theological journeys: what is a christian mystic?

Postcards from a wonderful site called

I was raised a Methodist in an integrated inner-city church. I became committed to Jesus in a high school Young Life club. I find my theological home in historic Reformed theology, and I am an ordained Presbyterian minister (EPC).  I have a Doctorate in Theology, and I teach leadership and spiritual formation at an Evangelical seminary.  I love to read the ancient writings of the Church Fathers, Catholics, Orthodox priests, and Celtic Christians. I am a spiritual Neapolitan, a blended-fruit smoothy, a potluck. Hawaiians call it aloha mixed plate.  A tradition from the shared lunch of workers in the pineapple plantations: “Welcome. Share. But you get what you get, Brah.”

A mixed plate. It is a difficult concept, because I do not believe that all roads lead to God, any more than all roads lead to Denver. You can move toward or away from any destination. But God has used truth from different Christian persuasions and teachers to draw me to a narrow path. Perhaps this is why I find so much ‘mystery’ in my faith.  Perhaps it is the explorer, the wayfarer, in me. Celtic Christians often called themselves, “Peregrinari Pro Christo,” (exiles for Christ.) This illumines one of the core understandings of these Irish and Scottish followers of Jesus: “Life is a journey, a spiritual and actual pilgrimage.”

To this point, when asked about my faith, sometimes I simply call myself a “Christian Mystic.” I got the term first  from C. S. Lewis.  His definition of Christian Mysticism is simple: “the direct experience of God, immediate as a taste or color.” Lewis  writes,

“Discovering spirituality is like discovering you are in a boat. Mysticism is like pushing off from the dock. Since many leave safe mooring and perish in the waves, this is not to be done in a cavalier fashion – even though it can be exciting to push off into the deep. The issue is not of whether we should push off, for Christians must do so as well if they intend to get anywhere (and that is what boats are for), but rather of where you are going…The Christian casts off from this world as well, but with clear intent to where he is headed, with the best of maps, circumspectly, deliberately.  The Christian Mystic arrives, against all dangers and odds. Thus we launch out with fear and trembling, but trust that He who commanded us to do so can calm the waves, and see us through to His real, safe port.”

Christian Mystic. I know this is a title which can be greatly misunderstood.  I have learned that there are people who feel the very term “Christian Mystic” to be highly improper, an oxymoron of sorts. For these people, the word “mystic” summons up a wide range of images, touching on individualism, monastic cells, heathenism, eastern religions, and otherworldly spiritual attitudes such as those found in “New Age” philosophies.  Mystics seem untethered to them, helium-filled airheads drifting in and out of one experience or another. For me, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Mystic” is related to the New Testament Word, mysterion, which means “secret” or “mystery.”  Christianity, while built on rational faith and life in the real world, is supra-rational. Bruce Demarest, Professor of Theology at Denver Seminary, says, “Great Christian realities, such as intimacy with God, spiritual passion, and prayer, must be framed in the mind and experienced in the heart. Christian mysticism, simply put, is the believers direct experience of God in the heart.” (Satisfy Your Soul, 1999). As a Christian Mystic, or Mystical Christian, I want to experience Christ, as if I were living with Him in the pages of the Bible. Chuck Colson notes, “So I no longer distrust the mystical. No, I’ve had plenty of experiences with it.”(Jubilee, 1998).

Richard F. Lovelace, Professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, defines mysticism as “a non-technical term denoting movements stressing Christian experience and encounter with God.” (Dynamics of the Spiritual Life, 1979). For me, in essence, being a Christian Mystic means seeking the Center, Christ, more than the boundaries (who is in or out). It means living each moment expectantly focused on Jesus, open and broken, and waiting for him to guide and direct. It means concretely walking the journey toward Him, with Him, and in Him, too. It means I am resigned to not knowing all of the answers about God and faith. It recognizes that much of God’s work in our lives is a mystery. Richmond Graduate University Theology Professor David Benner concludes, “A mystic is simply a person who seeks, above all else, to know God in love. Mystics are, therefore, much more defined by their longing than by their experience. They long to know God’s love and thereby be filled with the very fullness of God…Christian mysticism is participation in this transformational journey toward union with God in love.” (Spirituality and the Awakening Self, 2012)

I find in my studies that Jesus was a mystic.  He describes his own spirituality with statements of real experiences of God. Jesus did nothing except that which his heavenly Father told him to do (John 7:16). He was sent by the Father (John 8:42), and would return to him (John 14:126).  He and the Father were one (John 10:30), and his prayer for his followers was that they would share in this oneness of  life with God (John 17:21.) His faith walk was one of being with the Father, hearing his Father’s voice, responding to his Father’s guidance. This is unquestionably a mystical spirituality.

