Mike Bickle's Sexually Charged "Bridal Mysticism" IHOP Teachings
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 09:41:37 AM EST
I've been picking through Mike Bickle's teachings on Bridal Mysticism and the Song of Solomon - which Bickle seems to view as allegorical for the end-time relationship of the church (the Bride of Christ) to Jesus. Here are some interesting quotes:

"As women are called to be sons of God who experience His power, so man [sic] are called to be the Bride of Christ who encounters His heart. Both describe a position of great privilege for the redeemed before God, transcending gender."

Women are to become "sons", men are to be the spiritual lovers of Jesus, both "transcending gender". But don't take that too literally:

"The Divine kiss is a metaphor for intimacy with God... The kisses of His mouth speak of the release of the Word of God that tenderizes our hearts in the love of God. We are NOT to think of kissing Jesus on the mouth." [emphasis in the original]

Don't take that too literally except, perhaps, in the case of the "chamber experience":

"She [The Bride of Christ] wants to be with Him [Jesus] wherever He is. She lost the sweetness in her communion with God. She longs for the kisses of His Word and the chamber experiences with the Lord."

In the end, this seems to be about divine pleasure:

"In reality, holiness is a call to pleasure that is perfect and unending. To be holy is to know God and be like Him, and He Himself is the highest pleasure that exists.  We cannot experience a more superior pleasure than knowing the God of heaven and sharing in His glory.

God is a lover of fascination and delight, and He formed man in such a way that we would desire these things.  His call to holiness is the fulfillment of these desires He has put within us."

In a February 2009 column in Charisma magazine, long considered the flagship publication of the charismatic movement, editor J. Lee Grady observed, "Not long after ecstasy became known as a recreational drug, someone in our movement got the bright idea to promote spiritual ecstasy as a form of legitimate worship." Grady went on to issue the following prophetic warning:

"Recently I told a friend in Pennsylvania that when people get tired of this drug imagery it won't be long before we see some Christians having sexual experiences at the altar. "It's already happening," my friend said. He described a recent "worship concert" in which one of the musicians simulated sex while stroking a microphone and whispering sensual phrases to Jesus. What is next-orgasmic worship? God help us."

To cite a saying often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, "God helps those who help themselves".

As even committed movement loyalists such as Grady speak out, and apparent fruits of Mike Bickle's unusual theology and worship practices manifest, how long will the evangelical center remain in denial ? Or, as Kansas City pastor Ernie Gruen asked, in 1990 sermon about Mike Bickle's Kansas City Prophets movement and Bickle's Grace Ministries, "How Long Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing?"

The clock is ticking.  

The bomb has exploded.  Are you aware of the Bethany Deaton murder?  On October 30, Bethany, a graduate of IHOPU, was murdered by an IHOP "forerunner" at the bequest of her IHOP "forerunner" husband.   The motive of this horrific crime was to keep Bethany from divulging that she had been raped repeatedly as part of religious rituals conjured up by her husband and his IHOP associates.  It is not known whether IHOP leadership knew of these activities, but as you point out, IHOP imagery and practices provide fertile soil.  Demonic possession, Holy Spirit possession, speaking in tongues, rapturous evocations, visions, prophecies,  prophets, end times, sleeplessness, fasting all lead to mental  states can ease the vulnerable well past  the confines of normal behavior.   Below are links to the story:

http://www.kansascity.com/2012/11/15/3919385/tyler-deatons-role-a t-the-international.html

http://news.yahoo.com/ihop-kansas-city-calls-tyler-deaton-cultic- more-164300484.html

http://abcnews.go.com/US/missouri-religious-group-investigated-sl aying-bethany-deaton/story?id=17719725#.UK5Zt-TBHSg


by tLynn on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 02:14:43 PM EST

I posted this in advance of a larger article. From early on I've been tracking this story day by day, as new information surfaces.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:02:29 PM EST

... especially since there are allegations that Bethany's husband was running his home group as a "sex cult."  The first thing I thought of was that the bridal mysticism went too far.

