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Thu, Mar 23, 2006

47 - Cosmic Degeneracy [b]

Hebrews 5:11 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 45 secs

 Hebrews Lesson 47  March 23, 2006 


NKJ Psalm 106:15 And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.


NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.


We are going to go back and pick up a few things I did last time at the end because most of you weren't here because you were exhausted from the conference. 


Somebody said, "Boy, I am sure glad we had all those visitors from the conference last Thursday night because our people were exhausted and home in bed."


We need to go through this again and I want to develop some things out of the section we did on the sluggish backslider.  (Hebrews 5:12)  Just a reminder to how this fits in the argument of Hebrews - what the writer is doing.  We have 3 sections that we have covered so far.  Actually we are in the middle of the second section.  Each section has a doctrinal exposition and then there is a practical exhortation or challenge and warning.  There is a didactic section.  That means there is teaching.   These are basic principles.  The writer frequently goes back to the Old Testament to pull out principles from Old Testament circumstances and events and then shows how they relate to the present work of Christ on the cross and what is happening in this age. 


The second section is from 2:5 down through 4:13.  This is made up of a didactic section or a doctrinal exposition in 2:5 though 3:6 and then a practical challenge from 3:7 – 4:13 which begins to develop the whole doctrine of the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ that is an outgrowth of His advance to spiritual growth in His humanity which qualifies Him for the cross and then prepares Him for His high priestly ministry.   Then the writer of Hebrews starts to develop this section but he gets right to the edge where he is talking about the analogy based on the royal priesthood of Melchizedek and then he stops and gives them one more reaming out because they have succumbed to spiritual sluggishness and negative volition.  So there is a didactic section, a doctrinal exposition in 4:15-5:10 and then we get into the practical challenge and practical exhortation beginning in 11 down through the end of chapter 6.   

The warning in this section is different from the challenge.  It is encapsulated in those wonderful verses 4-8 that everybody wants to go to try to establish a doctrine of temporal insecurity or no eternal security.  But, that is not what they are saying at all.


Then last time I introduced a chart to help you understand.


  1. 1:1-4 if the prologue
  2. teaching section
  3. exhortation


There are two more points to go.


"About who" is about Melchizedek. 


I pointed out in terms of exegesis that the phrase "we have much to say" is a pretty good way to express it.  If you translate it literally from the Greek, it is a little stilted and wooden. But, you get the thrust of it a little more. 


The writer says, "About whom the message with reference to us."  So the nominative case noun there is the message.  That is what this is about. 


Literal translation:  The message about Melchizedek with reference to us in terms of its application is great.


This is tremendous.  This is very important.  But you are dull of hearing.  About Melchizedek there is a great message for us, but it is hard to explain because you are dull of hearing.  That is why it is hard to explain, not because it is a difficult doctrine conceptually.  God the Holy Spirit teaches all of us the Word of God. It is not based on our human IQ or our education or any of those human factors.  God the Holy Spirit enables each of us to be able to understand doctrine at our rate of growth.  


So if you are a baby believer you may come to Bible class and say, "That is over my head."  That is because you are getting more advanced doctrine.  You are getting steak instead of milk.  It doesn't mean that you can't understand it.  You have to learn more basic things first.  You have to get your ABC's before you can start learning to pronounce multi-syllable words. 


So what he is saying is that the reason it is difficult to explain doesn't have anything to do with the inherent difficulty of the doctrine; it has to do with the fact that the hearers have become sluggish in their studies.  They have regressed in their spiritual growth so that they no longer able to comprehend the significance of this.  He really lays into them from this verse on. 


For now we just want to talk about the mechanics of spiritual sluggishness.  I have translated this "because" instead of "since" because it has a stronger sense.  The cause of the difficulty of explanation is their spiritual condition.  They have become something they were not.  It is the perfect active indicative of ginomai meaning to become something they were not before.  They had advanced to a level of spiritual maturity where they understood more advanced doctrine and now because of carnality and distractions and adversity and pressure which they are trying to handle through the sin nature.  They have regressed spiritually so they cannot comprehend things and fully appreciate doctrines that they could have at one point.  The perfect tense indicates that this is a present condition resulting from a completed past action.  They have already blown it.  They have already regressed.  They are in a state now where they are older believers.  They were at one time more mature believers.  Now they are acting like babies. 


They have become sluggish.  That is the word nothros meaning lazy, sluggish, or dull. They are adverse to activity.  They are indolent.  They are torpid.  They don't want to move around.  They don't want to go to Bible class.  They find other things to do with their lives.  Other things seem to intrude.  They give their priority to other factors rather than studying the Word.  Studying the Word of God has to be the priority.  You have to do it on a regular basis.  There is growth.  It is not something you can do once a week.  For every believer the study of the Word needs to be an avocation.  It is your life.  It is not something that you do which is how most Christians view it. 


"Let's go to church Sunday because that is what we do.  Let's not have an hour of study of the Word.  That is too much.  Let's just make sure we enjoy our experience with God and sing a lot of choruses that make us feel better and have a little sermonette for Christianettes." 


