Forde, Gerhard O. The Preached God: Proclamation in Word and Sacrament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 2, “When the Old Gods Fail: Martin Luther’s Critique of Mysticism” Loc. 783-957.
Luther’s view of revelation was that Jesus was revealed adequately in Scripture (Forde 2007, Loc. 787). Additional visions were very likely temptations of the devil. At the same time, though, Luther testifies to having seen visions while praying fervently and meditating on the work of Christ (Forde 2007, Loc. 796). While Luther will use mystical language he rejects much of the mystical experience.
Forde observes that defining mysticism adequately is often a problem (Forde 2007, Loc. 81). Thus he looks rather for conditions in which mysticism arises, when “the abyss, the distance, between God and humans has become apparent (Forde 2007, Loc. 814). The mystic tries to take old concepts and make them work anew. This is often done by seeking unmediated, personal spiritual contact (Forde 2007, Loc. 824).
This situation is paralleled in Luther, who sought a way to deal with the scholastic tradition which had mediated Christian life up to his time (Forde 2007, Loc. 833). The experience he sought would be found in the Scripture (Forde 2007, Loc. 843). The work of the Christian then includes an individual appropriation of the concepts of Scripture (Forde 2007, Loc. 852). Further, often Christians look at mystical signs, such as liturgical actions and see both the sign and the reality to which it points (Forde 2007, Loc. 865). Thus there are different levels or styles of mysticism. In Luther, the text of Scripture is itself active in the believer (Forde 2007, Loc. 879). Forde explains Luther’s objection to the mysticism of his day by observing “that for Luther the text actually does what the mystic says it only signifies (Forde 2007, Loc. 905). The goal of godliness is the same but the mysticism grounded in something other than the text is futile. Finally, we all depend on words, whether those of God or our own words (Forde 2007, Loc. 941). Luther would urge dependence on God’s Word.