I have been contending for a while that Bickle's bridal mysticism is taken at least in part from their interpretation of eighteenth century Moravian mysticism, from the period they were led by Count Zinzendorf and practiced his "blood and wounds" mysticism.  According to Zinzendorf, piety included a deep recognition of Christ's full humanity, including his sexual humanity and a reverence of Christ's "side hole" as almost a sexual organ (so Christ was both fully male and female).  And Moravian historians are uncovering instances where other Moravian leaders took it much more literally than Zinzendorf ever intended.  

Bickle and IHOP specifically emulates a lot of Moravian mysticism and practices, including 24/7 prayer, Mustard Seed style covenants, etc.

And like IHOP, Zinzendorf was accused of running a cult, wanting to take over churches, etc.

However, bridal mysticism has been floating around Latter Rain circles for the last half century or more.  So I'm sure it isn't just from this one source.  But Bickle, along with some other NAR leaders (Rick Joyner is the next best example) openly emulate and lionize the Moravians... or at least the Moravians of legend, not necessarily of history.

I'm hoping that Bickle and IHOP have their own "sifting time" just like the Moravians did in the early 1750s.  But I am afraid they are too bought into their theology to do anything other than circle the wagons and claim they had absolutely nothing to do with this tragedy.

by ulyankee on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:08:18 AM EST

The "fully male and female" aspect could tie into the homosexual aspects of the IHOP-Deaton cult.  This crime has so many aspects worth attention.  Tyler Deaton, then "ex-gay" husband mastermind, pronounced himself "cured" then went on to orchestrate group homosexual worship rituals.  This is all so dangerous, ugly, and perverse.

Do you think this might precipitate the unwinding of IHOP/The Call?  I'm wondering whether their upcoming December event expected to draw 25000 youth will draw far fewer.  Will naive parents continue to sponsor their children's "education" at IHOPU?

It would also seem that the political value of IHOP/The Call might be seriously impacted.  I can't imagine the next Republican aspirant launching his bid with an IHOP organized event.

by tLynn on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:33:52 AM EST

... what impact, if any, this will have on IHOPU or IHOP in general.  Right now IHOPU/IHOP leadership, including Bickle, is claiming that Tyler Deaton was on his own and not really part of IHOPU.  His group was listed on their home group list as recently as early November but now they are saying it was a "mistake" and that it wasn't an official IHOPU home group.

But this isn't the first death associated with IHOP.  Are you familiar with the Jeremiah Candler starvation death case?  He was a five month old infant who was starved to death by his parents, both IHOP members.  Although in that case, IHOP also claimed they weren't really members.

This is par for the course, unfortunately, with groups like this.  My former group used to do this all the time.  Although to my knowledge no one actually died... some hospitalizations... however, the focus in my old group was more on raising money to take over the world so there were more fraud and embezzlement allegations than stuff like this, even though our theology was equally authoritarian.  I will say though that after a rash of abuse and fraud allegations in the mid 2000s my old group (Every Nation, descended from Maranatha Campus Ministries) is a lot smaller and a lot less prominent than they used to be.

by ulyankee on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:03:45 AM EST

is that Franciscan University of Steubenville has pulled out of the IHOP OneThing conference.  They were going to sponsor a Catholic track at this conference.

And other "discernment" blogs are connecting IHOP's bridal paradigm with what happened to Bethany Deaton.  To my knowledge, I'm the only one who (publicly, at least) has stated that their particular form of bridal mysticism might have come at least in part from IHOP's reverence for the Moravians.

If you have access to JSTOR through an academic library, the following article may give you some more historical context:

Peucker, Paul.  "'Inspired by Flames of Love':  Homosexuality, Mysticism, and Moravian Brothers around 1750."  Journal of the History of Sexuality 15.1 (Jan 2006): 30-64.