That is where our whole culture has been going for the last 20 or 25 years.  Most Christians don't want to know the Word; they just want to have the façade of knowing the Word.  They want to talk the talk and have their friends because they would rather be around Christians who have similar beliefs, morals, and stability than around non Christians. 


The whole concept of becoming spiritually hard of hearing is one that you can trace back through the Old Testament.  We looked at Ezekiel 12. 


NKJ Ezekiel 12:2 "Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.


That is the core issue.  Let me tell you what positive volition is.  Positive volition isn't somebody who is merely curious or casually interested in the Word of God.  That isn't positive volition. 


Positive volition is somebody who says, "I need to know the Word of God.  I am going to be there Sunday morning.  I am going to be there Tuesday night.  I am going to be there Thursday night and I am going to listen to tapes."


Positive volition is putting your spiritual transmission into gear and moving forward through first gear, second gear, and third gear.  There are a lot of people that we know who are casually interested in the Word of God.  They know it is important.  They know the right answers, but they only show up once a week.  They are the nod to God crowd.  You don't see them on Tuesday night or Thursday night or any other time.  They don't listen to tapes.  They know it is important, but God is just another detail of life.  He is not the controlling factor of life.  That's the difference.  It's not really positive volition.  It is just a façade.  We have to be careful of that because we can all slip into arrogance and self deception and think we are positive when we are coasting. 


I like the analogy of the Christian life.  It is like driving a car up a steep mountain road.  You have no breaks.  You only have neutral and drive.  That's it.  So if you slip out of drive you are going to go backward.  That is what has happened to these believers.  They have slipped.  They are not hostile to God.  Negative volition is not necessarily hostility to God or hostility to doctrine.  It is complacency.  That is as much negative volition as anything else.  It is complacency toward the Word of God.  It is not that important.  It is not a priority to reshape your thinking through the study of God's Word. 


Zechariah 7:11is challenging the Jews.


NKJ Zechariah 7:11 "But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.


They refused to listen to the Word.  So we looked at a few points to answer the question, what causes a believer to become lazy, sluggish, dull and hard of hearing?


  1. It always starts with the study and application of the Word.  It is no longer a priority.  They are easily distracted – sports, television, just tired.  It can be legitimate sometimes.  When you look at our culture in terms of work hours, in 1970 it took one breadwinner 40 hours of work to produce a certain level of income.  In 1986 it took two breadwinners working 60 hours a week to earn the same level of income or lifestyle.  That's not just because it is their fault for trying to have better things or a higher standard of living.  We had inflation for those of you who are old enough to remember the inflation of the late 70's under Jimmy Carter.  We had 13% mortgage rates, 18% mortgage rates.  It was just incredible.  But what did that do?  In order to get a home and pay the bills wives were forced to go to work.  We had incredible inflation that took place at that time.  You remember the days when you went to Bible class five times a week.  Then all of a sudden when you are working 60 hours a week it is hard to go to Bible class every night because you are tired – legitimately so.  So there has to be a workaround.  So we have tapes and DVD's and other things like that so that you can fit the study of the Word into your schedule.  It always has to be a priority.
  2. The details of life have been allowed to distract us from the priority.  It is real easy to let the details of life distract us.  There are legitimate distractions.  Sometimes you hear people say, "We have all of these distractions."  They are legitimate.  Life interferes sometimes with things we have to do.  We get sick.  We have extra responsibilities at work.  We have elderly parents.  We have kids that need our help.  They are legitimate, but we can't let them crowd out doctrine. 
  3.  Sin and/or human good become a distraction which begins to callous the soul to the truth.  That happens frequently.  You have got to watch that.  As soon as you try to solve problems through the old sin nature, through human good without using the problem solving devices then the sin nature takes control.  If you stay in carnality then it wipes you out spiritually.  That is the situation we are facing in the book of Hebrews. 
  4. The result of this is that a person becomes two-souled.  That is the James 1:5-7 issue, the dypsukos believer.  He has human viewpoint competing with divine viewpoint in his soul.  In many cases you have believers who haven't grown enough to have that much of a savings account of divine viewpoint.  So when they hit neutral they operate on human viewpoint paganism.  That is their problem solving technique.  That is how they approach life.  They become this dypsukos, double-souled, double-minded believer that seems like he has a lot of contradictions. 


Then we went to the dynamics of the backsliding believer.  We have covered this.  I want to get passed it to some other things this evening, so let's just quickly review it.

  1. First of all there is a decision to stop walking by the Holy Spirit. 


NKJ Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.


The command is to walk by the Spirit.  That is sticking the transmission into drive.  As soon as you slip into neutral, what happens?  You are going into the default position of life which is walking by the sin nature.  As soon as you slip that gear into neutral you automatically operate on the sin nature and you are in spiritual regression.

