Friendly Witness: The Spiritual Ground of Quaker Social Action4th mo. 19, 2023 from 1pm to 6pm
Quaker Theological Discussion Group 202312th mo. 1, 2023 at 8am to 12th mo. 2, 2023 at 10am
Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Just read George Fox autobiography. There is a man who believed the Word of God enough to get moving for God -- and enough to stand against the established religion of the day. He condemned Anglican priests as "hirelings" and insisted that the Lord Himself would teach the believer. Not surprisingly he suffered great opposition - imprisonment and beatings - for standing up for the Word of God against the heresies of the day.
What is the heresy of established religion today? There are probably many, but I have encountered one in particular as I lead music for Methodist Church in rural North Carolina. It well known that many seminaries are turning out pastors who no longer believe the Word of God. They are not forthright about it because their congregations wouldn't accept them if they knew. In fact, the congregations are more faithful to the Word of God than their leaders.
Poses problems in denominations where the pastors cycle through churches, and leadership is responsible for choosing their pastors for them.
I was encouraged to attend a Bible Study called, DISCIPLE. This is a widely popular Bible study
In this study, which is supposed to take the Christian through the entire Bible, I discovered that denomination is pushing theories that run counter to the clear meaning of the Biblical text. And doing so as if it were established fact.
For example, in ISAIAH - one of the most remarkable prophetic books which deals with the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon and their exiling God's people - in order to explain away the supernatural - they say, there were several Isaiahs - writing over hundreds of years.
Another example, in DANIEL - in which prophesies cover the rise and fall of four world powers as well as the coming of the Christ and the end times -- they don't even cover Daniel's prophesies in the DISCIPLE STUDY but instead cover the fiery furnace account - a bedtime story compared to the book's powerful prophesies.
Finally, JONAH -- DISCIPLE STUDY lumps together the mid-eighth century prophet, Jonah, with the post-exilic writings of Ezra saying Jonah was influenced by Ezra's xenophobia. But the Bible says Jonah was a contemporary of Jeroboam II.
What has this review of the DISCIPLE STUDY got to do with anything? Well, for one thing, the Methodist church is about to formalize their heresy. The split of the Methodist church which is likely to happen formally in 2022 - is likely to result in a slicing away of Bible-believers - likely only 20% of Methodist churches are still led by conservative pastors - though a majority of their congregations are still conservative.
Just as George Fox stood against errors of the 17th century - all Bible-believing Christians - not just Quakers - need to stand against the lies of the errant church. Perhaps it is time for all of us to follow the methods of George Fox (as well as the methods of the early Methodist movement) and take it to the streets.
I'm confused by what you write. You write first about "believing the Word of God" and later about "Bible-believing". How do you square that
- with John 1:1 ("The Word Became Flesh - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"), which seems to equate 'Word of God' with 'Christ' and
- with Fox' words that converted Margaret Fell: "‘The Scriptures were the prophets’ words and Christ’s and the apostles’ words, and what as they spoke they enjoyed and possessed and had it from the Lord’. And said, ‘Then what had any to do with the Scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth. You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?’"?
I tend to describe my faith as trust in (the availability to all of) divine guidance, which I equate with that Spirit which Fox spoke of rather than with the Bible itself. The Spirit that inspired the Bible and still inspires us, both through the Bible and in other ways.
With f&Friendly greetings,
Yes, I gathered that that might well be your opinion. My question was how you square that opinion with John 1:1 and with the way George Fox and Marget Fell saw the Bible? It is an opinion that is not found among Dutch Quakers and hard to find among Friends in general in Western Europe (where Quakerism originated and didn't split up in branches).
Do you recognise (as I do) my take on faith in the writings of the early Quakers?
In my ecumenical contacts on behalf of Friends I often distinguish 3 aspects of faith: experience, practice and content. Among Quakers as I know them that is also their logical order, while among other denominations it can be different, often even the reverse. Faith content (opinions about spiritual reality) are important to communicate within a larger community of believers, on the basis of shared Christian or Abrahamitic roots and history, but does not Guide us as Quakers (as I know them), because the Spirit itself does.
With f&Friendly greetings,
I don't see John 1:1 undermining the written word at all. Jesus was in the beginning, he was with God and he was God. Nothing was made apart from him.
Jesus also said - until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled. ( He was at the time answering charges that he was breaking the OT Law -- but I see nothing in the word where Jesus undermined either the law or the prophets. )
From my reading of George Fox's diary -- in his encounters with those he called, "hirelings" -- basically Anglican clergy -- he always argued from scripture - which he appeared to take as his highest authority.
