Mystical Christianity – The Confluence Of Many Streams Of Christianity Important To Me

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1) The Confluence Of Various Christian Streams

In the beginning of 2022 (or the end of 2021), I encountered a small Christian "movement" or "stream" that some call "Mystical Christianity". Some call it "Christian Mysticism". Some call it "Next Age" Christianity. Some call it "Age To Come" Christianity.

This is an article of my reflections after being only 1 year in this "Stream" - this article was mostly written late 2022 to very early 2023 and doesn't fully take into account what I've learned in 2023 during which I got involved in 3-4 different Christian mystical communities in Singapore and also got to know a lot of so-called "New Age" non-Christians - that will be for the follow up article.

Anyway, there's so much I don't know and so much more to learn, but for now, this article represents my current thoughts (early 2023) - from the perspective of someone who has learned from, who has been involved in (in various ways) and who has embraced (to varying degrees) the following streams in the past 25 years: Grace-Based Christianity, Charismatic Christianity, Reformed Christianity, Progressive Christianity and Progressive Politics.

I realize that when I interact with many other people in this "Stream", I see things (sometimes very) differently from them. That's because I have a very different experience from many of them in terms of my past experience of the various "Streams" of Christianity. Most pursuing the Mystical are quite familiar with Charismatic Christianity because they came out of it in a sense and thus they evaluate what they see based on their experience in that "stream". For me, while since my late teens I have been very much involved in Charismatic Christianity, I have also been greatly influenced by a lot of non-Charismatic forms of Christianity - especially Reformed Christianity. I may not agree with a lot of what's taught there, but I've always followed what's going on in that scene - and I've always appreciated what they bring to the table. And I believe they do bring a lot of good.

So I don't just keenly follow what's going on in Charismatic Christianity (and churches like Bethel and leaders like Bill Johnson, Randy Clark, Heidi Baker, etc.), but I also stay closely attuned to the developments within the non-charismatic Christian world at large - e.g. through following the more broadly evangelical Christianity Today and the more Reformed The Gospel Coalition. There are so many things one can learn from in this other world and I would never want to stop from learning from these other streams. As much as I love the Mystical stream, and as much as I greatly respect and honour leaders of the stream like Ian Clayton and Nancy Coen, I also greatly honour non-charismatic leaders like Tim Keller and many others like him. Him and other Reformed Christians have shaped a lot of my thinking in my early days of being a Christian and while I would greatly disagree with many Reformed belief, I will always appreciate that stream of Christianity. I do think being on a diet of just Ian Clayton and Nancy Coen, etc., to the exclusion of drawing from other streams - that's not very balanced at all. And I also think it builds a lot of pride and exclusivity. Yet I also understand that this is how the church (and even politics) is - we are greatly polarized and are more comfortable sticking with our own "tribe" and afraid to leave our "echo chambers". Yet it is precisely being open to all streams of Christianity and not being afraid to see the good in all of them (and also question what I think is not so good) - that openness has led me, at this moment of my life, to pursue the Mystical stream.

Another reason why I may view things differently from other Mystical Christians is that I am also much more Left-Brain dominant and so I ask a lot of questions and don't just accept everything so easily. Perhaps that's why I was very attracted to Reformed Christianity in the first place - as it's a stream distinguished by its intellectual rigor. Most people like me would probably be much more comfortable in a non-Charismatic church with much more intellectually-rigorous sermons and teachings, but I believe in getting out of my comfort zone in order to grow and learn things that I wouldn't have learned otherwise.

Also, I bring my moderate to progressive political lens into all of this. Christianity of today (especially in America) by and large has been very conservative politically and that's something I've always disagreed with. Because of this, my thoughts on many important things have always been very different from what many people in the mainstream church - and even leaders I greatly admire - believe. And that is fine. Through it all, I've learned to be very skeptical (in a good way) of all claims yet not become cynical. I've learned to be open to all streams and beliefs and find the good in it. Just because some leader holds to a very different political viewpoint doesn't mean I need to be offended by that and react to that or stop listening to him or her - I just take and learn from what's good. I'll just have to accept that not everybody is as smart or balanced as me... [I'm just joking...:)]. In the same way, just because most Reformed Christians are generally non or anti-Charismatic (to say nothing of what they would think of the Mystical stream), that doesn't mean I should throw the baby out with the bathwater and think they have nothing to teach me and there's nothing good in their tradition.

Finally, I'm also moderately progressive in my theological beliefs. I believe in the early Church creeds and the core fundamentals of faith - but other than that, I am open to many other beliefs that the very theologically conservative would be appalled by - e.g. my very hopeful Christian Universalist belief, my generally pro-LGBTQ and pro-Social Justice stance, etc. I think there's a lot in more Conservative Theology that ought to be "deconstructed" - yet I don't wish to go overboard and discard the good along with the bad. Jesus, to me, is still The Way to the Father (this is totally consistent with Christian Universalism) and He is still unique and not just one of many. Losing that, in my opinion, means losing my Christian faith. But I do believe I can keep my Christian faith while at the same time doing away with a lot of non-core evangelical beliefs.

I do believe God has deposited truth in all streams of Christianity - so while I am pursuing Him in the Mystical stream, I wouldn't want to learn exclusively from this stream. I love this stream and I think it has the potential to impact the world in a way that other streams would not be able to do so. And it also has the potential to be the "future" of Christianity. That is in a way why I've been attracted to it.

