Pierre Poiret's Sober Mysticism

Dan Graves, MSL

Pierre Poiret's Sober Mysticism

There are many ways to approach the Scriptures. One of the common methods of interpretation today is called Dispensationalism. This is a fancy word which means that God deals with mankind using different systems during different eras.

Dispensationalism is often traced back to John Darby, who made it popular. However, the first man to develop a fully worked out dispensationalist system was Pierre Poiret. His system said that God has dealt with or will deal with people on earth under seven dispensations (or economies) between creation and the end of the Millennium (the thousand year rule of Christ).

Pierre's parents died when he was young. To support himself, the young Frenchman learned engraving. Meanwhile, he studied theology. For a while, he fell under the spell of Rene Descartes philosophy. But when he saw that it led thinkers like Spinoza into Deism, he rebelled against it, becoming a mystic and studying the works of men like Tauler, Thomas à Kempis and the Dutchman Jansz van Barneveldt. A mystic is a person who believes that one can know God intimately and powerfully, directly with his or her inner spirit. Unlike many mystics, who tend to go astray under the spell of their own mental or spiritual impressions, Pierre never wavered from the doctrine of the trinity and always appealed to Scripture as his final authority.

His advice was often very practical. For example, he wrote that to successfully renounce ourselves and no longer follow our sensual nature, we must pray continually. But prayer must be more than mouthing words. People who do that insult God:

"...Such men will say God is their father, without wishing to obey Him like children. Hallowed be thy name, they will say, when in reality they despise and dishonor Him, preferring their own honor and will to that of God..."

Pierre pastored several churches. Later he left the pulpit in order to follow Antoinette Bourignon, another mystic; he spent years studying with her and after her death, wrote a defense of her. His books collecting the lives and writings of mystics showed that mysticism was defensible. Some of his arguments in favor of it caused his contemporaries to revise their theologies.

Pierre died on this day, May 21, 1719. His influence lived on through his disciple Gerhard Tersteegen and in the Pietistic movement which attempted to give Christian life more feeling and make it less formal.


  1. Fremantle, Anne. The Protestant Mystics. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964.
  2. "Poiret, Pierre." New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1949-50.
  3. "Poiret, Pierre." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  4. Various internet articles.

Last updated July, 2007

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