Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy,
I. Isaiah’s Encounter with God (Isaiah 6:1-8)
B. Personal, relational
C. Rational, cognitive
D. Moral, emotional
E. Redemptive, salvific
II. What is Mysticism?
A. The direct experience of the ultimate sacred reality (however understood)
B. Types of mysticism
1. Nature (Wordsworth)
2. Monistic or nondual (Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism)
3. No-self (Theravada Buddhism)
4. Theistic: Jewish, Christian, Islamic (personal encounter)
a. Unitarian monotheistic: Jewish, Islamic
b. Christian: within and outside of the Bible
III. Assessing Mysticism (Col. 2:8-9; 1 John 4:1-6)
A. Nature: no Creator/creation distinction (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3; Romans 1:18-21)
B. Hindu (one kind): Monistic, nondual: no encounter; loss of Atman (individual self) in Brahman (Universal Self). Ken Wilber example, John Horgan, Rational Mysticism (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
C. Buddhist: No-self: no one is home; no encounter; loss of self in Nirvana
1. Jewish: Hebrew Bible and subsequent experiences
2. Islamic (Sufis in particular)
3. Christocentric, biblical (Colossians 1-2)
a. Paul on road to
b. Apostle John on
c. Elements of biblical mysticism
1. Christ as only Lord, Savior, and Mediator (Matthew 11:27; John 14:1-6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 1)
2. Same elements as Isaiah 6:108
IV. Christian Discernment Regarding Mysticism
A. The dangers of syncretism (Exodus 20:1-3; Matthew 12:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
B. Yoga: Hindu mystical practice: elimination of the self, discovery of the Divine Self; should be avoided by Christians.
C. Buddhism: elimination of the self through meditation and action; should be avoided by Christians.
D. Dangers of “centering prayer”—emptying of mind, focusing on breath and mystical techniques to find God within, not through Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
E. Fundamentals of Christian spirituality (need not be mystical in a dramatic sense)
1. Based on a true, rational, and pertinent worldview (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 3:15). See N. Pearcey, Total Truth (Crossway, 2004)
2. Justification by faith alone (Romans 5:1-2; Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:5-6)
3. Sanctification: growth in Christ-likeness and fruit-bearing by faith and grace (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Philippians 2:11-12; 2 Peter 1:5-11)
4. Glorification: the personal and cosmic culmination of salvation through God’s grace (Romans 8; Revelation 21-22)
5. Christ-centered and cross-centered (Luke 9:23-26; Colossians 1:15-19)
6. Spiritual warfare (Acts 13:1-12; Ephesians 6:10-19; 1 Peter 5:8-9)
- Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (1972; Tyndale, 2001). A biblical view of spirituality.
- James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009). See the chapters on “Eastern Pantheistic Monism” (7) and “The New Age” (8).
- Doug Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (InterVarsity, 1986); Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity, 1988); Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Wifp and Stock reprint).