On the other hand, from my perspective, this is still very much a "potential" - and perhaps that's because it's a relatively new stream so I'll cut it some slack. But I do want to say (and here's where most pro-Mystical Christians would probably disagree with me) that I have not yet seen the impact on the world that it claims it has or should have. I think one way to evaluate a teaching/practice is how much of an impact it has on the world - we are called, not just into an intimate relationship with God, but also to love the world and transform lives and bring the world closer to Him and into a relationship with Him. And so, honestly speaking, in many ways, I have not yet seen that - but perhaps it could be because there just aren't that many in this stream yet to have such a great impact. And also, every stream and tradition, in its infant years, would not be balanced. Things get better and beliefs and practices are refined as the movement matures. And that has yet to happen. So if you ask me, I still think the "gold standard" of Christianity would be Bethel Church and Bill Johnson, Randy Clark, Heidi Baker and the likes. Their impact on the world has been huge and I've not yet seen that kind of impact by the Mystical stream. That doesn't mean the Mystical stream wouldn't "catch up" in future. I do think it could and it has the potential to do so. Any new "movement" or "stream" has growing pains. But I think this is only the beginning and so I'm still excited to pursue God in this stream and learn as much from the people there.

I accidentally stumbled upon this relatively new "stream" of Christianity and it immediately attracted me because a lot of things that have been dear to my heart (and which I've written about on this website) for the past 20+ years all come together and converge here - at least for the section of this "stream" that I have been following more closely.

I say a section (and not the whole stream - see below) because while everyone in this "stream" would agree that encountering God in the spiritual realms (in a mystical experience) should be a normal occurrence for Christians (rather than an exceptional and rare event), there is less agreement in this stream as a whole over some of the other issues which are actually very important to me (e.g. Christian Universalism or The Restoration Of All Things - see below - and other issues). So it's only this particular section - led by some prominent leaders like Mike Parsons, Nancy Coen, Justin Abraham, Kirby De Lanerolle and Katharine Wang (and Kingdom Talks) - that I follow very closely, although I'm starting to open up to learn from other sections of this stream too.

So anyway, this section of this "stream" was a confluence of various beliefs important to me which I'll talk about below (btw, not all of the leaders I just mentioned above would agree with everything I'm going to address below):

1.1) Christian Universalism / The Restoration Of All Things (ROAT)

I first discovered (and more or less embraced it, though probably not dogmatically) Christian Universalism 20+ years ago. In the past few years, I began to read much more into it as more and more theological books were available and it has also become slightly more accepted in Christianity. Probably around 2021, while I was considering the direction for my future (I have always, since young, felt I wanted to do much more meaningful full-time ministry or mission work), I thought of pursuing theological studies (something I had always considered since my late teenage years) and in particular I wanted to eventually do a PhD or at least some serious research related to Christian Universalism - and contribute to the growing scholarship related to this doctrine, after which I'd love to go into teaching in this area.

"Christian Universalism" has always been very close to my heart because it really got to the essence of Who God is and God's Love. Anyway, during the past 10 years or so, I encountered some teachings in the Mystical Christian stream but I really wasn't that attracted to it (they seemed a bit weird!) until I found out that two of their leaders (Mike Parsons and Nancy Coen) actually embrace this doctrine and wrote about it in their books (do note, not all leaders in this stream embrace this doctrine). Mike and Nancy wouldn't call it "Christian Universalism" but rather "The Restoration Of All Things" - which is really "Christian Universalism" on steroids in my understanding.

I won't write about the reasons why I embrace (at least in a very "hopeful dogmatic" way) "Christian Universalism" in this article, but I definitely plan to write a whole lot more on this subject on this website in future. There's a lot of misunderstanding about this doctrine, but for those reading this, I'll just say that unlike Christians these days who would look upon this doctrine as "heretical", it was actually one of the three accepted viewpoints in the early Church - and it could even be argued that it was the most popular view then. This alone would be shocking for most modern Christians who are ignorant of their church history.

In my opinion, the best theological (and very academic) book on this topic would be Robin Parry's The Evangelical Universalist. I'm a huge, huge fan of this book because it grapples in a very non-dogmatic and humble way with the best of opposing viewpoints. The author's tone is probably just as commendable as his scholarship, if not more so because I don't think I've ever read a book with as humble a tone as his. Actually, I recently got to Dale Allison and his works on the Resurrection of Jesus - his works too have been hugely praised by even scholars of opposing views as being extremely fair-minded and non-dogmatic in its conclusions. And I think that's the way all Christian (and even non-Christian) books that address a controversial topic should be written as we seek truth yet recognize that we are not perfect and thus that there's no place for arrogant dogmatism.

Some good recent (2022 to 2023) books on this topic which I've yet to read (since I've been so into Christian Mysticism of recent years) would be Andrew Hronich's "Once Loved, Always Loved: The Logic of Apokatastasis", Father Alvin Kimel's "Destined for Joy: The Gospel of Universal Salvation" (who has the best blog online that addresses this topic where you can find a long list of essential readings on Universalism) and David Congdon's "Varieties of Christian Universalism". The above books are much more academic in nature and I'm more attracted to such books because ultimately I want to read and know the best because I'm in pursuit of the truth. However, there are also a lot of more popular level books out there.

Because I think the Church only gets closer to the truth through an iterative process of intelligent conversations and debates between authors of opposing views, and because I believe in the importance of "steelmanning" the opposing position (thus I love Parry's book as mentioned above), I would also wish to state here the "best" critique of the Christian Universalist position: Michael McClymond's "The Develil's Redemption". I have not read this book but I would definitely love to do so if have the time in future. But from what I read, it's not exactly a very good book - but I may be wrong. I'm actually all for great critiques of the Christian Universalist view - just as I would be welcoming of intelligent books critiquing various Christian Mystical beliefs and practices. In fact, I wish more time and effort were spent on critiquing these viewpoints because ultimately the winner of such back-and-forths among authors of differing positions would be the Church as large - as we get closer to the truth. I think not much time has been spent by more theologically conservative authors on the Christian Universalism view because this view is only just beginning to take hold more strongly in the church at large. So I do expect to see more and better books against the Christian Universalist position in the next few years and decades. And to me that can only be a good thing for all.

