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. Not because I don’t believe they can see, feel or hear God, but because I know that they can use their ‘experiences’ for evil. It seems to me that the majority of people who are gifted enough to look beyond reality and see the spiritual end up going down the wrong path. Somewhere along the way, they get too wrapped up in it. They become obsessed with their gifts and what they saw. They then begin to lead other people down the wrong path too, or get put in an insane asylum.
We have to set boundaries with these people. We have to be cautious and careful. There are tell-tale signs for those who are either faking it or playing short stop for the other team—the team that opposes God. So before we go any further into defining (and redefining) mysticism, please heed my words of caution (1 John 4:1–6). And please be sure to examine yourself if you think you have experienced the divine. Any of us can be tricked.
Even though mysticism has at times been equated with cultic prophets, its original form was orthodox.
Mysticism: Everywhere and Anywhere
Mysticism was originally a form of Judaism, but once the Christian movement started, Christians carried over mystic, Jewish beliefs into their new faith, called “the way” (Acts 24:22). (It’s a bit more complicated than that, but we will leave it there for now.) Mysticism is all about experiencing God—seeing him in everything and everywhere. It is about a general awareness that we as finite beings can have experiences with eternal beings (angels, demons, etc.). (I know it's starting to sound more like Star Wars or X-Files by the minute.)
The Christian mystics were all about the Holy Spirit. They wanted the Holy Spirit to be involved in every part of their life. We see this from the very beginning of Christianity in Acts 2. The Spirit is a focal point of the book of Acts, much of Paul’s letters, and John’s Gospel (e.g., Acts 10:44–48; Rom 8:1–2; 1 Cor 2:1–10; John 3:1–21). The Spirit is not a distant being; it is a present being—with us, all the time (John 17:11–12). Early Christians believed that they didn’t have to go into a temple or a church building to experience God. He is here, there, everywhere. (I could eat them in a house, I could eat them with a mouse; you get the point.) Like green eggs and ham, you can be spiritual and experience the spiritual anywhere and everywhere.
We Think God is Here, but He is Really over There
So what happened? When did we start singing songs with lyrics like, “God, meet us in this place.” From what I can see in the New Testament, early Christians believed God was with them in everyday life. And they communed (and I assume worshipped) in homes. It was a mystical (mysterious) experience. This may have been what made the church so attractive. The concept that “God [is] with us” allowed for all kinds of ‘crazy’ things to happen (e.g., miracles, demon-casting out, speaking in tongues).
God is not just in the church. By us not looking for him we are missing out on the best part of Christianity. And we are being made the fool. Without knowing it, we may even being playing center field for the other team. After all, the other team is also everywhere, at least according to Paul (Eph 6:12).
What would our world look like if we took our plain-Jane Christianity, and imposed the idea of “God everywhere” upon it? Would God begin to transcend our religiosity, our workplaces, our families, and our very selves? What would it change about the way we worship? Drop me a comment and let me know.
(Further Reading: Ephesians 3:7–21.)