The Bible declares: “His ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. His ways are above our ways, and his thoughts are above our thoughts.” Christian mysticism has the sense that God is real and present around us, at work and available. This is practical theology for me–for it sets as my goal the knowledge and experience of the real and living God. It is concerned about spiritual formation, and so bids me to  seeks to develop a deep spiritual intimacy with Him. It touches down firmly on God’s amazing love, and his care for the sinner, the poor, and the brokenhearted. Spiritual Mysticism teaches me ways of growing our hearts and lives, and developing an authentic love for all people. I want to find Jesus in everyday life. Christian author and pastor A. W. Tozer notes, “A mystic is a believer who practices the presence of God.” (Pursuit of God, 1948).

Evangelical theologian and President of the American Theological Society Donald Bloesch wrote, “Those who stand in the Reformation tradition will acknowledge that a Christian can at the same time be a mystic, but they will insist that this means a radically qualified mysticism, qualified by faith in the self-revelation of a divine Mediator in human history.” (The Struggle of Prayer, 1988). I am a person with a Doctorate in theology, and I love to read the Bible. It answers my questions, reorients my life, and scratches deep itches in my soul. Everything for me must be weighed in biblical truth and example.

I walk with others on this journey; I must subject myself to many godly Christian men and women who will hold me accountable and keep me grounded. In all of my life, Jesus must remain the Core, the Cornerstone, the Source, and the King of my life. Still, Christian Mysticism asks that I  be concerned with more than knowing the letter of the Scriptures, or reciting religious dogmas.

I seek to know the Spirit of the Word, which is to say to live from within the experience of God’s Word at the very core of being. This means meditating on God’s word. I agree with Tim Keller when he says,

“Martin Luther suggested meditation. For example, if you paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer, as Luther counsels, it forces you to concentrate. Almost any method of meditation can focus the mind and then engage the affections so that when you turn to prayer you won’t be distracted. It should go without saying—but I will say it—that what I mean by ‘meditation’ is not any of the contemplative practices that aim at getting beyond words and rational thought into pure awareness of our oneness with God. Biblical meditation, rather, is filling the mind with Scripture and then ‘loading the heart’ (to use John Owen’s phrase) with it until it affects not only the emotions but the entire life.”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” A mystic, quite simply, is a lover of God who pursues the Lord from a deep realization that life as a Christian grows as the soul moves toward its fullness and destiny in relationship to God.  I want to see God, to load my heart and mind and soul with the Father-Son-Spirit. I seek to be with Him, grafted into Him, listening to His voice, doing what He asks me to do. I want to push away from the entanglements of the world. I want to explore the Jesus-focused spiritual life.

To travel into the world of the Christian mystic with me, one must discard concepts such as ego, pride and spiritual materialism in favor of adopting a sense of humility and hopeful expectation. It is to begin a great and stirring adventure that moves the soul from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God. While orthodox and historic in theology and passionate about personal holiness, for me a Christian mystic is concerned more about pleasing God each day than figuring out perfectly all the rules of faith. I live with a sense of Narnian wonder, “Aslan is on the move!”

Maybe ‘mystic’ is too loaded a term. Perhaps it has been misused, or confused. I may be wrong. Still, it is the best nomenclature I know so far.  Indeed, as one begins to experience the Bible as the living Word of God, we pray to be guided from an ego-centric point of view to a mature and deeper sense of God’s presence. Jesus’ message is that the kingdom of God is not out there somewhere, but rather here, within, available to the humble person through faith. It is a personal realization that reaches across time, an imperfect yet shining beacon to every human soul willing to follow. I have so far to go, it seems. I may take wrong turns, or miss some important way-signs. But, none-the-less, I am on the road, one foot in front of the next. All who wish to travel with me, I welcome with open arms.  We walk this journey together as exiles for Christ.