  1. If you stay there in carnality, that leads to a development of arrogance.  The arrogance skills are then refined - self absorption, self indulgence, self deception, self justification, and self deification. 
  2. We become the ultimate authority.  That is what was happening in the book of Judges.  There was no king in the land.  Who was the king?  It was God. They had thrown out God.  Everyone deified themselves.   Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  This leads to spiritual fragmentation in the soul.  It leads to self destruction.
  3. This leads to vacillation in decision making.  That is the dypsukos believer I mentioned a little while ago.  You operate on competing value systems in your soul – human viewpoint verses divine viewpoint. 
  4. You seek happiness in the details of life.  This is the leeks and garlic syndrome of the Exodus generation.  After they get out in the wilderness, even though God is providing everything for them and they have this miraculous provision and protection every day, what do they want?  "Let's go back to the leeks and garlic of Egypt."  They don't have capacity for their freedom.  They don't have capacity for their blessing because they're not positive to the Word.  They have rejected it. 
  5. This leads to soul poverty.  God gave them the desires of their heart.  


NKJ Psalm 106:15 And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.


  1. Previously learned doctrine begins to be ignored, lost, or forgotten.  It was there once but all of a sudden it isn't there.  You know people like that. "You really knew a lot of doctrine at one time and were squared away.  Look at the decisions you are making."  We just back up. 
  2. This creates a vacuum in the soul sucks in surrounding paganism.  The more you regress the more there is this vacuum in the soul.  It sucks in whatever is around.  Whatever is around is the human viewpoint thinking of the culture that is surrounding us.  That is paganism.  Paganism is a technical term for any system of thinking that isn't biblical.  So we just suck it in.  It is easy to do that.  You pick it up from television, from media, from radio, from peers, from teachers and from all kinds of sources.  The sin nature attracts it like a magnet because it is the cosmic system around us that provides a rationale for the sin nature - self justification. 
  3. That leads to the ninth point that I want to talk a little bit more about this evening.  That is this concept of cosmic or pagan degeneracy.  You see this throughout the history of Christianity.


You can go back to the earliest days of the church during the time of the New Testament.  What was one of the problems there?  On the one hand they had problems with legalism.  Everybody has trends to legalism or trends toward licentiousness.  In legalism what were they attracted to?  Where did they move?  They moved toward Judaistic heresies.  You have this attraction to legalism.  The Judaizers are coming along and feed that. 


They say, "Oh, it is great that Paul taught about the grace of God in Christ and that you are saved by faith alone in Christ alone but if you really want the abundant life and if you really want the super blessings that come with the Abrahamic Covenant; then the men have to be circumcised and you have to enter into the Abrahamic Covenant to get those blessings."  That was on the legalistic side.


On the licentiousness side you had who in the New Testament most specifically illustrates the licentious antinomianism of the ancient world?  Those lovely Corinthians!  They are so pagan it is unbelievable.  They are trying to cloak their Greek paganism in biblical terminology.  They have got all kinds of problems going on there.  So you see these two trends.  Just as you as an individual are going to trend to either licentiousness or legalism in our sin nature (You are going to go in one of those two directions.), the same thing is going to happen culturally.  A culture is going to trend one way or the other.  A culture is just a hodge-podge of sin natures.  Those sin natures are going to have a preponderant trend in one area or the other.  You see that. 


If you go back to the World War II generation coming out of the poverty and hardship and the difficulty of the great depression there was an emphasis on hard work, on values, on morality.  Why?  Because when you get under that adversity it drives you back to certain standards that you have to apply or everything will fall apart. 


Then what happens in reaction to that with the 60's generation, all you baby boomers got antinomian - free love, free sex, free everything, no standards.  Everybody just does what they want to do.  So as a culture we swung from more of a righteousness (It wasn't necessarily a biblical righteousness.)  all the way to the other extreme of cultural licentiousness.  Now there are trends that we see trying to move things back in the other direction.  That is always the cycle, bouncing back from one to the other.  You can trace it all the way through history.  The early church was no different.   You had groups that were pushing toward Judaism. 


After the close of the cannon these became know as Ebonites.  The problem was within the church for the first century after the last apostle died.  Then you had the antinomian crowd and they became known as Gnostics.  They produced those Gnostic gospels that they discovered in Egypt – the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Phillip, the gospel of Mary Magdalene.  That bears fruit some 1900 years later in the "Da Vinci Code".  You never get away from history.  You have to know what these trends are and trace them through.  You see the same patterns over and over again. 


This is played out again in this next chart.  Cosmic degeneracy follows the trends of either legalism or licentiousness.  On the licentious side it produces immoral degeneracy.   Nobody seems to have a problem understanding this – that there is such a thing as immoral degeneracy. You can go to San Francisco and get a great example of what immoral degeneracy is.  You can go back in history to Sodom or Gomorrah and see a picture of immoral degeneracy.  You can go the fertility cults and the mystery religions in Greece in the time of Christ and you can see the immoral degeneracy that dominated in those religious systems. 


Immoral degeneracy has its counter part in knowledge.  How do you know what you know?  How do you know truth?  How do we know what is right or what is wrong?  What is the way to know truth?  That is another way to put it. 


In immorality, what are you saying?  You are throwing off all restraint.  You are throwing off all rules.


 "There are no rules.  I am just going to do what ever I want to do." 


You are totally moved by what ever your own appetites are.  This has its role in knowledge.  How do you know truth?  By however my appetites move me.  It is not based on any sort of standards or any sort of objectivity.  Therefore we call it irrationalism or non-rationalism.  The other term for this is mysticism.  This is where mysticism comes from. You have mysticism in religion. 


