Convergent Friends: Passing on the Faith in the Postmodern World

My first in-print article has hit the shelf this month in the July/August edition of the magazine Quaker Life. They were also kind enough to offer an online version of it here is an excerpt:

What started causing disquiet in me came after I was assigned to read Walter William’s The Rich Heritage of Quakerism for part of my recording process with the Evangelical Friends Church. As I read, I fell in love with the whole of the Quaker narrative.


I loved the characters, the theology, their quirkiness, their vital spirituality and their strange “peculiarities.” Their ideas about non-violence, non-use of ceremonial rites, women in leadership, justice and equality, simplicity, ecclesiology, truth telling, the light of Christ—all grabbed me as authentic and passionate expressions of faith such as I have rarely known.

It deals with issues surrounding Quakerism today and speaks of the growing conversation by people who are calling themselves “Convergent Friends.” It’s related to an article I did for Quaker 2.0 a while back called “Why Quaker 2.0?”

Please give the new article a read and if you’d like to ask questions or discuss it let’s do it here.

 

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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.

24 thoughts on “Convergent Friends: Passing on the Faith in the Postmodern World”

  1. I just read the article in Quaker Life–a nice succinct summary of what some of us have been up to. Thanks for providing convenient access for a larger audience to join in, or at least be aware.

  2. Friend, I’m delighted that you’re finding value in the original theology and practices of Friends. But you might want to take a closer look at Conservative Friends! The great majority of us already conserve both the theology and the key practices of early (first and second generation) Friends, and we already have settled communities in various parts of the eastern and midwestern U.S.

    I guess I am not really clear why there is any need to name a new movement (such as “Convergent Friends”), or to send that new movement to the aid of Conservative Friends, in order to establish these things. Am I missing something here?

  3. Wess, nice article. When you write, “there is one irrefutable authority in the modern world: science,??? I note that you later pick up the idea that the postmodern era might be more receptive to the Quaker message than modern era. I concur. I very strongly believe that postmodern culture will continue to stress the absolute importance of scientific inquiry, but I also believe that it will recognize the limitations of science in ways that provide breathing room for certain modalities of spiritual expression and practice, such as those seen in the Emerging Church, certain sects of Buddhism, etc. Evangelicalism long ago declared a cultural war by embracing fundamentalism in an effort to fight the incoming tide of scientific knowledge and its effect on our cultural. Not only do I think it will inevitably lose this fight altogether in North America, I also believe that the movement itself will become increasingly seen as being spiritually bankrupt, while the values you discuss in your article will become more and more important, though they will lack the populist appeal of the current evangelical message. I hope that makes sense. Interesting stuff, though.

  4. I think that in the name convergent Friends, the c doesn’t have to be capitalized. It is more a way to describe Friends who are not part of a Conservative Monthly or Yearly Meeting but who feel led in that direction but don’t want to either use a label they are not entitled to among Friends nor a label that has such confusing meanings in the wider world.

    I am not sure that it is a new movement, one Friend called it more of a sensibility than a movement, and certainly there are Friends who have held this convergence of a Christian perspective and a commitment to a radical peace & justice witness for a little over 350 years now.

    I also think that at the same time that the name doesn’t carry a lot of baggage, it is still open to a wide range of interpretation. And this is part of the beauty of continuing revelation.

  5. Thanks for posting a comment on my Blog. I’ve got to say that I’ve been delighted to find that what I’d hoped “convergence” meant was really what it has turned out to be, not that definition implies. So, I am delighted to declare, “I am a Convergent Friend!” and I’m going to YM in two weeks full of enthusiasm.

  6. Sorry its taken me awhile to respond I was camping all weekend and have been catching up since.

    @Marshall – great comments and questions worthy of a whole post really. So I will keep this super short. The name is describing something that is already happening within churches that span the entire Quaker tradition therefore we are just “naming” it, we haven’t created anything the Spirit has. So if you already feel like you know churches that fit what we’re talking about then great we are all talking about the same thing. We’ve just decided to have a name for it in order to provide some unity of thought, and a way to easily talk about what we are referring to as a conversation or as Robin said a “sensibility.”

    Anyways I bid you to hang in there and hope with us – we are all learning how to Follow the Light better in our communities.

  7. Wess,
    Once again you use this word ‘subversive’ in such a way that you indicate either that you do not know what the word means, or that you do not know what a follower of Christ is called to do.

    I know that the word is very popular among intellectuals who exalt it with no obvious reference to the irony of such an act, and especially with those who, for a variety of reasons and from a wide spectrum of political persuasions, are discontented with the status quo; still, there are few words in the dictionary which are more fondly regarded than this one among the most passionate followers of Karl Marx–and for a simple reason.