  1. As I grow older, I am continually amazed at how much I resemble you in my personality, thoughts and beliefs. You have described me perfectly. A person fully devoted to God while intentionally engaging in the adventure of life. As Jeff would say it, I am a “Grace and Granola” type of girl. 🙂

  2. I marvel that I feel like I could have written this…spiritual mutt, Young Life kid and leader, and finally Christian Mystic fed by the beauty and wonder of creation. I’ve never read that quote by Lewis, but I love it, thank you for sharing. My favorite of his has always been “I believe in God as I believe in the sun, not because I see it, but because by it I see everything.” Anyway, it is strange to find you through the tragedy of the shooting, but I’m grateful for the miraculous story you shared and I’m happy I get to follow your blog now. Thank you for showing forth a light in the darkness.

    • Thank you.

      My favorite Lewis quote, from Prince Caspian:
      “He led them to the right of the dancing trees—whether they were still dancing nobody knew, for Lucy had her eyes on the Lion and the rest had their eyes on Lucy.”

  3. wow, I’m trying to find the right words: ditto? except for one thing- mystic…yes, I agree that it is too loaded of a word especially due to the New Age religion that is out there. My sister is into New Age and I would not ever lead her to believe that the mysticism that she practices is synonymous with the Mystery of my heavenly Father. (completely speaking for myself) I once wore a New Jerusalem necklace with a blue crystal stone in the middle representing the world (of course), with four crosses representing spreading the word to the 4 corners of the earth, and she loved the crystal and apparently thought we were on the same page.
    Of course I told her the meaning of my necklace, then thought to myself I can no longer wear this necklace. (it’s only a necklace) but I do not want to be confused with a New Ager.
    I do not expect that the necklace would wart off evil spirits, etc. whatever.
    I could only imagine if I called myself a Christian Mystic. No, I am a follower of Christ. I attend a Methodist Church, but I do not say I am a Methodist. (though my pastor tells me I am :-))
    I’m not, and I don’t get the religiosity of it all. The Word is the Word and is everything we need to know in this life, and the time we invest in it, and open our hearts to it, the more He reveals what we are ready to see. I truly believe I understand, or I get your hunger for a more intimate relationship with our Father, if you happen to see my blog, you will see I too am on such a journey. I can’t help but share from my heart, that I believe you are taking away from your journey just by adding an unnecessary (yet powerful) word to your testimony. I do not have the credentials you have by any stretch of the imagination, but I have the same heavenly Father Who loves me, and the Holy Spirit who guides me, the Lord Jesus Christ who IS my Savior!
    May His Peace be with you
    and His Spirit overflow you….

  4. Bstrait,

    Wow, I stumbled across your Blog after the Dark Knight shooting and Petra’s story on FB. Again wow, many prayers for Kim and Petra!

    The name caught me, Celtic Strait. A quick note to explain why I feel drawn to your Christian Mystic nomenclature. I was a full time youth pastor for twelve years, now own and operate a custom furniture and cabinet company. My roots and passion are of the Scotch-irish

  5. Could not have responded better than BECCA DILLON did…”As I grow older, I am continually amazed at how much I resemble you in my personality, thoughts and beliefs. You have described me perfectly. A person fully devoted to God while intentionally engaging in the adventure of life. ”

    I did cringe when I heard your term CHRISTIAN MYSTIC…. however, being led be the HOLY SPIRIT I found and read the above article. I get it! 🙂 Glad the Lord led me to your blog! I love the way you write…God has given you a gift and I thank HIM for your gifts!

  6. I think I grasp how you see your faith–it makes sense, feels real, and flies free. Living in the Deep South, I have been asked more than once if “Lutherans are like Mormons,” and when my son told his kindergarten class we celebrated Solstice, well, you can imagine how that went over. My faith has been mended over and over, and I trust that God will continue to thread His needle for this task as He sees fit. My grandfather used to say that we can find all we need to know of God in the vegetable garden, if we know where to look. I think he was more than a little bit right about that, don’t you? Anyway, thank you for sharing what feels like a familiar and blessed place. Regards, Leslie

  7. Quite some food for thought and prayer…. Thanks for sharing! May you increasingly know your “belovedness” in Christ Jesus as you journey forward, onward, and more deeply in He who is Love.

