Why is Biblical doctrine important?

The Bible is very clear on the punishment for the desecration of God’s doctrines.

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:9).
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9).

Paul affirms, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Note carefully, the passage does not say they are oblivious to the truth or had never been exposed to the truth.

In fact, they know the truth but have deliberately turned their ears away from the truth to embrace fables.

Paul’s use of the word “fables” and not simply “errors” or “lies” is not a grammatical mishap.

My contention is that he wanted to emphasize the intuitive and imaginative overtones that undergird fables (fiction).

It is a well-known fact that fiction, intuition, imagination, and contemplation go together and that it lavishly occurs in contemplative spiritual circles.

The Encyclopaedia of World Problems & Human Potential defines Contemplative Intuitive Meditation as follows.

The essence of contemplative prayer is the way of pure faith.

It does not have to be felt but it does have to be practiced.

A process of interior transformation, this is a conversation initiated by God.

If the person consents, it leads to divine union.

In the process, the person’s way of seeing reality changes.

There is a restructuring of consciousness empowering the person to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine.

There is detachment from rather than the absence of thought as heart, body, and emotions are open to God.

The practice of contemplative prayer is an education imparted by the Spirit; the person’s participation is self-denial, denial of his innermost self.

This implies detachment from habitual functioning of the intellect and will.

It may demand the letting go of the most devout reflections and aspirations as well as ordinary thoughts if these have been treated as indispensable as a means for going to God.

Thought becomes presence, an act of attention rather than understanding. Attention is given to the presence of Jesus without adverting to any particular detail.

As energies from the unconscious are released, two states arise: there is the experience of personal development as spiritual consolation, charismatic gifts or psychic powers; and there is humiliating self-knowledge as human weakness is experienced.

The one balances the other, so there is no extreme of pride or despair.[1]

As you may have noticed, it is very easy to bring Jesus, prayer, and dying to self into the mystical equation.

Perhaps this is why Murray could say, “In every complete [perfect] Christian character, there is an element of mysticism. It is the outgrowth of a certain disposition or temperament, which ever seeks for the deepest ground or root of spiritual things” whilst he too lay claim to biblical themes as Jesus, prayer, and dying to self.

Murray never said what the element of mysticism in every complete (perfect) Christian might be.

The fact remains that mystics such as Meister Eckhart had an enormous influence on Murray’s mystical temperament.

One of the most dangerous aspects of mysticism is its rather open contempt of sound biblical doctrines. (2 Timothy 4:2).

For Murray mysticism was not about doctrine or about particular defined groups, but an integral part of all religions (Christian and non-Christian).[2]

Mysticism, he reiterates, is a necessary part of every complete Christian character and disposition or temperament that “seeks for the deepest ground or root of spiritual things.”[3]

Stephan Joubert would probably rejoice because he is in good company with his statement that there is truth in all religions.

If it were true, as Murray said, “one of the chief marks of the mystic is that he seeks to pierce through all the mere appearances of life and surface of things in order to more deeply come into the presence of God,”[4] then the Gospel of Christ is just another kind of secondary nom de plume.

This is nothing else than sheer self-effort, a tool or practice, if you like, to gain entrance into and to dwell in the presence of God.

Moreover, anyone, Christian or infidel, can practice it and achieve the same goal which is to come and dwell in the presence of a Higher Entity.

It disparages the sufficiency of Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross, the only way God provided for us to enter into his presence (Hebrews 10:19-23).

Some of you may be shocked to hear this, but Murray’s ideas in the realm of mysticism ooze the spirit of the Antichrist.

Murray’s lushly decorated semantics in the use of phrases like, “seeks to pierce through all the mere appearances of life and surface of things” and “more deeply come into the presence of God” are alien to the Word of God.

God’s way into his presence is so effortlessly uncomplicated that even a child can understand it. (Hebrews 10:19-23).

And may I remind you what Jesus said about becoming like a child? (Matthew 18:3). Imagine telling a child, “Listen up, my dearest child.

Unless you “pierce through all the mere appearances of life and surface of things” you will never “more deeply come into the presence of God.”

The born-again child will probably say to him with a smile, “Dearest uncle Murray, I don’t need any of the things you told me. Jesus’ blood is all-sufficient for me. So, with due respect. Keep your ‘appearances of life and surface of things’ to yourself.”

Dying to Self

One of Thomas à Kempis’ most famous sayings is, “Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God.”

Mysticism is the very opposite of “dying to self.” In fact, it is the archenemy of “dying to self.”

It teaches one to look inwardly to self to explicate (bring to light by means of the “dark night of the soul”) its darkest recesses of sin, guilt, and hell’s hold on the mystic.[5]

Experiential spirituality, driven by mystical steps or practices, cannot possibly be related to the biblical view of putting to death the members of our bodies on the earth. (Colossians 3:5).

