Thursday, November 12, 2015

Is it "mysticism" or just deeply living the Christian life?

What I'm trying to say about a "true" mysticism is that I've found that compared to other Christian writings, some of those called mystical convey a deep love of God and a high view of God, to an extent I don't find anywhere else, and based on scripture too.  And it's contagious:   it has the power to lead the reader closer to the same experiences.  You get some of this in other writings, even theological writings, but the mystics I have in mind spend their time living in this deep love and high view of God to an extent others generally don't, and seek to live daily even more deeply and magnify God in His majesty more and more too.

There is often a progressive pattern to their writings, as if every word of scripture can be understood by stages of revelation of its truth, each stage deeper and higher than the previous, as if it penetrates by degrees deeper into the soul. Deeper sense of humility, stronger hatred of sin, stronger power over sin, greater sense of God's love, God's mercy to sinners, God's majesty, God's sovereignty, greater trust in God, sense of dependence on Him in all things.

It's all in the Bible, but what happens all too often is that we get in the habit of reading even the most sublime descriptions of God in a way that turns them into mere empty words and ends up trivializing the very revelations that should magnify Him. This could be the result of spending way too much time in the company of unbelievers. It's like what has been done to words like "awesome" that is so often made to apply to things that are anything but awe-inspiring. In our day it seems we have to make a special effort to appreciate the reality that is there in the words if only we could apprehend it. I think some acquaintance with the God-melted mystics could raise our understanding of scripture.  The same result might be had just by reading the Bible with a view to deepening our understanding, praying for that understanding as we read. The important thing is to understand that we need a higher view of God than we have and to determine to do whatever it takes to develop it.

Googling "a high view of God" turns up this quote from A.W. Tozer at more than one website. It's from his book The Knowledge of the Holy.
The Loss of a High View of God

"The church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. This low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, 'Be still, and know that I am God,' mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century.

This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field."

-A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
A pretty sad assessment but only too true for most of us.
Rev. 2:4-5: Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works ...
A hope of returning to my first love is what has led me back to the mystics. I didn't know if there was anything that could rekindle any of that first love, but thanks to God some of it has come back from reading a little of Gerhard Tersteegen, and I'll get to him eventually here. The Bible still conveys its truths, but I want to FEEL those truths as they are meant to be felt, as I once felt them.

Here's a sampling of Gerhard Tersteegen, 18th Century Protestant mystic, yes Protestant:
True godliness (eusebeia) is that inward state or disposition, which is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and the occupation of the soul, which springs from it, by which she again renders that homage and worship to the triune God, which is due to him, and which is in some measure worthy of him. It consists in filial fear and veneration, in a heartfelt confidence and faith, and in a fervent attachment and love to God, which three things are like so many essential parts of the spiritual temple, in which God is worshipped. For since he is a Spirit, it necessarily follows, that he must be worshipped not in a mere external, ceremonial,and hypocritical manner, but inwardly, heartlily, in spirit and in truth, if it is to be done in a manner worthy of him, as our divine Teacher himself demonstrates. (John iv. 24.)

I say the Holy Spirit produces this state or disposition of the soul, whilst inwardly giving her to know, (to one soul more, and as though at once, and with great power, and to another more imperceptibly and gradually,) in a (supernatural, vital, and powerful manner), the truth, glory, land loveliness of the omnipresent being of God.

This immediately produces in the soul an unspeakably profound veneration, admiration, filial reverence, and inward humiliation of all that is within her, in the presence of the exalted Majesty of God. This glorious being appears to her to be alone great and good, and she herself, together with every other creature, utterly mean, little, and despicable.
What is a "mystic" anyway? Seems to me it's often a Christian who seeks God more earnestly than most of the rest of us, seeks really to live for Him and for nothing else. Those who seek with such intensity and diligence to understand and know God through His word may come to have an actual experience of some of the very qualities of God and dispositions of our own souls that we are all exhorted to learn anyway. If God chooses to reveal them to some in a greater depth than to others, that seems to make that person a "mystic" though there's nothing different in the content than what a good preacher exhorts us all to practice.

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