  8. Like Robert I found you after Aurora via a link at Kathryn Judson’s blog. The miracle of Petra confirms the active movement of God in our lives. Reading your About page reminds me of how far I have to go. I relate to the mystical experience of faith but am often distracted by the negatives in life. Perhaps that is I why I see a change in the sorts of blogs I’m following and the programs I’m watching.

    God bless you. I’ll be by again.

  9. I also stumbled across your blog when a friend posted Petra’s story on FB. Recently, I too have felt drawn to the idea of Christian mysticism and love reading Merton, Keating etc. Yet, my church, a Four Square denomination doesn’t focus much on contemplation or the path of the mystic. I was beginning to wonder if I’d gotten off track some how, but feel God showed me this to encourage me. Thanks!

    • Welcome. As my Dad has said, “Read broadly, but always keep your mind, your heart, and your Bible open.”

  10. Hello Brad, I’ve been reading your blogsite because a friend posted the link about Petra’s miraculous survival after the Dark Knight shooting. I feel so relieved and refreshed to read about your approach to your faith life!… There is joy and depth here, .. and I’m thirsty for a faith like yours that embraces and warmly responds to open criticisms and questioning. Somehow…though you’ve observed much pain, and obviously have thought about the hard questions…still you’ve maintained your faith and love for God.

    • Maintained? No, I think He has increased my faith and love. Even for hard-headed, Type-A, me. Amazing…Pain teaches more than any classroom.

  11. I, too, found your blog after reading about Petra and Kim. I will be praying but so cool to “see” how God has it all figured out, even before we were born!

    I like your comment, “… concerned more about pleasing God each day than figuring out perfectly all the rules of faith.” I grew up in a family where faith was all about the rules, and how it was perceived on the outside. Not really what was on the inside, in the heart! God’s brought me on an amazing journey over the years~I look with anticipation to even more! I appreciate your heart and how you put to words much of what I feel. Thank you!

  12. I also found your blog through the DArk Knight shooting repost on FB. You have described beautifully what I have been experiencing the last few years as I visit the brothers at the local Trappist monastery and drink deeply from the wisdom of Benedict and Ignatius. I wonder if God is on the move, calling us back to these ancient yet timeless ideals of balance and immediate presence?

  13. Thank you. I, too, found your blog on fb regarding Petra, and my eyes were immediately drawn to this post. The more we seek Him, the more we find Him, the more we begin to notice there is far more to this journey than following a few simple guidelines… once when we allow Him to walk with us.
    Again, thank you.

  14. I also found your blog after reading of Petra’s story on Facebook. The name Christian Mystic does scare me a bit. The traits you describe in this post are beautiful traits of a Christian. Why add the ‘mystic’? What is the difference? I’m a bit afraid that those who misunderstand will also begin to stumble towards the New Age. Could you help me understand why you add the term Mystic?

    Thank you so much for the prayers, for the service and for the support you are giving to Petra and her family!!

    In Christ,

    • I get it. Words have power. OK, I think better might be: I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus, who believes he is so big and so good that I am often surprised–even mystified–by how he works.

      Lot’s of words–too many for a title. Flip them: Mystical Christian? Perhaps better. But the term Christian mystic has been used for many godly people in the church long, long before the New Age tried to co-opt it. I hope people read my definition.

      And “Christian.” Is that enough? It is used for so many groups and faith positions and stands now that it is watered down in America. I do not agree with what everyone in this label says or does. But it also is me.

      I’ve thought about “Historic Christian” or “Orthodox Christian” but that messes with people too.

      So, Denise, better ideas?

  15. I read everything you’ve posted here and come away with a sense of wonder, joy, and hope. This is because I walked away and gave up on Christianity 4 years ago. Life had just kicked my butt to the curb too hard one too many times. The last straw was the discovery that my husband of 23 years had molested my daughter. My Christian friends ran from the stink and in that loneliness and pain I found the faith hollow and the people I was worshipping with hollower still.