    The reason is that this word is a word which must grieve the Holy Spirit in any person with a godly conscience to hear it used to describe appropriate behavior for a Christian–or even worse, to describe the behavior of Christ Himself–because such usage is always and only a very tragic and inappropriate thing. At best such a thing indicates a serious misunderstanding of the meaning of the word, or perhaps less innocent, a disconnect between someone’s intellect and his conscience; at worst it indicates the complete absence of the Holy Spirit warning that the meaning of the word in such a context is offensive to God.

    I had written on this topic in response to your use of this word in describing the meaning you took from the Lord’s Prayer, but had refrained from posting it Now, however, again seeing this very inappropriate word used with no apparent sense of its shameful connotation, I must respond. Following this post, therefore, is the whole text of the response I had prepared earlier. Following immediately, is the meaning of this word:

    subversion [ME, fr. MF, fr. LL subversion, subversio, fr. L subversus, pp. of subvertere fr. L subvertere], 1 : the act of subverting : the state of being subverted : OVERTHROW 2 : obs : a cause of overthrow or destruction — subversionary, subversive, subversively, subversiveness
    subvert vt [ME subverten, fr. MF subvertir, fr. L subvertere, lit, to turn from beneath, fr. sub + vertere to turn —more at WORTH] 1 : to overturn or overthrow from the foundation : RUIN 2 : to pervert or corrupt by an undermining of morals, allegiance, or faith — subverter n —Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary

    subvert vb 1 : OVERTHROW, RUIN 2 : CORRUPT —the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Collegiate 11th)

    subversive adj. 1. Also, subversionary. tending to subvert or advocating subversion, esp. in an attempt to overthrow or cause the destruction of an esablished or legally constituted government –n. 2. a person who adopts subversive principles or policies —syn. 1. traitorous, treacherous, seditious, destructive.
    subvert v.t. 1. to overthrow (something established or existing). 2. to cause the downfall, ruin, or destruction of. 3. to undermine the principles of; corrupt. —syn. 1. upset, disrupt, undermine, overturn, sabotage. —Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

    I beg you consider why I have spent so much time in copying these dictionary entries for you and your readers. Certainly, I could have paraphrased with much less effort and work. But this issue is too important.

    As you can see from these dictionary defititions, the word ‘subversion,’ the word ‘subversive,’ and the word ‘subvert’ all carry a strong connotation of evil purpose and corrupt effect. While we might be inclined to seek a word that means simply ‘to overturn,’ (see Ezekiel 21:27 ), or arguably ‘to overthrow,’ if one may indeed argue that Jesus humbled Himself to ‘make a mockery of the powers of this world,’ yet it is in no way allowable that Jesus either intended nor effected any ‘corruption’ of any thing. As it is written, “Thou will not alow thy Holy One to see corruption.” This is true, period.

    Even so, I am sure some will attempt to claim that use of the word ‘subvert’ in their writings is simply a case of, as in the case of Humpty Dumpty famously reported to have said to Alice “When I use a word, it means exactly what I intend it to mean, neither more nor less,” and, so they will argue, simply a case of their meaning only and simply (and innocently, wink wink, nudge, nudge) “to overturn.” Such an argument is disingenuous. It does not fly. Even those who would make such an argumet do not accept it or believe this. For it is manifestly clear to every hearer who knows the meaning of this word that it carries an unmistakably evil connotation, and means never anything the least bit short of ‘corrupt’ in the fullest and most vile sense of that word.

    In so very many ways, the use of the word ‘subvert’ in any of its forms to describe the behavior of Christ, and especially when doing so to encourage any form of ‘subversive’ behavior in Christians, is at best the muddling of the difference between the ‘social transformation philosophy’ of Marxists and their ilk, and the true message of eternal salvation from Jesus Christ, which has nothing in common with the violent and destructive revolution advocacy of Karl Marx. “At best” I say, since it is all too often a dead giveaway that those who use this word are, in fact, NOT Christians, but wolves among the sheep whose actual purpose is the perversion of the Christian message in order to divert Christians from their true calling to the ugly purposes of Marxism. The “Church” is full of these vile creatures in our day, and no doubt, the seminaries are the “breeding dens” for these treacherous snakes. Thus, it is predictable that you have been subject to their influence.

