By Brannon S. Howse
Mysticism and Gnosticism are both doctrinal aberrations through which followers seek hidden or higher knowledge, not known to other “less enlightened” people. Whether they recognize it or not, these people are trying to find this special knowledge through occult practices. Demons often take on the form of God or Jesus in order to deceive people, so many people think they’re worshipping God, but they’re not. By definition, they’re involved in the occult even if they don’t think so.
The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of this through people like Saint Teresa of Avila, a mystic Catholic nun of the mid-1500s. I detail the problems with Teresa of Avila in Religious Trojan Horse, but to summarize: she believed in four levels of prayer through which people could become progressively enlightened. By the fourth level the individual who had entered into the mystical silence about which she taught was becoming divine, a part of God. By some accounts, she was often seen levitating off the floor, and she would teach contemplative prayer, through which I believe demons took on the role of Jesus as a way to deceive people.
The Bible instructs us to encounter God through the study of His Word, and that’s where the character and nature of God are revealed. As people practice occult techniques such as contemplative prayer, breath prayers, centering prayers, and soaking prayers, though, they will encounter demons posing as God. Mystic Richard Foster even recognizes this danger, although he encourages people to use these practices. In his best-selling, decades-old book, The Celebration of Discipline, he teaches these occult practices as a way to draw closer to God but then cautions people that they may encounter an entity that is not God. Rather than stay away from the activity, though, he recommends saying a prayer of protection to require all evil spirits to depart. The real problem, though, is that Christians are called to encounter God only through His Word and not through mystical, Gnostic, or cultic practices.
We’re told in Scripture that Jesus departed and ascended into heaven. Then angels told the disciples that He would come again. Until then, we’re not to seek any kind of altered state of consciousness to encounter God or to have a literal physical confrontation with God or Jesus. We’re to study His Word. The Bible assures us that the Word of God is all we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. It’s bad enough that Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, and Roman Catholic folks teach otherwise, but as with many false teachings these days, the corrupt message shows up in places it shouldn’t. People like Tim Keller, a Reformed pastor and theologian who should know better, has said that we should be reading the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, and other mystics:
[quote] The best things that have been written are mostly by Catholics during the counter reformation—Ignatius Loyola, Saint Francis De Sales, Jonathan Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, great stuff. [end quote]
Rick Warren seems to agree. As a featured guest on an EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network, a Roman Catholic broadcasting outlet), Warren recommended some of these mystic Gnostics. Referring to writing his book The Purpose-Driven Life, he said:
[quote] One of the things I did before I wrote the book was I asked the question, “How do you write a book that lasts 500 years?” For instance, Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, right, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Okay, the Desert Fathers, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, all of these great classic devotional works. [end quote]
Because so many of these historical writers come out of the Roman Catholic tradition, the acceptance of the works paves the way for them to unite with Word of Faithers, NAR followers, and others who are sucked into the mystic movement.
Church growth guru and co-founder of the New Apostolic Reformation C. Peter Wagner helped lay the groundwork from the NAR side as long ago as 1982 when he co-sponsored with the late John Wimber a class called “Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth” at Fuller Theological Seminary. Here’s how Wagner explains the purpose of the class:
[quote] One of our adjunct professors, John Wimber, who is a pastor of Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Yorba Linda, California, came to us recently with a suggestion that we offer a course in signs, wonders, and church growth. I agreed to co-sponsor the course with him and early in 1982 we experimented with it. [end quote]
Wagner, in fact, explored “signs and wonders” so deeply that he even believes dead people are being raised:
[quote] I too now believe that dead people are literally being raised in the world today. As soon as I say that some ask if I believe it is normative. I doubt it would be normative in any local situation, but it probably is normative in terms of the universal body of Christ. Even though it is an extremely uncommon event I would not be surprised if it were happening several times a year. [end quote] [source: Cited in John F. MacArthur, Jr., “Charismatic Chaos—Part 5, Does God do Miracles Today?,” 1991, posted at: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon/90-56/does-god-do-miracles-today]
Again, the rationale for teachings like this amounts to scripture-twisting. People argue that Jesus said, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12), but they take the scripture out of context. They say we should be able to raise the dead since Jesus did. Yet this is not the meaning of Jesus’ words. He was speaking of the fact that the Gospel will go forth and that His disciples who become the apostles will see even greater conversions than He have seen in His earthly ministry.
Jesus had only a short ministry of three years, whereas the disciples would have many years to spread the Gospel. That, of course, did come to pass. The apostles saw many more people come to faith in Jesus Christ through their ministry than Jesus did because they preached to far more people and ministered for much longer. They were also the ones used by the Holy Spirit to write God’s Word, through which countless others have come to salvation. The “greater things” Jesus refers to is the proclamation of the Gospel, not signs and wonders. John MacArthur summarizes the problem:
[quote] The sad truth is that the gospel proclaimed by the Word of Faith movement is not the gospel of the New Testament. Word Faith doctrine is a mongrel system, a blend of mysticism, dualism, and Gnosticism that borrows generously from the teachings of the metaphysical cults. The Word Faith movement may be the most dangerous false system that has grown out of the charismatic movement so far because so many charismatics are unsure of the finality of scripture. [end quote]
As for the Church of Rome and its involvement in mysticism and Gnosticism, the EWTN website highlights the comfort level of Catholicism with mysticism:
[quote] The issue of supernaturality is one that deserves to be explored more fully according to the common teaching of the church. Most extraordinary phenomena in the mystical order—visions, apparitions, ecstasies, mystical knowledge, etc.— are caused by angels acting on God’s behalf. [end quote]
Add to that historical realities such as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, who claimed to have had visitations from Mary (I believe it was a demon posing as Mary!), and it’s easy to see how merging on this point with the Word of Faith and the New Apostolic Reformation is no problem for the Church of Rome. All three groups are united in mysticism, Gnosticism, and seeking after signs, wonders, visions, dreams, and apparitions. If these three groups can merge, do you now understand how easy it will be for them to then merge with Hinduism, Buddhism, the New Age Movement and every other false religion?
Copyright 2015 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.