One thing to add here is that I've actually not read or listened a lot to say Nancy Coen or Mike Parsons on ROAT or Christian Universalism. That's because I do think the best arguments would come from those authors mentioned above. While these Christian Mystics would have their own unique take on this topic that would definitely be interesting to hear (especially as it relates to their conversations and experiences with God on this matter), in terms where I'd go to for the best theological and scriptural arguments, I'd go to the above scholars primarily because they understand the issues much better and are able to write in a way that would address the intellectual concerns of the more conservative evangelicals. This is no diss on Nancy or Mike. I go to them (and others - Ian, Dr. O, etc.) learning about the more Mystical Christian stuff for that's what they have spent a lifetime pursuing, but I wouldn't put as much faith on what any Christian Mystic would say about issues related to Christian Universalism - as much as I would on what the above authors say. People specialize in different things and not everyone can specialize in everything. That's the way the world works. And that's why I don't just believe everything I hear from the Christian Mystical stream.

On another important note, having talked to some people in the Mystical stream in 2023, I realized that a lot of the disagreements within this stream as it relates to ROAT has to do with whether "demons" will be restored/saved. For me personally, I haven't really thought about this question and I'm probably agnostic to it. My main concern, and that of "Christian Universalism", is the ultimate restoration/salvation of all human beings. That's the view I hold to.

For the side that is vehemently against ROAT, I know that are strongly against "demons" being restored/saved. But I'm not sure if they are open to or OK with the belief that all humans will eventually be restored/saved. I also know that while some that are pro-ROAT believe that "demons" will be restored/saved, not all believe that.

But anyway, to see a section of a movement completely embrace such teachings was really what made me look more into this stream. I ditched my idea to pursue theological studies (and do a thesis on Christian Universalism) - at least for the moment - and instead started reading more about this movement on the internet and taking various online courses and interacting with a community of people in this stream. While I love teaching and I do think I'd make a pretty decent teacher, I never felt that teaching alone was something that would satisfy me. As a more left-brained dominant person, understanding and evaluating propositional truth and then teaching it is something that's very much in my comfort zone, but I also knew that the left-brain wasn't everything there is to life and that I wanted to work on the other side too, which is the area I'm weak at - and which Charismatics and the Mystics are good at. I wanted to teach but also demonstrate the power of God as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. Conveying intellectual knowledge is good and can be life-transforming, but I've always felt it's better to do that with the Spirit's power. And thus I started to learn more from this Mystical Christian movement as a large part of this stream had to do with experiencing God in an intimate and powerful way (see below).

1.2) Sidenote (on the non/anti-ROAT section within this Stream, not being in one's Echo-Chamber too long, (t)ruth everywhere, but (T)ruth in Jesus Christ) 

I want to emphasize once again that not all within this Mystical Stream of Christianity believe in "The Restoration Of All Things". And in fact some are very against it and so there's a bit of division within this stream. For me, I do embrace it, but I also am starting to learn from others in this Stream who would probably be pretty vehemently against this doctrine (e.g. Ian Clayton and Dr. Ogbonnaya). I don't have any problems with learning from such people as I've always been someone who loves to learn from everybody and every tradition. In fact, I'm excited to do so because they are huge pioneers and leaders in this stream and I am very sure they can teach me many things that I may not be able to learn as easily in the section of the Stream I'm more attracted to and which I've been more immersed in within the past year. I also don't believe in speaking badly about those who are against ROAT - there's too much negativity and I wish there were more unity in this Stream. Who knows, their non/anti-ROAT views may be right. Always be open to learn from everyone and ultimately go back to God and be faithful to Him and what He says to you. You are responsible for your own relationship with God, not what other people believe. With that intention and heart, I don't think you can go wrong. By this I don't mean that as you seek Him and put Him first, whatever you believe will always be "right" and you won't believe anything "wrong". Instead, what I'm saying is that all things will be good in His eyes - even if you believe certain things wrongly. He sees your heart.

I don't believe in staying in an "echo chamber" for too long (sure, stay in one for the sake of community and like-mindedness and I am all for that as I love community) because after a while of surrounding yourself with only people who are like-minded and with only teachings that you agree with and are attracted to, there comes a time when you will learn and grow more from being with people you disagree with - and who look at things differently from your own perspective and that of your group. So I think there's so much to learn from the other section of this Stream. We are all on a journey and we all can learn from each other. And I think we all have a piece of the puzzle.

[For example, with regard to politics, even though I would readily identify as politically progressive presently (and have done so since my late teens / early twenties), during the Pandemic, I actually spent much more time listening to more moderate and even slightly more conservative YouTube channels and videos than progressive channels. That's because I already know the general progressive viewpoint(s) - especially as it relates to the Pandemic - and it didn't interest me anymore. There's only so much more you can learn by persistently being in your own silo.