    But to use this word, Wess, is to align yourself with such creatures, rather than with Christ, and to spread an approving afirmation of their ideas, not to preach the true Gospel, but rather, to corrupt it. Since I cannot yet know whether you use this word unknowingly or deliberately, I must grant you the benefit of the doubt and consider the possibility that you have used this word in ignorance, not knowing that its use is highly corrosive to the cause of the gospel, and indeed, causes the suffering and death of Christians to this very minute at the hands of those who accuse Christians of subversion and use those so-called ‘Christian’ wiritings advocating ‘subversion’ as justification to imprison, torture and murder Christians precisely as you incorrectly wrote that Jesus was so accused and treated. (For an explanation of this last statement, see the other post that I have written on this topic.)

    But I must now urge you in the strongest and gravest terms that you repent of the use of this seriously misguided term as appropriate for describing Christian behavior, and cease hereafter to do so. Your talk of pacifism is admirable if it is motivated by the right reasons, and this is a message that the Church very much needs to hear today. But if you muddy the issue by confusing your listeners with the word ‘subvert,’ then you place yourself in the same group with those whose purpose is by no means “peaceful” but exactly the opposite, and can honestly lay claim to no such thing. In so doing, your message of pacifism must then fall on deaf ears, and you hinder rather than advance its cause. I therefore caution you most urgently that you consider well and heed this gentle admonition: Please stop using this word.

    In faith,

    John

  8. Wess,
    First, I want to say that it gives me no pleasure to criticize. And especially, it gives me no pleasure to criticize someone who has so generously given my voice the forum that you have. I would much rather give thanks when I hear courageous truth spoken by someone whose first concern is the faithfulness of Christ’s church than to point out an error in someone’s teaching. Indeed, I would rather eat all of my food without any salt than say the kind of thing that I must now say.

    I have meditated and prayed for more than a week now about something you wrote quite a few days ago that bothers me considerably. In fact, there are a number of statements that you have made that are quite at odds with your claim that your first concern is the benefit of the fellowship of believers that is the church that was established by Jesus Christ. Not that I necessarily doubt that claim, but that at the least I believe you may not have fully comprehended the connotations of some of the terms that you use. It is, of course, my hope that your attitude about these questionable statements will prove willing to admit their ill-advised nature and dispose of them as dispensable (granting for now that your motives and general intent are pure), and that you will readily acknowledge the lack of any intent on your part to mean certain questionable teachings that are stated or implied by certain words or phrases in which you have chosen to cast your thoughts. I say, that is, that I would much rather see that you clarify and correct the statements I here draw attention to than see that your stated worthy claim to be devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ be rendered questionable by virtue of instinctively defending them. So I do ask that you consider and pray for a day or two before responding to this post.

    Because there are several of these, and I do not wish to slight the case for correcting any one error, nor do I wish to leave important issues unaddressed as though they were of no consequence (for the importance of clarifying some of these things cannot be overstated) I will deal with a clear error–and only with a clear error–as the Spirit moves me, and will continue, until the issues needing such attention are laid bare, or until I move on for whatever reason having left much that is needed unsaid. If I persist, then, please understand that it is not out of any malicious and implacable antagonism toward you (rather, much to the contrary, as I believe that you have something very important to say and do not wish to see it marred or obscurred by an unfortunate choice of words here and there). If I persist, then, it is only for the sake of the highest reverence that I hold for the truth, and the need to see the church avoid every error, such as we can.

    Whew! A long introduction. Yes, I understand that it implies a considerable amount of ‘taking-self-seriously.’ But I think the point I am about to make will give everyone good reason to allow me this.

    Wess, in a previous thread about the Lord’s Prayer, you used the word ‘subvert’ in a way that causes the Holy Spirit in me to cringe. In particular, you used this verb with Jesus Christ as the subject of the verb. With all due respect, sir, I believe that this is a very serious error. It is a serious error because it imputes to the sinless Savior a base motive and corrupt purpose. The word ‘subvert,’ is very commonly translated to mean ‘corrupt.’ The word ‘corrupt’ appears as a direct synonym for the word ‘subvert’ in Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary, which is as authoritative a standard on the meaning of English words as any. Indeed, in addition to the denotative meaning of ‘to overturn,’ (and God certainly promises to “overturn, overturn, overturn it,”), or more completely ‘to discredit something in order to replace it with something different’ this word carries the very negative connotation of ‘for evil purposes.’ I know that there is a school of thought that this word has a positive connotation when the thing being overturned is deserving of being overturned, but there is a disingenuous character to this line of thinking. The word plainly means ‘to corrupt.’ The “avoidance of every appearance of evil” requires that such an ambiguity be considered too dangerous to flirt with. Only the coarse and crude would insist otherwise, belying their claim to sharpened intellectual faculties.