You always see this cycle in history.  You have rationalism dominate.  Then there is a reaction to rationalism because rationalism (I am using it in a broad sense including empiricism.) can't provide answers.  Ultimately if you follow rationalism and empiricism to its logical conclusion it leaves you without any answers and devoid of hope.  That happened in the ancient world with Aristotle and Plato.  They got into the Sophists and the Epicureans.  There is a rejection of the ability to know what absolute truth is.  That is when these mystery religions really began to sprout.  You had the worship of Apollo at Delphi.  It grew and expanded.  There was Dionysian worship and the Sibley Addis cult and all of these other religions.  They emphasized mysticism emphasizing what is going on inside the worshipper.  It blows away all kinds of restraints and absolutes leading to licentiousness.  This works itself out in terms of how they know truth and how they live their lives.  You can't separate the two. 


On the other side you have moral degeneracy.  This is exemplified by such groups in the Bible as the Pharisees who were very rigorous in their approach to spirituality and in their approach to religion.  They have taken the 613 commandments of the Mosaic Law and built a fence around them.  If you didn't break through the outer fence you would never break the 613 commandments.  They set up this whole system of human traditions and laws and regulations that were codified in the Mishnah.  With all of these stipulations and rules, if you didn't break these you wouldn't break any of the commandments.  Then they came along again and built a second fence around that all in terms of human morality.  But it is degenerate. It doesn't produce anything. 


That moral degeneracy, that orientation to paying attention to all the details and setting up these rigorous standards, has a counterpart in knowledge.  How do you know what you know?  That is where the real battle is.  That is where I am going with this.  How do you know what is right?  How do you know what is true?  This led to the development of autonomous reason and empiricism.  That is the counterpart.  So if you living in a culture that is trending toward immoral degeneracy, how is that going to affect knowledge?  Think about it. It is going to end up in mysticism.  What have we seen?  Well the baby boomers all followed the Beatles to India, didn't they?  They sucked up monism and pantheism and all of these eastern mystical religions.  That developed into the New Age Movement.  Back in the 80's I remember teaching about the New Age Movement.  People asked where that came from.   By the 90's it was main stream.  Nobody thinks about it any more – crystals, pyramids, and everything.  Moral degeneracy has its counterpart in reason and empiricism. We see that in the earlier phase which was the modernist movement coming out of the Enlightenment.  There was an emphasis on natural religion in a sense and there was an emphasis on morality and its counterpart on autonomous reason and empiricism.  That leads to asceticism and self righteousness on the one hand.  Immoral degeneracy leads to fertility religions and the prosperity worshippers of modern times.  The prosperity gospel, the health and wealth Christians, are just another manifestation of fertility worship. 


Then moral degeneracy leads to legalism like the Pharisees developing rigorous systems and systems to get to God and things like that. 


Now I want to talk some more about mysticism because mysticism is the danger of the day.  The danger of the day 100 years ago was rationalism and empiricism.  When rationalism and empiricism dominated Western European culture, what did that produce in terms of religion?  It ended up producing what we call 19th century religious liberalism.  If everything must be submitted to human reason, then miracles don't fit human reason.  I have never seen it.  I have never felt it.  It doesn't fit my rational system.  So miracles are out.  I have never seen God.  I have never felt God.  I have never experienced God.  So God is out.  I have never seen a virgin birth so that is out.  So when rationalism controls Christianity, you threw away the miraculous.  You threw away the virgin birth.  You threw away healings. You threw away the Second Coming of Christ.  You threw away the resurrection.  It was something that was just a subjective impression on the disciples.  So rationalism destroyed the guts of Christianity.  That is what happened so there was a reaction.  Skepticism came into play because that is always the result of rationalism.  You always lose the sense of truth.  Rationalism can't give you the answers.  When there are no answers, you can't get there through reason.  Then you are skeptical and that is existentialism.  That led to the nihilism of Niche that God is dead. 


There is some cartoon that says, "God is dead.  Niche"


Underneath that some Christian wrote, "Niche is dead.  God."


The rationalism of the Enlightenment led to skepticism.  Into the vacuum of skepticism went mysticism.  Why?  Because, man can't live as a skeptic.  You can't live as if there is no God, no hope and no meaning in life because God has built into the human soul. 


As Augustine put it, "There is a God-shaped vacuum." 


In the human soul there is an orientation to God that you can't get away from, that you can't escape so man makes this sort of existential leap into meaning.  "I can't support it with the use of my mind so I am just going to believe it."  That is mysticism.  It is non-rational. 


So we have the chart that we have seen before but I want to review it again.  This is so important.  I remember when I was in seminary back in 1976 and (I can't remember who said it the first time but I know that Dr. Hannah said it frequently) someone made the comment, "The crisis of our day is epistemology."  It is one of the most profound statements I ever heard.  The trouble is that most people don't even know what epistemology is.  Epistemology is how you know what you know.  It is how do you know truth?  How do you know what God wants you to do?  How do you know that there is a God?  This is what epistemology is.  How do you know something?  If you may the statement that God exists, how do you know that?  What is your basis for knowledge?  What is your basis for truth?  What is your way of knowing truth?  How do you know what to do in life?  How do you know your ultimate value system? 


