Thursday, December 8, 2011 5:05 AM

The Mysticism of the Gospel

Thursday, December 8, 2011 5:05 AM
Thursday, December 8, 2011 5:05 AM

This is how FF Bruce speaks of “mysticism”: “it is a term applicable “to every religious tendency that discovers the way to God through inner experience without the mediation of reasoning”.[i]

Mysticism is a word that most believers would stay away from, but they certainly seek the experience without realizing such. If mysticism is a religious tendency to discover God through inner experience, than every Christian has a story of how God has done something in their or others’ lives that was an experience beyond pure reason that they were certain was the hand of God. Some act of divine timing, some knowing that turned out to be correct in hindsight, or other types of similar experiences.

The Apostle Paul talked about one of his mystical experiences in the following verses; 2Cor12.2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knowsand he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

Christ speaks of being born again and this was puzzling to Nicodemus; John3.3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Nicodemus did not understand that the being born again was both mystical and real. It is a mystical experience for the believer and real in the eyes of God.

Perhaps R. C. Tannehill has the answer. Defining mysticism as “the doctrine that the individual can come into immediate contact with God through subjective experiences which differ essentially from the experiences of daily life”, he adds: “By this definition Paul may be spoken of as, among other things, a ‘mystic’ (cf. his visions, 2 Cor. 12:1–4), but he does not have a mystical theology.”[ii]

Christians are having their own unexplained experience; unexplained that is by pure reason, but they do know as Paul knew that they were born again and a real change has taken place from an experience beyond pure reason.



[i] Bruce, F. F. (1977). Paul: Apostle of the free spirit (136). Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster.

[ii] Bruce, F. F. (1977). Paul: Apostle of the free spirit (147). Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster.

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