II.B.1 The Mystical Wanderer

Part II  –  Application to Reformed & Evangelical Theology

SUBPART B – QUAKERISM; Faltering Beginnings of Christian Mysticism

Article 1 – The Mystical Wanderer

a.  Christian Mysticism

b.  Redemption; Doing the Will of God

c.  God’s Will is His Kingdom, which is In Us

d.  The Mystical Quest; Knowing the Will of God

Article 1 – The Mystical Wanderer

 a.  Christian Mysticism

Religion is comfortable.  The man that can achieve an undisturbed-conscience before God through the use of mere natural and external-forms will see no advantage to laying them aside in order to engage in any painful process of truth-finding.

Upon the happening of the Reformation, issues of Truth became much more poignant – Martin Luther having forced the Pauline doctrine of Grace into the front and center of religious thought.  Faith was now firmly put forward and received as the sole-necessary antecedent of salvation.  While certainly tending to free men from religious-servitude to ecclesiastical-forms and ritual, the Reformation did not of itself shine the light of truth into the soul.  Grace as an accepted-principle did not necessarily correlate to Grace that was experiential.  Disabused of the exalted-role of church, the kingdom of God was now more keenly-perceived as something requiring a seeking-after until found.   Therefore a new class of pilgrims went forward to wander upon a new-landscape.

While there is the element of the mystical in practically every major religion of the world, Christian mysticism bears a distinction to them all in bearing two traits together – these traits common to Christian mysticism are; the personal nature of God, and a union with God that  “is one of love and will in which the distinction between Creator and creature is permanently retained.”[1]  The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines Christian mysticism as:

In general, an immediate knowledge of God attained in this present life through personal religious experience.  It is primarily a state of prayer and as such admits of various degrees, from short and rare Divine “touches” to the practically permanent union with God in the so-called “mystical marriage”.  The surest proof adduced by the mystics themselves for the genuineness in their experience is its effect, viz. its fruit in such things as an increase of humility, charity, and love of suffering.  [2]

The term mystic has come to carry a negative-connotation given its association with such phenomenon as; ecstatic experience, dreams, visions, and divine communication, which have caused theologians and church leaders to distrust this aspect of Christianity – often comparing it to Gnostic error.  Nevertheless (as is apparent from the Oxford-Dictionary) there is little in the definition-itself that would warrant a negative-connotation.  Thus better-judgment would seem to allow case-by-case consideration of the mystics and their message.[3]

The Oxford Dictionary recites a long list of mystics beginning with the apostles John and Paul.  A few of the more well-known names of those examples cited include; Clement of Alexandria, St. Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Jakob Boehme, George Fox, Francois Fenelon, Mme. Guyon, and William Law.  However, it would not be difficult to compile a list of hundreds of historical-names of men and women who would qualify for the designation standing along a spectrum ranging from the orthodox to the apostate.

In the wake of the Protestant Reformation came the rise of a new era of Christian mysticism.  This subpart will focus upon the Christian mystic George Fox who founded one of the most significant religious-movements to arise following the Reformation, the Quaker-movement, which strove particularly upon the issue of knowing the mind of God on the assumption that every man had the Spirit of Christ within him to testify.  This, they based on the verse that reads:

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.                                                                                      John 1:9

Quakerism fastened itself upon the more mystical-allusions of the Gospel arguably at the expense of the more concrete.  Although this movement was clouded by not unfounded charges of heterodoxy, it is nonetheless a vital part of the history of doctrinal-restoration given its tremendous-impact upon gospel-thought and religious-development.

b.  Redemption; Doing the Will of God

Can it be doubted that salvation contemplates the doing of the will of God?  Consider that Jesus said:

Not every one that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.        Matt. 7:21

 And this should not be strange to our thinking.  For the gospel is very clear that doing the will of God is condition-precedent to receiving the “promises of God”.

  For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,  ye might receive the promise.                                                    Heb 10:36

Doing the will of God is what constitutes eternal life.

And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides for ever.                                                                I John 2:17

Hence, we have the definition of redemption, ie. the doing of the “will of God”.[4]  Implied in John’s statement is that the will of God contemplates overcoming the lusts of this world.  This is because God’s will has something to do with what is on the inside of the man.

c.  God’s Will is His Kingdom, which is In Us

The coming of the kingdom of God is the doing of His will in the earth.  How does this manifest?  As to the body of Christ, this manifests in sanctification.  For this is God’s will concerning the church, that it be sanctified:

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification”.                  I Thess. 4:3

Therefore sanctification can be said to be the doing of God’s will. His holiness being made our holiness is God’s will.  The coming of His kingdom (ie. the doing of His will) is performed in our sanctification.  For, consider that the Lord’s model prayer begins:

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name.”        Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.                      Matt. 6:9-10

The first line is the hallowing of God.  The second line is His hallowing of us by the performance of His will within us, ie. in the earth.  This is the fundamental nature of the kingdom of God, ie. sanctifying Christ that He may sanctify us.  This is the purpose of God drawing near unto men, ie. for identification within His own holy nature.   Therefore we have commandment in the Law:

