I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is – Rev. 2:13
“But salvation is not a transaction; it is the formation of a new life. There is but one salvation for all mankind and that is the life of God in the soul.” – Rufus Jones
“Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience — one whose religion and life are centered, not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which the person regards as first hand personal knowledge.” -Evelyn Underhill
The word “mystic” summons up images of the occult, heathenism, and otherworldly spiritual attitudes or, more specifically, of concepts such as those found in “New Age” philosophies. There is a distinction between attempting to know God through the use of mysticism, and knowing God who, by the very nature of things, is mysterious to man’s limited understanding.1 To a Christian Mystic, the great body of spiritual writings by such figures as S. John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart, Theresa of Avila, and others from Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic backgrounds are road maps, guide post to aid the mystic on their journey to discover God in the soul. But ultimately, and above all others, is the reference to their personal experience guided by the Holy Spirit through contemplation; “The Cloud of Unknowing which stresses the abandonment of the soul, intellect and psyche to the very presence of the Transcendent.”2
Kenneth Hagin is quoted as saying:
“But we have a conviction that before the Lord Jesus returns, there will be a mighty army of believers who will learn the secret of living in the Name, of reigning in life, living the victorious, transcendent, resurrection life of the Son of God among men3…If our minds could only grasp… …that Satan is paralyzed…it would be easy to live in this Resurrection Realm.4” Emphasis mine
On the surface this sounds harmless, however the language Hagin uses resembles that of the mystics. What Hagin is saying is that believers should and can transcend to the resurrection realm. To transcend means to go beyond ordinary limits, surpassing human experience and moving outside normal consciousness. In other words, it’s metaphysical language describing the ability to live in the supernatural. With all the lingo surrounding the supernatural realm, the message is we can walk in a sense of godhood. Clearly this type of message is characterized as New Age philosophy, as opposed to Orthodox Christianity and much of the church universal has latched on to this trend! Exactly what are the mystics saying when describing the “cloud of unknowing which stresses the abandonment of the soul, intellect and psyche to the very presence of the Transcendent“? (See reference 2above) Just like eastern mysticism, today the church is exchanging the sacred pages of Scripture for experiences in an attempt to dive deeper into the theology of spiritualism.
Theology is sometimes said to be the science of the supernatural. But what is the supernatural? The answer to that question depends on the meaning assigned to the word “nature.” If by nature it is meant the external world as governed by fixed laws, then the souls of men and other spiritual beings are not included under the term. In this use of the word nature, the supernatural is synonymous with the spiritual, and theology, as the science of the supernatural, is synonymous with pneumatology. However, the word nature is often taken in a wider sense, including man. We then have a natural and a spiritual world. And the supernatural is that which transcends nature in this sense, so that what is supernatural is of necessity also superhuman. But, if “nature” is meant to mean “everything which come out of God;” then the supernatural is the divine, and God is the only legitimate subject of theology. In no sense of the word, is theology the science of the supernatural.5
The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of nature and is said to exist above and beyond nature. Supernatural, meaning supra “above” + naturalis “nature” is most often whimsically associated with the paranormal and the occult by popular culture and fiction. However, this view of the supernatural differs from the concepts of Catholicism and Charismania (namely, the Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, and select groups of Charismatic’s). The idea presented today by many in this assemblage is that living in the supernatural should in all pretense, be natural, the result is pseudo-Christian mysticism.
Mysticism is a system of belief that attempts to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable facts. It seeks truth through feelings, intuition, and other internal senses. Objective data is usually discounted, so mysticism derives its authority from within. On the other hand, the subjective view is the methodology of historic Roman Catholicism. Intuition, experience, and mysticism have always played a central role in Catholic theology.6
Christian Mysticism unlike other stereotype mystics flows out from Catholicism where the mysticism of “John of the Cross” enters into conversation with modern Christianity in attempts to renew the contemplative life, like centering prayer, Christian meditation and the Catholic Charismatic Movement. Todd Bentley sprung out from the Catholic Charismatic Movement and is now within the ranks of the New Apostolic Reformation serving at the side of Rick Joyner. Let’s look at some modern Christian Mystics and some of their ministries and beliefs. For sake of length, I will first focus on Bill Johnson, then in the next few articles, others will be viewed and their connections to additional mystics discovered. Hopefully, in the end we will tie it all together giving a full picture of what Christian Mystics are, and the impact they are having both within the body of Christ and globally.
Coupled to Bill Johnsons charismatic and contemplative style ministry is the accompaniment of supernatural manifestations, open heaven (open portals). Johnson has taken Contemplative Spirituality to a whole new level beyond the normal parameters of Contemplation with his Sozo inner healing ministry.
