A review of Mystical Union: Stuff They Never Told You about the Finished Work of the Cross by John Crowder. Published by Sons of Thunder Ministries & Publications: Santa Cruz, CA. 2010.
Crowder’s book, Mystical Union, both interested me and disinterested me. First, let me give the reasons for my disinterest. One thing that bothers me about written works is sloppy editing, and there is a bit of it in this book. That aside, I also found that I was reading the same thing several times in different places. There is too much repetition for my preferences. And lastly, Crowder is clearly from the Pentecostal tradition and addresses that tradition in this book. I come from a different religious background, so some of his references to Pentecostal practices or belief systems held no experiential meaning for me. Despite the editing, the repetition, and our differing backgrounds, I appreciate what Crowder says about identity and desire.
Crowder challenges his readers to rethink what it means to be united with Jesus and to claim their identities as those unified with a resurrected Christ. On page 42, he writes “The biggest temptation satan [sic] always threw at Jesus was to have Him question His identity.” I especially liked the section on “The Galatian Bewitchment.” This part of the book is basically an appeal to rely on Jesus’ death and resurrection to define our identity. Honestly, I would have liked Crowder to expand more on the “identity” theme that was threaded through the book.
As a minister in spiritual formation and a spiritual director, I didn’t find too much that was new to my understanding. But I did value his take on 2 Corinthians 3:18. He says “This verse speaks of a greater and greater manifestation of what you already possess.” (p.197) Transformation for Crowder is a “teaching and renewing” of the mind to this reality, that is the reality of union with Jesus, the reality of the “new creature” through the death and resurrection of Christ. I agree. Spiritual direction is about participating with the Trinitarian God to discover the truth that God wants the directee and director to know about themselves and God’s indwelling.
One area that concerns me is the place of “suffering” in Crowder’s theology. It wasn’t sufficiently addressed, but then again, maybe that wasn’t where he wanted to go. Yet, there is much in this book that begs the question, “Where does suffering fit into this picture?”
Overall, Mystical Union is easy to read, easy to understand, humorous, straightforward, and challenging. Crowder quotes a variety of other writers and uses lively metaphors. Some of the metaphors verge on the bizarre, but he makes his point by using them. I found the book to be interesting because I enjoy reading and learning from others about what it means to be in union with the Trinity.
Crowder’s concrete mysticism gave me a different perspective to consider alongside my more abstract view and experience of mysticism.