    So I know that this word is very popular in some circles, and especially as some find it cute and clever. But these do so precisely because the meaning they only pretend to give it is an ironic meaning intended to replace its plain, ordinary meaning. This self-understood irony then puts the lie to the claim that the word is, as claimed, innocent. The worst of these want nowhere else more to apply this word than to apply the word to the works of Jesus Christ, and this is altogether precisely why I have here chosen to address this point first. The only purpose for which those who do not have the Holy Spirit choose to talk glibly about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ is that they may ‘subvert’ these teachings to evil, material, political purposes. But it is a grievous error to impute to Our Lord the same base motivations as those entertained by such people. The use of this word to describe any thing that Jesus said or did is to discredit His redemptive work completely. Paul plainly speaks against those who ‘subvert’ the Word of God. It is never accurate to say that Jesus ‘subverted’ something. Jesus did not ‘subvert’ even the devil’s plans. He opposed them. Jesus never ‘corrupted’ anything.

    I understand the argument made by some that the world saw Jesus as a subversive and crucified Him for this reason. Which is to say, in other words, that I know what I am contradicting when I say that this argument is plainly wrong. It does not hold up to scrutiny. Again, this idea is popular with those who would twist Christ’s words into something that appears to legitimize their own worldly and profane purposes, but it is an insidious and malicious lie. In point of fact, the political leaders of Christ’s time did NOT see him as a subversive. He was NOT crucified because he was a threat to Rome. Pilate makes this abundantly clear when he calls for water and washes his hands of the blood guilt for Jesus’ death. As it is written, “I find no fault in him,” which Pilate says repeatedly. Pilate knew that Jesus was not a subversive. He knew that Christ’s teachings were for the religious life of the inner man and constituted no threat to the authority of Rome. “You would have no authority over me except it were given to you from above. Therefore, they that handed me over to you have the greater sin.” Pilate wasn’t stupid. He knew what was going on. He knew that the Hight Priest and his associates had handed Jesus over to him out of envy. It says this explicitly in the scriptures. Indeed, Pilate made every effort to spare the life of Jesus, even to the point of having Him whipped in a vain attempt to placate the blood-lust hatred of the Sannhedrin. He pleaded with the crowd, begging them not to demand the execution of a man he knew to be completely innocent of sedition.

    Even Herod refused to condemn Jesus as a supplanter, calling him merely ‘crazy.’ It is extremely significant that Herod did not accuse Jesus of subversion, since it was against Herod, the (supposed) King, that a subversive ‘king’ would have been guilty of sedition. Had Herod merely said ‘This man claim’s to be a king, therefore he is guilty of attempted rebellion,’ it would have been enough for Pilate to have ordered Christ’s execution with no further concern for the justice of it. But Herod was not so cooperative. He sent Jesus back without any recommendation. Herod, for all of his fleshly corruption, did not want to condemn an innocent man either. The ball was still in Pilate’s court. And Pilate bent over backward to avoid condemning Jesus precisely because he did not want the blood of a man he knew to be innocent on his hands, as he plainly shows us. For all of this evidence it is manifestly clear that the only people that wanted Jesus dead were the religious leaders of the ‘official’ religion, and it is equally clear that their purpose was entirely motivated by jealousy, since Jesus was plainly–to Herod, to Pilate, and to the people–a much better religious teacher than they were. Everyone knew this. Jesus was NOT executed out of concern that he was a political subversive. He was executed because he fearlessly exposed the patent phoniness of religious leaders and promised a future that had no use for them and their foolish, impotent, and self-contradictory teachings.

