There is a person I have known for some years that I have described as having a unique way of thinking. I don’t say that as a complement but rather as an example of someone who is potentially damaging and dangerous in their approach to Evangelism, (if it can be called that) and other younger Christians looking for guidance in discipleship. Sadly too many people go unchecked or are not reigned in even after their Pastors and elders have been warned regarding the un-biblical if not heretical way they practice what they preach.
It’s difficult to describe how the conversation with this person emerged and how it concluded but it was clear this person wasn’t listening and was unteachable to the point I ended up walking away so that I didn’t just explode. I was trying to understand their point of view although it became apparent that their whole approach was based around insulating themselves from any attempt to challenge their method , to prevent investigation of truth but only to accept their approach as right.
I can’t rely the whole attempt at dialogue because most of the discussion evolved around trying to correct something that was said; this person was neither interested in listening or being corrected. They wanted to sound pious and humble but it didn’t come off that way. All I heard was a person that thought they were taught by the Holy Spirit who used the whole God revealed this to me I don’t listen to men my authority comes from the Holy Spirit not the authority of men. Then this person invited me to their bible study where they could answer all my questions; even asked me to write them down. I challenged that and said you’re a man why should I listen to you based on what you just said????? They replied that they were taught by the Holy Spirit; all Christians are taught by the Holy Spirit it is our final authority. I corrected them and said “No! The Bible the Word of God is our final authority that the Holy Spirit uses to instruct us and reveal truth.
Okay lets break this down. In what was said their was a mixture of error and truth Yes the Holy Spirit does teach us truth; however we don’t just pluck truth out of the air or spend 10 years in the wilderness discovering some unique way or method of discerning truth. Sounds more to me like this person spent 10 years in the wilderness perfecting a mechanism of defense that insulates them from any attempt at correcting their erroneous method.In essence what this person described was a form of Christian mysticism. (See explanations and examples in the links provided and note: I don’t endorse all these websites)
From these links we can get a broad description of Christian mysticism that inevitably it is an investigation that starts with man not God based on subjective contemplation or waiting for revelation to emerge or occur without first referencing Scripture to provide context or direction (instruction) This person I talked to claimed that God gave them this revelation that when talking to a potential convert or even in defending Christianity they have no need have of contextualizing their defense but simply quoting scripture that God has revealed to them. It sounds very spiritual and pious but it is what is called the apologetic’s of ignorance. I don’t doubt for one minute that the person I was talking to didn’t know their bible they could quote vast passages of scripture however that has nothing to do with listening or understanding what their interlocutor was saying or attempting to say. If anything it shows spiritual pride and an unteachable spirit. Nor does it mean they even understood the context of what they were saying when quoting the bible. At the end of the day all they were doing shows an inability to engage thought or debate. Their request to write down one’s questions and simply show up to the bible study and receive the answers is everything every cult wants to do and that is to shut down critical thought.
On this they were claiming that God had given them this revelation on how to witness and answer people. He challenged me to just speak the word of God however when I asked him to open his bible so that we could reason through the scriptures he firmly gripped his bible under his arm and refused to open it and said “No! Lets speak the word of God to each other… that says a lot! All I got from this exchange is “I don’t need to listen to you because the Holy Spirit gave me this revelation and it is true therefore I am right there is no need for discussion!
Here is a list of verses Christian Mystics misuse to prop up their own methodology:
Jud 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
Joh 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
1Co 2:9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”
1Co 2:10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. (Note: Paul is quoting from Isiah 64:4, 65:17, 52:15)
Observe that Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 wasn’t just making stuff up out of thin air Paul prefaced this with “But just as it is written! In other words Paul provides a frame of context in which he combines a number of verses to make his statement or critique about unregenerate men not understanding the word of God. Paul wasn’t claiming to draw on some inner mystical light. The other difference is that Paul was receiving divine revelation in the sense that he drew upon other scripture to contextualize his statement. Paul was explaining how we receive and know the truth but added in contrast that the world and ungodly men don’t and can’t understand the truth we have.
Here is the but that Christian Mystics use to defend their approach that also includes the very verses and more I just quoted: 1Jn 2:27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
Here is another set of verses mystics use 1Jn 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—
1Jn 1:2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
1Jn 1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
This exactly what this man quoted to me…. On it’s own it is the testimony of John who was an eyewitness to the ministry of Christ. This seems straight forward enough until you realize that the context this man I spoke with was placing this reference in a position to defend his practice of personal inspiration and inner enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. Sadly he left something out which effects the whole context. This man claimed his practice had nothing to do with feelings that he relied on facts as evidence of his approach and once more rattled off a string of verses as evidence to his approach. I asked him to show me from his bible so that I could read these statements for myself and once more he refused to hand his bible over or open it so I could read the verses he quoted.. . So what was missing? to begin with he should have quoted the whole passage; he didn’t! Secondly on its own we don’t know and the nonbeliever very likely wouldn’t know what John is talking about; they might know whom John was referring to but we wouldn’t know specifically what the subject matter is. John was firstly referring to that which was already written down: 1Jn 1:4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. Note that John also isn’t making stuff up. John saw Jesus and his ministry over the three years he was disciple’d by Christ, John had previously written about his experience of Christ in his gospel as a defense against the growing influence of Gnosticism and other heretical movements that were prominent in his time. John had spoken about Christ proclaiming the Gospel and defending the faith he held so dear although John never claimed any mystical practices he rejected them. Johns testimony was written powerfully and forcefully.
Finally John wrote this to put his testimony into context. It wasn’t about man’s ability to discern truth through some inner mystical experience John was stating something about Christ and the nature of God. John says nothing good about man here: 1Jn 1:4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1Jn 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1Jn 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
How can we deduce from this that there is any reference to using some inner light to receive revelation like the Christian Mystic claims? There simply isn’t! The Apostle Paul adds this: 2Ti 3:10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,
2Ti 3:11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!
2Ti 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2Ti 3:13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2Ti 3:14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
2Ti 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2Ti 3:17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. Note my emphasis on verse 15
Both John and Paul were referring to both recent and ancient written revelation. The difference between them and anyone else claiming revelation is that they were able to perform miracles as a sign they were speaking the truth just as Christ performed miracles as proof of His divinity.
Once upon a time when someone started quoting a constant stream of verses at me I might have thought they were both spiritually mature and wise. I would have been impressed… not so much these days as I want to know both the meaning and context of what is being said and why then further to this the motives behind what is being said. More to this when someone talks over you and wont listen I see that as a sign of control or an attempted power play which is motivated by pride and arrogance.
Please look at the links provided for more in-depth study if this interests you.