Two of my favourite (US) political YouTube channels have been Breaking Points and The Hill Rising because both programs have hosts representing both the Left and the Right, which is so refreshing! I'm also a huge fan of Joe Rogan (wouldn't have learned about Ayahuasca otherwise, and that eventually led me to Meditation), whom many people think (wrongly) is on the Right. I love other more moderate channels like Rebel Wisdom and Freddie Sayers' UnHerd and even listen to Bret Weinstein (put him wherever you want on the political spectrum) and also slightly more Right-Wing channels like Jordan Peterson, Triggernometry and Patrick Bet-David's Valuetainment. I would probably disagree with quite a bit of what's mentioned on these channels, but then again, I get to be exposed to a lot of different ideas outside of the Progressive bubble and I've also learned a lot along the way. So I do believe in listening to people that I would greatly disagree with in some areas - I take what I think is good and throw out the rest. And always be open to be challenged in my perspectives and change my position if warranted.]

I do believe that's probably the way things were ordained by God - no one group has all the truth and I think God gives different gifts and revelations to different people so we can all depend on, and learn from, each other as the body of Christ. I think the most important thing is to be faithful to what God has called you to - it may be different from what others are called to. And there's no need to be angry or upset if others believe certain things differently. There's no need to try and get others to believe as you do or believe the things God has placed in your heart. They are responsible to Him for what they believe and do. And of course I'm talking here mainly about secondary issues of faith and not core beliefs which one may be justified in, to a certain extent, breaking fellowship over - though I would argue that Christian Universalism was, at least in the early Church, not a core issue to break fellowship over.

So there are clearly two different camps within the Mystical stream as it relates to ROAT. From my experience and understanding, the anti-ROAT camp has been very outspoken in its criticism of the pro-ROAT camp and some have perhaps even taken steps to break fellowship with the pro-ROAT camp over this issue. I think that's extremely sad. On one hand, I totally understand the negative attitude from the anti-ROAT camp towards the pro-ROAT camp because ROAT (or Christian Universalism) is a huge issue and it's not something that is easy to accept - especially if one is unaware of what the early church Christians believed and of the increasing number of academic books written on this topic (on "Christian Universalism", not the mystical ROAT per se) in recent decades.

So anyway, I'm not surprised by the slightly more outspoken and aggressive response by the anti-ROAT camp against the pro-ROAT camp. That is in a sense completely understandable. From my own admittedly biased pro-ROAT perspective, I am happy to note that I think the pro-ROAT camp has been much more open and gracious towards the anti-ROAT camp. And I think that's the way it should be. I would be severely disappointed if I were to hear a pro-ROAT person become too critical of the anti/non-ROAT position. After all, one thing about the doctrine of ROAT / Christian Universalism is that it really ought to transform us to be much more loving to everybody - as our understanding of God's infinite love overwhelms us. That ought to change how we treat our critics. And so I'm glad to know that, as far as I know, the pro-ROAT camp has been the more generous and gracious camp, so to speak.

On another note, I don't even think Christianity (and the various streams within it) have all the truth (small "t") - though I do believe Jesus is the Ultimate Truth - and that's the most important thing/person we have. Yet this fact (that Jesus is Ultimate Truth) doesn't mean we have nothing to learn from other groups or even religions. There's a lot of wisdom out there given to non-Christian groups. There's a lot one can learn from non-Christians in many areas if one wants to.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to always remain humble and not think anybody or any group has "got it all". No group has it all - whether you're talking about groups generally in the world or groups and streams within Christianity. But of course I do believe that if you have Jesus, you have Ultimate Truth and the most important thing/person in the world, that all "wisdom" and "truth" (small "t") point to - and that's why I'm a Christian believer and follower of Jesus.

1.3) Progressive Christianity

To me Christian Universalism (or The Restoration of All Things) is really about how one views God, His love for people and everything and His ultimate purpose to lovingly restore everybody and all things to Himself. This is, in many ways, in keeping with the impulse of Progressive Christianity.

I’ve written a lot about Progressive Christianity on this website. And I have many more things to say in future about “Progressive Christianity” since I used the term on this website a decade ago, which was way before many of the recent books and critiques by conservative evangelicals who have basically hijacked the term and defined it (in a non-nuanced way) to suit their purposes. Suffice to say for now, I do not believe in “Liberal Theology” (“Progressive Christianity” and “Liberal Christianity/Theology” are not synonymous). Perhaps a better term would be “Progressive Evangelical” or "Post-Conservative Evangelical" because I am still Evangelical mostly at the core of my theological beliefs. But I would differ from many/most (conservative) Evangelicals in issues related a) its treatment of the LGBT community b) its view of eternal hellfire for unbelievers c) its overly-literal reading of the Bible d) its support for right-wing Christianity and Trump, etc.

To me, it really boils down to love vs hate/fear. I know this is an overly simplistic way of viewing things – and I don’t have time to expand on this now.

The point here is that the section of Mystical Christianity I am attracted to holds to a lot of beliefs that Progressive Christians (not Liberal Christians) or Progressive Evangelicals would hold to.

1.4) Joseph Prince, New Creation Church and Grace Theology

I’ve written tons on Joseph Prince and New Creation Church’s beliefs on grace – which I love and I think is a foundation that Mystical Christians build on - or at least the section I'm involved in. When I say it's a foundation, I don't mean to say Pastor Prince's message on Grace and the loving Fatherhood of God is original with him or whatever. If you've read my writings on Pastor Prince's message on Grace, you'd know that I don't think it's exactly original in many ways. He has added his own flavour to it. And so have perhaps people from the Vineyard Movement in the past and the Toronto Blessing (called the Father's Blessing by John Arnott), etc. And then also Bill Johnson and friends. All have contributed in their own ways to the understanding of God as a loving Father which inspires intimacy and not fear. There's still a large portion of the Church in general and even in Charismatic Circles that would not accept such a message. Joseph Prince's ministry (and also Bill Johnson's ministry) have been a great blessing to many people in changing their understanding of God to one of a loving Father that craves intimacy with us and that's what I mean by such an understanding of God is foundational to the Mystical Christian movement - or at least the section I'm involved in. [For those I've met in this movement in Singapore, most of them would be very appreciative of Pastor Prince's message and would even have attended his church before. And probably almost all in the Mystical movement at large would be familiar and very appreciate of Bill Johnson's ministry]

Mystical Christianity, after all, is based hugely on intimacy with a loving God. There's no place for the condemnation and overwhelming guilt that a more "legalistic" kind of understanding of the Gospel and the Bible may produce. But this is merely a foundation I think, an important foundation it may be.