    Those who would argue that Jesus was a subversive and was executed as a subversive are teaching something false. This false teaching serves only the cause of those who would corrupt and divert Christians from their true calling to serve God into serving the evil purposes of revolutionaries by providing a sort of religious ‘cover’ for the always and only and completely evil nature of political subversion.
    It is not necessary to speak of being ‘subversive’ with respect to the rule of Rome in order to plainly teach that a Christian has the duty to follow their conscience and sin not, even if sin is, in some cases, a requirement of state law. Christians are commanded by Christ to obey the earthly governments in every way short of commiting sin in order to do that. More than that, we are commanded to ‘carry a soldier’s pack two miles if he demands that we carry it one.’ Yes, the earthly governments and their leaders have already been condemned. Yes, a soldier’s job is to do that which is evil. But it is not the Christian’s place to oppose the rule of earthly governments on earth. A Christian’s place is to walk the path of obedience to God unto death, as Christ did. Part of ‘obedience to God’ is obedience to state authorities when that does not directly conflict with one’s own conscience. But even the world recognizes the validity of the individual conscience, the sanctity of life, and a higher moral order than earthly government in the principle that was established at Neuremberg. Even the world knows that ‘I was only following orders,’ is no excuse for wanton cruelty. But granting the supremacy of the individual conscience over state authority does not at all require one to adopt a subversive stance—does not even come close to this. There is a big difference between refusing to do evil in the name of a government, and refusing to obey a government’s reasonable demand simply because the government also does that which is evil. Is one justified in running red lights just because the legislature that wrote the traffic laws was also taking bribes at the time? Paul did not have at his disposal the precision of modern English, but what I have said here is not otherwise than what he taught. When will the Christian ‘shatter the nations of this world like a clay jar’? When he or she leaves this world behind and is forever thereafter able to laugh at it without consequence. This cannot happen until the day of one’s death. So please don’t misunderstand your place in the universe. Until then, the state ‘wields the sword,’ and whether rightly or wrongly, it has the power (even if it does not have the authority) to make you afraid of the sword until you are ready to die. If you are not ready to die, you should be careful about just how much you boast of being free from the authority of the state. Keep in mind that Jesus did not contradict Pilate and boast that He had the greater authority, although it was certainly true.

    Jesus did not seek to overthrow Rome in his human capacity. And neither should we. For what would replace it if we did that and succeeded? Ourselves? And then we would become that which deserved to be condemned. Another state? And then what would be the point of it? Has not yet history by now proven to you that you don’t have the power to replace a corrupt govenment with an innocent one? Jesus was commanded by the Roman government to carry a cross. He did so. What He refused to do, was to lie.
    Furthermore, to return to the point that motivated this post, to state that Jesus sought to corrupt the Jewish understanding of God is to put Christ’s revelation of the Father into a completely unwholesome light. Jesus did not seek to corrupt anything whatsoever. As He said in Matthew, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” and in John, “Salvation is of the Jews.” To use the verb ‘subvert’ with Jesus as its subject, is to speak a corrosive, destructive lie in any case, and in the particular case of the present topic, it is also to contradict the above statements that Jesus Himself made.

    There is no truth nor value in the use of the verb ‘subvert’ when discussing the life and work of Jesus Christ. Only those who seek to cast Jesus in the light of a common, corrupt, fallible human conspirator and deny Him the sinless divinity of the Sonship of God in order to to wrap their own evil, godless purposes in the cloak of a purposefully deceptive ‘Jesus-aura’ would be fond of using such a verb to discuss the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. No faithful Christian would get anywhere near this contemptible word. And, yes, the use of this word to describe the behavior of Jesus Christ (or to display any fondness for its use, generally) is to provide evidence that one may, in fact, be a communist, since it is they who are most self-admittedly in love with this word. Absent an unequivocal repudiation of any legitimate need for the use of this word to describe the behavior of one’s friends outside of the context of a rebuke, one is reasonably justified in suspecting that the ever-gnawing work of atheistic communists is not very far away upon hearing it.

    Wess, I give you the benefit of the doubt and grant that likely you did not fully think though the implications of this word that is no doubt thrown around in divinity school as though it were a valid intellectual handle on some aspect of the work of Jesus or some other legitimate activity. Certainly it is no secret that some fall so in love with the vocabulary of their own world-view, that they adopt a specialized vocabulary first and foremost and only then afterward seek applications for its use, rather than first have a meaningful thought and then afterward search out the words in which to frame it as Wisdom would do. Such is the way with many who infest the halls of academia.

    This is partly because the enemy has indeed infiltrated every seat, every pew, every office, and every classroom in the church in order to corrupt, yes, subvert, and destroy it, and it is partly because the purposes of such men is hidden and disguised behind a facade of righteousness and phony truth-seeking–the wolf in the sheep’s clothing–that the servants of God are often caught unaware that they are profoundly manipulated into being willing accomplices to nefarious purposes by means simply of the vocabulary of discourse which, you can be sure, has been assiduously studied and researched and placed into service in the most overt, calculated way to obtain deliberate, maximum effect. The average Christian who simply uses the vocabulary that is handed to him or her is often for the most part completely unaware of such tactics. And that is precisely why we need to be aware of this, for it is our words that give away the content of our thoughts. It is time we returned to using the vocabulary of Christian discourse as practiced by Jesus Christ, and leave the vocabulary of the devil’s worldly discourse to lie unused in a distant radioactive heap where it belongs.

