My Question:Christian Mysticism

Hi everyone, Our son gave my husband “Teachings of the Christian Mystics” for Christmas. I have only read the introduction so far. I have not had any experience with this teaching This is the first question I have and I will quote the editor Andrew Harvey to get to my point.
“So demanding and illusionless a path remains a perpetual challenge to anyone who dares to see it’s truth. This truth in its fullness was almost immediately betrayed by the historical development of Christianity. An egalitarian path that welcomed and celebrated women was turned into a hierarchical and misogynistic Church; a vision that criticized all power was conscripted to sustain first imperial and then papal ambitions; a force of love that wanted to end all division and separation became a force of fanaticism and fundamentalism that derided other religions and created one more prison of exclusion.”
Hopefully that is enough to give you a little taste of this book. My question is: I believe that Jesus in His walk and teaching held women in high regard and that though we have different roles, men and women are of equal value to God. But did Christianity have a role in the marginalizing of women?
I grew up in a unhealthy “Christian” home. My family as many Christian families I observed in my youth were just as this seems to describe. Our father used his patriarchal role to control and marginalize all of us.
This has nagged at me for a long time.How can I refute that?
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I would love to see the answers to this questions. I have always been interested in the origins of the church . I have been a Christian for many years but had always to hear from family members that “ the church is the biggest mafia “. I had never known how to give an answer to that , realizing that the church is guilty over a thousand years of atrocities to women and men alike. The violence that was meted out , the fear instilled in people and women having no say . As for me, I know that Jesus had a completely different view of what the church should be

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Hi Jo, I’m hoping for some really good conversation on this.
Lynn

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@Lindylou Hi Lynn!

Well, I guess generally speaking, when I’m asked about negative things in Christian history my usual answer is to ask:

Is this something that is a natural outworking of the truth of Christianity? Or is it a deviation from the truth of Christianity?

Because ultimately, Christianity shouldn’t be measured by the acts of a person who is claiming to be Christian. Instead, if we want to see what true Christianity looks like, we have to look at Jesus, who is the ultimate expression of Christianity. I’m not sure if you’ve seen this video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpmu42g6mDs), but Ravi answers a similar question about women and Christianity. He basically ends by saying, “no other worldview that gives the respect of womanhood that Jesus does…” I think when we look at the respect that Jesus gives to women, we have a better idea of what true Christianity looks like.

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I totally agree and have heard Ravi speak on this subject. I was honestly not trying to be offensive or a smart Alec. I’m not even a feminist. I guess I can feel bitter at times about my own experience with my father and maybe that came out in what I wrote? I’m so sorry if I offended someone.

I was asking the question not just for me but in answer to my son who gave us the book on Christian mysticism.

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@Lindylou Hi Lynn!

Oh, I’m sorry for the confusion, that wasn’t the intent of posting that video, I just thought Ravi had some good insights and it just happened to be in that video, so my apologies for any confusion that might have caused.

Jon

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@Lindylou, I’m not familiar with this book or the concept of Christian mysticism. The part of your question/s I want to touch on is the possibility of Christianity being used to marginalize people in the home.

Men have unique responsibilities for their family in spiritual leadership and provision and being that last stop where final decisions have to be made. So, I get it that with that responsibility comes the effect of others in the household having to submit to a decision by the leadership. The key, I think, is to lead with love.

This is just one of what may be many reasons for marginalization within the home, but my honest opinion is that some people just aren’t humble and may lead pridefully, whether that’s in their home or elsewhere in society. If Christianity has been used to marginalize people, I suspect it stems mostly from pride in the heart of the one doing the marginalizing. Christ didn’t lead that way, though. He led by example and with love.

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Hi @Lindylou that sounds really fascinating, and I love the question you’ve asked. When I read your initial question I was a bit confused as to how Christian mysticism crosses over with abuse of women in the church - is it possible for you to explain any further on what this book is treating as mysticism, please?