Or this video of more standard Moravian bridal mysticism as enacted through marriage:

"Opening the Blue Cabinet: Moravians and Sex"

But again, history is quite a bit different from Moravian legend (and there is quite a bit of that floating around), and different still from how IHOP might have interpreted and reenacted Moravian mysticism.

by ulyankee on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:24:26 AM EST

Perhaps I should be used to it by now, but I am always rather stunned when bits of 18th century Moravian pietism/mysticism that were left in the past by practicing Moravians of more recent times show up as some kind of influence on modern-day groups that are the total antithesis of what we believe and practice today. It seems as if this "Moravian legend" split off from the Moravian church several centuries ago and maintains its own totally separate existence.

Until fifteen or twenty years ago, very little was known about the "sifting time," and a lot of Moravians wouldn't even have recognized the term. I wouldn't normally direct anyone to Wikipedia, but the article there on Christian Renatus von Zinzendorf is solidly written, giving an overview and some good links to current scholarship.

It occurs to me that this story is a representation of how Biblical literalists go wrong. Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, who more than any other single person was responsible for the revival and spread ~ as the Moravian Church ~ of the ancient Unitas Fratrum, developed his "blood and wounds" theology in elaborate metaphor. His son Christian Renatus used his position as leader in Herrnhaag to turn those metaphors into literal practice. After a couple of years the scandal was so great that Ludwig removed his son from the leadership position and dissolved the community.

We joke that Moravians never discard anything, but in this case most of the documentation of the era was deliberately destroyed by church leaders. Researchers are just now unearthing documents that escaped the purging of the official archives. Paul Peucker, who is mentioned above, has been a real leader in this effort. Several months ago during a lecture he mentioned that they have just discovered a cache of manuscripts in Suriname. Apparently the order to destroy never reached that mission field, or else a dissenting brother chose to ignore it. It will be interesting to see what comes of that find.

The authoritative work on Zinzendorf's theology is "An Ecumenical Theology of the Heart: The Theology of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf" by Arthur J. Freeman. ISBN 1-878422-38-3 - paperback. It's available on Amazon.com but less expensive if you order directly from the Moravian Board of Publication.

Every once in a while some of these people who have latched on to the "legend" show up in Herrnhut, Germany, where the worldwide headquarters of the church is located. Several years ago there was a video on YouTube of a couple that had made a "pilgrimage" to Herrnhut and engaged in what appeared to be a form of prayer walking. When we were in Herrnhut on choir tour in 2010, the woman who showed us around the church mentioned that couple and observed that they had made her feel like a stranger in her own church. She didn't use the word "creepy," but her manner of describing the incident certainly conveyed that feeling.

by MLouise on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 07:59:11 PM EST
...I've often wondered what "real" Moravians thought of how IHOP, MorningStar and others in the NAR were reinterpreting and reenacting Moravian spirituality.  It is amazing how legends have continued to circulate for centuries.  One of the things I'm doing in my dissertation research on Jane Lead (who is relevant to your church's real history as Zinzendorf was inspired in part by the Philadelphian movement as were many other "radical" German Pietists) is tracing how legendary history, beliefs and texts have continued to circulate and pass among people and groups even when they were either suppressed or ignored by the mainstream.  Of course they take on new forms as they circulate as we see in IHOP and other NAR groups.  

As an aside that might interest you... not long ago I wrote a paper I really need to submit to a journal about how Moravian Bishop Edmund de Schweinitz excoriated Longfellow's early poem "Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem" during the mid-nineteenth century for completely (he said) misrepresenting the Moravians.  At the time it was one of Longfellow's most popular poems and was well on its way to becoming canonical.  By the time de Schweinitz was done with it, it was totally discredited and soon dropped out of sight.  Although Longfellow's treatment was also based on legend it really wasn't as far off the mark as de Schweinitz made it sound... but de Schweinitz' concern was obviously that Longfellow's poem pictured a church which was not necessarily mainstream "evangelical Protestant" either.