    You are the first pastor I’ve encountered who gives me hope in Christianity as a faith for contemporary people. Christian Mystic. I like it. I get it. Thank you for an uplifting perspective, searing empathy, and sublime understanding. Maybe I’ll find my way back some day.

    • Tracy, I’m sorry for your pain and for what happened to your daughter. Everything about that and your experience is wrong. I’m sorry too for the Christian people who didn’t stay by your side to cry with you and help you walk through. Trapped by their own pain and shallowness of thinking, they thought of themselves more than they thought of you. God weeps over you and over your daughter. I pray that you will encounter Him the way He really is, One who gave His life for you, and that He will bring true friends into your life so you can truly follow Him together.

    • What a joy to read this, Tracy. I, too, have smelled the stink. Maybe even added to the stink. But Christianity can speak of a broad spectrum, with many pilgrims on the narrow road. Not all are hollow. Some of us have even washed. 😉 Love to have you walk along with us. Let me know how to help.

      • Hi Brad,

        I’m sure you didn’t mean it in this way, but saying Christianity is a wide road is a scary thing! I was immediately thinking along the lines of Jesus’ warning that the broad road is the one that leads to destruction (which many find 😦 ) and the narrow road is the one that leads to life. Feel free to delete my comment if you wish, I don’t mean to be a party pooper, I just wanted to point out that the use of the phrase “Christianity is a wide road” appears on the surface to be the opposite of what Jesus said. How I also thought you might have meant it is there are people from every tribe, tongue, and nationality on the narrow path that leads for life and there is room for more 🙂

      • You are so right. My reply on the wide road is now corrected with better language. I make mistakes when I am weary. Hmmm. I make mistakes when I am rested, too. Shouldn’t try to do so many comments just now.

  16. Wonderful postings, Brad.
    I used to call myself an eclectic Christian or Christian Mystic also. But after reading several postings by Christian Mystics, I’ve determined that I’m a Mystic Christian. And that makes more sense to me since the dominant truth is that I am Christian, and the mystic is the adjective describing what kind.
    But in trying to find postings by Mystic Christians, it seems to not exist. While I still consider myself an Eclectic Christian, Christian Mystic seems to define me more accurately; a Christian open to all of God’s doors, miracles, unknowns, gifts, and pathways to growing in my relationship with Him and in the growing toward the Christ Consciousness. Maybe this will help.

      • Hi Irene and Brad,

        I feel bad for writing something again that’s not so positive! As I read Irene’s post, I read that she is growing “toward the Christ Consciousness” which was then affirmed by Brad. The phrase really struck me as really interesting. What did you two mean by that?

        In the meantime, I felt like I heard that phrase somewhere before, but didn’t know what it meant. So I did a quick Google search of the phrase, and the first three pages were all links to New Age websites, with one website offering to re-activate your Christ consciousness for $88! I know you denounced “New Age” practices in the main article, affirming that you are keeping grounded on the Word of God while “pushing the boat off the dock” :), but Christ Consciousness does not sound like a good thing to me. From my understanding of it, “Christ Consciousness” is becoming aware of the god inside of you, or aware of the anointing/Christ that’s within.

        Of course as Christians we all agree there’s only been one Christ, that is Jesus of Nazareth who came in the flesh because of His great love for these broken creatures called humans, lived a sinless life, and died for the sins of mankind, so what is coming into the Consciousness of Christ? Is it the same as when Paul writes in Colossians 1:27 about the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory? After checking out some of the links, including some written by a Christian Mystic (no relation I presume :)), it seems as if the Gospel is completely lost and instead it is taught are many paths to God :(.

        I hope there’s something you can glean from my post, thank you for sharing and clearly defining what you mean by Christian Mystic though Brad. Certainly calling oneself a mystic of any kind has many connotations to it and could mean many different things, so a definition of what one means is crucial, which you have provided 🙂

      • Great point. Personally, I seek no “Christ Consciousness.” I seek Christ Jesus, a living person, risen from the dead and at the right hand of God the Father.