More recently, I’ve come across more discussion on Christian ‘mystics’ who are basically Christians moving in greater depths of supernatural gifting such as prophetic, healing, dreams and visions - but at deeper levels than the general church body has been used to for a long time, and might feel a bit uncomfortable with, possibly due to the more unusual expression of these giftings. Other books to understand more on this that are worth looking at are: The Mystic Awakening which I’ve not read yet but is on my To Read List, and also The Divinity Code , (both by Adrian Beale), which I have read. I feel this author offers a sound, Biblical approach to these discussions.

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In terms of it impacting how the church has oppressed women, or the view that the history of the church reflects ungodly control or agendas, I can see how anything that goes beyond the everyday norm may intimidate/unsettle people within the church and this may have led to some of the behaviour you quoted in that introduction.

Similarly, one only has to look at the history of the church after the collapse of the Roman Empire to see that the church (I describe the whole organisation rather than individuals) didn’t necessarily follow Jesus’ teachings when it came to expressing love, treating women as equals and treating those of other faiths well etc (think about the wars between Protestants and Catholics, the witch trials, the crusades etc).

I think it’s also good to realise that today, both men and women, young and old, are moving in increased spiritual gifting and that this means it can’t just be women who might be held back by the wider church body in this respect -

Peter Preaches to the Crowd
(Psalm 16:1-11; Joel 2:28-32)
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice, and addressed the crowd: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen carefully to my words. 15These men are not drunk as you suppose. It is only the third hour of the day!c 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out My Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18Even on My menservants and maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20The sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the great and glorious Day of the Lord.
21And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’d
22Men of Israel, listen to this message: Jesus of Nazareth was a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.

However, your own experiences, as many other people brought up in Christian homes, might not reflect the Biblical teaching here. Obviously, I can’t comment on the marginalisation, or what led to it, that you experienced other than say that I know we all fail at reflecting God’s heart to one another sometimes. Sometimes as individuals, we miss the mark, and sometimes we’ve been taught by the church to miss the mark. I’m sure at times the church has marginalised ‘the mystics’ as well as women or people who didn’t ‘fit’ in with the model that the church was trying to create.

Ultimately, if we feel we’ve witnessed a demonstration of Christianity that doesn’t feel right or fit with Biblical teaching, then the best thing to do is to prayerfully come back to scripture and look at the heart of God for each one of us and the church body as a whole.

I also want to agree with @joncarp on looking at what Ravi says. I remember one quote of Ravi’s that has stuck with me: “Never judge a philosophy by it’s abuse”.

Would you let me know if this makes sense in case I’ve taken the concept of Christian Mystics in the wrong context here? I really hope you find some answers to help. I’m also praying you’ll know God’s presence and love in an ever deeper way as you explore these issues.

Blessings,
Alison

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Thanks Allison I might have skipped ahead a little

It appears from what I read thus far that Christian mysticism teaches that race gender or sexuality are constraints

and that is why it condemns patriarchal roles like that of fundamental Christianity

Moreover it appears that CM believes in Jesus the human example of love and sacrifice but not incarnate God

How do I understand the mind of the one who is seeking CM and help them see the flaws in its world view?

I would be careful of Christian Mysticism in its current iteration. Mysticism is more about abstraction than concrete Biblical truths. Everything means something else and the Bible is merely a departure point into “deeper truths.” It is really quite dangerous, especially in today’s post-modern culture. There used to be Mystics who were more interested in a communal relationship with God and sought to hear his voice, presence, and see him in nature. However, this was done through Biblical study and contemplative prayer, not abstraction and casuistry. But, even then they had a very allegorical view of Scripture and the Eucharist. I would be very very cautious here and would not engage in such ideas without a very strong Biblical foundation on which to test these ideas for accuracy. Christians Mystics today have the feel of Yogis and Gurus from the sixties.

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The different descriptions of Christian Mysticism given by @Lindylou and @Joshua_Hansen are both concerning representations of Christianity indeed, in their own ways. Anything that steps away from strong scriptural foundations would make me very cautious. In their own ways, both versions sound like they take away God’s glory and place more on those following the mystic teachings. Anything that Places a greater emphasis on man over God would be in direct conflict to how the Bible leads us to know God.

The scripture that comes to mind is Galatians 2:20- “I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives within me.”

