Why I am Abandoning the Term ‘Mystic’ (and Most Terminology)

I had a conversation with a friend today that caused me to rethink my approach, positions, and even my writing style. I realized from this conversation that although my stance may not be one of pointing fingers, calling people morons, and generally telling the world why my view is better than someone else’s, I may (at times) come across that way.

If you have been a commenter or lurker on “The Infinite in Everything” for a while, you have likely heard me rant about fundamentalism, atheism, liberalism, biblical scholarship, calvinism, and most recently mysticism. I love talking about these subjects, but recently it has come to my attention that my snarky attitude (as funny as I may think it is) can really be quite unhelpful. This blog is my playground, so I conduct my theological experiments here in wanna-be-Albert-Einstein-esk ways. Sometimes it works, but like all experiments, it fails at times too. So, maybe it is time for a little self- and blog-evaluation.

What if my approach has been entirely wrong? What if I need to abandon the terminology I use to articulate my views on faith in favor of something that is more helpful? Here’s an example. I thought my story about the guy who wrote me off because I was a mystic was funny, but a commenter, who went by Paulos, was quick to correct me, when he said:

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Mysticism is like Green Eggs and Ham

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, mystics were a sect of orthodox Christianity. Today, they are often labeled cultic-style prophets or hippies. But what if mysticism still has something to offer us and we are missing it because of misplaced labels?


The Crazies Ruined the Fun for Everyone

I have had my fair share of run-ins with cultic prophets. There’s no way around it: They’re crazy. I don’t immediately doubt people who claim to have seen visions of God, had transcendent experiences, or encountered semi-divine creatures, but I am a bit leery of them.

3 Reasons Why Christians Hate Labels

You’ve heard people say it, and you may have even said it yourself, “Labels suck.” But don't we in some ways need them? With no labels how can we have an intelligent conversation about where our belief systems differ?

We want to get rid of labels because of the judgmental attitudes that often surround them. We think, “Labels suck, and those who use them suck too.” But the very nature of language requires labels: We use words to describe actions and things. All language is metaphor—that is precisely why German and English use different words to describe the same thing. Aristotle was one of the first to point this out when in a lengthy discussion, he says (in summary): “a table is not a table in its essence; it is wood. And wood comes from a tree, and trees have component parts (sap, bark, roots, etc.).” So, language is labeling.
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Written Off Not Because I’m Emergent, but a Mystic

I had just finished preaching when a middle-aged chap walked up to me and said, “What’s with all the spiritual ‘God is in everything’ nonsense?” I responded, “Nonsense, huh? What do you mean?” He blurted out, “Just tell me what you believe? Are you a hippie or what?” Perceiving that there was no end to the Who-Wants-To-Be-a-Millionaire style game, I answered his million dollar question that I often resist, “ ‘Hippie,’ no. But ‘Christian mystic,’ yes.” As he began to walk away, he said, “Okay, never mind then. I don’t care what you have to say if that is what you believe.”


This wasn’t a first for me. I have become a little accustom to this kind of response. I often ask myself, “Am I just too abrasive? Or, what was that all about?” I have begun to realize that the problem is one of terminology.

Not Your Grandfather's Bible Study Magazine: My Interview with Mr. Magazine

In my interview with Samir "Mr. Magazine" Husni, the world's leading expert about the state and future of the magazine industry, he says that the publication I run "is not your grandfather's Bible study magazine." He also remarkes that Bible Study Magazine's " 'Weird but Important' content ... caught [his] attention. And ... some of the facts that [he] ... learned about the magazine's business model [e.g., we don't have any subscription cards] ... made [me], the magazine's editor in chief, the perfect person to 'study' and interview for the Mr. Magazine's interview segment of [his] blog and web site." (Mr. Magazine, you make me blush.)

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Writing Tips, Running a Magazine, and Odd Facts about Me

How to pitch an editor, what it is like to run a magazine, an overview of my recent projects, and what songs I sing when I am by myself, are a few of the things I address in my recent interview with AKGMag.com. Check out the interview here. Enjoy!

Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

There, but Not Present

I was there, but not present. I was oblivious. Like those vintage photos of Albert Einstein with his crazy hair, where he looks like the absent-minded professor, I was the absentee. I was solving my Pi. And when 3.141592 … is going around in your head, it’s hard to think about anything else. It drives you mad.

Here’s the story. I’m obsessive—spontaneous, and sometimes ready to combust. It’s part of what makes me good at what I do. But it’s a hazard. Because when I am not present, it seems that God isn’t either. I subtly ask God for help, but it’s superficial—I know it, and he certainly does. So, I have to be honest with myself, my friends, my family and with God. I have to be willing to say, “I’m burned out, and I need to refocus on the Infinite God, so that I can be present again.

Everyone Wants to Save Judas, But He's Dead

Scholars have been trying to save Judas, but Judas is already dead. The real question is why? Why have they been trying to revive this infamous villain? Because Judas is an unfortunate Son worth a fortune. (Do you hear Creedance Clearwater Revival playing?) Judas was worth cash money in the first century because he could betray Jesus. And he is worth dough now. Save Judas’ reputation and you are famous—you get media hype and you sell books. But the sleazsters didn’t think it through; they were wrong. Scholars wrong? You betcha.


Here’s what went down. Back in 2006, the Gospel of Judas publicly surfaced after being locked in a safe deposit box since 2000. The box and manuscript was owned by Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos.

Tribes at War: Fundamentalism, Liberalism, Atheism and Biblical Scholarship

I hate fundamentalism, liberalism, atheism, and biblical scholarship alike. But I love the people from those tribes. I have watched the patriarchs from these clans pillage the weak minds and faith of those camped on the outskirts of a rival camp. I have been horrified as supposedly strong men and women became bounty. I have seen intellectual war and fought in the bloody battles—I have been victor and captive. All the while, all the tribes left me unsatisfied and sad because their rogue leaders and followers are hurting inside as much as the rest of us.

So, why do I love them? Simple answer: They are people (Matt 22:34–40). Complicated answer: Because I have been in their sandals. (Well, at least in some of their sandals. And man, some of them have big feet and big egos. Others wear uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion or because their buddies called them trendy.)
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Congressman Pushes for "The Year of the Bible." You're Joking, Right?

It's no joke. With the onslaught of the second great depression, Republican Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia has decided to push for a bill that will make 2010 the Year of the Bible. Year of the Rat (2008), Year of the Ox (2009), and now the Year of the Bible?

With Congress' approval, Ronald Reagan made 1983 the year of the Bible. And Broun wants to bring back this super hip, retro Christian idea. (Maybe we can bring back ‘80s music, tight jeans and huge hair while we're at it.) When Jewish and Atheist congressmen and congresswomen read Broun’s bill, they freaked out. A few even threw political temper tantrums, which must have been fun to watch.

What's hilarious about the reactions to this bill is that Jews share 39 sacred biblical books with Christians, but Jewish congressmen have been some of the most outspoken people against this bill. Unless someone from the Jewish faith is infuriated because of the church and state issue, I can’t wrap my head around why they would oppose this bill. But, even if separation of church and state causes someone to oppose this bill, there is still a problem with their understanding of the usage of the Bible. People and organizations outside the church use the Bible as well. There are even whole non-profit societies dedicated to studying the Bible that are not religious at all, like the Society of Biblical Literature.

What is fascinating about this whole fiasco is not the bill itself, but the reaction. Atheist leaders all over are saying that they are not even worried because church growth is declining and atheism is on the rise. “Right now, we’re seeing atheism on such a rise,” said David Silverman, vice president and national spokesman of American Atheists. I don’t know about you, but Silverman’s remark sure sounds like it stems from a cultic religion to me. Just replace the word atheism with Mormonism and suddenly things sound a little different, “Right now, we’re seeing Mormonism on such a rise.” When you read it with that word substituted, it’s jarring, isn’t it? Atheists aren’t worried because their religion is growing.

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.