  17. I love seeing all the glory God is getting from your blog! Not only is God’s perfect design displayed in Petra’s story, but your other posts are being read and digested. You are encouraging Christians and hearts are being stirred by those who have not yet come to know Christ. I hope you are encouraged and see the great work God is doing through you! May He continue to get the glory in all things. Blessings.

    • Hi Matthew and All,
      While it’s true that the “Christ Consciousness” is commonly associated with new age thinking, I simply mean the striving to be more like Christ.
      Because of our Lord our spirit lives forever. As such we have all eternity to continue to learn and grow in His likeness and become closer and closer as one with Him. That oneness with Jesus is the Christ Consciousness. At least that’s how I see it. Bottom line is I strive to be more like Jesus.

  18. There are some stinkers in the church all right, because it’s made up of human beings. That’s why Jesus threw over the tables of the money changers, and why He said ” Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you generation of vipers.” Keep searching and you will find the true, loving hearts of sincere followers of Christ will draw you in. Pray for discernment. Also, Brad, I think it says in the Bible that the way is narrow not wide….it sure is long though!!!

    • Jesus is talking primarily about difficulty when he calls the road narrow, Eddie. It is why few arevled to choose it, or are chosen by God for it.

  19. Many would call me mystical, but is Christianity really ‘mystic’; Or would we more simply call it ‘spiritual’?
    Brad, I appreciate your willingness to share your path less traveled yet firmly rooted in the Bible.
    The irony to me is, isn’t that what we are called to?

    As we embrace ultimate sovereign reality, which is truly greater than our ability to comprehend, we enter the ‘boat’ of faith. Our life begins to re-orient as we ‘trim’ our sails to the transcendent Truths thus we embark on a journey to a destination only seen in the Word and our frail hearts via our ability to embrace it. Our journey is initiated by a desire to be freed from the confines of flesh, and to be conformed to the Spirit led creature that is well pleasing to Him. And our journey ends outside of this temporal creation, into His eternal loving hand.
    Believers are truly sojourners in a foreign land.
    We are spirits conceived in a material world, but we grow into a mature spirit that honors The SPIRIT who reigns over the creation and realms unknown. This is mans destiny for this time, maturity. And our premier example of maturity is Christ himself, who became like us to show us true Life by conforming His will to the will of the Father, we too become alive as we follow Him in the same way.

    Often when reading the bible, we struggle to understand the analogies of scripture;
    But how are we to understand spiritual realities apart from them? Isn’t this Nicodemus’ dilemma when Jesus describe becoming alive to spiritual truth?

    John 3:12 “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

    The following passage gives us understanding to our journey, and parallels your mystic journey in the last paragraph above. I am reminded of Keith Greens Love Broke Through; “like waking up from the longest dream.”

    1 Peter 2:1-5
    Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

    Stones, immovable, foundational, structural, etc… yet living, life giving, interceding, never moving… our destiny.

    Brad, thanks for you blog, hope to read more…

    IPOEL [In Pursuit of Eternal Life]


    • Love this, Mike. I’m asking God to help me grow up into my salvation. Like a child in a dad’s shirt. Daddy, can I be like you someday?

  20. I read your first paragraph and thought, “I’m home!” Then I read the second paragraph, and wished we could talk face to face. So many Christians are cubbyholed by labels that we miss the value in talking together, debating and testing ideas, learning from each other. The rabbinic practice of two studying together (referred to in “where two or more are gathered”) was to give them room to explore new ideas and directions, while helping one another to stay grounded in the truth. If only we could do that, debate and even disagree sometimes without feeling threatened, imagine what level of spiritual connection with God we could achieve. I hold to the Reformation motto “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, charity.” But it seems many times when we feel challenged, we interpret the challenge to have underlying hostility, and we react with “fight or flight” instinct. We miss a lot of good things when we’re not open to questioning our own beliefs, whether out of fear or a misplaced loyalty to dogma or tradition.

    Looking forward to following your blog. God bless.

    • I so agree with many of your points here. Keep dialoguing with me, Reva. I have much to learn. I love the Zwingli motto, and it echoes in my office often. Or at least in my brain.