What was happening in the 70's is that we had just come out of what was called the post Puritan era which was ended about 1962-1963 when the last vestiges of Reformation and Enlightenment thought were thrown off and we began to enter into this new mysticism that we started to see in the late 60's and on into the 70's. It affects Christianity.  That is when we saw the explosion of the charismatic movement.  That isn't historically coincidental.  There is a connection.  Once we threw off the constraints of reason in the culture then the constraints of use of logic and reason as a tool to understand the Word of God got thrown off inside the church.  The church always mirrors the culture outside the church.  So the church became explosively charismatic.  Americans exported it all over the world. 


There are four ways we know anything.  The top three in the chart are human viewpoint systems of knowledge – how you know things without God. 


  1. The first system is rationalism.  This is Plato in the ancient world and Descartes in the modern world.   Rationalism glorifies human reason.  It is autonomous human reason apart from any kind of revelation.  Man on his own through the use of his own innate intellect can reason to ultimate absolute truth, unifying truth that will help him understand everything.  So the starting points are innate ideas in the mind or the mentality of the soul, but under girding that is the unspoken faith in human ability.  There aren't three systems of perception – empiricism, rationalism and faith - because what under girds everything; but revelation is faith.  We have to understand that.  At the core of rationalism is faith in autonomous human ability.  I believe.  That is what Descartes said.  "I think therefore I am.   If I exercise skepticism about everything and I think that everything around me is a one big cosmic delusion, you don't exist.  You are just a figment that God has placed in my imagination.  The world doesn't exist.  This is just some great divine delusion.  Nothing exists. Well, how do I know that I exist?  I am thinking.  Ah!  If I am thinking then I must exist.  That is why he said, "I think therefore I am."  Because I am thinking, I have consciousness, and I am logically interacting then that means I must exist.  That is my starting point.  I exist.  Now can I get from my existence to your existence?"  He developed this whole scheme for doing that and then getting to the existence of God.  The trouble is (as all of the critics pointed out) that you can't really get out of yourself.  The problem with rationalism is called solipsism.  You can't get out of your own soul.  You can't get there.  So rationalism fell apart but the method of rationalism was the independent use of logic and reason. So you have the development of rigorous systems of logic.  The Greeks were experts at this.  Everything that has been developed since then is based on that.  Even today they have competing systems of logic.  It shows that they can't agree on the starting point.  So rationalism doesn't provide ultimate answers. 
  2. If rationalism can't do it then maybe sense knowledge does.  So you shift to empiricism - what I see, what I feel, what I taste, what I touch and what I hear.  This then becomes the basis for knowledge.  I can know things as they are.  So the starting point is sense perception's external experience repeated events.  This develops into the scientific method.  But, once again it is faith in human ability that when I see you I am properly interpreting what I see, what I feel, what I taste and what I touch.  Again it is faith in human ability to be able to properly interpret the signals that are coming into my brain.  Once again the method that is used is the independent use of logic and reason. Now when rationalism fails and empiricism fails, there is no hope.  What do you have to go to?  Logic has failed.  So now where do you go?  Non-logic.  You reject reason.  Reason can't get you there.  You just have to experience it.  You just have to experience it in a different way than I did in empiricism.  That is the development of mysticism.  Instead of some external factor, now it is internal impressions.  It is really rationalism gone to seed.  In rationalism you are going to get to truth through the use of your thought process but you are going to use logic and reason to get to ultimate truth.  But, since logic and reason fail with rationalism and logic and reason fail with empiricism; you would have to reject logic and reason.   
  3. So now we jump to inner private experience.  It is all about what goes on inside the individual.  I can't see what goes on inside your head.  It is mystical.  The god or the gods or the ultimate reality did something inside of you. You had this wham bam experience but I can't taste it, touch it, feel it, evaluate it, or judge it.  Why?  Because it is private.  It is subjective.  It is not externally observable by anyone else.  It is intuitively perceived.  I used to say it was intuitive hot flashes but a lot of women didn't like that.  It is this internal perception independent of all external verification.  It is non-logical non-rational and non-verifiable.  Therefore you can't evaluate it.  It was real to me and it carries with it this self authenticating power.  If you could just experience what I experienced.  Of course you can't experience what I experience.  So how do you evaluate it? How can you verify it?  If you can't verify or falsify it, is it true?  How do you know it is true?  It was real to me.  It was internal.  It is so over powering it just shuts down any external verifiable category.  Remember that we are dealing with knowledge.  How do you know ultimate things?  So knowledge is always related to some kind of communication. 
  4. So we come to the only divine viewpoint basis for knowledge which is revelation.   Remember that rationalism is based on faith in human reason.  Empiricism is based on faith in human ability.  Mysticism is based on faith in your ability to properly interpret intuitive insight, this event that occurred privately.  But revelation is based on something objective.  God speaks.  He spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  If he would have had an Olympus voice recorder he could have recorded the voice of God.  If he would have had a cassette recorder at Mt. Sinai they could have recorded the voice of God.  If they had had a DVD player they could have taken a movie of the burning bush.  It was objective.  It was verifiable.  It was outside Moses.  He didn't hear some voice inside of his head.  When Paul was on the road to Damascus it was not a mystical experience which is what the liberals say because only Paul clearly understood what the voice said.  But those with him heard the voice and saw the light.  It was just that everything was out of focus for them.  Only Paul saw it in focus.  In mysticism only the individual sees the light and hears the voice.  Those around you don't know anything or see anything.  So revelation is objective. It comes from God.  To understand it we use the cognitive abilities that God put in us at creation.  This is important.