When addressing someone who is following these teachings, I’d probably take them along conversations that ask them if their primary focus is to have ‘experiences’ of God, personal status in church, or whether it is to know God for His sake. I think that one of the main things driving people towards mysticism like this (either patriarchic authority over the church or abstract or allegorical interpretations and spiritual encounters) would be the need to get their kicks from something - almost like a spiritual boost because it feels good. Perhaps in these cases, they still need to understand who God is a bit more. Exploring his nature and heart for relationship with mankind might be a discussion worth having.

It may also be that I have heard the term ‘mystics’ bandied around without thought to what this implies. As I said in my last reply, I’ve heard this term refer simply to those moving in more intense spiritual giftings for the glory of God and to edify the body, which I think is scriptural and good.

This conversation has certainly made me realise that we need to be so careful in what terminology we use, and to understand what it is we’re dealing with, so thank you for everyone’s contributions. Bottom line is that in everything, all the glory and honour should go to Jesus and we must be alert when that stops being the case.

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Thank you for all the advice! We’re grateful that we have a firm Biblical foundation to stand on. And as we talk to our son, instead of disparaging mystism, we will point him to the true nature and character of Christ.
I feel so inadequate for this task. I am a good reader and I don’t lack understanding,(most of the time)but I have never been able to remember facts and then articulate them well. It is only with the Holy Spirit working in me that I can converse with them on their level.
Our children all grew up in a Christian home (not a perfect one) and we scraped to send them to a Christian university. They have had OT and NT at college level. They were given a good foundation. They are now denying it. I know they are in God’s hands now.

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Doing a little research on Andrew Harvey, the author of that book

ANDREW HARVEY

Founder and Director of the Institute of Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey is a religious scholar, author, and teacher of mystic traditions. Known primarily for his popular nonfiction books, Andrew Harvey believes humanity is in a massive global crisis reflected by a mass media addicted to violence and trivialization. At a moment when the world is in need of profound inspiration, Harvey founded the Institute of Sacred Activism - and international organization focused on training people to become practical agents of institutional and stemic change for peace and sustainability. He is dedicated in his pursuit of returning the world to the heart-centered way of the Divine Feminine and the cultivation of the nonviolent philosophies of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Dali Lama.

The Divine Feminine appears to be connected to pantheism, the Gaia religion?

Gaia is a revival of Paganism that rejects Christianity, considers Christianity its biggest enemy, and views the Christian faith as its only obstacle to a global religion centered on Gaia worship and the uniting of all life forms around the goddess of “Mother Earth”

So my first question to your son would be; what are the truth claims in this book about the person of Jesus Christ? A truth claim by definition excludes other alternative claims as false. Jesus cannot be both God and not God.

Jesus was not just a good teacher; or another prophet (as Muslims hold to), or the spiritual brother of Satan (as the Mormons teach); He claimed to be the Eternal Son Who Created the World (John 1); He forgave sins in His own authority first, and then healed the paralyzed man to prove He had authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12); told the Pharisees that “Before Abraham was ‘I AM’”; using the term Yahweh used when He introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush. The Pharisees knew exactly what he was claiming and wanted to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:48- 59), and even at the first stage of Christ’s trial in front the Sanhedrin, Jesus quoted from Daniel 7 about Himself being the Son of Man, the Messiah who was prophesied to come. (Mark 16:53-65)(Luke 22:66-71), and again the ‘I AM’ reference claiming to be Yahwah:

“61 Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of
the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death”

As CS Lewis put it:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man
was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

So perhaps ask your son, Who does this book claim that Jesus Christ is?

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@Lindylou. Just one more thought. What many people seem to stubble with, is the concept that Christianity should be devoid of human error. And because it is not, it must be false or lacking. But there is no theology, philosophy, or even poplar opinion that does not have to its nature, error. It is why all our righteousness is as a filthy rag. On our best, at our best, we are mere humans.

I think Christian church doctrine has those limitations as well. But I have attended churches that had female leadership. Each congregation had its own failing. Equality in gender identities is not the answer either.

