Probably one of the most dangerous and deceptive movements in Christianity today has to do with mysticism. Some of the most famous mystics in history include Aleister Crowley, who promoted the Black Arts, and Helena Blavatsky, who has ties to the Nazi party.
Not all mystics, however, were considered evil. Other well-known mystics, such as St. Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton, were members of the early Catholic church. Some would even consider John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, a mystic, as well as John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard churches.
These Christian mystics had a noble intent, which was to form a mystical union with God, through intimacy and supernatural experiences. Mystics rely heavily on an experiential relationship with God, which means the intellectual side is often left out. According to Christian mystic, Bernard McGinn, the Bible has a deeper inner meaning. “God really lies beyond anything we know,” he says. “The mystic reminds us of the mystery of God.”
But what happens when Christianity becomes all about seeking hidden meanings in the Bible instead of taking God’s Word literally?
This is where Christian mysticism falls into dangerous territory. Take for instance, one of the most popular Christian mystics of the day, John Crowder. Along with running a Mystical School for Christians where attendees are encouraged to “get drunk in the spirit,” Crowder has also authored several books including The Ecstasy of Loving God; Mystical Union; and Money. Sex. Beer. God.
Besides his books and Mystical School, Crowder is famous for his popular video called “Tokin’ the Ghost” where he acts like he is smoking a joint as if filling up on the Holy Spirit. He also commonly uses phrases like, “getting whacked,” “plastered,” and “loaded,” to describe getting high on God. Many of his meetings include young people who look so out of it, they really do seem high or drunk.
Crowder’s teachings have spawned other lesser known Christian mystics like Brandon Barthrop of Red Letter Ministries who hosts “Joel’s Bar Drunken Glory Broadcast” via live stream on YouTube. (The name of the bar is supposed to refer to the prophet Joel from the Old Testament). During one particular broadcast, Barthrop claims to have gotten so wasted in the spirit that he could no longer talk and his wife had to take over.
One of the major problems with these teachings is that all throughout Scripture, the Bible admonishes Christians to be alert and to stay vigilant. How are believers supposed to do this if they are “drunk in the spirit?” Besides that, one of the fruits of the spirit is self-control, which doesn’t line up with the drunken glory behavior.
If this all sounds like a joke, sadly, it’s not. These modern-day Christian mystics are actually very popular. Red Letter Ministries has nearly 2,000 subscribers on YouTube and John Crowder has nearly 13,000 subscribers. Crowder’s books have sold thousands of copies, making him an internationally-known author and speaker.
One reason these modern-day mystics are so deceptive and dangerous is that they are well-versed in theology and they have a plethora of knowledge about church history, the doctrines of faith, and the Bible. So while they know the Bible, they have a lot of hostility toward mainstream Christianity. They are adamant that Christians who live only by the Bible have a religious demon and often refer to them as “Pharisees.”
One question many Christians end up having when studying Christian mysticism is whether or not some mysticism is okay as long as one doesn’t go overboard. Christian author Mike Duran doesn’t believe that Christian mysticism is inherently evil and that mystical experiences should not be completely shunned. However, he also says, “Without some boundaries, mysticism can veer into potentially dangerous, unorthodox, even occult areas.”
Tim Challies, a well- known Evangelical blogger, author and book reviewer says, “God has given us his Word to guide us in all matters of faith and practice. When we commit ourselves to mysticism, we commit ourselves to looking for revelation from God and experiences of God that come from outside that Word. We reject his gift—his good, infallible, inerrant, sufficient gift—and demand more. Because God promises us no more, we quickly create our own experiences and interpret them as if they are God’s revelation. Yet the Bible warns us that we can do no better than God’s Word and have no right to demand anything else.”
It’s up to each Christian to decide whether or not they want to knowingly delve into mysticism or not. But if they do, they should heed the warning it can be dangerous and deceptive. They must also realize that when a mystical experience can’t be measured by God’s word, it’s more likely they are encountering the devil that comes as an angel of light.