Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mysticism: Repent, Before You Have To Drink Ground Calf Juice

In a recent post about Monvee, we talked about Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Merton who once compared mystical meditation to the same powerful experience generated by mind-altering drugs.  And as we noted, the problem with mystical meditation is that it is far more dangerous than drugs.  Monvee, the new product put out by Leadership Network, markets itself as a way for Christians to draw closer to God through something called "Spiritual Formation."  But, the Spiritual Formation techniques taught by Monvee, which are the same thing as the "mystical meditation" referenced by Thomas Merton, are identical to classic occultic meditation practices taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, wicca, paganism,etc.

God, however, is very specific about how we are to "draw closer" to Him, and that is only through the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10).  And yet most religions outside of Christianity have some version of mysticism that they practice for the specific purpose of drawing close to God.  So the question must be asked: if these faith traditions are outside of Christ, are they getting to God?  We know the answer to that, and it is obviously, no, they aren't getting to God.  We may not be getting much in the way of deep doctrinal teaching in our churches today, but we at least know that much, right?  We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no-one comes to the Father but by him.  However, we also know from the testimonies of mystics that they are experiencing something, so what is it?  It is a "counterfeit Holy Spirit experience" which "feels" very real and very spiritual.  What they're experiencing is spiritual...only it is not from God.

As a former mystic, the biggest blind spot I see in today's Christian culture is almost an innocence about spiritual deception, a thinking that as Christians we can't be deceived. A belief that if, spiritually speaking, something were "off" about a teaching or practice, somehow we would just "know" it because it would "feel wrong." But even more than that, there also seems to be this idea that only we, as Christians, have true spiritual experiences, that somehow these mystics must not be having "real" experiences, that it's all smoke and mirrors.  This is absolutely not true.  What these mystics are experiencing is real, and it is spiritual, and mystics wouldn't have been doing these things for centuries if they weren't connecting to.....something.  God graciously and mercifully has given us many warnings so that we would know how to defend ourselves against spiritual deception.  We are warned that Satan himself can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).  We are told that we must test all things (1 John 4:1), because none of us are beyond being deceived.

So how do we "test all things?"  What is our measure for testing?  Is it our own hearts, our own emotions?  In today's culture, we have a tendency to "test" things through our thoughts and feelings ("I didn't have a peace about it"). No, we must not do that, for we know that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked above all things (Jer 17:9). Scripture is our standard for testing all things, Scripture is what we must use in determining whether or not something is acceptable to God.

Monvee, which is a blending of Christian terminology and occultic mysticism, is very similar to what the Israelites did in Exodus 32 in the story of the golden calf.   This story is one of the most powerful biblical warnings there is against incorporating pagan practices into our worship of God.   What most people don't realize is that this well-known incident wasn't about straight up paganism.  No, this story records how God's chosen people blended together (1) what they had been taught to do by God with (2) pagan practices that were familiar to them from their years of captivity in Egypt.  They knew about altars and making offerings to God.  And they knew about pagan animal worship from their exposure to Egyptian culture. When Moses delayed returning to the people from atop the mountain where he was speaking with God, the people  decided to create their own tangible way of worshiping God.  So they set up an altar, added a little Egyptian flavor in the form of cow worship, and called it a festival for the Lord.  And God saw this, and was very pleased?  Not exactly.  This is what the Bible records:
"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'  "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation." "  (Exodus 32:7-10, my emphasis)
God was not pleased - and only Moses' intercession on their behalf saved them from being completely destroyed by God. As if that weren't a clear enough warning against mixing pagan worship practices with worship of God, we are also warned in Deuteronomy against spiritual syncretism:
"The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." You must not worship the LORD your God in their way..." (Deut, 12:29-31a, my emphasis)
God is quite clear on how we are to worship and approach him - and it is not through blending our worship of him with pagan practices. But this is exactly what Monvee is doing with its "personalized spiritual formation" programs: they are taking Christian terminology and mixing in occultic mysticism, and calling it Christian.  I recognize that it is very popular in today's global, syncretized culture to meld different things together. We are most certainly an experience-driven culture, always seeking the fresh, exciting, "new" thing.  And we also like our smorgasbord religions, with a little of this, a little of that.  But we have clear mandates from Scripture about how we are to worship and approach God.  We are to be set apart from the world - not syncretized with it - so that's God's truth will shine like a beacon in the darkness.

If you know anyone who is being drawn into the deceptive practices of Monvee, Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Prayer, please warn them.  These things look spiritual and sound spiritual, but they are occultic and will lead into a dangerous spiritual realm.  We must be diligent to guard our hearts and minds: after all, it is the Lord's honor and glory which are at stake.  When we become just as pagan as the world, how is God revealed, exalted and glorified?  And not only must He be rightly exalted, but it is mockery to blend worldly pagan practices into our worship of Him. The Lord will not be mocked, and He will discipline those He loves: 
"When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it." (Exodus 32:19-20)
If you yourself have done these things at the leading of your pastor or church group, I urge you to repent so that you do not find yourself drinking "calf juice." Innocence concerning the "pagan-ness" of a practice will not protect a believer, especially when it comes to the area of the occult.  This is Satan's domain, and we must flee from it.  My heart is broken for those who have been led into these unbiblical practices through church leadership, but it is never too late to fall at the foot of the Cross.  Humble yourself before the Lord, for He is mighty to forgive and restore.

photo credit: jp512 via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

Monvee: Mysticism For The Masses

Mysticism: A Counterfeit Holy Spirit

Mysticism: Spiritual Crack

Monvee: Elevating Experience Over Scripture

Testimony of a Former Mystic