Sunday, November 13, 2011

Critiquing Christian Mysticism

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Sermon on 1 John 1:3

Two main ways in which men have sought fellowship with God: the mystical way and the evangelical way

Some combine both ways.
·         Bernard of Clairvaux was clearly mystical, and he was evangelical.
·         There is a great deal of the mystic in Charles Wesley, although he was primarily evangelical.
·         Also true of John Wesley

Many subdivisions of mysticism: pagan, religious, and, in a sense, Christian

Definition: Mysticism is the theory that the purity and blessedness to be derived from communion with God are not to be obtained from the Scriptures and the use of the ordinary means of grace, but by a supernatural and immediate divine influence, which influence is to be secured by the simple yielding of the soul without thought of effort to the divine influence.

Basically feeling, not understanding or reason, is the source of knowledge of God.

The evangelical places primacy on the Word of God, but the mystic focuses on his sensations and susceptibilities.

Three main types of mystics:
1.    Theopathic—concerned about pure feeling and sensation
2.    Theosophic—concerned about experience and who want to examine their knowledge
3.    Theourgic—interested in phenomena

The history of mysticism shows that it invariably comes as a protest to formalism and deadness in the church.
·         In the early church, when there was (necessary) wrangling over theological precision—mysticism in Egypt.
·         In the Middle Ages with Bernard, when the Rom Cat Church was philosophizing 
·         The Quakers, in response to the Puritan theologians

Mysticism concerned with the reality of the knowledge of God and communion with him.  How does it do so?  Two main schools:
·         Quietism, pure passivity: Madam Guyon an example
·         Active, introspection and meditation

The evangelical criticism of mysticism
·         It is a claim to a continuation of inspiration.  The mystic claims a new and fresh message.
·         Scripture becomes more or less unnecessary.
·         The Lord Jesus tends to be made unnecessary.
·         It is so concerned about the Lord’s work in us that it forgets the Lord’s work for us.
·         It’s not strong on the doctrine of sin.
·         It leaves us without a standard as to who is speaking to me.
·         It tends to fanaticism and excess.

The evangelical way to come to this knowledge of and fellowship with God
·         It starts with the Scriptures.  Don’t look into yourself but into the Word of God.
·         It must start with Christ’s work for me.  There is no true knowledge of God without Christ.  I must come to God by Christ and by the cross.  Having dealt with the guilt of my sin, then God gives to me life when I put my faith in Christ.
·         The experience of fellowship with God is not something to be sought directly.  It comes as a by-product of following God: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt 5:6).

“The evangelical way of fellowship with God, therefore, is to come straight to the Word, to know its truth, to believe it and to accept it—to pray on this basis and to exert our whole being in an effort and an endeavour to live it and to practise it.”

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