Brian Zahnd: The Hope of Western Christianity is Mysticism

Brian Zahnd: The Hope of Western Christianity is Mysticism April 7, 2016

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Brian Zahnd’s brand new memoir Water To Wine. Brian has been gracious enough to let me share portions from each chapter every week for the next couple months. Chapter 8 offers a beautiful creation-centric vision of recovering Christian mysticism:

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When Karl Rahner predicted that “the devout Christian of the future will either be a mystic or he will cease to be anything at all” he was keenly prescient. Indeed, the hope for vibrant Christianity in the West lies, in part in a recovery of mysticism.

The tyranny of empiricism so characteristic of modernity is at last coming to an end. A Christianity that has no room for the mystics can expect to be increasingly ignored, left to molder in its own arrogant assumptions. The rise of global Pentecostalism in the twentieth century is just one portent of the type of spirituality that is capable of addressing the spiritual hunger of the postmodern world.

Of course there was a time when mysticism was not tangential to Christianity but an integral aspect of Christian experience. After all, we Christians claim it is possible to communicate with God, that miracles are credible, and that the rightful ruler of our planet is a man who was raised from the dead after being crucified two thousand years ago.

Mysticism is no outlier to orthodox Christianity. We worship the one who turns water into wine.

We are witnessing today an increasing interest in what might be described as aboriginal spirituality. From the point of view of Christian theology, aboriginal theology is not heterodox, but simply a spirituality rooted in something other than the European Enlightenment – a spirituality not of the ivory tower, but of the moss-covered forest.

So mysticism beckons. We have our scriptures; we have our creeds. These are sufficient to keep us safely within Christian orthodoxy. But can we also learn to listen to the wise poets and sages of aboriginal spirituality who can teach us much that has been forgotten? I hope so.

Because secularism, which appears to be the only other alternative, leads to nothing but a spiritual dead end.

Either we become mystics, or it won’t be long before we are nothing at all.

the-christian-calendar-advent-brBrian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a non-denominational church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He is also the author of several books, including A Farewell To Mars and Beauty Will Save the World, and the brand new memoir Water To Wine. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

"I'm a proponent of the "random servants view" of the parable. 😂"

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  • mhelbert

    Agreed. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently looking at, specifically, Native American contextualization of the Gospel. There seems to be much that we non-Natives can learn from our elder Sisters and Brothers.

  • amen.

  • Pinetooth

    Could you please share some of your resources/writings? You have my interest!

  • mhelbert

    Randy Woodley (Cherokee) – Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision
    Richard Twiss (Lakota) – Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way
    Those are specifically about Christianity within an indigenous context.

    General stuff about the history of colonization:
    Steven Newcomb – Pagans in the Promised Land

    News from Native Americans –

    Of course, there’s a lot more out there that a Google search can show.