    That is, Wess, to begin with you must stop using the word ‘subvert’ to describe any behavior of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It speaks a terrible lie. Anyone who advocates ‘subversion’ of something is not doing God’s work. To advocate the ‘subversion’ of something, however already corrupt that something may be, is to do the devil’s work, not God’s.

    Wess, notwithstanding the nonsense you undoubtedly hear in academia, please correct yourself on this.

    In faith,

    John

  9. John,

    I appreciate your lenghty and passionate discussion of the use of the word “subvert” and its many manifestations. We could talk for hours about your many statements and conclusions, but I would simply like to offer a few thoughts in response to your post.

    “It is a serious error because it imputes to the sinless Savior a base motive and corrupt purpose.”

    This is where I think you exhibit a great deal of tunnel vision in respect to your definition and application of the word “subvert”. Is it not possible to “corrupt” or “tear down” an institution simply by yourself being incorruptible? For instance, could we not “corrupt” Hollywood’s potential to continue marketing ultra-violent movies simply by refusing to frequent the theatres that show them. Likewise, could we not “corrupt” the mass media’s denial of truth and promotion of its socialist agenda by refusing to buy their periodicals and watch their news broadcasts? All of these acts could be considered “subversive” under your definition, but they can hardly be claimed to be in opposition to the Gospel or the will of Christ, can they?

    I agree with you, the term can often be confusing, but there is truth behind it that can be applied to our role as Christians in the world. One does not need to immediately interpret it as something violent. We can simply be subversive to the world and its values by being honest, having financial integrity, loving our wives and children, and worshipping God in humility and extending grace and forgiveness to others. What could offer more “corruption” to the world’s ideas of self and self worship than those things John?

    By getting caught up on semantics, I think you have missed the bigger picture that Wess was trying to describe. Certainly I do not agree with all of Wess’ interpretations, biblical or otherwise, but I think he has a point when he expresses that our Christian witness is subversive in nature simply by its devotion to Christ and not “the powers of this world”. What do you think?

  10. Kevin,
    I think that the word ‘corrupt’ is not an appropriate verb to use to refer to the doing of good. However you interpret it, the word ‘subvert,’ which means ‘corrupt,’ does not apply the the behavior of Christ, nor to the proper behavior of a Christian.

    Opposing evil and refusing to support it does not in any way amount to ‘corrupting’ it. One does not ‘subvert’ an evildoer by returning good in exchange for evil, one ‘opposes’ him, ‘prevents’ him, ‘thwarts’ him, ‘turns him aside,’ even ‘confronts’ him or ‘overturns’ him, but one does not ‘corrupt’ him.

    When one corrupts a healthy fruit, it becomes rotten. When one further corrupts a rotten fruit, it is still rotten, only more so. One cannot make a rotten fruit become good by corrupting it.

    “Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

    That is what I think.

    Therefore, I will not suffer the use of the word ‘subvert’ to describe the behavior of my Savior.

    Moreover, by impugning Him and His motives, you impugn me, and my reasons for following Him, so that I may also reasonably take this quite personally.

    Those who advocate the ‘corruption’ of any human enterprise are not motivated by Christ to do so.

    I am not missing any larger point. This is the larger point. It is larger than any other point I have seen herein discussed. The use of this repugnant word in a favorable light is inexcusable. One fly in the ointment corrupts the whole jar and makes it all to stink.

    Furthermore, Paul makes it quite plain that we are bound by the moral sensibilities of others not to give offence when we can avoid it. To use this word while claiming Humpty Dumpty’s excuse is to be callously insensitive to the fact that, however much you may want or intend to use it otherwise, many or even most understand this word to mean ‘corrupt.’ The possiblity that it will be taken to mean ‘corrupt’ is therefore great, and therefore, no Christian can justify using this word to describe the behavior of Christ.

    I will therefore never cease to rebuke this.

    There is no argument here, no need for debate. This point is crystal clear. Either the Holy Spirit begins to retch within one’s conscience upon hearing this word applied to Christ, or one does not hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

    If we cannot agree on this, then we are not on the same team.

    John

  11. Wess, I enjoyed your article in Quaker Life. When you identify this new group of Friends who “are in love with early Quakerism, Jesus and the Bible, following the Spirit and sharing God’s love with the world,” you speak my mind and heart and I can now picture Friends across historical divides who have the same heart and mind. I love that. I am glad to be finding Friends across the web who love Jesus of the Bible and our Quaker heritage and want to express their faith within current culture as led by the Spirit. Refreshing, indeed.