I suspect some of the prayer walking you saw in Herrnhut was what NAR leaders call "digging the wells."  This is where they go to tap into the spiritual sources of revival in order to replicate it in the present day.  Yep, it is as creepy as it sounds.

by ulyankee on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:21:13 PM EST

...called "friends of the Bridegroom", which is the biggest of Mike Bickle's nonprofit I've yet found, with almost $15 million in contributions declared on its 2011 990, purchased a substantial real estate apartment complex in Grandview, MO, that was subsequently renamed 'Herrnhut' according to a 2002 news story I've discovered:

"Many live at the former Red Bridge Apartments, a complex purchased by Friends of the Bridegroom in April and renamed Herrnhüt, after a town in Germany where a church's congregation prayed nonstop for 100 years in the eighteenth century."

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:48:52 PM EST

One of the things I do at our church is volunteer in the mission gift shop. On several occasions I've had people come in and ask about the "100 year prayer meeting" with an intensity I find peculiar. Yes, it is a part of our history and a reflection of the piety of the day. It was also a function of the way daily life was highly organized in the closed Moravian communities.

The practice of continuous prayer has been revived. I'm not sure exactly when; I think it was soon after WWII ended. The organization is now done by the Unity Board, which is the administrative body for the Moravian church worldwide. They assign each Province a segment of the year, the Provinces assign a time to each congregation, and the congregations decide how they are going to cover that time.

So the Unity Prayer Watch is definitely a way to build community, and it's kind of neat to know that at any hour of the day or night some Moravian, somewhere in the world, is deliberately praying for the well-being of the church and all its members. But no one that I know of makes a huge fuss about it or views it as any kind of power exercise.

We have a lot of very right-wing independent Pentacostal churches in our area. I think one of the things that makes me uneasy about some of the people who latch onto our practice of continuous prayer is that I get the impression they are looking for allies in their "prayer warrior" tactics, and I don't want anyone thinking we are part of that.

by MLouise on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 10:47:46 PM EST
"I get the impression they are looking for allies in their "prayer warrior" tactics, and I don't want anyone thinking we are part of that."

You absolutely nailed it.  That's actually the thinking behind a lot of the NAR's big stadium prayer events, as well as other corporate prayer initiatives... think TheCall, The Response, etc.

They know that 90% of the people there have no clue about the NAR and what they are trying to do.  And that many of those wouldn't be involved if they did have a clue.  They think it's just prayer.  BUT the point is to get as many people to join with NAR leadership in prayer (even unwittingly) to reach a "critical mass" or "tipping point" (yes, I've heard Gladwell's term used in this context) in order to trigger the heavenlies into releasing spiritual power and events.  This includes opening "portals" or even triggering Christ's return, which is considered a spiritual return in the corporate, elite "manifest sons of God" or "overcomers."  To bring it back to Bruce's original post, bridal mysticism is part of this since these "forerunners" who have consummated the wedding with the bridegroom will be the ones to bring the rest of the church into unity as the bride of Christ and make Christ return to His church.

These concepts come from very altered readings and interpretations of a number of historical documents and movements... many as passed through centuries of legend... very eisegetical though where the end result drives the reading/interpretation.  I've specifically researched how the Latter Rain and NAR latched onto Jane Lead's writings (particularly something called "Sixty Propositions") and totally twisted those out of context but there are many more.

by ulyankee on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:52:05 AM EST

Good scholarship in this area is sorely needed. I hesitate to link to some of the otherwise excellent discernment ministry work on this subject, because all too often such sources have other, unfortunate aspects. For example, one excellent writer on Bickle/the Bridal Paradigm nonetheless promotes the MAAFA 21 pseudo-documentary. Alas.  