I do also think that such an understanding of God (of Him as being such an intimate lover of mankind) and Jesus (the perfect personification and manifestation of God) and His work would lead even further to an understanding of God restoring all mankind and all things in Christ (Colossians) eventually.

Pastor Joseph Prince (and also Bill Johnson) wouldn’t believe in Christian Universalism – and he’s said so a number of times in the past. I think Pastor Prince mentions this explicitly because he fears people will go to the full extreme towards Christian Universalism. (And many Evangelicals fear Christian Universalism and consider it heretical and unorthodox only because they are ignorant of Church History: Christian Universalism was an accepted belief in the early Church.) Of course, I’d differ from Pastor Prince on this.

To me, the message of grace New Creation Church espouses (which, as I said above, did not originate from New Creation or Pastor Prince, but he does preach it beautifully in so many ways) is a step in the right direction. I think ultimately when people study the Bible in a less superficial way, read theological books about Christian Universalism (and even Annihilationism) and study what the early Church Fathers and Christians believed, one will understand that Christian Universalism is a belief to be grappled with and should be at least accepted as a credible alternative to the other two main views (Eternal Conscious Torment and Annihilationism) - whether you finally accept it or not! Even not all Mystical Christians accept this and that is the reason why I keep on stressing on the particular "section" that I follow, and not all in the stream.

1.5) Charismatic Christianity (& the Difference between the Charismatic and Mystical Streams)

I’ve also written tons on Charismatic Christianity – especially in relation to Healing and a bit on things like Prophecy and Hearing God. I’m a huge fan of many charismatic leaders like Bill Johnson (of Bethel Church in Redding), Heidi Baker, Randy Clark, etc. I know they do not represent all of Charismatic Christianity, but this is probably the most influential section of Charismatic Christianity these days and the section I am most familiar with - it is also the section of Charismatic Christianity that has influenced many Charismatic churches in Singapore like Church of Our Saviour (at least in the past when Derek Hong was pastor still) and Cornerstone Community Church, among many others. I’ve followed this scene extremely closely for more than a decade or maybe even two decades - as God changed my life in a Pentecostal Church in Singapore during my teens. During then (1990s), it was all about the Toronto Blessing and the Vineyard Church Association, but since the turn of the Millennium, Bethel and Bill Johnson and his friends have been very influential in Charismatic Christianity.

All the leaders of the Mystical Christian movement would have utmost respect for people like Bill Johnson and other leaders because I do think they have learned a lot from them. And the leaders of both streams (i.e. Mystical Christianity and Charismatic Christianity) probably have a lot of good mutual friends, even though the beliefs of both streams may differ slightly. So the way I see it, the Charismatic movement is really the foundation that the Mystical Christian movement has been built on - just as Bill Johnson, etc., built upon the foundation of the teachings and practices of John Wimber and the Vineyard. The leaders I follow have always spoken very positively of people like Bill Johnson. But perhaps one can argue that the Mystical Christian movement goes slightly further even though many things that are expected to be the norm in this new movement are not totally new or absent from Charismatic Christianity. My point is that there’s probably not such an obvious line of division. The lines are often very blurry. Yet I think there are sufficient differences to see both as distinct.

So from my very early understanding of the Mystical Christian movement, I do see at least 5 differences: 

1.5.1) More Radical Experience of God, the Angelic, the Cloud of Witnesses and Heaven

Mystical Christians are a bit more radical in their experience of God. They expect to see and experience God regularly – and even see and experience Heaven, the Angelic and the Cloud of Witnesses (e.g. Enoch, Ezekiel, Moses, etc.). Charismatic Christianity has always been open to such “mystical” experiences, but these were few and far between. For Charismatic Christianity, some people may have the so-called “seer” gift, but the majority of Charismatic Christians would not be expected to experience God, the Angelic or Heaven in such a visual way – if they do not have such a “gift”. However, for Mystical Christians, it is expected that every Christian can see and encounter God, the Angelic and even Heaven regularly. Their leaders do so and many followers are seeking to get to that stage. It is for everyone and ought to be part of the normal Christian life.

1.5.2) More Radical Experience and Dominion Over Creation

Mystical Christians also believe in things like spirit travel, teleportation, etc. It’s probably good to talk about the “New Age” here. Many people will hear a lot of these beliefs and practices and think this is New Age. The thing is that if there’s a “demonic counterfeit”, then there’s a “righteous real” (as Nancy Coen would say). The point is not to throw the Baby out with the Bathwater. Travelling in the Spirit and Teleportation are both in the Bible. Immortality (not physically dying) isn’t just something that some Mystical Christian leaders believe, but if you search “Immortality” on YouTube, you’ll see that many non-Christians believe that it’s not that far off from reality!

