Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Christian Mystics

No, it's not a contradiction in terms, and no I don't believe it's just a semantic misunderstanding. To be quite candid I'm a little peeved at how little attention we pay to the realities of the world we live in. We are "salt" and "light" in a dark and 'tasteless' world, yet we'd rather huddle in groups of like-minded people, speaking a language that only makes sense to us. Yesterday I posted a quote from Donald Miller on my facebook status which went like this: "You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic." In response to my effort, I got a number of irate and frustrated comments (even personal notes) about dispensing with all the extra terminology and letting our language be just Jesus and nothing else. I'm mystified (pun intended) by those responses since, according to the Cambridge Advanced Learners English Dictionary, the definition of mystic bears out Donald's contention. In case you don't want to click on the hyperlink I've taken the time to give you the definition below:

mysticism [noun] the belief that there is hidden meaning in life or that each human being can unite with God

mystic [noun] someone who attempts to be united with God through prayer

I'd say it takes a real mystic to believe in the Trinity. Wouldn't you? I mean, we believe (as Christ Followers) that the Trinity is three distinct persons who are One God. If that isn't a mystical idea I don't know what is. If you don't believe that there's hidden meaning to life, meaning that goes far beyond the understanding of our finite minds, then it would be impossible for you to wrap your mind around the concept of a Triune God. Consequently, if you don't accept the idea of a Triune God then it would be impossible for you to embrace Christianity in it's fullness. Last I checked, prayer is one of the central building blocks upon which our faith is established. The idea that man communicates with an unseen God through prayer, who in turn responds to our prayers, is the very essence of mysticism.

I guess we'd all do well to educate ourselves enough to be able to hold conversations in the real world without becoming defensive about words that actually define our faith even though they may have been stultified by, shall we say, less savory approaches to God. As for me and my house, we're glad to be Christian Mystics. Just my two cents.


Zonoma said...

I, too, am a Christian Mystic. I pray every day that my children follow this path, too. It is a wonderful thing to commune with God through prayer each day and so recognize His hand in this world. It is an empowering thing to live a life so enchanted with God that you immediately recognize when something is NOT of Him, despite the label it bears. It is a necessary thing to recognize that the Spirit has an agenda so that you can work with Him and not against Him.

Bret said...

While I didn't deny the use of the term mystic/mysticism I rather find it less important in creating a debate over a term, and basically ask the question, why? Why is this important or beneficial?

For someone who doesn't know Christ or someone back slidden I just don't see how this would be important. As a long time Christian I don't see how it's beneficial. I still pray and believe in an unseen God, that is called faith, if someone wants to slap another term call mysticism, so be it, whoopie! Terms like this are designed to create controversy which obviously creates sales for books and traffic to websites and what not.

I remember a few years ago a business associate wanted to talk (really he wanted to push his doctrine on me) about dispensationalism ranting about this and that. I looked at him and said what if I didn't know Christ how would this draw me to Christ? I would be turned off by all your ranting I said.

Then there was a time I wanted to start a coversation (code word for debate) about the "rapture" I had a motive, I asked him what he believed in pre, post or mid trib. All he said to me was "I don't know when Jesus will return, I just want to be ready when he does" His comment heaped burning coals on me and humbled me.

Maybe we find new terms for saying the same thing, I don't know. But it's overall importance to the bigger picture.......I don't see it as important.

Joseph said...

Zonoma, thanks for joining the conversation. I appreciate your perspective and input.

Bret, I truly appreciate your input and the examples you gave. I'm thankful for your honesty and vulnerability in being willing to divulge your 'ulterior' motives in debating the rapture discussion.

However, not everyone has ulterior motives in discussing issues sorrounding the message of the Gospel. To presume that you have full understanding of what is relevant to bringing people to faith in Christ would be rather arrogant. While I don't dispute your position as being tenable for the world you live and operate in, I find that where I live and the circles in which I relate, there are many for whom these types of discussions make Christians more relatable and more human.

So, in the inimitable words of Paul the Apostle (writer of 3/4 of the NT), "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some."

Joseph said...

BTW, Zonoma, I love the title of your would be blog "Soggy Weeds and Bee Spit." I look forward to reading a post. :)

Zonoma said...

Bret - "Mystic" is not a term I would use around many of my Christian brothers and sisters - it is one of many things that I choose not to speak of with many other Christians so as not to be divisive. In this, we are of the same mind.

On the other hand, "Mystic" is a bonafide historical and theological term (many well known 'mystics' have been canonized). To remove a term from our vocabulary for fear of offending someone seems unhealthy.

Joseph - Starting this blog has been on a 'to do' list for far too long. Perhaps I'll speed that process up a bit.

Bret said...

Joseph you know you are one of a few of my favorite pastors! And that hasn't changed!

I was only getting at that sometimes we use certain words to stir the pot to create dialogue which is all good and I'm certainly not arguing with the "mystic" term being not true because I do believe there is a lot of scripture itself that would fall into that meaning.

At the same time it could be a word that could jolt people and cause them to say "what?" or cause some people to think other things about you or I. To me in the overall grand design of things I don't find it profitable for the work that needs to be done that's all.

Now I'm probably go make a hypocrite of my comments here and start a dialogue that's not important in the over all grand design with someone else. I can be good at that sometimes.....

Love you brother! Rock on!

Joseph said...

I apologize if my response came across as hardnosed. I think dialog is good. I think reevaluating our strategies for reaching the unchurched is essential if we are to be successful, because, yesterdays inovation is today's albatross. Only the message of the gospel is sacred and not the method by which it's communicated.

Our inability to constantly reevaluate our effectiveness will largely account for why the Church has been marginalized in today's society, while people who live less than savory lives in Hollywood and other such celebrities are the ones shaping society with their voices and their lives.

My main contention is that we be willing to constantly explore our methods to ensure that we are actually accomplishing our purpose. Admittedly, this is made all the more difficult by reason of the tension that exists in the Church between those that are passionate about reaching the unchurched and those that are passionate about discipling the 'churched'.

I'm confident there's a happy medium some where inbetween these two polar positions. Make no mistake about it, you and Kathy remain some of my favorite, most authentic Christ-Followers. :)

Ash said...

i agree w/ bret to the extent that really, it's just semantics.

now, granted as a writer, i take to using words efficiently, though not always perfectly, i admit.

but at the same time~ there are words that, perhaps, should be debated- for example when studying the root of a particular scripture- and others that are un-necessary-like a label.

connotations can be harsh...even frustrating when the few ruin it for all, at the same time, people who assign labels are often people who are searching themselves to be identified or NOT identified w/something....looking to belong.

it's not black & white... ultimately it is what it is.

i believe in jesus christ, who saved me by his death on the cross and forgave my sins...and healed my wounds...& commissioned me to the work of the gospel. the creator of the universe called me by name, who am i not to belong to him? what-ever this faith makes me, in the perception of others (christian or non)~ so be it.