As a Quaker, what is the function of the scriptures to your faith?

I have found it very interesting to read the various different takes on what part the scriptures play in the lives of Quakers.  How do you see their importance.  Are the scriptures an account of God's relationship with man and His people?  Are they meant as a guideline? An anchor?  Do you follow them loosely or literally?  Are they to be read as a discipline of our faith or as an occasional uplifting help causing us to pause and think of God?

Please feel free to share exactly what you believe, I am sure we can all gain understanding from each others experience.

One note, let us please express in love.  Share what you believe and do not be tempted to unkind words towards others. I can't wait to see your comments!

When there are many comments, I will then post my final thoughts on the issue.

Peace to all,

Nanna Kapp

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A very interesting question, but I am not sure it is that easy for me to answer.

I believe that everything in the bible is true but not necessarily in the literal sense. However, I believe that everything is true on some level. Some things seem meaningless to me for sure but I am open to the fact that they could be important to someone else or that they will at one point or another say something to me.

I believe in god leading me to a certain part of the bible or sometimes to a particular sentence but I also think that sometimes god leads me to something first and the bible then helps me understand this lead. My long wish to cover my head, which I had even back in the days when I considered myself to be an atheist finally made sense through reading the bible for example. Once I realized the source of this wish it rapidly became easier to follow this lead.

To me, hymns and songs are very important, I love to sing and I often feel that I 'connect' to god much more easily when singing. The text can also give insight but I do not put hymns on the same level as the bible but they are still important to me.
The scriptures are an important record of significant parts of the story that I identify with as a current participant. There is a variety of literature in them, so not all parts are to be taken in the same way. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they can be of great assistance in directing me in the right paths. They also are of tremendous devotional value.

I don't think of them as dictated by God, although the writers were seeking to be responsive to God's leading in setting them down. I do believe that the compiling of the scriptures was done with Divine guidance. They do contain truth, but the ways they do so vary and the truths in them can readily be missed reading them in a straight intellectual fashion.

I agree with early Friends about the Bible being secondary authority. I also agree with them that the Bible cannot be rightly understood without being in the Spirit.
The scriptures are a spiritual lodestone. A lodestone is a rare naturally magnetized mineral that attracts iron containing materials to it. The scriptures draw me in to a relationship with God and hold me there as I grow in this relationship. Early compasses used pieces of lodestone to point to the north. The scriptures also serve as an orientating source for my life.
I wrestle with the bible almost daily. It wasn't always that way. As I child believed it to be literal, factual and dictated by God to the various scribes.

When I walked away from the church of my childhood, I also walked away from the bible. The old baby with the bathwater routine.

As I have found my way into Christocentric Quakerism, I now see the bible as the story of an evolving relationship of humanity to God. I try to read it in "the Spirit in which it was given." I see parallels between the biblical story and my own. I find great truth and wisdom in it's pages even when the events are not strictly historical.

Sometimes the truth is a simple as discovering that very flawed people can still be relationship with God and further the task of healing and hallowing God's creation. It gives me hope.
The Bible as we know it today. Is a collection of writings, that were approved by a group of men, in the fourth century under the direction of the Emperor of Rome. Many other wonderful writings were rejected by these men.

The Catholic Bible contains fifteen more books than the typical Protestant version.

The majority of the Jews that lived at the time of Jesus, had a deep relationship with the scriptures and were not able to recognize God, when he came down to earth and lived with them.

Jesus tells us the purpose of scripture in John 5:39. Scripture is to point us to God, and not take the place of God.

I was raised in a culture that placed scripture above . . . the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I've escaped that culture and I have no desire to return.

I now know that . . . if the writings of men had never existed. And God came down to live with mankind . . . mankind would have not killed Jesus.

May the Love of God motivate all of us . . . in this life.
I do believe in a loose interpretation of the Bible. I read the Bible and see that there are so many great lessons that can be learned from the book. But there is no denying that there are more than a few not so great themes of the Bible. My explanation for this is simple: Humankind compiled the Bible. Yes, i do what the conservative protestant churches call "pick and choose" from the scriptures. I dont claim to be 100% right in what i see as just and unjust teachings for its important to know that God is the ultimate judge. One might ask how to separate the just and unjust teachings in my mind. Well, the Holy Spirit guides me every step of the way to teach me whats right and wrong. This is how i feel.

May God Bless you!
Until very recently I had no use for the Bible. For me it always seemed a thing that people used to bash others over the head with regarding their personal beliefs. It seemed a convenient tool for people to reinforce bad behavior like prejudice, judgment, etc. Also, it didn't speak to me. I described it to someone in a Quaker history class like this; remember back in the 90s there was a craze for pictures that were a bunch of colored dots, but if you held it and looked at it a certain way you would see an image? For me I only ever saw dots.