1.5.3) Focus on Fullness instead of Lack and the Need for More 

Mystical Christians tend to focus on the fullness of our identity and that we have everything in Christ and we are united to God. Most sections of Charismatic Christianity focus on “getting more” and asking the Spirit to “come”, rather than focusing on the fact that we already have everything in Him and that there’s no need to ask God to come when He already lives within us. In a sense, there’s a slightly different emphasis between the two camps. I can understand the justification for both the different emphases and I’m still thinking a lot about this. I addressed this difference in understanding and practice quite a bit when I compared the healing teachings of Curry Blake with that of Bill Johnson. It’s not that Charismatic Christianity doesn’t believe or preach identity. They do so a lot. Yet there’s no doubt that perhaps they may not fully believe in it when there’s still a need to ask for more and expect God to come in His power and anointing, etc. - instead of believing we already have everything in us because of our union with God.

1.5.4) Restoration Of All Things And Non-Politicization 

The section of Mystical Christianity I follow of course believes in Christian Universalism and The Restoration Of All Things. I don’t know any Charismatic Christian leader who would look fondly upon this :) Also, this section would also not really be as political or politically right-wing as many Charismatic Christian leaders – partly due to the fact that some of the leaders are not Americans (and so are not affected by the politicized climate there) and also partly due to the fact I think that when one starts to believe in God’s extravagant and restorative love for everyone and everything, there’s just no place for judgement or hatred or any form of discrimination or divisive or fear-based rhetoric. Thank Goodness!

1.5.5) God As Spouse Not Just Father 

Lastly, I would mention one belief that comes from a section of the section of Mystical Christianity. Haha, yes, this is getting confusing. That is, I do enjoy and follow the teachings of one section of Mystical Christianity, but this belief I’m going to share (which is espoused by one group) is not fully accepted by everybody within that section I follow.

Understanding God as a good and loving Father is something that is quite accepted these days. The Toronto Blessing in the mid-1990s was really the Father’s Blessing – the focus was on experiencing God as a good and loving Father – which brought healing and joy and laughter back into the (Charismatic) Church. New Creation Church’s central message is also that of a loving heavenly Father – and that message has positively changed so many people in Singapore and throughout the world.

Knowing that you are a child of your loving heavenly Father rather than a slave or someone who constantly needs to get the approval of God – that totally changes your relationship with God and it changes you as a person. There’s no need to strive to please Him the way a slave may strive to please their master. There are no thoughts of whether you’re “good enough” because you are His child – you’re one of His own. In the same way a parent loves their child so passionately (without the child needing to earn such love - at least that's the way it should be!), God our Father feels the same way towards us, if not more.

This understanding and theology is nothing new. The doctrine of Adoption has been understood in the Protestant Church for centuries. It’s all there in the Bible – in Romans and Galatians, etc.

But a doctrine and intellectual understanding of something can be there in the church for a long time, yet the practice and experience of it may still be lacking. And that’s probably what happened for a long time in the Church. At least for Charismatic Christianity, I think since the Toronto Blessing, the message and experience of God as Father has been quite prevalent. That’s not to say that we’ve arrived in our understanding and experience of all this. There’s always more of God as Father to understand and experience. But the point is that the Church has come a long way with this message and many people have experienced God as a loving Father. The other point is that one can have an accepted doctrinal understanding and yet fall greatly short of what the experience of that doctrine ought to be in one’s life. The goal is not just an intellectual understanding of whatever doctrine, but a true life-transforming experience of it.

Now, let’s get to God as Spouse. It is very clear that God is not just a Father to us. God is actually also our Spouse. It’s mentioned and referred to many times in the Bible – in both the Old Testament and New Testament. So what difference does that make if we should also see God as our Spouse and Partner - and not just as our Father?

There’s a huge difference between seeing God as your master versus seeing God as your Father. You’d relate to God very, very differently. In the same way, there would be a huge difference between seeing God as your Father versus seeing God as your Spouse. It is the difference between you as a child relating to your earthly father versus you as an adult relating to your spouse. Think about it for a second. You say things to your spouse you would never think of saying to your father or child. Your level of intimacy and relationship and even passion is of a different kind and level with that of a spouse. Just think of Song of Solomon! Also, in terms of father and son, there's still a hierarchy. In terms of spouses, there's no hierarchy! That's huge!

So anyway, you get the point. If it's true that we're meant to experience God as Spouse and not just intellectually accept that the doctrine is in the Bible, I wonder what's install for all of us!

2) Concluding Remarks

I want to leave some final comments here:

2.1) No Place For Arrogance

I want to be careful not to give the impression that I think the Mystical Christian movement is in any way "better" than the Charismatic movement or whatever. After all, while I am a bit knowledgeable about this movement and embrace it, my practice and experience lags far behind (see below for explanation) even that of many in the Charismatic movement - so there's nothing for me to gloat about. Yet even if my experience in this stream of Christianity were in line with that of its leaders and its ideals (something of course I hope will happen), there's no place for pride or arrogance - or thinking that one is better than others - or that one is following a better stream than others. I know in the Mystical Christian stream it's very popular to claim that "we're of the Kingdom age" while the rest are of the "Church age" - implying that the former is better and more advanced in some way that the other. For me, I don't really like such kind of thinking or language as it creates an "us vs them" mentality. I can understand the Mystical stream is different, and perhaps it's a newer and better movement and stream in some ways, but I think the stream really needs to make sure they aren't condescending - because I have no doubt that God is not for any hint of arrogance or condescension. 

Anyone who comes to embrace this stream - the last thing we ought to do is think of ourselves as better than others in any way. In fact, that's the opposite of Philippians 2:3 which asks us to think of others as better than ourselves. Just be faithful to what you feel God has called you to and be thankful. If there's anything that ought to characterize people in this stream, it's extreme love for all because of the extreme intimacy with God. There's nothing to boast about. Just enjoy your relationship with Him and love all and do what God wants you to do - which would never be to think of yourself as better than others or to look down on others! And I think a person who has a truly intimate relationship with God would not be offended if others attack them and their stream and tradition. There's no need to defend oneself or one's stream in an offended and unloving way. Just let it be and let it go.

