Mystic risks

Christianity, which is based on miraculous and prophetic origins, has often looked suspiciously on prophets and mystics. Charismatics, prophets and mystics can be loose cannons - but the risks are worth taking.

The man who believes he has a hot-line to God is a dangerous person. But to whom is he dangerous? If he is a deluded psychotic with an obsession for holy conflict he could damage thousands of lives. If, on the other hand, he is genuinely hearing the God of truth and love, he will be dangerous only to the forces of evil and will be of value to those who desire honesty and righteousness. The church has traditionally preferred not to take chances in such matters and has treated all visionaries as 'high-risk'. The traditional control is to filter all revelation through established authority because playing safe avoids explosions. But explosions are necessary to mine the purest gold.

If you are a Christian who thinks for yourself, who meditates, and experiences the thrill of personal insights and revelations, you are likely at some time to have run into problems with church authority. Personal revelation is not considered "safe", though in fact it is a normal experience for followers of the God who distinguishes himself from dumb idols by communicating with those who put their trust in him. The driving force of our faith is the Holy Spirit, who was sent by the resurrected Christ to lead us into all truth. Real truths have to be "seen", not learned, and seeing is a spiritual rather than an intellectual act. The promise of the Holy Spirit was not to officials of the church, but "to you and your children and as many as the Lord calls". The Spirit is given to individual believers. The gospel is Christ in you, not just Christ among you.>

The obvious objection to encouraging people to seek individual revelation is that each of us could go off at a tangent and upset the progress of spiritual growth of many others in the church. Obviously we can make mistakes, but history shows that the influence of people who took unexpected directions which were also wrong directions did not last long, and they were quickly forgotten. Lasting damage usually came from the institutions and dynasties who suppressed revelation. On the other hand, many individuals who moved out of the established order into fruitful new directions are now remembered as heroes of faith. Luther, Wesley, Francis of Assisi, John Wycliffe and Paul of Tarsus were all outstanding rebels of their time. They did not get everything right; but their persistence in holding onto their personal revelations gave freedom, light and truth to many in their time and to all ages since. We would be poorer today if they had kept quiet and toed the official line of their day. The fact that we cannot all be superstars in the revelation business does not diminish the importance of this matter to each one of us as individuals. There will be no First Division winners if the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions and all the local leagues fail to play their part in the game. My prophetic gift may not be in the star class, but I am fulfilled if I do what God puts in my heart. Each nation, each locality, each community, each individual needs light from heaven to guide the way through present, local trials towards relevant goals.

The dangers of false prophecy are over-rated because prophecy is always subject to check; and that check is most effective when all are prophets. Play a wrong note in a room full of musicians and everyone will notice the error. Paul said that we may all prophesy, and that each person can share his/her vision in turn so that others may judge. We are capable of making good judgements because each of us has our own hot-line. The veil of the holy place is down for us all, not just for an elevated elite, so we can each assess the relevance of one another's revelations. We have only to disregard what does not ring true. We do not have to condemn one another, but need rather to hold on to what works. Prove all things and "hold fast to that which is good". Knowing what God is saying is not a logical, methodistic matter. We know because we know. God was not in Elijah's earthquake, but in the "still, small voice" that followed. Any unsettled sense in my spirit tells me that what I am hearing is not for me, at least not at this time. If my inner peace receives fresh wisdom, whether from a newspaper, a conversation, a scripture text or any other source, then I hold onto it. It is good.

"Mystics" is a mediaeval name for people with prophetic insight. Ancient Israel called them seers, Jews in later times called them prophets. We can call them what we like, and each of us can be one by God's grace. These are exciting times and God has poured out his spirit liberally, and beyond the narrow, doctrinal walls which some authorities would like to preserve. Let each of us enjoy a continuing communion with the God who speaks and seek the ultimate insight, which is called wisdom. There is more danger for the church in suppressing the spirit than in allowing revelation to flower and bear fruit, even if it challenges established concepts. This is a risk the church must take. If we can be trusted to speak truthfully to our children, how much more can we trust our heavenly Father to speak truthfully to us.

© Derrick Phillips - 1990