Then Alice Yaxley quoted from her bible and I couldn't believe it came from The bible because it made sense, it spoke to me (she quoted from Paul's Letter to the Galatians). I was completely taken aback and asked her what she was quoting from and she turned me on to "The Message" (Peterson, E. 2003). Eugene Peterson published an interpretation of the bible in contemporary words and contemporary tone. It reads like a modern day self-help book (like "Further Along the Road Less Traveled").

I bought it. It is brilliant. How do I view the scriptures now? As great works to learn from. I learn from it by looking at how early Christians struggled with their new religion, how they learned from their experiences, and their interpretations of these experiences. I see them as contemporary people having the same struggles as we do. I do not view them as infallible, and therefore am not concerned about inconsistencies in their philosophies because I see them as peers. Essentially I will read anyone who has something useful to say, regardless of their religious or philosophical origins.
I read the Bible daily and consider it to be an essential aspect of my life. My relationship to scripture is that I think of scripture as a good friend, an elder, who has much knowledge and understanding. But also, as in any friendship, there will be times when we disagree. That does not concern me. Rather this relationship to scripture allows me to become closer to God and to cultivate that relationship. Daily Bible reading reminds me to put my life into a larger context, the context of eternity.



P.S. to Ricky -- my understanding differs and I don't think the idea that the Bible was codified in the 4th century for political purposes holds up to scholarly analysis.
No, much of it was compiled in Babylon when the religious authorities of Judah were captive there.

And to some extent even this was "for political purposes." There was no distinction between the two in those times (and I'm not sure the distinction we make is any more valid than the mistaken ideas most people hold as to what religion is.) This proto-Judaism had been, after all, the state religion of their kingdom. When their successors returned to Israel with Persian help, it became the state religion of that area under their Empire.

Jesus was not engaged in the monkey-politics of replacing a bad ruler with a better (or worse!) one. I believe (if it matters) that he was anointed King by John the Baptist, and was doing his best to take de facto power, but it was for the purpose of ruling for God's purposes by God's means: giving the poor justice against the prevailing Roman-supported systemic injustice that was oppressing them. That was a political purpose, one implied by his religious purpose.

The gradual loss of that political vision as Christianity spread into the Roman Empire and became a new religion made it possible for the Empire to eventually make "Christianity" their state religion, as it's been for all European states until the last few centuries.

The decision to include some books in the Bible and exclude others, and the choice of which books, was more "church politics" than "secular politics", but it was definitely a top-down enforcement of the victory of one theological faction over another. A similar process in the eastern churches resulted in a slightly different selection.
I have had to confront the Bible: to face it and examine it carefully and form a (gradually evolving) sense of what it contains, good and bad-- and why it contains the mix it does!

So far as modern Friends have been able to avoid doing this... they've been impoverished, whether they merely dismissed it as unimportant or took somebody's interpretation of it as The Truth.

God is the way God is; the Bible reflects that but certainly does not define it-- except for Jesus' statement that to "be like God" means 'to do good', whether to "the Just" or "the Unjust". It does offer a variety of different descriptions and examples of how God acts in the world, not all of which we've been willing to consider at sufficient depth. For example, the prophetic axiom that God controls the political rulership of the world, along with the weather and all the other events we live under. Whether this leads one to Triumphalism or revulsion, it needs to be thought through and critically felt through; the implications are neither simple nor obvious.

Above all, it needs to be confronted prayerfully. "Why is this part here?-- What does it mean?-- What is the truth of the matter?"
Remember, the question is...."As a Quaker, what is the function of scriptures to your faith?"

This is a very personal question as to what part the scriptures play in your spiritual development if any.

Perhaps we can save the discussion of the history of how the bible, as we know it, has been handed down to us for a later date. This way we will stay on topic here and have another interesting discussion on that later.
Thank you Rickey and Forrest for the info and we will pick that up soon!

Let's continue!

Peace to all,

Nanna Kapp
It was interesting to note that even in ESR Bible courses were taught by non-Quakers and Bretheren. When a pastor in FUM churches, I relied on the Expositers Commentary when exploring Biblical texts for their deeper meaning, yet it was not the examined and held in the light wisdom of Friends. Perhaps the main reason for there not being one was the diverse and meeting based authority that characterizes Friends theological divisions. Prior to the Council of Nicene this was the state of Christian theology: staunchly pacifist, local integrity, little if any authoritative written material, the priesthood of believers, and a deep appreciation of contemplation in groups and as loners. Scholars that translated letters into the common languages of Europe were few and far between and were rarely appreciated in life. It would be interesting to gather commentaries on texts from scholars and leaders of various factions of Friends: Conservative, Liberal, United, Evangelical and Convergent. I would like to have debs on Job from a convergent point of view. I have a good editor in mind.

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