2.2) The New Versus The Old

It is important to recognize that in the history of the church, people of the old ways and moves have always been resistant to the new ways and moves of God. John Wimber and the Vineyard were at one point the "new thing" that God was doing. But they ended up being resistant to an even newer move of God in the Toronto Blessing and Wimber only acknowledged his regrets of how he treated the Toronto Blessing before he died.

The “new” is not automatically right – nor is the “old” automatically better. It’s always difficult to accept the “new” because it’s so different from the “old” and demands a paradigm shift in one’s thinking. Yet that’s how the Church has always been. In fact, you see it in the Old and New Covenant – i.e. people having a hard time accepting the New. How many people rejected the New due to their own misunderstandings and reliance on Tradition?

How come the doctrine of Justification by faith alone was only “recovered” in the church in the 16th Century? It was "lost" for centuries - at least that's what Conservative Evangelical Protestants believe. For Charismatics, Divine Healing was recovered in the 19th century and Tongues in the 20th Century. The focus on the loving fatherhood of God? In the late 20th century. Why is this so? I don’t know, but God works in seasons. The church as a whole matures. That’s the way it is. New revelation is not necessarily always good. You have to evaluate it objectively and refer back to the Bible. But one must acknowledge there's always a pull towards conservatism and holding on to the tradition and the familiar. And if that's so, we always need to be open to the new and new revelations. (I don't think there's "new" revelation in a sense that something is added to the Bible, but there's just new "understandings" and "interpretations" of what's already in the Bible)

I am a big believer that in the next few decades, more and more Christians are going to accept Christian Universalism. There’s so much biblical evidence for it, but it takes time for people to be open to it and give it an objective and unbiased evaluation - especially if one has not learned to read widely and outside one's own tradition. It’s only been in the last 10 to 20 years or so that we've seen really good theological books out on this doctrine. A change in mindset takes time. For more people to be convinced of Christian Universalism, there needs to be more people writing about it - both for and against. Discovering truth can be a long iterative process. As time goes by, and more is written about it on both sides, people will eventually get closer to the truth.

Anyway, for those who think they are part of the "new", there's no place for arrogance or extreme criticism of the "old". I think God has different roles for different people. And God has different seasons. The new always builds their foundation on the giants of the past. They only see further when standing on the shoulders of these giants of the "old". God had a role for the giants in the past – so that we can reach further than they have reached. Let us not forgot or belittle their role. And perhaps if there's a "new movement" even after this "Mystical" stream, may we be open to it too - for who knows, the "new" may become the "old" faster than we think...

As the church moves towards greater maturity, slowly new revelation is released by God. I'm referring here more to new interpretations and understandings (e.g. like how I mentioned above about the doctrine of Justification and Healing and Tongues, etc. becoming revealed and experienced more fully as the church matures) - not that new teachings can be considered Scripture.

It may seem so confusing when you encounter different teachings. What is right and what is wrong? Why do godly people from both sides say different things? This is especially intriguing when you think of how people from both sides are so devoted to God and close to Him and their hearts are right. Even so called "prophetic" people in Charismatic circles who hear from God accurately - they seem to disagree with each other so much on doctrine.  I've always wondered why all this is so for decades. I don't know the answer. Ultimately I think that the most important thing is to be faithful to what you feel God has told you and to follow Him. If you don't know what's truth, seek Him and ask Him to make your heart open and be faithful to what He says. That's really the best we can do.

2.3) Not Accepting Everything Uncritically 

Do also note that I may not necessarily fully agree with everything I’ve written above regarding the beliefs of the Mystical Christian movement. The key word here is “fully”. Obviously, I am very sympathetic to the views above, but I’m at different points in the spectrum as it relates to how fully I agree with the various beliefs.

What I’m trying to say is that I do not uncritically accept everything in the Mystical Christian movement. If you've read the articles on my website, you'd see that I always have a healthy skepticism of everything. For the most part, I don't believe in being too dogmatic in any direction. There's always a need for humility and openness towards either side. This is very much especially so when you're part of any NEW movement claiming to have "new" or more "advanced" revelation – an extra dose of humility ought to be demonstrated.

Because of my love for good intellectually rigorous theology (formed during my years as a Reformed Christian and because of my love of reading), there's actually probably a lot of teachings by mystical Christians that I wouldn't be able to accept fully. But I look at the big picture and realize I can still learn a lot from this movement. The Charismatic and Mystical movement would never be strong in theology, it would never be strong in the details, in their interpretation of passages - but that's OK. Why? Because firstly I do think a lot of what is taught and experienced is valid biblically - I may not agree with the way they interpret certain passages to support their beliefs, practices and experiences, but as long as I find other valid scriptures or scriptural ideas and concepts that support such beliefs and practices, I'm good. Secondly, I don't think truth is only a Left Brain intellectual pursuit. It definitely also involves the less intellectually rigorous Right Brain too. So even though I love great theology and all, I'm fine with setting that need of having great theology aside and just pursuing Him and experiencing Him in a way that cannot be explained through good theology and knowledge - Ephesians 3:19.

2.4) Faith Comes Before Experience 

I'm very idealistic in that I have many ideals and I try to live up to them and I also expect others to live up to their ideals. For example, one thing that immediately attracted me to Curry Blake (and got me back to seeking God) was his claim that almost everybody got healed when he or his people prayed for them. This was something that astounded me when I heard it 10+ years ago - in one of his earlier sets of his Divine Healing Technician (DHT) Training that was heard by many people throughout the world. The fact that it was claimed that this biblical ideal (the bible after all says that as we lay hands on the sick, they shall recover, etc.) was being lived up to earned a huge amount of respect from me!

