We love a good mystery

Humans love mystery. Particularly in worship we are generally drawn to the mysterious. There is a sense in our post modern society that if it is mysterious it has meaning or value. This is why there has always been a cultic fascination with mystery. This phenomenon is not just part of the new age spirituality movement or eastern mysticism but is often seen within those churches who claim allegiance with Christ. Christians love mysterious and ethereal experience.
The Catholic mass in many ways captures this fascination. We build cathedrals that evoke a feeling of mysterious awe towards God. We institute rites that only certain people may perform at certain times. Often rituals are in place to give us a sense of other-worldiness. In the modern comtemporary Christian music movement there is a move towards more ethereal instruments such as chimes and synth to create a sense of a God who is beyond us. Not all of this is negative. There is something profound about being in awe and wonder at a God who is bigger than our sensory world.
However there can be a problem when we prefer a good mystery to a revealed truth. Jesus is God in flesh. He is a tangible reality. He ate. He died. He walked around. He was not a spirit being who was beyond us but rather was God with us. No doubt this is a earth-shattering concept but salvation itself is tangible. One group who were around at the beginning of the early church were the gnostics. These guys thought that because God is spiritual and spiritual means other-worldy then to have a God who became a man was inconcievable. They believed that Jesus' fleshliness was just an illusion and that really he was a spirit. They also believed that Jesus did not physically rise from the dead as a real dude, but rather he rose spiritually as a ethereal being. John argues against this line of thought in his letter 1 John. He is writing to a bunch of guys who were being persuaded by gnostics. This is what he says in chapter 1:
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
John's confidence is in his senses and in what he has heard. For him Jesus and the gospel were a very physical reality.
There is a sense of mystery in the Bible. The mystery is, 'How is God going to bring all things together and reconcile a defiled people to himself and remain Holy?' But the mystery is revealed.
Rom 16:25, Eph 1:9, Eph 3:3-6, Col 1:26-27, Col 2:2, Col 4:3 all tell us that this mystery has been revealed. Because we worship the God of revelation, he reveals things to us. God is no longer a mystery in the hidden sense of the word.
So what does it mean in our context of meeting together? We should not chase the mysterious. God is a revealer. He has revealed himself in Jesus. I think that many churches tend to sing more songs about God as a distant deity and they celebrate this instead of singing about God's revelation... Jesus. Count the times that the incarnation is sung of in your church. Are you as on about Jesus in your singing as God is? Do you prefer to be in the dark about God or do you want to sing about what you know of him?

Posted byDan at 7:45 AM  


David Castor said... 9:23 AM  

Not sure that is it entirely fair to equate the mystical movement with gnosticism. In many ways gnosticism is the direct opposite to mysticism - gnosticism teaches that you can be initiated into a secret society by being taught certain types of knowledge while mysticism teaches that spirituality is familiar to all, but must be experienced rather than taught through special knowledge. It is interesting to note that Peter Carnley once referred to evangelicalism as a new type of gnosticism. I don't think it is an entirely fair charge, but I can see what he is getting at.

I would suggest that the idea of revelation and mysticism can work harmoniously. Although God reveals truth to us, this truth is quite often unable to be properly articulated - it is truth too wonderful and more true than our human language can adequately express.

Dan said... 10:42 AM  

I would agree with that David. I guess my argument is that at times we can become more focused on what we do not understand and less interested in what God has revealed. It's true that there are some concepts that we cannot do justice to with our words like the holiness of our Lord or the darkness of our hearts or the joy we feel at his grace.
I wouldn't call this mysticism though.

Andy M said... 10:01 PM  

Fan-flamin'-tastic post Dan! One of your best yet. I love the way you've expressed the idea of salvation being tangible and God being a revealer rather than a mystery. Beautiful.

michelle said... 11:08 AM  

Great post Dan.

I also thought this was helpful, probably more for the reason that I've always felt inadequate when we sing, as I don't find it at all a 'mystical' experience.

Although, I wonder if you've ever been to mass... I grew up a Catholic and the only mystery I ever experienced was wondering how they could make 45 minutes always feel like 4.5 hours...

Post a Comment