Dying to self is not accomplished by mystical spiritual practices but by faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The words “dying to self” or “die to self” appear nowhere in Scripture. Colossians 3:5 is the only passage that commands us to mortify our bodily members upon the earth.

The authority and means we have been given to mortify our bodily members on the earth is the fact that we are already dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3).

It is perfectly in alignment with Paul’s affirmation in Romans 6:3, 11, and Galatians 2:20. It is a fait accompli (“It is finished”) and, therefore, there is no need to do our utmost to die more so that we may live more unto God.

It is impossible to die to self when the person no longer lives and therefore is already dead. (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:3).

We are commanded to reckon (consciously and not in a dazed, intuitive frame of mindlessness) that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:10-11). Nothing, including the deepest kind of contemplative lifestyles, can assist one to die to self. It is futile and very dangerous. God the Father is only pleased and satisfied with what his Son has already done on the cross. All else is futile.

The mortification of our bodily members is the affirmation of the fact that we have already died in Christ and not some sort of mystical practice to attain this death in Christ.

The latter rather elevates the self than the required biblical view of having already died to self.

Although Andrew Murray seems to uphold the latter truth in his book “Dying to self,” his quest for perfection, even to the extent of the complete redemption of the physical body and a concomitant permanent divine health, divulges more of a mystical than a realistically biblical quality in his ministry.

In fact, His book “Dying to Self” is more like a commentary on the work of the English mystic, William Law’s work on the subject, than on the biblical doctrine of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross of having already died with Him.

Murray, under the influence of Law, points out that “dying to self” is produced by the Holy Spirit only on the condition that the saint surrenders him wholly to and for God.

The degree or level of the saint’s surrender to God becomes the determining factor, permitting the Spirit the latitude to accomplish the death to self of a saint, and not the Pauline exposition of Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” (Romans 6:3, 11) and For ye are [already] dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3).

Accordingly, the danger of Murray’s and Law’s rendition of dying to self as a work of the Holy Spirit conditioned on the saint’s surrender to God gives the doctrine of death to self a forensic or legal slant that cannot please God. The claim “You must surrender to God” before the Holy Spirit can accomplish death to self, is akin to Jesus plus something else which in this case is conditioned on the saint’s entire surrender to God.

The only biblical requirement, according to Paul, is the saint’s belief that he is already dead in Christ, buried with Him by baptism into his death at conversion, and raised up from the dead to live in this newness of life. There is no such thing needed as a second blessing or full salvation that amounts to adding to God’s Word.

It is not the work of the Holy Spirit to attain death to self in the saint.

The saint must put to death his bodily members on earth based on the immutable truth that he has already died with Christ in his accomplished work on the cross (“It is finished”).

At any rate, Murray’s, and Law’s insistence on surrendering to God as the means of dying to self, turn the eyes inward to self instead of away from it.

Paul emphatically states that the saint should use his ability to reason (logizomai) that he is dead indeed to sin and alive unto God. (Romans 6:11).

The Holy Spirit does not reason on our behalf. Had He done so, we would have been a bunch of zombies with no free will and, as automatons, at his behest and directives without willingly working in harmony with Him.

The attainment of the exceptionally high standard of perfection (complete holiness, separation) can hardly be accomplished by a lifelong effort to imitate Christ in all things.

Even this — a lifelong endeavor — cannot and will not suffice. Perfection can only be accomplished by fulfilling all righteousness which amounts to fulfilling every jot and tittle of God’s laws, a deed Christ demonstrably had already fulfilled on our behalf (Matthew 3:15; 5:17).

It is for this very reason — the sheer impossibility to reach God’s standard of perfection (Romans 3:23) — that God sent his Son to fulfill all righteousness and consequently every jot and tittle of his laws.

Anything short of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith alone falls short of God’s righteous demands that grant Him the liberty to be well-pleasing with us as He is with his Son. (Hebrews 11:6).

The non-mystical feature of dying to self, as we have already seen, is bound to the personal commitment of the saint to mortify his bodily members that are on the earth.

Murray insists that only a perfectly redeemed physical body can be dead to sin, and speciously tries to substantiate his contention with Scripture relating to the final eschatological redemption of the body at Christ’s return at the Pretribulation Rapture. (Hebrews 7:25).

As the latter verse clearly confirms the body will only be saved to the uttermost at Jesus Christ’s return at the Rapture, as we learn from John 14:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Murray claims,

Suffering that comes upon the Christian from the world outside must serve to bless and sanctify him. But it is different with disease which has its origin within the body, not outside of it. The body has been redeemed. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. For the believer who can accept it, the Lord is ready to reveal, even in the case of the body, His mighty power to deliver from the dominion of sin.[6]

Andrew Murray was greatly influenced by the pietistic Pentecostals Charles Cullis, W.E. Boardman, and A.B. Simpson, who believed that perfectionism and faith healing went together like a horse and carriage.

