mysticism and 4G: response to Frides Lameris
- Response to : Frides Laméris posting of Thu, 12 Aug 2004
Thanks for your ‘off list’ posting, which raises some interesting
things. So even though it was ‘off list’, I’d like to respond to
it in the hope that it may raise a discussion. I would quite like to
see an ‘on list’ discussion connected with mysticism and John’s
gospel. First and foremost, one needs to be clear on the definition.
You write (quoting some lecture series):
' Mysticism is the belief in an intimate relation between man and God,
and the practice of this belief. It is not a theory of something too
mysterious to be understood, but it is the initiation into a mystery
that is worth understanding. The Christian is the initiated (Greek:
mustes), the one who is desirous of initiation, and the secret of Gods
being is the aim of his desire.'
I’m not sure that I understood too much from this definition. C.K.
Barrett, in his commentary, takes the Chambers’ Dictionary
definition, ‘a tendency of religious feeling marked by AN EFFORT to
attain to DIRECT AND IMMEDIATE communion with God.’ I believe that I
understand that definition better.
He states that there is NOTHING of this in John’s gospel . My own
views on this matter were shaped by Emil Brunner’s book, ‘The
Mediator’, where one of the central arguments is that mysticism is
ANTIPODAL to the Christian faith.
One has to be clear on the definition before one starts deciding
whether or not mysticism is a good thing or a bad thing, or whether
John’s gospel is for it or against it.
Do you regard Brunner and Barrett as scientists? I wasn’t completely
clear on whom you were attacking in that part of your mail. I like
Barrett’s theology, but I’m not convinced by his views on date and
authorship. One of the most important things I have obtained from this
list is ‘The Priority of John’, by J.A.T. Robinson, which was
brought to my attention by David Trapero. That book seems to make an
awful lot of sense.
Neither Brunner nor Barrett believe that John is a mystic. Brunner
(The Mediator) takes the view that John's gospel becomes mystical only
when Christ's human form is confused with ‘His Divine Humanity’.
The leading theme 'we saw his glory' WOULD be mystical / docetic if it
were taken to mean that they perceived it DIRECTLY, but for Brunner,
that seems to mitigate against the context. For both John and Paul,
the main thing is faith in a personal Mediator. Mysticism is
invariably connected with the self movement of man towards God,
bypassing the Mediator.
This is an opening shot, to see if there is interest in the role of
mysticism in John's gospel.
John M. Noble
John M. Noble