    I am looking forward to a deeper level of sharing of our understanding and experience of the Christian disciplines. We need to be talking about how to embody our Quaker values (for their Christlikeness) and how to make our faith a way of life. We need to learn from each other how to live our faith in the spaces where we live, work, play and serve *so that* there will be enough of God in us for the lost and hungry world.

    Thanks for writing.

  12. John,

    Do you really mean this?

    “Those who advocate the ‘corruption’ of any human enterprise are not motivated by Christ to do so.”

    So, we as Christians are not supposed to work against injustice? Are we simply meant to be passive observers? Are you saying Christ wouldn’t want us to try and stop the suffering of others?

    John, I think you are caught up in your disdain for the word and not focusing on the ideal that is being discussed. Do you not think Jesus was subversive in His interaction with the Pharisees and their repugnant religiosity?

    While we are supposed to be obedient to our leaders, we are not supposed to defend them and their actions when they are contrary to the Gospel and the will of God. As I stated in my previous post, this does not necessarily mean that we are to respond in violence, quite the contrary, but we are supposed to resist the darkness that is in this world and offer it, by word and example, the light and hope of Christ. We are not to simply ignore things and become a passive element but rather to present the Gospel, which radically confronts sin and self-focus. If that is not being a subversive force in this world, you are working with a definition that goes beyond reason and typical understanding.

  13. Kevin,

    You wrote, “All of these acts could be considered “subversive??? under your definition.”

    No, kevin, please do not put false words in my mouth. I gave no such “definition.” I said that ‘good’ and ‘subversive’ are mutually exclusive antonymous terms, whether by my definition or by the ordinary dictionary definitions that I explicitly did give (what you call ‘my’ definition).
    It is you that claim ‘subversion’ can refer to acceptable behavior, not me. I have quite strenuously made the point that its broadest meaning cannot exclude the word ‘evil.’
    Further, you say,
    ” but they can hardly be claimed to be in opposition to the Gospel or the will of Christ, can they?”
    This is immaterial, since I have not argued against morally upright behavior, I have said that the word ‘subvert’ does not refer to it. Neither does it refer to turning a spilled bottle back upright.
    Further, when you say such things as:
    “So, we as Christians are not supposed to work against injustice? Are we simply meant to be passive observers? Are you saying Christ wouldn’t want us to try and stop the suffering of others?”
    … your red herrings may distract those with short attention spans in a spoken conversation and get them off the subject long enough for them to be convinced that it was something I had said that motivated your questions (thus fooling them into thinking I might have actually implied things that have only come from your thoughts), but it won’t work in this context since the words remain after we write them, and the astute reader can review to see that not only is it the case that you cast aspersions upon me without a cause (since I said no such things), but that you have also somehow managed to completely change the subject.
    When you describe “worshipping God in humility and extending grace and forgiveness to others,” you are describing praiseworthy activity.
    When you then say “What could offer more ‘corruption’ to the world’s ideas and self worship than those things?” you are brutally misusing the word ‘corruption,’ which cannot possibly refer to the activities you described in the previous sentence. This is precisely my point. This statement of yours is patently absurd. We have not been called to further ‘corrupt’ the evils of the world. (I said this already, didn’t I?) Such a statement makes no sense. It appears that you did not read what I wrote, for you respond as though you do not understand the plain meaning of ‘corrupt’ fruit and ‘good’ fruit and are arguing past my point as though it had never been made. Jesus used these two words as antonyms. What you are saying, Kevin, is raving madness. For goodness’ sake, get a grip!
    The act of corrupting a human being is an evil act. I challenge you to find in the scriptures a single instance of the word ‘corrupt’ used in a context that would allow one to attribute to this word a praiseworthy connotation—because I know that you cannot. You will discover that the subject of this verb is always an evildoer. Always.
    I said that the word ‘subvert’ was horribly inappropriate in the contexts that Wess had used it on more than one occasion, because the word means ‘to corrupt.’ You have not disputed that. Instead, you proceeded to argue that the verb ‘to corrupt,’ itself, is a perfectly wonderful word to describe the behavior of Christians, so long as it takes some evil thing as its direct object. But that argument is nonsense. You are giving the word ‘corrupt’ a very strange and bizzarre definition. And making the truth of my original statement so much easier to establish in the process.
    You say that my “definition … goes beyond reason and typical understanding.” Huh? What? Am I hearing things? In view of the fact that I have most carefully recorded for all to read above the dictionary definitions of the word ‘subvert,’ and pointed out that both the dictionary and common usage—not my own opinion—consider this word to be synonymous with ‘corrupt,’ this statement of yours is both false and absurd. I suggest that before you say more, you consult the scriptures for each and every occurrence of either of these two words, and see if you can find a single instance of either word being used to indicate that which is wholesome and good. You should do this for the sake of your own education in any case. But I can tell you the outcome of such a search right now. You will not find one.
    I did not come here to pick a fight, but be careful what you say, because I have no reason to fear one when my feet are on a solid foundation and my words are true. If we allow ourselves to become so preoccupied with good deeds that we cease to be “valiant for the truth,” then we are of no use to the Kingdom of God. This is why I chose to make a stand on this point and correct this very ill-advised perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not a mere quibble. This is heaven and hell and the line between them. If I die defending this point, then so be it, the issue is worth its defense. The world is infested with do-gooders who have no reverence for the truth, and all of their fruit is corrupt—that is, evil.
    To precisely the point that makes this so timely, those who idolize Karl Marx teach that the non-communist world is oppressive and should be ‘subverted.’ This is their word, not mine. And their agenda. So it is no secret that they have been for more than a century now making this argument that strangely has found its way to the lips of so-called ‘Christians’ who see not the slightest irony in the fact that by adopting the language and arguments of Marx they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those whose single-most urgent purpose is the eradication of Christians. Perhaps it would be clearer, then, if I said instead that those who sing the praises of corruption speak in opposition to the true voice of an apostle and that everyone who hears this clear distinction has good reason to contemplate the fullest meaning of a ‘rainless cloud.’
    The difference between truth and falsehood are here displayed plainly for all to see. All of your rationalized contortions cannot obscure this or justify your strange eagerness to defend corruption and subversion. The academics who too-cleverly use these two words in a special, narrow sense of their own manufacture to try to blur the distinction between good and evil in order to deceive the gullible into scattering Christ’s sheep are here being served notice. This pernicious lie has gone on long enough. I understand that many may have been caught unaware by its popularity among wolves in sheep’s clothing whose purpose truly is to subvert and whose identity has thus far been unrecognized. Perhaps they had not previously been given an opportunity to examine these things in the light of sound thinking. (Wess?) But no more. This corrosive lie cannot not stand in the light; and I will not permit it to hide in the shadows.
    John