The big battle today as most of you know is in the field of interpretation.  That is why we have these battles before the Supreme Court on how you are going to interpret the Constitution.  Is it a living document or do you interpret it in light to the meaning of the Founders?  You have the same battle going on in the interpretation of Scripture.  Is it what it means to me or is it what the original author intended to communicate to his original audience?  Which is it?  Under mysticism you move more and more to what it means to me, that inner private meaning.  What it means to you is different from what it means to you.  And they are all right!  Isn't that wonderful?  We can all go home and be warm and be filled. 


Biblical truth is based on external objective verifiable revelation that can be verified or falsified.  Christianity always reflects what is going on around you. So Christianity has always had a battle within Christianity with trends either towards rationalism or mysticism.  This has gone on since the early days of the church.  In fact in the early church by the end of the second century and into the 4th century the church became captivated by Neo-Platonic mysticism.  This gave birth to allegorical interpretation. 


For example Origin who was one of the early church fathers (He did some positive things and he did some harm.) said that there is a meaning in Scripture that goes beyond the letter.  "It doesn't matter whether it happened historically or not.  What matters is that you have to understand this ideal meaning of the text that goes beyond it." 


That means you have to have a special wavelength to God in order to get that spiritual meaning.  That was allegorical interpretation.  It meant that 1,000 years didn't mean 1,000 years when it came to the Millennium.  A thousand years was just an ideal number.  So now the Scripture could mean different things to different people.  Allegorical interpretation dominated the church throughout the Middle Ages.  You had this period of orientation toward mysticism through much of the early period of the church.  They were influences by Neo-Platonism.  Augustine was neo-platonic.  Then there was a rediscovery of Aristotle but Aristotle was a rationalist.  There was a rediscovery of Aristotle around the 10th or 11th century.  So the pendulum swings in the other direction and you have a more rationalistic approach to theology and Bible study that produces the scholasticism of the late Middle Ages.  But you see that becomes a cold dead scholasticism.  There is no relationship to God so people want the warm fuzzy relationship.  So you have a swing in the other direction and you have rise of the late middle age mystics like Myst or Eckhart who influence Luther later on and some others came along.  So there is always this pendulum swing in the church.  You have the reformation and there is what people call the second reformation in the middle of the 1600's which is a shift to what is called pietism.  Then you have the rise of the Dutch Pietists and the German Lutheran Pietists.  This eventually leads to a group called the Moravians.  We are in the flow folks.  Our history drives strong and hard through the pietists because they had many positive elements.  But they also had this undercurrent of mysticism that affects their understanding of the Holy Spirit and the dynamics of the spiritual life.  So you get this pendulum swing that continues. 


The Moravians influenced who?  Anybody know?  John Wesley.  John Wesley after he had been a missionary to Georgia (he is not saved) had to leave Georgia because there was some question about a relationship that he had with a young lady.  Back then it meant that you looked at her twice across the street.  It didn't have to be any more than that for you to get into trouble.  He gets sent home.  On the way home he is on a ship and there are some Moravian missionaries on the ship who give him the gospel.  One of the positive things about the Moravians and the pietists was that they believed that you had to put your faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.  There had to be a personal relationship.  It wasn't just belief in a creedal statement.  There had to be personal faith in Jesus Christ.  So after Wesley got back to England, he and his brothers finally got saved. 


Then you have the development of Methodism down into the middle of the 19th century. Methodism grows cold and stale kind of like all movements seem to do. There is a group within Methodism that wants to go back to the original a little bit mystical orientation of Wesley.  That is called the Holiness Movement.  It produced a man named E M Bounds who wrote a lot of books on prayer.  But you see there is a strong undercurrent in the holiness movement of mysticism.  So you have the development of the Holiness Movement, the Keswick theology which was the higher life or the victorious life movement at the end of the 19th century.  All of these people get together.  There are also dispensationalists like Cyrus Ingersoll, C I Scofield, Louis Sperry Chafer, and Reuben Atory who was the president of Moody and then went out to found Viola, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.  All of these people are operating together and speaking at the same speaking circuit.  They are all going to the same Bible conferences.  They are all speaking to the same pastor's conferences.  They are all talking the same context.  Now Chafer came along and picked up and used some of that vocabulary.  That was the going vocabulary of the day.  Some of the Keswick, holiness , quasi-mystical vocabulary.  He wrote his book "He that is Spiritual" in 1917 or 1918. Benjamin Warfield who was the conservative theologian of the day wrote a devastating critique of "He that is Spiritual."  He said he was all Keswick and victorious life.  But he wasn't.  Warfield misunderstood him.  Why?  Because Chafer was using victorious life terminology but in a non-victorious life way.  This is the problem with vocabulary in trying to express some of these concepts.  We are often limited to vocabulary in the theological environment in which we find ourselves. 