  21. Hi,
    I also found your blog through the shooting article. Wonderful testimony! I’m interested in Christian Mystic and Celtic worship but am wary of the New Age connection, if any. Your discussion (above) has clarified quite a bit but I’m wondering if you could link books and/or sites that cover this in more detail? I’d appreciate that.
    Tracy, I’m so sorry for your situation. I relate – really really do! On the negative I believe many who call themselves Christian – and are active in the church – are NOT Christian. On the positive I know Christ IS and loves you and will always be the same. I will be praying that the Lord will minister to you in amazing ways and that you will be comforted by true believers in your life.

    • Like churches scattered across a city vary in orthodoxy by a wide degree, so do people or sites who use the term “Christian mystic.” Be wise, Louise. Keep me in the loop if you like.

      Books that have helped me are, “The Way of the Mystics, (2005)” by John Michael Talbot, a Benedictine Monk (, and “Early Christian Mystics: The Divine Vision of the Spiritual Masters” (2002) by Bernard and Patricia McGinn. Also, “The Journey Toward God,” (2000) by Benedict J. Groeschel, and “Bernard of Clairvaux: On the Spirituality of Relationship,” (2004) by John Sommerfeldt.

    • ‘Christian Celtic’ is an oxymoron; the Celts were not Christian until late in their history, and Christianity was in so many ways a repudiation of Celtic values and culture. St. Patrick, etc. was an invading force that overwhelmed and ultimately destroyed Celtic culture. Just ask the Druids. Turn those (Celtic) stelae upside-down, was the Christian motto; to stamp out ‘paganism.’

      • There is truth in some of what you say, Taylor. Many of the Irish Celts did convert from a set of loose Pagan/Druidic beliefs. But this was not an invasion with guns or swords, but with ideas and with faith opportunities. Seldom did one force the conversions, and some Druidic believers remain to this day. History shows that most faith changes came gently over many years. Celtic Christianity grew. All change comes with loss, in every age. Are changes good or bad? Probably some of both, and as measured in the eye of the beholder. God bless you.

      • I appreciate your perspective. Celtic Christianity did replace Druidic worship, at some cultural loss. But Christians came with ideas that matched their godly lifestyles, for the most part. No swords or guns. Stories and community involvement. Unlike in other places and times, in Ireland and Scotland people were not forced to accept Christianity. Sometimes, new ideas and new beliefs just resonate with a people. God’s call is mysterious.

  22. I think your mystic description can be interpreted in many different ways because YOU determine the definition of the words you use. You explanation is very UNCLEAR to”most” who would read it. It means whatever you want it to mean. You message lacks clarity, and thus is confusing….very sad expression because it is exactly the opposite of a life in Christ which brings clarity to us. You description CAUSES confusion v. Providing clarity….truly a sad expression….!

    • So sorry my answer creates confusion in you, Phil, my bother. I speak from my heart, my journey, and my own understanding. Perhaps it is a much different trail than yours. As I have said, my understanding of being a mystical Christian comes from CS Lewis, known for his clarity and orthodoxy. I wish I had his gifts. Both Luther and Calvin were influenced by Devotio Moderna, with it’s emphasis on experiential piety. All words can be misused, it is why we must define them. Christian means a lot of things to many people, for example.

      I believe one can fully ascribe to the Apostle’s Creed and believe in an experiential “Jesus” faith — which is the core of my use of mysticism. My mentors helped me work out this “mystical” definition over time, with lots of prayer and discussion; men like Vernon Grounds, Bruce Demarest, Bruce Shelley. But I have far to go. I am open to suggestions.

      Two questions arise:
      How could be more clear here, brother?
      What questions do you personally have that I could clarify?

  23. Brad, very nicely done. I share your enthusiasm for our Celtic Christian heritage.
    Drop in to my page peregrinusprodeiamore . Perhaps we can chat sometime.
    May the ‘road rise to meet you’ … but not too fast! 😉

  24. Ah, the Christian mystic. A path that is mostly misunderstood, but yet the richest experience for any Christian. For me, I don’t think one can truly call themselves a Christian until they have experienced the mystical side of the Christ and His word.

    Excellent post.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Joshua. Part of mystery is that your never, really, get your graduate degree in the subject. Always growing and learning.

