Adventist “Mysticism” and its dangers: A short Note


Koot van Wyk (DLitt et Phil; Thd)


To fully understand the phenomenon of mysticism in Adventism, and note, not Adventism proper but a worrisome inroad into Adventism, it is important to understand Judaism, especially that phase of Judaism that evolved into mysticism.

There are books on this topic that fully explains the phenomenon in minute detail. For the beginner, get Louis Finkelstein, The Jews: Their Religion and Culture (1975) especially volume 2. A chapter was written by Abraham J. Herschel in this volume and it deals with the element of mysticism in Judaism. Gershom Scholem's book on Mysticism is a standard well-written work on the topic and a must for the serious investigator of this phenomenon in Jewish Cabbalism. I studied Judaism as my major under Rabbi dr. Yitzak ben Joseph at the University of South Africa way back in the 1970's. 

In brief: the mystic sees everything as a whole and wish to use words and phrases of the Bible to be connected in some way by God so that all are related. They see chiasms over broad sections of the Bible. They see numbers as some mysterious messages that are “coded” by God into the Word of God. “Stirred by a yearning after the unattainable, they want to make the distant near, the abstract concrete, to transform the soul into a vessel for the transcendent, to grasp with the senses what is hidden from the mind, to express in symbols what the tongue cannot speak, what the reason cannot conceive, to experience as a reality what vaguely dawns in intuitions. ‘Wise is he who by the power of his own contemplation attains to the perception of the profound mysteries which cannot be expressed in words’” (Hartman 1975, 155).

There is a scholar in the USA that studied for his doctoral “Meditation” and who is going around in seminars to teach people to “meditate”. It is exactly this behavior that touches strongly on the danger of “mysticism” in religion.

There is another Rabbi who became an Adventist or who is a very good friend with Adventists in the Berrien Springs area and he saw presumably, so the story goes, connections in Ellen White’s books that borders on Chiastic structures. Some of these ideas were taken seriously by Adventist scholars like Ron du Preez who on the basis of this rabbi who found chiasms in the Conflict of the Ages series inspired Ron to find 25 chiasms in Desire of Ages.

Ron extended his chiasms for example: Genesis 1 is Creation; 2 is home; 3 is fall of Lucifer jumping then to the end of the Bible and say Revelation 20 is Satan bound; Revelation 21 is home recreated; Revelation 22 Life on earth continues again like at Creation. And it is not just Ron.

Jon Paulien in his What the Bible says about the Endtime 1994, lapse into mysticism himself and this week the Sabbath School lesson cites Paulien’s idea of the Trinity in Revelation theory. According to Paulien, the Trinity (true one of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) found its symbolic counterpart in the dragon, first beast and second beast of Revelation 13. Notice that there is no intratextual data to support this claim at all. Nowhere is it said that the Holy Spirit wish to point out that these are the false Trinity countering the true Trinity. It is a perception by someone who wishes to see more in the data than the data is permitting to give.

There were two schools of exegesis in the days of Churchfather Origen, namely the one Origen was involved in, called the Alexandrian School of hermeneutics that constantly saw in the words of the Bible all kinds of messages and tried to connect words and phrases in picturesque ways that is not intratextual and then the Antiochian School of hermeneutics that refused to do so since they worked with the grammatical-literal approach to the Bible.

Any superimpositions, for example numerology, which is the phenomenon of scholars or people to link numbers in the Bible, in the Old and New Testament and then elevate a theology around that connection, is mysticism.

Parachute Adventism is much involved in this kind of methodology.

Paulien for example in the same Endtime book of his on page 61 is denying that Isaiah 65:20 is referring to “heaven” and that it is just referring to the Babylonian exile. This is the Reformed (preteristic) inroads in Adventism. Many people are deceived by the thinking that an Adventist graduate from Andrews and a seminary professor cannot be self-deceived in his/her perceptions. Deception is when the professor is told of these problems but still continue to teach the off-roads from the Scripture. My own approach is to write directly to people I evaluate to tell them exactly what I think. Communication of corrections is part of the Spirit’s work, even academically, to get us in line with the unchanging Word of God.

Once someone is building all kinds of niceties and connections as a frame or frames of theology in the Bible that is not supported intratextually but superimposed by intuitions and vague similarities in expression here and there, one has to do with the danger of mysticism in Adventism.

Jacques Doukhan was my professor and a fantastic one. Cannot forget him. Yet, as a jewish scholar he sometimes do just that, namely, that he borrows from Judaism that part which is invested with “mysticism” making chiasms, connections, namely, bringing subject matter so remote from each other together as linked, just because a similar word or phrase occurs within the subject material. His commentary on Daniel is such a case in point, especially the explanations of the last few verses of Daniel 11. This comment does not mean that professor Doukhan’s books and ideas must be thrown out of the libraries of Adventism or our own. No, he is the anointed by God, just like Paulien and Du Preez and their life frame is anointed by God to them to function in and from where they present their interactive ideas about God. If they are expressing themselves in an “off-text” manner, then that issue is between them and God, the faithful person is still to respect the scholar despite these occasional lapses into error. If the scholar persist after shown by another scholar/scholars of these errors, then one can begin to make public certain points that will serve as a guide to these people.

“The Lord made this world corresponding to the world above, and everything which is above has its counterpart below . . . and yet they all constitute a unity”. This is a citation from a mystical source the Zohar II 20a. It sounds so innocently correct, but with Satan and his cronies on this earth roaming around, it is not correct. It becomes very dangerous to the truth and to the Bible and the Word that God has planned for us to get.

We are not to “rewrite” the Word of God. We are to bring out what is placed in it.