Neither shall ye profane my holy name;  but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel:  I am the LORD which hallow you,                      Lev. 22:32

Our sanctification is reflexive of His sanctification by us.  That such an incredibly wonderful promise  conditioned on so simple a principle should be so easily overlooked is astonishing!   God tells us to hallow Him, because He, in turn, will hallow us!  What this means, is explained to us by Peter:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great & precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.                                          II Pet. 1:4

God’s eternal nature (ie. holiness) imparted to man through the Person and work of Jesus Christ is our eternal life.  For as many as are called of God, this is what constitutes eternal life.

d.  The Mystical Quest; Knowing the Will of God

Christians seem to put substantial concern on the subject of knowing God’s will.   But, consider, that prophecy does not speak like this.  Prophecy does not concern itself with God’s people “knowing His will” so much as knowing His ways.  Neither does prophecy emphasize our relationship with God as being a knowing of His will as much as a being guided in a way.  There is a considerable-difference!  Consider the prophecy:

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go;  I will guide thee with mine eye.                                  Ps. 32:8

God’s will is not necessarily a matter that can be ascertained by conscious-inquiry; nor received by the natural-mind.  God works on levels deeper and more profound.  Supposing we could be told God’s will, we could never carry it out on a mere conscious-level, for that would be flesh.  And we know that those acting in the flesh are incapable of pleasing God.[5]  Andrew Murray[6] expresses this concept:

Head knowledge only gives human ideas without power.  God by His Spirit gives a living knowledge that enters the heart & works effectually.  Cultivate a strong faith that God will make you to know wisdom in the secret place of your heart. . . . Learn that God’s working, & the place where He gives His life & light, is in the heart, deeper than all your thoughts. [7]

Intuitively, we know Andrew Murray’s words are correct.  Certainly the God of our creation has purposes that are far higher, far broader, and far deeper than we could ever know.  Therefore, we pray;

 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.         Matt. 6:10

Even God’s will concerning things pertaining to ourselves are more than we are capable of knowing.  Yet, God has indeed allowed that men should know His will, and He does so through the person of His Son.  In fact, God’s will may even be expressed as a Person, ie. He that came into the world to always do God’s will – God’s only begotten Son.  The Lord said:

And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.                                    John 8:29

Therefore the will of God is always with the mind of Jesus Christ.  To procure the mind of Christ is to know the will of God.  This we have available to the body of Christ,[8] but only to those within His body that are willing to walk as He did.[9]  What purpose could there be in possessing a mind we are unwilling to walk in?  Therefore Paul writes:

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.                 Gal 5:25

Think about this statement; “If we desire entry into the kingdom of God we must be willing to do the will of God”.  Why is this statement true?  It is because the two principles are converse each of the other.  The kingdom of God is necessarily defined as the doing of His will!  This is why Paul could confidently tell the Thessalonians; “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification”.[10]   We could put Paul’s statement another way and be just as correct;  “For this is the will of God, even your entry into the kingdom of God.”  And this is borne-out by the Lord’s words as well where He says:

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom                                                                                    Luke 12:32

Thus it is certainly God’s will that we enter into His kingdom. The Lord’s own words confirm it!  In this sense, God’s will is not difficult to know.  Regardless of what it be in the moment, we know that His will is that we be sanctified within Himself through identification-in, and conformity-with the Person of His Son.

 Knowing the mind of Christ is central to the kingdom of God, and is therefore a matter of tremendous-agitation during periods of spiritual-awakening.  We are told that most will not respond in faith so as to ever come into such knowledge:

 . . .  the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.   John 1:5

Nevertheless for those that do receive the light so as to enter upon the knowledge of God that is Christ:

. . . to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.                                            John 1:12

The Quakers called these periods of Divine-Light “openings” which seemed to emphasize its coming upon the individual-soul.  The Evangelicals called them “revivals of religion” which seemed to emphasize its corporate-aspects  These were periods wherein God particularly revealed the way to life – times when Christ was peculiarly manifested before the hearts of men in awakenings of faith through the Light that lightens “every man that cometh into the world”.[11]  The return of Light opened a new era of spiritual-laboring for such as would receive its empowerment to become God’s children.

                                                                                   


[1] The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Second Ed. by F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone © 1957 (1st Ed.),  1974 (2nd Ed.), 1993 (Republished with corrections), pg. 952.

[2] Ibid. pg. 952

[3] Consider the wisdom of Nicodemas spoken to the Jewish council; “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51)

[4] See commentary on Isaiah 52:3 discussing meaning of redemption.

[5] Rom 8:8  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

[6] Andrew Murray (1825-1917) Scottish-South African pastor/teacher.

[7] A Life of Obedience, by Andrew Murray, Bethany House, Minneapolis, MN © 1982, 2004

[8] I Corinthians 2:16  For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ.

[9] Revelation 19:10  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

[10] I Thessalonians 4:3

[11] John 1:9

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About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
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