Anyone who focuses on the history of the church as proof of its falsehood is simply not paying attention. Nor are they remembering that our enemy boldly gathers with the sons of GOD. Remember in the book of Job.

Quite frankly, if I were the devil you could count on my assembling with the sons of GOD. My entire effort is to destroy what GOD loves. What better place to hide than among the people of GOD. My focus would be upon those who chose GOD, not as intently upon those who had already submitted to me.

But the whole point of the sacrifice of JESUS was to provide cover for the human effort to live for GOD. We must have the covering of His sacrifice to stand presentable before the Holiness of GOD. We can all be glad for the Cross.

Doctrinal beliefs have their place, but salvation is and always will be of JESUS. That’s not doctrinal, that is life. People should be more worried that our humanity, or our sins are not exposed. Within the House of GOD I am relieved to know, that Grace will not provide a hiding place for human error or human sin. What more proof is needed than such eventual and timely exposure?

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Thank you much for doing research on this topic for me. I didn’t have the words to explain briefly Christian Mysticism according to Andrew Harvey in the introduction of his book. You have hopefully helped everyone understand better this subject.
Isn’t it true that whenever confronted by other religions or faith the first question must be, what do they say about Jesus? This has been a great reminder to me.
Thank you everyone for your responses.

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I love this!

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I’ve been meaning to chime in on this thread for the last week!

With stuff like this, I firstly try to understand two things:

  1. Who is the author? From what background are they approaching the topic?@matthew.western did some good, brief research on this.
  2. What is the author claiming? I was particularly struck by this paragraph you quoted, @Lindylou, and what Harvey was claiming about Christianity.

My starting point in discussing with another is, if I can, to try to find points of agreement. If I agree with these claims to a certain extent, then I would say so, but then use that as a springboard to discuss where my beliefs would deviate. If Christianity is…

  1. …an egalitarian path, in what sense is that true? How does the author define egalitarian, and how would you understand that concept as a Christian?
  2. …a vision that criticised all power, how would the author substantiate that? How does the author understand power and Jesus’ criticisms of it? Jesus certainly had harsh words for the ruling classes of the day, but is the author’s interpretation of Jesus’ words accurate?
  3. a force of love that wanted to end all division and separation, then how do we understand the exclusive claims of that love? The author seems to see exclusion as a negative thing; in what sense can we stand by exclusive claims without excluding people? That is, choices between options are, by nature, exclusionary. I choose to follow Christ to the exclusion of other ‘gods’, therefore I exclude myself from that religious life.

As some folks have already said, all kinds of abuses have been perpetrated in the name of ‘Christianity’. We have to recognise that and have some talking points for distancing the teachings of Christ from its gross abuses.

Just some things I was pondering this morning! Praying for you as you wrestle with how to initiate deep conversations about these things with your son!

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Thank you, Kathleen. My biggest prayer of course is for my son’s heart to be softened. But also please pray for my husband and I to have the intellect for this. I have to admit we have both read the introduction to this book twice and understand maybe 50% of it. It seems way over our heads.

The book was actually given to my husband for Christmas, so he is the one that must initiate the conversation. I know how strong he is in his faith and he certainly has the intellect for it, he is far more patient and thoughtful in his answers than I. But he can be very slow in his reply. I mean very slow to the point of just putting it out of his mind. But I am the knee-jerk. Please pray that God pulls us together in this task.

I am so appreciative of all these replies. They give needed insight. I know ultimately it is God who will work in our son’s heart and pull him back to his side.

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Yup, this is more or less accurate. It’s a Catholic doctrine if I am not mistaken. Some Catholic guys on an apologetics server of discord told me I was a mystic. There is some pretty unpleasant things that go with being a mystic, such as being tortured by demons and such. It’s believe these mystics are at the very front line of spiritual warfare, meaning, that is where the battle for souls is faught. Personally, I resemble some of this, but not to the degree that these guys talked about. It oddly fit even though I am not a Catholic. I have found that some of the Catholic doctrine is actually pretty good stuff though I consider myself non-denominational or a Reformed Calvinist. All that talk about Catholicism being from the devil is off the mark. The truth is that it’s a lot more complicated than that.

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