I don't think the early Friends set the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit against the testimony of the Bible. I think they regarded the Bible and the testimony of the Holy spirit as congruent with each other. This is how Robert Barclay interprets the early Quaker understanding.
John 1:1 deifies the Word (Logos), links it with the Light metaphor and uses both to create the 'incarnation' theme. No, it doesn't undermine the Bible as inspired writings. The Bible is one of the ways in which God speaks to us. The problem lies in equating the Bible with "the Word of God" or "the written Word of God". That deifies human writings (rather than the Spirit that inspired them) and seems to belittle the other ways in which God speaks to us.
How do you read the testimony from Margaret Fell that I quoted?
With f&Friendly greetings,
Neither does my faith set immediate Inspiration against Bible-mediated inspiration. The experience that started and defines Quakerism, however, is the message that George Fox 'heard': "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition". I read that as implying that any mediation between God and mankind is not strictly necessary, both by hireling priests/ministers and by written words. Would-be mediators are to be trusted after judgement on the basis of direct Inspiration rather than the other way around. And yes, they are usually congruent, when interpreted in the Spirit.
We can do without the Bible (because we can 'speak inwardly from God'), but we cannot do without direct Inspiration.
With f&Friendly greetings,
I've heard those claims (accusations) -- i.e. that conservatives "make an idol of the written Word of God" I heard that from an individual pastor - and I know from conversations with him that he really didn't like the God of the Bible. I call his handling of scripture FLAGRANT - in his violation of principles of Biblical exegesis. I have a problem with that - obviously.
BUT LOOKING AT FOX -- How did he receive his teaching from the Lord - except through the written Word of God? In his early experience - he would retreat into a quiet place (i.e. the forest) and read the word of God. In fact, the principle you see at work in his life - to me - is his patterning his life after the example of Paul - establishing churches. So he took the written revelation quite literally.
And if we don't give precedence to the Written word -- How do we differentiate God's inspiration from some inner yearning? -- a spicy meal for that matter ... (I'm being facetious)...
But honestly -- in a world in which we are bombarded continuously with stories, and narrative, advertisements - I would not venture to attribute my inner directions to God without first comparing it to the established revelation in the written Word of God.
I don't believe George Fox did either . There were some contemporaries of Fox who seemed to think their own inspiration was on par with scripture. And their actions proved their folly.
IN CONTRAST TO FOX -- These contemporaries of Fox earned the label, RANTERS. They went astray in epic fashion. They believed their inspiration was on par with the Scripture. They were antinomians. They became known for some wanton behavior.
"Ranters embraced the concept of the "indwelling spirit", a form of religious perfection. Whatever was done in the Spirit was justifiable to a Ranter. Mankind was free of Sin and the Law. This was commonly known as Antinomianism." http://id3428.securedata.net/exlibris/nonconform/engdis/ranters.html
Regarding the Margaret Fell quote - it was a very different time. It had only been recently that the written Word of God had been made available to the general population. I think Margaret Fell's emphasis (i.e. comparing her inspiration with the words of the prophets and even the words of Christ himself) was so wrong.
Ignorant of how remarkable are the accounts in Scripture.
The other thing about the 17th century -- it was before the time in which archeology flourished. She did not have the benefit of knowing how eighteenth century archeology would prove again and again the accuracy of this remarkable compilation called the Bible.
You ask: "How did [Fox] receive his teaching from the Lord - except through the written Word of God?" The experience that set him on the Quaker path was that he heard a voice telling him "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition".
You ask: "How do we differentiate God's inspiration from some inner yearning?" By seeking clearness together, i.e. by testing my inspiration against that of fellow quakers, some of which will have received their inspiration through reflecting of the Bible. The best test of divine guidance is that it connects and unites us. As long as ideas don't do that, we have to search longer and harder, expecting to be Led collectively (indeed not individually).
If God only speaks to us through the Bible, what differentiates Quakers from 'sola scriptura' protestant christians? What reason do you see for being a separate denomination? What can/do we contribute?
With f&Friendly greetings,
I like that he refused to be deferential to officials who felt entitled. I think he was thrown in the prison at least once for refusing to take off his hat. That alone was shocking at the time - and I say bravo.
You know it is interesting this "collective leading" idea. Because Scripture says we will each stand before the throne of God when he judges the world. It doesn't say that the names of congregations are written in the book of life.
Also, there are - as in other denominations -- this article I read says that Quaker congregations vary quite a bit -- There are those that are quite liberal -- (straying more from a strict interpretation) and those that are conservative.