The Folly Of Mysticism
There are many today who fall for the folly of mysticism. Mysticism can be defined in many ways, but put simply it is to allow feelings, rather than objective facts which are understood to align with reality, and information found outside of the Bible to dictate one’s view and approach to God. The mystic may hold some views found in the Bible, but does not feel bound to hold only these views.
A mystic will say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe about God, but simply that you believe something.” This view is asserted in the popular American poem called the Desiderata: “Be at peace with God, whatever you perceive Him to be.” Essentially, this is to argue that what is most important is not the object of one’s faith, but the act of the faith itself and how one feels about it. Such a mystical view of God is foolish and contrary to plain logic/human experience and the Scriptures.
Macheen states it well: “it is impossible to have faith in a person without having knowledge of the person; far from being contrasted with knowledge, faith is founded upon knowledge” (“What is Faith” p 46). True faith involves more than a perception of what we perceive God to be, it involves an assent to objective facts about who God is–what we as Christians believe is revealed in the Bible.
This is why mysticism fails: it asserts that you can have faith in ‘God’ without knowing anything true about Him. But we do not do this in other areas of life–that is, we aren’t content to just rest on feelings or perceptions rather than facts. We see this in human relationships: we can’t know another human being without knowing true things about them. If I claim to know a person without know anything that is true about them, I’m either believing a lie or something I made up in my own head. The same is true with God. We can’t claim to have faith in the God who truly exists and has revealed Himself in the Bible without actually holding onto facts about who He is. Mere ‘faith’ is not enough. To simply ‘believe in God, whatever you perceive Him to be,’ leads you to believe in a figment of your imagination or a lie about who God is.
Does this mean that faith–as we define it, “believing and assenting to propositional truths”–is just an intellectual exercise that does not engage the emotions? Again Machen is helpful: “Confidence in a person is more than intellectual assent to a series of propositions about the person, but is always involves those propositions, and becomes impossible the moment they are denied”(ibid. 48). Faith then is more than intellectual assent to facts, but it must include assent to propositional facts. Faith includes the mind, but also involves the will and the heart.
We also see the rejection of mysticism in the Bible, which assumes that faith includes an acceptance of objective propositions. Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Concerning this verse, Machen rightfully argues, “faith is here declared to involve acceptance of a proposition. There could be no plainer insistence upon the doctrinal or intellectual basis of faith. It is impossible…to have faith in a person without accepting with the mind the facts about the person” (ibid. 47). and “What the Epistle to the Hebrews accomplishes by enunciating the simple proposition, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is,” is the repudiation of that important phenomenon in the history of religion that is known as mysticism” (ibid. 49)
In summary: mysticism is folly and ruinous to one’s soul; true faith in God requires a belief in objective facts about Him, information which is found in the Bible.