I know now that while there's been a lot of healings in the ministry of people like Curry Blake, Bill Johnson, Randy Clark, Heidi Baker, David Hogan, etc., the percentage is far from very high. Please don't get me wrong: I respect all these people and they are doing so much more than I am doing. But I also believe in being honest and from my time involved in the healing ministry, I have seen far too many people not healed and far too many people claiming more healings than their results would indicate - or at least speak in such a way that causes people to expect much more than their past results would indicate would happen.

For those who hype up their results to try to raise the people's faith, I don't think it's done intentionally to deceive. It's perhaps just the reality of the ministry of healing and faith. After all, believing on the Word of God and not doubting or wavering in faith (because one is influenced by one's physical senses and evidence before one's eyes) is essential to getting the healing and one's prayers answered. After all this is the definition of faith: "Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality — faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]" (Amplified Version)

So I can completely understand when ministers speak in a way that is both a) them seeking to demonstrate or raise their own faith (not relying on past evidence to determine future results) and b) them trying to raise the faith of their audience. I think it takes courage to keep believing and keep expecting when one doesn't see results so in a way I greatly admire such ministers for keeping the faith. On the other hand, if results don't come, then perhaps there's something wrong here and maybe we need to find out why that is so?

Let me get back to my point here. Two things I want to say in particular in relation to my introductory comments above:

2.4.1) Many followers of this "Next Age" still haven't experienced what's promised

Firstly, the leaders and “forerunners” of this Mystical Christian movement have a lot of those mystical experiences (encountering face-to-face God, the Angelic, the Cloud of Witnesses and various places in Heaven and even in the Universe) and many followers have such experiences also, but a lot of followers – myself included – haven’t started encountering such experiences with such regularity as is the ideal in the movement.

In a sense, when you think of this (i.e. the fact that many followers do not experience what the movement says we should be experiencing), one can ask, “So what’s the difference between the Charismatic Christianity of Bill Johnson, etc., and Mystical Christianity, since it still seems that such “mystical” experiences are not so common among the movement’s followers? So in a sense, isn’t this so-called New Movement very much just like the old normal Charismatic Christian movement?

My analytical mind tries to make sense of this too and the way I see it is that in any new movement, there will be “forerunners”. These people have it difficult and went through years (if not decades) of learning. Now they are teaching us and it’s still going to be challenging and difficult for us initially but it’ll be easier for us than it was for the forerunners. And for those who come after us, it should get even easier.

That’s the way it is for all new movements. People only started believing a lot in supernatural divine healing more than a century ago. Now it’s very common in many churches to see it being practiced – among the laypeople even, as it should be. It’s only when it’s preached and believed then it will be more commonly experienced by those who take hold of it by faith. (Yet of course, as I acknowledged above, we are still very far from experiencing the Biblical ideal of all of us laying hands on the sick and the sick recovering)

Going back to the Mystical Christian movement and the expectation that Christians should experience all of the above regularly, if it is true that we truly have gone from one age to another, we’re still at an early stage of this “New” or “Next” Age. Perhaps even those who are learning from the current leaders/forerunners, are in the grand scheme of things, also very much forerunners still. That is, we may not exactly be the generation that experiences the fullness of all that is promised.

And so we ought to continue to believe and have faith before we experience the fullness. We may not experience it fully, but we expect to experience more and more of it and we expect for it to get easier and easier.

2.4.2) Some aspects of this "Next Age" is still not fully experienced by even the forerunners themselves

The second thing that’s on my mind is that even the so-called Leaders and Forerunners haven’t experienced it all. Yes, they have experienced those Face-To-Face encounters with God, the Angelic, the Cloud of Witnesses and Heaven and the Universe. But I think, if I’m not wrong, the expectation is that in this New/Next Age of Christianity, Signs and Wonders and everything that was hoped for (and perhaps expected) in the Charismatic Movement ought to be really fulfilled in this Age. I think even Immortality may not be fully experienced by these leaders (of course I would only know that to be true when I see the leaders physically die!). But the point is again that even they are holding on in faith for things that are not yet clearly manifested in their lives.

In the end, it may not be this generation that experiences all the “promises” fully – maybe not even the next generation. Who knows? But we press on in faith before we fully experience everything – but we expect to slowly experience more and more.

3) Conclusion

So anyway, I think we’re in an exciting time. A lot of Christianity – and especially Charismatic Christianity – believe that Jesus is coming back soon and the world is coming to an end soon, etc. But I think many in the Mystical Christian movement (at least the section I follow) view things very differently. Things are only going to get better – at least, the church is going to rise up and become more powerful. Firstly, we're going to be experiencing God and the Heavenlies / Universe in a greater way. And secondly, I do think perhaps we're also going to be demonstrating God’s love to all through signs, wonders and through other miraculous ways.

That's the promise of this Next/New Age Mystical Christianity!

PS: I am just a "newbie" to this Stream so I am only speaking from my own experience - and evaluating this Stream from my own very experience in other Christian streams - and with the benefit of interacting with many people in this Stream who have had a different past experience from me, and who have had much longer involvement in it. I have still so much to learn (did I mention, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" yet?...), but I am excited. I plan to continue to write more as I learn and I'm pretty sure within a few years' time when I look back, I'd probably have a good chuckle at what I've written - and would see things differently from now. It's all part of the journey ;)

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