Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is a column from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online, March 5, 2005, with the headline, “Misunderstood Mystics?—Local leaders of the order of Christ Sophia, which teaches direct experience of God through Christian mysticism, hope that their new Center of Light in historic Sanford Cane House will attract some passers-by. The order blends a belief in reincarnation with New Testament teachings, writings of mystical saints, wisdom teachings of all times, seven sacraments, the Trinity, a belief in mother Mary as equal in importance to Jesus in redemption, and an emphasis on the Sophia, or the feminine aspect of God in balance with the masculine. Visualization exercises are a basic part of their meditative teachings.
“Founded simultaneously in Milwaukee and Boston in 1999, the religious movement has gone on to establish Centers of Light in Atlanta; Dallas; Denver; Kansas City, Kansas; New Haven, Connecticut; Oakland, California, and Seattle. David Michael Corvini, 29, of New Haven, Connecticut, is a priest in the order as well as a physician at Yale New Haven Hospital. Regarding accusations by his family that he is part of a cult, he says that for centuries when somebody has decided to make a ‘very deep commitment to live a spiritual life and put God above all things, this has always put a stress on families,’ he said. He rejects claims of mind control. ‘People choose to be in our order because they want a relationship with God, and we don’t cajole them or browbeat them. It’s rigorous, it’s not easy, and it’s not for everybody.’”
Tom: Dave, this is a very small group, but what they are into—I’m worried that these things are running rampant in the evangelical church. There is such a movement toward mysticism—whether it be through individuals like Richard Foster or Dallas Willard and so on—there’s a movement among the young called the Emerging Church that are into this. Let me just repeat some of these things. I’m not saying all of these impact every evangelical that’s into these things, but they’re all related: wisdom teachings of all times, sacraments, sacramentalisms—we find evangelical churches now that sections of them have prayer stations, they have incense, they have candles… They’re trying to create…
Tom: Icons…they’re trying to create a sacred environment.
Dave: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Tom: And, you know, people say, “Well, this will come and go. It’s like the New Age Movement.” But I wonder.
Dave: Well, that hasn’t come and gone entirely. Well, Tom, it’s based upon experience, and you’re going to somehow experience something—you can experience anything. I can take you around the world and, you know, I don’t care whether it’s a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Muslim, a person on drugs, a person who has been practicing yoga or under hypnosis—there are all kinds of experiences out there. I’ve interviewed many of these people. I’ve got to be a little bit suspicious of experiences that somehow don’t fit with the real life. In fact, that’s the whole basis of it: somehow to escape from the factuality of daily experience and get out into outer space and so forth.
But Tom, first of all, when you take that route, you have thrown rational thinking away, and that’s very evident here. It says, “The order blends a belief in reincarnation with New Testament teachings.” Well, there is no way that you could blend reincarnation with New Testament teachings.
Tom: Unless words have no meaning, Dave, which is where we’re going…
Dave: Exactly. “It’s appointed unto man once to die, after that the judgment.” Jesus Christ was resurrected, not reincarnated, and I could get into that, but we’ve done it before and we don’t have time. “The wisdom teachings of all times…” Well, they don’t agree with one another. It’s irrational.
“Belief in Mother Mary is equal in importance to Jesus in redemption…” Well, Christ is the Savior of sinners. He died on the cross, and I know that Catholicism has moved into—I have a picture of Mary on the cross.
“The feminine aspect of God in balance with the masculine…” Well, you’re not going to get that out of the Bible. See, the problem with the “feminine aspect of God” is a woman gives birth out of herself. If God has a feminine aspect, then the universe is an extension of God; it’s part of God. Well, then God is part of the problem, too. No, the Bible teaches that God is totally other. He is the Creator; the creation is separated from Him by sin, as are the creatures in this creation by an act of their will. So we’ve really gone astray when we get into the feminine aspect of God. He is called Father God over and over and over, and for a reason. Not that He is our Father in the way that, you know, a physical relationship, but there is no feminine basis for this relationship whatsoever.
“Seven sacraments…” Well…
Tom: Well, they’re keeping up with the Catholic Church.
Dave: Yeah, they don’t exist. “The Trinity…” Okay, the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you want to put that in—but then how does Mother Mary sneak in there, and somehow she is equal with Jesus in redemption?
Tom: Yeah, Dave, just interjecting this—the latest issue of Time magazine has a cover of Mary on the front and it says, “Hail Mary,” and it points out how evangelical protestants have drawn closer to Mary thanks to not only apparitions around the world but also to The Passion of the Christ, which is a Marian film.
Dave: Right. You have very little about Mary in the gospels. Mary is a good woman, and she was the mother of our Lord, as far as His physical body is concerned, but she did not have any part in the ministry of Jesus Christ, and it very clearly says that when His mother and brethren were without, asking to talk to Him, Jesus said, “Who is my mother? Who are my brethren? Those who keep the Word of God!”
So, if we are going to be biblical, then we are not going to get involved in any of this stuff. And that’s a problem—I want to have an experience, I want to be spiritual, but I don’t want to be religious, because there might be some doctrine involved in that. But the Bible emphasizes doctrine and teaching and truth, and that’s what is going to save someone. It’s not a mystical experience, because there are all kinds of mystical experiences out there.