All of that is to lead us up to understand that in mysticism the ultimate issue is how do we know when we are being led by the Holy Spirit?  How do we know when we are being guided by God?  How do we know the truth?  So, as I pointed out earlier, all revelation (I did this back in the third or fourth lesson in Hebrews.) that is the communication or unveiling of all knowledge from God to us must be distinguished from 3 things.


  1. Inspiration: the process whereby God oversaw the process of inscripturating or recording the disclosure of Scripture.  Inspiration is the mechanics of how the thoughts of God were put into the minds of men and written down so that the Holy Spirit oversaw the process so that the end result was without error.  It is neither a mechanical view nor a mystical view of inspiration.  Louis Sperry Chafer completely rejected the mystical view of inspiration.
  2.  Illumination:  the process whereby the God the Holy Spirit enables us to understand what has been written in Scripture.  We know that He does.  The Scripture doesn't tell us what those mechanics are.  It is not contemplating your navel.  The worst form of mysticism in the Christian life is taking the Bible and saying, "Okay.  I am going to read the passage and I am going to pray and God is going to tell me what it means."  It is totally devoid of any knowledge of Greek or Hebrew or exegesis or theology.  It is just liver quiver exposition.  It is whatever God tells me at that moment that it means.  The Holy Spirit works through processes - study, years in seminary, learning the original languages, studying theology.  That is how we come to understand the truth.
  3. Leading of the Holy Spirit:  This can be directly through Scripture or indirectly illumination as we understand Scripture, bringing Scripture to memory when we get into a particular situation, wisdom application.  The Holy Spirit builds this reservoir of knowledge in our soul.  We learn to apply it.  The Scripture uses the word wisdom which means skill at living.  He leads us through that wisdom which leads our soul.  This is confirmed often through external counsel or circumstances, but you never see the pure mystical liver quiver that "God spoke to me" kind of thing that you often get in holiness circles.  You spend hours in prayer and God will speak to us.  The problem is how you know it is God and not something that is dredging up in your own mind.  How many of you have had the experience when you pray that you start to pray and all of a sudden you are in the grocery store or you are out on the golf course or you are watching a football game or you are wrestling with a business problem.  Two or three minutes go by and you say, "Oh yeah.  I am supposed to be praying."  We have all these different layers of stuff going on in our consciousness that tends to percolate up.  Now how do you that what is percolating up is from the Holy Spirit or your own mentality?  That is the issue.  How do you verify it?  How do you validate it?  How do you say it is true or false?  In mysticism there is no validation anymore. 


A principle from the Old Testament:  God never communicates in private without authentication in public.


It never happens.  Whenever God speaks there is external verification.  There are a few times in the Old Testament where there is no external voice that possibly the prophet is seeing within himself.  But it is always validated.  Even in Daniel, Daniel has these dreams and visions.  But what happens?  An angel comes along and tells them what it means.  There is external objective verification.  It's not simply this subjective internal process. 


Now Chafer recognized that there is a difference between false mysticism and true mysticism.  He wrestled with the terminology.  Mysticism is a bad word to use and I am going to show you why.  When he goes to true mysticism, it isn't mysticism any more because mysticism is always internal.  All it takes is Philosophy 101 and pull out a few dictionaries and books on mysticism if you read them you find out what it really is. He didn't use it well.  I touched on that last time.  In false mysticism in volume 1 of his Systematic Theology he says: 


False mysticism is the theory that divine revelation is not limited to the written Word of God,


Now let me parse this for you a little bit.  Divine revelation is the unveiling of knowledge to man the communication of any kind of information to the individual. 


But that God bestows added truth to souls that are sufficiently quickened by the Spirit of God to receive it. 


What happens within Christianity is you get this quasi-mysticism what I call mysticism-lite or soft mysticism where they try to interpret these passages related to the ministry of the Holy Spirit which is in turn not clearly described in Scripture.  They try to interpret it in this mystical way where the Holy Spirit today is communicating something to you.


Mystics of this class (That is non-Christian mystics.) contend that by self-effacement and devotion to God (that is going out and sitting on a pillar or going hungry of fasting for 40 days.) individuals can attain to immediate direct and conscious realization of the person and presence of God and thus to all truth in Him. 


In other words there is this direct intuitive knowledge of what God wants me to do.


False mysticism includes all those systems which teach identity between God and human life – Pantheism, Theosophy, and Greek philosophy.


Those are just some of them. 


In it are included practically all of the holiness movements of the day.


You see that is what he is recognizing in what came out of Wesleyanism that produced men like Bounds, Charles Fox who is the father of the Pentecostal movement. All of these movements are mysticism and he classifies them under false mysticism.  Then he has the non-Christian spiritism.


also, Spiritism, Seventy Day Adventism, New Thought, Christian Science, Swedenborgianism, Mormonism, and Millennial Dawnism.   The founders and promoters of many of these cults make claims to special revelation from God upon which their system is built.  With far less complication with error and untruth a false mysticism is discernable within the practices of the Friends of the Quakers. 


