The Need for a History of Protestant Mysticism

UPDATE: 3/16/23 – If anything, the end-all might be Bernard McGinn’s Mysticism in the Reformation when combined with Doles (chs. 6-9), Fremantle, Tuttle, Underhill (ch. 11), Fanning (chs. 4-5), and Hyatt (chs. 10-29). I’d also add in The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley by Daniel Jennings. As always, try to filter out any strains of universalist or New Age bias found in the writers; and continue to uphold the Biblical standards of Puritanism, Wesleyanism, fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, and the conservative evangelicalism that we’ve all come to know as the Protestant standards of doctrinal orthodoxy. Without sound theological doctrine, any movement towards mysticism will lose its usefulness, and turn into something vague and confusing. Paranormal yes, but vague and confusing at the same time. Take Galatians 1:8 for example, when Paul said, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” And so, we don’t want to throw out good solid theology we seek to understand the paranormal, from a Christian point of view.

Evangelical mysticism is a modern-day form of Protestant mysticism. It is influenced by all of the theological developments of Evangelicalism in the 20th century. But if we are to fully understand where Evangelical mysticism comes from, then we need to know about the entire history of Protestant mysticism since the Reformation. I hope to study this 500 year history sooner rather than later. Discernment against Gnostic and New Age influences needs to be applied to figures such as Jacob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg. Here are some books on this topic.

Doles, Jeff. Miracles & Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church. Walking Barefoot, 2008.

Dorner, Isaak. History of Protestant Theology. T. & T. Clark, 1871. vol. 2, p. 178ff.

——-. History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ. vol. 4, Chapter II.

Galli, Mark. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, 2000.

Fanning, Steven. Mystics of the Christian Tradition. Routledge, 2001. Part V.

Fremantle, Anne. The Protestant Mystics. Little, Brown & Co., 1964.

Harpur, James. Love Burning in the Soul. Shambhala, 2001. Chapter 12. (warning–New Age publisher)

Hastings, James, ed. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. T. & T. Clark, 1917. vol. 9, p. 101ff: “MYSTICISM (Christian, Protestant).”
Texts that this article says have influenced Protestant mysticism: The New Testament, The Theologia Germanica, The Imitation of Christ,
Figures (Charismatic/mystical revival leaders) that this article says have influenced Protestant mysticism: Thomas Muntzer (d. 1525; prophetic Anabaptist), Hans Denck (d. 1527; prophetic Anabaptist), Johann Bunderlin, Christian Entfelder, Sebastian Franck (d. 1543; Boehme influence?), Caspar Schwenckfeld (d. 1561), (Jacob Boehme–major heretic), (William Law–Boehme influence?; heretical?), etc.

The following mystical revival leaders are known for teaching Evangelical mysticism, practicing contemplation, and experiencing prophetic revelations.

1525 – Thomas Muntzer (Anabaptists)
1527 – Hans Denck
1670 – John Comenius (Moravians)

1740 – Jean Cavalier (Camisards)
1791 – John Wesley (Methodists)

1834 – Edward Irving (Irvingites)
1922 – William J. Seymour (Pentecostals)
1924 – Maria Woodworth-Etter (Prophetic Healer)
1935 – John G. Lake (Healing Rooms)
1963 – A. W. Tozer (Alliance)
1965 – William Branham (Prophetic Healer) [contemplation?]
1978 – Richard Foster’s (Quakers) Celebration of Discipline
1983 – Mark and Patti Virkler’s Communion with God

1989 – Don Basham (Charismatic Movement)
1991 – Dennis Bennett (Charismatic Movement) [contemplation?]
1996 – Mike Bickle‘s (Kansas City Prophets) Growing in the Prophetic
1997 – John Wimber (Vineyard)
2000 – James Goll‘s Wasted on Jesus
2000 – Rodney Howard-Browne’s Flowing in the Holy Spirit
2003 – Derek Prince (Charismatic Movement)

2008 – Jack DeereThe Beginner’s Guide to the Gift of Prophecy
2009 – John Crowder’s (New Mystics) The Ecstasy of Loving God

Hyatt, Eddie. 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity.

Jones, Rufus.
Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries. London: Macmillan, 1914. (Surveys early Protestant mystics; warning–New Age perspective).

Pourrat, Pierre. Christian Spirituality. Newman Press, 1955. vol. 3, Chapter IV.

Riggs, John. Postmodern Christianity. Trinity Press, 2003. pp. 54-55. (note–I’m not a New Ager or postmodern Christian, but this book has a short write up on Protestant mysticism).

Spencer, Sidney. Mysticism in World Religion. Allen & Unwin, 1966. p. 295ff

Turner, William. History of Philosophy. Ginn & Company, 1903. Chapter LII.

Tuttle, Robert. Mysticism in the Wesleyan Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury Press, 1989.

Underhill, Evelyn. Mystics of the Church. Chapter XI. (warning–New Age Christian author).

Wulf, Maurice. History of Medieval Philosophy. Benziger Brothers,  p. 31ff.

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