By Elizabeth Prata
Last week I’d explored excerpts from visions of four famous Medieval Mystics of the Catholic Church:
Julian of Norwich (1343 – after 1416) Book: The Showings of Divine Love
Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380). Book: The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena
Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179). Book: Scivias
Bridget of Sweden (c. 1303 – 1373) Book: Celestial Revelations
We have quite a few women running around today claiming they have been given special revelations directly from Jesus, apart from the Bible. They’ve ‘taught’ through these visions, they have written books about what they’ve learned from these visions, they go on speaking tours telling about these visions, and they preach, even to men, with these visions.
In the past I have often written against these women and against this activity. It is blasphemous, it is wrong, it is immoral, and it is sin. The point of the series was to alert Christian ladies as to who these medieval women are and to show from the Bible why their visions were error. Why? AW Tozer had praised one of them in a recent devotional posted on social media. In Three Little Wounds Tozer wrote that because of mystic Julian of Norwich “England was a better place because this little lady lived” and her book of visions was a “great spiritual contribution to the world.”
Now, it grieves me that women unaware of Julian’s blasphemies would forge ahead on the basis of Tozer’s or any other person’s fervent recommendation, and then begin to think that receiving visions and revelations was all right. It happens. More frequently than one might think. And that is the way that the devil likes it. He laughs because it is not God speaking to these women, but one of his dastardly demons, masquerading as ministers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:15). Either that, or the mystic’s visions are just flat out lies.
So I write against direct revelation and will do so again. It was not all right in the Bible days of Revelation. In Revelation 2, Jesus spoke against a false teacher metaphorically named Jezebel. He said she was teaching unbiblical things, leading His children astray and calling herself a prophetess. He said if she did not repent, He would kill her and her children. (Revelation 2).
God has never been accepting of people who claim to speak in His name when He has not spoken to them. It is an emptying of His name, a way of taking His name in vain. Worse, they want something, usually unbiblical and women (or men) co-opt Christ in their sin. For example, Bridget wanted the pope to stay in Rome and not move back to Avignon, so she claimed to have had a vision from the Virgin Mary that told off the Pope. Or Hildegard, when she wanted permission to move to another monastery and was denied permission, fainted into her bed with paralysis until her Abbott relented. “Hildegard attributed the condition to God’s unhappiness at not following his will regarding moving the monastery. The abbot relented and granted his permission for the move, and she recovered shortly thereafter.” (Source FaithMag). What a miracle, right? Well if God says so, I better comply! USING God to get your way is an utmost sin against His Holy Name. It literally breaks the Fourth Commandment. (Exodus 20:7).
Reformer Martin Luther pre-conversion was initially interested in these women’s visions, especially Bridget, and of their revelations because of their criticism of popes and of the Church. But as he studied them, he later dismissed Bridget and the others’ revelations as “mere ravings”.
We read of these Medieval mystics women today and might wonder over their popularity. Their hyper-focus on the bloodier parts of the Passion, their sensuous mystical union with Christ as Man and them as Bride, consummating in ecstasy, their acceptance of supposed revelations in direct opposition to what the Bible says, their usurping behavior calling out authorities and using illnesses to get their way…so easy to look back and say goodness, reject these ladies!
But aren’t the revelators of today much the same? Doesn’t Beth Moore preach to men, call out authorities, use hyper emotionalism to get her way like Julian did? Doesn’t Anne Voskamp present poetical writings in her books like Hildegard did in her lyrical songs, as a sensuous union with a mystical Christ? Doesn’t Joanna Gaines announce that the ‘Lord’ promised her fame and success, like he did to Catherine of Siena, so Catherine could do great things?
There was some sort of altruistic impetus in each of these women, and they did help the poor and the sick. But their motivations were suspect as their later life bore out.
They were also ritualistic. Aren’t Bridget’s alleged lesson from Jesus of saying 15 Our Fathers and 15 Hail Marys along with the 15 Oes, repeated over and over is supposed to honor His wounds (how about honoring HIM?), against what he said to do in Matthew 6:7? Isn’t Joel Osteen just as ritualistic when he holds his Bible aloft at the opening of all his speeches and says a certain unchanging mantra?
Ladies, all direct revelation post-canon closing is of the devil. All of it. Though some of the mystics were more ‘out there’ than others (Catherine of Siena comes to mind), anyone claiming direct revelation is deceitfully deceived. It’s either satan, bad burrito dreams, or a flat out lie. Any way you slice it, claiming direct visions from Jesus in violation of Hebrews 1:1-2, or accepting them from someone else is sin.
The Bible says the canon is closed, Jesus spoke. (Hebrews 1:1-2). He declared the Bible totally sufficient for all life. (2 Timothy 3:16). He has revealed to us all He wants us to follow. (Deuteronomy 29:29). Romans 15:4 says For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.
Direct revelation was wrong then (when it wasn’t from God) and since the canon closed, it’s wrong now. I mention these mystics even though they are Catholic, thus not of the faith, because they are praised with veneration and feast days in the Lutheran and the Anglican church. Please be wary, and remember, the best way to spot a counterfeit is by knowing the real thing. Stay close to Jesus and His word, and you will be blessed.