would appear to challenge evangelical Bible doctrine, which invalidates the experience.

    The closest biblical account that an unbeliever might conclude was a mystical experience might be the apostle Paul's Damascus Road experience (Acts 22:1-21) or the experience he described in 2 Corinthians: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

    As we examine this account from a Christian perspective, however, we notice particularly that Paul makes it clear God would not allow him to give the details of that experience. Thus, it would hardly be reasonable for us to believe that God would be willing to divulge spiritual truth by the manner in which mystics seem to flaunt their experiences. It is His will to declare spiritual truth through the apostles of the Church by the vehicle of the Holy Scriptures. "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message" (John 17:20). God said, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6), not from lack of a mystical experience. ~from GotQuestions.org
     
  4. Winken

    Winken Selig Vermittler

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    New age mumbo-jumbo. An authentic Christian can worship all alone, with a group of Christians, or in a building (church). Christian mysticism is in no way a legitimate expression of our Faith.
     
  5. bettercallpaul

    bettercallpaul I like I scream

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    Probably my favourite Christian mystic was Thomas Merton, a Catholic Trappist monk. He got into trouble with the Church apparently, towards the end of his life, for exploring similarities he saw between Zen Buddhism and Christianity. I don't mind the guy, to be honest, because I was into Buddhism myself at one stage. All will be revealed one day, and I think he was way ahead of his time.
     
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  6. bettercallpaul

    bettercallpaul I like I scream

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    Benedictine monks could be viewed as Christian mystics because they practise lectio divina every day. (prayerful reflection of the Gospel)
     
  7. bettercallpaul

    bettercallpaul I like I scream

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    I've always preferred the monastic wing of Catholicism. It seems to take a broader approach to theology.
     
  8. hengesthorsa

    hengesthorsa Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm in agreement with Paul here.

    Now, I don't know quite what this book in the OP means by Christian mysticism. But there are nearly two thousand years of Christian mysticism. Evelyn Underhill's books are a good place to start if you want to read some.
     
  9. Bee_Brian

    Bee_Brian New Member

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    I'm referring to Christian mysticism in the tradition of Teresa of Avila and the likes.

    I'm talking about the ones that originate in the LATE medieval period. If it's over 2,000 years old, it's probably not the same thing we're talking about.
     
  10. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member

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    "Dying to self"? Sounds mystical. It certainly doesn't have an obvious, plain meaning.
     
  11. hengesthorsa

    hengesthorsa Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I didn't say over 2000, I said almost. :)

    But I won't argue. I'm very influenced by Underhill on this, and she has St. Paul and Augustine in the same mystic boat (well, similar) as Teresa of Avila.

    But I certainly don't have the expertise to defend that take.
     
  12. Bee_Brian

    Bee_Brian New Member

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    Thank you for the suggestion.
     
  13. bettercallpaul

    bettercallpaul I like I scream

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    The Desert Fathers, which I think has an Eastern Orthodox origin and also Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross. I think these people discovered that it is easier to communicate with God, if we don't use too much left brain, our logical thoughts. That our creative, non-dualistic side has more potential to let God speak to us and vice versa.
     
  14. david.d

    david.d Member

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    I guess by some of these descriptions I'm a mystic, but I don't consider myself a mystic. I think of mystics as ritualistic and repetitive. I study using lectio divina or my version of it and as far as I know always have. I wasn't taught that way, that's just the way I do it. In my opinion if something is spiritual you have to consume it and let it consume you. It is trying to replace the flesh with the spiritual. Less of me and more of Him. I don't see how that is anything other than what is taught in Christianity, without putting another label on it. That's just my opinion, not trying to knock anyone, and forgive me if I'm missing something. You can call me whatever you see ;)
     
  15. RayJeena

    RayJeena The poster formerly known as Chaela

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    I consider it legit.

    I agree.

    I think I have more to say on all this but I need more coffee. :D
     
  16. GreekOrthodox

    GreekOrthodox Newbie

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    According to Vladimir Lossky, a Russian theologian, Eastern tradition, "...has never made a sharp distinction between mysticism and theology; between personal experience of the divine mysteries and the dogma affirmed by the Church." We can read this in the earliest writings of the first monks,

    "Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?"
     
  17. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    The main point to be made there might be that Teresa of Avila and similar figures in Christian history did not detach themselves from the institutional church or consider it to be unnecessary simply because they were mystics.
     
  18. Superhero Sam

    Superhero Sam Newbie

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    Didn't mystics have an unbibical view of God?

    Padre Pio - Wikipedia

     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  19. Greg J.

    Greg J. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There is a form of something labeled "mysticism" among Christian scholars. I believe some of those writings to be about truth, but what it means exactly depends on the context. It could refer to something in Scripture that seems to have mystical qualities to a particular author. In the end, the term cannot be taken as a validation or rejection of something revealed in Scripture; someone who understands the basics (or more) about God would have to read it to see what the author meant.
     
  20. Open Heart

    Open Heart Hebrew Catholic INFJ American Solidarity Party

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    No, we don't.
     
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