I am a very black and white, logical person. Usually a title like “a touch of mysticism” will irritate me and start me on my all-time favourite
But there is absolute truth, I’ll rant. There is logic and reason. It’s not all airy-fairy mystic mysteries. God says there is absolute truth that is always true– you can’t reduce it to a set of unknowns that everybody has to explore for themselves, and maybe find out different answers from each other. There is one answer, I’ll declare, one answer for all humanity written and decreed by God, who never changes.
That’d be my normal reaction. But since I’m the one who wrote this title, I better explain why I do actually believe in a “touch of mysticism.”
To use the word mysticism, I mean the word as its root suggests; suggestive of mystery, of things we cannot understand but accept by faith. Mysticism has come to mean belief in only mysteries, just like logic has come to mean only using logic. I am not attacking logic. I am simply saying there is more to life than reason (and there is more to the universe than mystery).
Humans cannot understand everything. The human mind is limited. We cannot understand the concept of eternity; we cannot understand how free will and predestination could possibly both be true; and we cannot understand how Jesus could be both fully God and fully human at the same time. These things are impossible for the human mind to grasp.
One group of early Christians, the Nestorians, did attempt to grasp everything with their human minds. That is to say, they were humanistic. They attempted to understand, humanly understand, logically and reasonably understand, how it is physically possible for Jesus to be both entirely divine, and at the same time, entirely human. If you do the mathematics, as the Nestorians did, you find that that equals 200%, which is more than one whole. You cannot fit two things into one space at one time.
The Nestorians then did the only logical and sensible thing. They ditched Jesus’ divinity (at least to some extent.) Some Nestorians went so far as to say that Jesus was not divine at all– only a very good man. Others said He was a man who became God when the Holy Spirit entered Him at baptism. Either way, they denied the divinity of God.
But if Jesus was not fully God, then He could not be perfect (because every human is sinful) and He could not be the unblemished lamb “slain for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:6). The entire point of Jesus dying on the cross and redeeming us, the whole idea of redemption at Easter, falls apart. There is no Christianity.
Where then, did the Nestorians go wrong? They went wrong when they refused to accept that there will be things that we, as finite beings, do not logically understand about an infinite God. You cannot fit a big thing into a small human mind.
The solution to these contradictions is not reason, because they are beyond human reason. The solution is mysticism, which Christians normally call “faith”.
We believe by faith what we have not seen (Hebrews 11). If we accept that there are mysteries (the root word of “mystic”) that we shall never understand, then we can live with these contradictions content in the belief that God understands it and it all works. If we refuse to accept that we shall never understand it, then we shall either go mad attempting an impossibility, or create a heresy that does make sense but isn’t true. I know which one I prefer.
We all need a touch of mysticism to understand the things that are bigger than ourselves. As GK Chesterton writes,
“The general fact is pretty simple. …reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion… To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
Orthodoxy, chapter two, “The Maniac”