  25. Thank you for this post. Searching to understand the meaning of “Christian Mystic” your post and the quote from Lewis has been helpful.

  26. Brad I really appreciate your article. Do you think people who are burnt out on religion, like a lot of new age friends I meet, could experience God, without being “christian” but maybe a believer…?

    • I think that, perhaps, I would frame it differently. Lots of people are burned out or turned off by the human religious expression of Christianity. Many churches have made believing in Christ a fundamental list of behaviors. Instead, I think Jesus is seeking a one-to-one relationship with every person on this planet. Relationship proceeds behavior. Believing in Jesus is a freeing thing, not a burdensome one.

      • Amen.
        I have noticed that many who have been burnt by religion have turned away from God or equated God with religion, as if they were the same thing.
        But God/Jesus/Creator or however we call Him, is infinitely beyond our limited perceptions and I call Him the Infinite Consiousness of Love That Is. I strive to being open to That so that Truth/Love has the door to present Itself.
        I don’t know if that’s what being a Christian mystic is, but it feels like a step in the right direction to grow that personal relationship even greater.
        Thanks again for such a blessed and helpful thread.

  27. Thank you so much for this post. I have been discussing mysticism with a friend, a former Catholic who was came to true believing faith in a fundamentalist church. He is now paranoid about anything that he views as having even a taint of Rome, and he is totally terrified of mysticism. Now I can just send him a link to this page and simply say, “This is what I mean by mysticism.” He may continue to insist that I am wrong, but you have made it easy for me provide the meaning I attach to the term.

    • I speak simply from my heart. I am glad that we share some faith, and some lack of fear. “Perfect love cast out all fear.”

    • For me and the Celtic Christians, God is present in all of his creation. This is known as panenthism. This is different from worshiping nature as God, or pantheism. The Christian God contains the universe, as so is present everywhere! But he is not equal to the universe, but far “more” in every way. Without limits!

  28. Walked away from Christianity after an entire lifetime in the evangelical church and in evangelical higher education, only to feel cut off, isolated, and came to believe I stood as only one of far and few in my slightly “magical, whimsical, mysterious” thinking. Too narrow-pathed and Jesus-centered for the mystics, too open-minded and eclectic for the Christians. Now, a “Christian Mystic” … That very much feels like home. Thank you for posting this and thank you for sharing your experiences, it’s helped at least one woman feel not so out of place in the Christian realm.

    • I think that truth needs real experience to grow, and often evangelical churches miss this. But Jesus remains faithful. I am thankful to share this journey with you.

  29. Interesting read…I too started out as a baptised Methodist….I have been forunate to find my way into the heart and mind of our Creator god/Father/Mother too. My life has had its moments of hope, despair, torment, and everything else in between. I too am what you would consier to be a Christian mystic….exept that I have had many break through events….I am retired from work now but in my early fifties I became illuminatedand enlightened…a process that took several years before I became fully illuminated. Most of my present moments is working to help and extend the same light to others now. There is a global shift going on right now and the amount of light energy is astronomical, literally. I have written about some of my own inner journey on my own WordPress account. Teresa of Avila helped me to understand some of the aspects of my own transformation. Thanks! Gordon Yumibe

  30. Reblogged this on Reluctant Mysticism and commented:
    This is probably the most accurate reflection of my own process & identity (except I’m attending an ELCIC seminary). I add “reluctant” to mysticism because let’s face it: I’m stubborn. When I encounter God, I often wrestle her until dawn and come away with a limp. Rarely do I shift or change without a fight.

    But beloved I am. I am move deeper into Love.

  31. Reblogged over on my blog, at
    It spoke to me last night, and then again this morning. I would love to know more about this topic. So.. I’ll be raiding your blog for more information.

  32. I love this. Thanks for sharing it. The term Christian Mystic as you’ve defined it matches my faith as well, and it’s great to know there are others out there.

  33. Thank you for sharing this! You’ve put into words what I’ve hoped to find out about mysticism. I’m currently going through a faith deconstruction, started listening to The Liturgists podcast, and was introduced to the concept of mysticism there but haven’t really had a grasp on the definition and practice until today. I’m joining in!

Leave a Reply to Sarah North Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s