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:19:30 PM EST
... some of the discernment ministry stuff is quite good, but there are quite a few conspiracy theories on some of those sites as well.  I can see not wanting to link here on this site since they are nearly all conservative Christian.  But I credit a lot of the material on those sites for giving me the info I needed to walk away, and the ammo I needed to convince my husband to walk away too.  We are both still practicing Christians but decidedly more progressive than most here in the deep red South.  Meaning we're a little left of center. ;-)

My plan is to have my dissertation written by the end of the spring semester and defend next fall.  All the research is done but I'm struggling with framing it for an audience (something that came up in my prospectus defense).  But the last chapter will be on how 20th century religious groups, including the Latter Rain, circulated, adapted and adopted Jane Lead's writing, particularly "Sixty Propositions."  I've traced the print and manuscript history of the highly modified Latter Rain version (google "1679 Prophecy") back to a 19th century version of the text.

by ulyankee on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:48:29 AM EST

...of Richard Riss' book on Latter Rain. He's taught in Wagner's WLI by the way, but the synopsis I found of it is extremely useful. Anyway, I'm eagerly awaiting your dissertation.

One area, BTW, that I think needs documentation is the Latter Rain to the Ft. Lauderdale Five out to contemporary evangelists such as John Hagee - who is directly linked to that bunch through Derek Prince (a formidable and fascinating character). Not that you have time, it's just been on my mind.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 06:06:03 PM EST

and even though he is (or was) a bit of an apologist for the LR he makes those connections.  It does need further documentation though.  I know that the connections are well known inside charismatic circles.

by ulyankee on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 10:55:56 AM EST

I'd really like to read it.  (I've got to do one in a little over a couple of years myself - but on a completely different subject.)

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 10:23:08 AM EST

Well, I'm really hoping that this story will cool recruitment.  I've read some former IHOPer blog posts that describe how difficult it was to extricate themselves from IHOP.  Not just the obvious barriers like social isolation, economic dependency, and estrangement from family, but  spiritual obstacles as well.  It seems that most of the former IHOPers are deeply religious persons who remain very religious after they leave IHOP.  The problem, from my point of view, is that IHOP instills a spiritual worldview full of possession and satanic attacks which persists well past their departure.  It seems that the IHOP brand of religiosity stays with them even after they reject IHOP leadership and/or the IHOP movement.  Several former IHOPers describe being assaulted by Satan every night for years. This is all so destructive and scary.

by tLynn on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 01:13:53 PM EST

I found those YouTube videos from two years ago. There is a whole series posted by europe40days2pray, so I think if you go to YouTube and search for that channel, you can get them all. I had forgotten that they were connected to Youth With a Mission, which I find suspect but which a number of our congregations support, especially in the Southern Province. (Southern Province congregations on average tend to be more evangelical and conservative than Northern Province congregations.)

What ulyankee said about 95% of people who get drawn into the big prayer rallies' not knowing what is behind it is also true for young people and their supporters who go off on these mission trips. Moravians have a very strong history of supporting missions, especially in difficult circumstances, so it's easy to see how these organized trips are so attractive.

Anyway, I thought I would share what I found for anyone who might find the videos useful for further research.

by MLouise on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:55:58 AM EST

The enemy continues to transform himself into an angel of light. The spiritual discerning must be on the alert to expose every intentions of taking scriptures and giving them demonic interpretations. Thanks for a great post. The sons of God

by sonsofGod on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 10:39:58 AM EST

Thanks for sharing the details about these teachings here. I appreciate this a lot, and I'll tell my http://www.pinstripesbridal.com/ mates about this now. I am sure they will be pleased to learn about this.

by LayneMarvin on Thu Dec 05, 2019 at 02:58:52 AM EST

Some have criticized Mike Bickle's IHOP teachings as being sexually charged and even bordering on inappropriate. Bickle does focus on the physical aspect of sexuality  real estate agent Orlando  and its importance in a relationship, but he also emphasizes the need for a strong emotional and spiritual connection. His teachings are not just about sex, but about intimacy and connection on a much deeper level.

by isabelladom on Mon Nov 28, 2022 at 12:27:05 AM EST

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