 H. M. van de Vyver writes in his “Andrew Murray’s Theology of Divine Healing”.

John Wesley (1703–1791) developed a doctrine of sanctification that he called “Christian perfection”, “perfect love” (1 John 4:18), “entire sanctification”, or “full salvation”.

Different books from the Catholic and Anglican mystical traditions, for example William Law’s Treatise on Christian Perfection (published in 1726), influenced the development of his ideas.

In the last years of his life Boardman focused on healing the sick.

The Bethshan house [where Murray was allegedly healed of a vocal cord ailment] was opened in London to accommodate the patients who came to him for help.

He joined with the Canadian pastor A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, in speaking at the 1885 Bethshan Conference on Holiness and Healing in London.

This conference is regarded by many as a turning point in the origins of the modern Pentecostal movement.[7]

A. B. Simpson taught that saints who use doctors’ prescribed medicine were apostatizing their faith in God.

Three young missionaries to Sudan who were influenced by his abominable teaching died in 1890 when they refused to take medicine.

If God sent them to Sudan to preach the Gospel of salvation to the lost, it was Satan through A. B. Simpson who prevented perhaps hundreds of souls from getting saved, because Satan is a murderer (John 8:44), not God.

This grossly hellish sham is perpetuated to this very day in many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where many have lost their lives because of this lie.

Despite the tragedy in Sudan in 1890 and the many like it in years gone by, Murray and many other mystic Calvinists/Pentecostals after him persisted in their conviction that sin was always the cause of sickness.

For Murray, the body, as God’s temple, can be set free from the domination of sickness, sin, and Satan.

It’s a pity that Job, Timothy, and Paul, as well as many other saints, did not know the Higher-Life magical Murray secret and failed to benefit from it.

I have met several aficionados of the so-called divine health dogma.

The one thing that stands out like a sore thumb in their attitude toward others is the haughtiness, superiority, and pride they exude.

They love to play-act humility and seem to succeed in convincing some that they are very humble.

I’ve heard of a Pentecostal woman who pompously said of her husband that she wished he was on the same level as what she was.

Clearly, this is not humility and is far from dying to self.

Andrew Murray was spiritually every inch like this woman.

He made a sharp distinction between an incomplete salvation and a “full salvation,” based on his erroneous interpretation of Hebrews 7:25, and highmindedly claimed in one of his public sermons, “I suppose there are not a few Christians here who have got ‘full salvation’; but perhaps more than half those present have not got it.[8]

Peter warned those who misunderstood some of Paul’s writings and consequently also distorted the other Scriptures to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16).

What did Murray mean by “full salvation” as opposed to “incomplete salvation?”

Incomplete salvation can only mean that Jesus did a lousy job on the cross and that those with incomplete salvation will spend eternity with one foot in the Lake of Fire and the other in heaven.

Or, perhaps, he was inadvertently referring to the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory?

Of course, he was referring to Methodist John Wesley’s doctrine called the Second Blessing which allegedly brings about complete and instantaneous purification from sin and perfect holiness toward God.

John Wesley’s affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church is well-documented.

The French mystics had a strong influence on Wesley, who was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic spiritual tradition, and he knew well the works of several continental spiritual writers such as de Renty, Frances de Sales, Fenelon, Saint Cyran, and others, scattered references to whom crop up from time to time in his works, and to whom Orcibal attributes Wesley’s doctrine of sanctification.

Finally, both Methodism and Roman Catholicism have strong experiential elements in their piety, which would make nervous those more inclined to the emotional detachment of a largely intellectual faith.[9]


[2] Pieter G.R. de Villier,s Mysticism in a Melting Pot: Andrew Murray, a Mystic from Africa on the World Stage

[3] Murray, “Introduction,” xx–xxi

[4] Murray, “Introduction,” xiv.

[5] The next or fourth step was usually called “the dark night of the soul.” It was considered absolutely essential, and without it no union with God was possible. The deeper and more intense that it was, the better and more likely to lead to God. The Puritans made a great deal of this aspect of the Christian’s life and they were followed by others. But oftentimes this period was such a “dark night” that it manifested itself in convulsions, long periods of rigidity of the body, unconsciousness, and screaming and hollering in terror because of visions of demons and the fires of hell. Of all the steps it was the most difficult. HC Hanko,

[6] Choy 2004:143-147

[7] Warfield 1974:216-288

[8] Murray 1982:63.

[9] Eric Richard Griffin, “Practical Catholicism: John Wesley’s Theology of Bishops Reconsidered.”

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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

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