Moving Towards a Marginal Theology

I appreciate the article Charles has offered, because I have come to the similiar conclusions about the status of life within the Friends Church. I agree that we have sold our important marginalized/prophetic voice for the easy sales marketing approach to ecclesiology as proposed by Willow Creek and Saddleback, etc. These new forms don’t work for Friends, because our theology and christology will always be marginal (unless we re-write it – but then we would no longer be Quakers). Fox’s goal was not to build multi-million dollar steeple-houses, in fact he was against the idea of the church as a location above all. We tend to buy into cultural ideas without any critique of advertising and its affects and uses from other sources – that is, we wrongly percieve the medium as a neutral voice. But this is a fallacy, the medium is itself a message. TV is not netural, because of the motivation for which it is used, sometimes those motivations are somewhat more optimistic than at other times but the bottom line is TV has always sought to grab the attention of the people watching; this is best done by creating a need (the basic principle of every commercial) and exploting that need (or fear). This is true for any buisness model, or medium. I am not saying we never use any medium to tell others, but we ought to consider how that medium has been used in the larger society and what are its ill effects before the church goes endorsing every new model of advertising.

Further, I alluded to a “marginal” theology. This is where we must as Quakers move. To say we need the power of the Lord, Scriptures and the Spirit, is completely true but partially misleading. I appraoch Scripture on a regular basis to find power in it, I pray that the Holy Spirit “illumine the Scriptures to me,” and I expect him to answer…but he doesn’t always. The power of the Lord, comes from taking the Scripture, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and living it out in a missional community, which is formed by a particular narrative. That is to say, I as a Quaker Christian, will find the power of the Lord (and have) when I join with other Christians who enter into the on-going story of what it means to be a Quaker, live out our “peculiar” theology, and do it together as a community formed by the Spirit. We shouldn’t think that when we as individuals approach the Bible that it will give us what we need and want, this is another fallacy based on the marketing culture of Western Society. Rather, I can hope to find the power of the Lord, when I approach the Scriptures as that same book that empowered the last 355 years of our tradition, and I can read it as an individual within a body of people who still seek to live out that particular story today – even at the cost of always being prophetic as opposed to profitable.

Simply put, I think we need to learn the stories of the Quaker church once again, and begin to tell them, live them, and move forward in this tradition that has been past down to us as one that has been formed by the Spirit of Christ through such wonderful leaders as Fox, Fell, Barclay, Woolman, etc.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.