From the Sozo Manual:
“Sozo is a Christian based prayer ministry helping to heal people from the effects of sin and wounding, of delivering individuals from the resulting influence, control and dominion of the demonic, and of restring them to relationship with God. This is accomplished through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, during which He uncovers past and present lies believed, reveals sin issues, as well as points of entry or access. When we remove the ground for this access, the spirits lose their ability and right to influence and control our lives. It is then that blessing and obedience can be established. The primary purpose of Sozo, at its best, is to move through healing and freedom, and into restoration of the relationship with Papa God, and out of that relationship, to reestablish destiny, purpose and direction.”
The Sozo ministry of Bethel Church, Redding Cal. resembles much of the elements and teachings of Sufism which is “a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits.”7
Bill Johnsons Sozo Ministry when compared to Dr. Ed Smith’s “Theophostic Ministry,” are precisely the same. Both propose that Jesus Christ must directly reveal to a struggling believer the specific “lie” he is believing (not through Scripture or through bringing Scripture to mind, but directly) – that He does this only as painful memories are re-visited and that Jesus himself must then personally refute that lie in that person’s heart, not merely in general but while the person is recalling the life context in which he began embracing that lie.8These are not notions derived from a study of Scripture but are considered new revelation, methods by which a believer can be instantly and completely cured of past hurts, trauma’s, and abuses. That “Sozo” in practice (though not in theory) sees the Bible as inadequate for ministry is seen not only in how “Sozo” began, but also in the ministry principles it promotes i.e., Ancestral Sin, soaking/contemplative prayer, etc.
The Kenosis Theory
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation (emptied Himself), and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” – Phil 2:5-8
When it comes to matters of Doctrine and Theology, Bill Johnson is in short supply. Trying to pin him down on doctrinal issues is like driving a nail into hardwood using a rubber hammer. His messages are neither systematic nor logical but are riddled with witticism more often than not leaving you guessing its meaning. In a message delivered by Johnson called “Jesus Is Our Model” December 20, 2009 Johnson states that Jesus was born again, quoted below:
“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.
In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.” He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’”
To further understand exactly what Bill Johnson is trying to say we must recognize Johnson’s view of “Anointing” as it relates to Jesus’ baptism by John and his view that Jesus laid His divinity aside and lived as an ordinary man to accomplish His Father’s will. Johnson states:
“Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.” It is a title that points to an experience…The word anointing means “to smear.” The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism. The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit…Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid his divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father…The anointing Jesus received was the equipment necessary, given by the Father to make it possible for Him to live beyond human limitations.”9
Clearly, we can see that Johnson is humanizing Jesus at the expense of His Deity! There is no question, of course, that Christ did submit to the limitations of humanity imposed upon him at His birth, however, His Manhood was, and is, never independently personal.”10 The Manhood of Christ is to be studied, not in the abstract, but in its actual, absolute, necessary harmony with His deity, under His divine Personality.11As for Johnson’s view, it is simply bad Christology known as the Kenosis heresy. Kenosis is nothing other than a theory, or at best, a hypothesis, to call it a doctrine is to misuse terms. Theoretically, according to Johnson, Jesus, in His Incarnation, emptied Himself of His divine attributes to such an extent that He shared the same infirmities and limitations as that of ordinary men. This then leads us to believe Jesus also shared in mans ignorance and mistakes, and He was no better off than the Rabbi’s of His day in His knowledge of the Law and the Prophets.
Considering the teaching of Johnson that Jesus then was merely “a man” who became the “Christ” at his baptism, being “smeared” on Jesus by the Spirit which was “given by the Father to make it possible for Him to live beyond human limitations(see quote 9 above),” one can understand how he comes to the conclusion that Jesus was born again. For if Johnson is consistent with the Word of Faith view (which he is), Jesus did not atone for our sins on the Cross, he took on the nature of Satan in hell and there suffered being born again in His resurrection.
Contemplative Spirituality and the denial of Christ’s Deity (kenosis i.e humanizing Jesus at the expense of His Deity), can only work if a kenosisof Christ’s Deity is in place. Contemplative spirituality centers around transcendence and ascendance i.e. a higher state of realization where one can become as Christ or become “a Christ.” These two, “transcendence” and “ascendance” exist within the teachings and practices of Bill Johnsons ministry (i.e. Jesus was born again at His resurrection and then became Deity). This teaching closely resembles that of Alice Bailey, who of course, is a mystic.
New Ager/occultist Alice A. Bailey furthered the work begun by the 19th century Theosophy of Helena P. Blavatsky. Bailey cites Dr. Schweitzer approvingly in her 1937 treatise of esoteric Christology titled From Bethlehem to Calvary.12Bailey’s explanation of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness by Satan provides an example of her heretical Christology which, while not kenotic – the belief is that Jesus was a man (with latent divinity like all men) who had the Christ spirit descend upon Him at Baptism and subsequently leave Him prior to the Crucifixion,13similar to the belief of first century proto-Gnostic Cerinthus.
In my opinion, the mysteries of the supernatural, like that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, are forbidden fruit.