Now the Friends of the Quakers, many of them were Christians.  They had this inner light.  "God is speaking to me.  I just have to be quiet."  I call it quietism.  I get alone with God and God speaks to me.  "If I pray for three or four hours the Holy Spirit will guide me."


  How do you evaluate that?  You can't. It will justify anything.


Now in contrast to this Chafer talked about true mysticism.  Notice how he so qualifies the term that it destroys the term.  You can't really call it mysticism.  But he is confusing mysticism with something that is mysterious or difficult to understand.  That was more common in an earlier age.  Mysticism is not belief in the supernatural.  It is not to be equated with a simple belief in the supernatural.  It is not to be equated with the occult.  Some people do that.  The occult is always mystical but not all mysticism is occultic.  Mysticism is not mysterious.  There are a lot of mysteries, things that we don't quite understand in the Scripture but that doesn't mean that they are mystical.


Chafer says:


  True mysticism contends that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  


That is true so far.  I don't like the term true mysticism but he is trying to define it. 


 and thus are in a position to be enlightened directly by Him. 


Oh, that sounds kind of funny doesn't it?  Read on.  He tells you what enlightenment means.  It is not direct enlightenment.  It is mediated by the Word of God.   


But that there is one complete revelation given, and that the illuminating work of the Spirit will be confined to the unveiling of the Scriptures to the mind and heart. 


It doesn't have to do with figuring out whether you should enter that business deal tomorrow or not.  It is not figuring out whether you should marry this woman or that woman or not getting married at all.  It is confined to understanding the Scripture.  But you see mysticism accurately understood is a totally subjective internal event.  That is not what he is talking about here.  He was wrong in using this term mysticism. 


He goes on.


False mysticism ignores the statement found in Jude 1:3 that there is a faith or system of belief "once delivered unto the saints," and that when the Spirit is promised to "guide into all truth" it is only the truth contained in the Scriptures. 


It is based on objective revelation. 


There is a unique knowledge of the mysteries or sacred secrets of God accorded to those who are taught by the Spirit of God, but the sacred secrets are already contained in the text of the Bible. 


Where?  In the text of the Bible.  It's not some kind of liver quiver.  It's not some sort of naval contemplation.  It is understanding what the text says.  That is based on historical, grammatical, lexical study of the Word of God. 


The Word was never understood mystically.  Mysticism has always destroyed any kind of objectivity in Christianity.  Why?  Just a quick wrap up.  Think about this. 


Mysticism is focusing on learning knowledge, gaining knowledge.  The term that we use in theology for God communicating knowledge to man is called revelation.  Right?  God reveals something to us.  We learn something that we didn't know before.  There are two kinds of revelation.  There is general revelation and there is special revelation - Theology 101.  General revelation is non-verbal. 


NKJ Psalm 119:1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD!


It is what we see in the results of God's creation.  We look around.  The intelligent design argument is an argument for the existence of God based on general revelation.  It doesn't give you anything specific.  To properly interpret general revelation, what do you have to have?  Special revelation.  For example in the Proverbs you have observation of the ant.  The ant works hard and he is diligent.  He stores up things for the future.  But do we go to the ant for all social application?  No, because there is one queen that runs all of the males.  You can't just go to nature and willy- nilly dry out any application. 


Special revelation tells you how to interpret general revelation and where it applies.  Now general revelation continues today.  Go outside and look at the stars.  Special revelation is the other category.  Special revelation is when God reveals Himself propositionally to man.  When did special revelation end?  It ended with the closing of the canon.   Therefore is God revealing information to man after the close of the canon? No!  That ends all mysticism.  It ends all discussion.  It means that the leading of the Spirit is not to be equated with anything other than Scripture.  If the leading of the Spirit has to do with you going out and praying about something that God tell you what to do whether to do this deal or that deal whether to turn right or turn left then you are asking for special revelation.  Special revelation ended with the closing of the canon.  So when you start interpreting the filling of the Spirit, the leading of the Spirit in these kinds of subjective categories it immediately undercuts and eviscerates (that is a fancy word meaning it guts) your whole doctrine of bibliology.  Now you are opening the door to God speaking.


"The canon is closed, but God still speaks."


Okay, where do you find that in Scripture?  Document that.  You can't.  The speaking of God is always infallible and inerrant whether it is inscripturated or not isn't the issue.  The issue is whether special revelation ceased or not.  If it ceased, that is it.  God is not going to tell you what to do tomorrow.  What you have to do is learn from the Word of God.  You develop wisdom in your soul.  It is from that reservoir of wisdom that you make the decision.  Working in and through that in a mysterious way is the Holy Spirit who guides and directs you.  And if you are going to make the wrong decision and the Holy Spirit wants you to do X instead of Y, guess what?  Y will disappear and you will only have X if you want to follow and do right before the Lord. 


So mysticism always destroys your whole doctrine of revelation and your whole doctrine of bibliology.  It gets Christians into some sort of internal self analysis, subjectivity and liver quiver to find out what God wants them to do.  That is always unhealthy for the believer.  Ultimately it destroys the objectivity of the external standard of the Word of God. 


Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.