  14. I’m with Wess and Robin on the use of the word “convergent,” that some of us are wanting to name what has been occurring in order to have a THING to which we can refer. Plus, it keeps the dynamic fresh and we can more readily invest our energy and time into it, because we now see ourselves INVOLVED in it.

    I don’t see Friends “coming to the aid” of anyone, as much as I see Friends excited to realize we are not alone in our desire to blow a bit on some smoldering embers…

    Blessings,
    Liz, The Good Raised Up

  15. John,
    You are obviously a passionate and loyal person. I admire your tenacity in defending what you believe in and the cause of Christ. The first thing that comes to mind though when reading your posts is the scripture 2 Timothy 2:14—“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.??? I think you are missing the ‘forest for the trees’ so-to-speak here. Like an earlier poster said, you are having ‘tunnel vision’ on this topic. I think the real question here is one of the heart. Do you really think that Wess or any of the regulars on this site are trying to supplant the government with some vile and evil scheme and are just ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’? I hardly think so. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone like that at Fuller Seminary.
    I would really be interested in futher pursuing this topic. I feel that this is essential to where the Church (mostly the Western Church) finds itself right now and what it mission should look like in the future. I don’t want to post some huge comment on this blog, but would like to continue the conversation on my site.
    http://betabeliever.blogspot.com
    Please follow me over there if you would like. (BTW, I’m not just trying to draw traffic away to my site, I feel that it would be rude to keep posting huge comments back and forth here)
    Nate

  16. Wess, thanks for the green light on the conversation…just didn’t want to have bad blog etiquette. I may continue some of it over at my site though b/c I would like to include a few things that N.T. Wright has to say on the topic which may be rather long…maybe I’ll post it here and there… The email name used to be the name of my blog as well…I just changed it a week or so ago when I started posting again for the first time in a long time. I looked at it and started to feel a little oxymoronic having a name like ‘subversivelove’ up in bold typeface screaming out to the world.

    Nate R.

  17. Mr. Nate:
    Eugene Peterson? Who’s he? Yeah, yeah, I know, I can read Wikipedia and the reviews at Amazon as well as anyone. What I mean more specifically is, what are you doing, quoting some false teacher non-authority perverter of the Word of God as though anything he said should persuade a servant of Christ? So he thinks the word ‘subversive’ is perfectly dandy. So what? He thinks perverting the Lord’s Prayer is just fine, too. As my father used to say, “If everyone else goes and jumps off a cliff, does that mean you have to do it too?” The sort of casual and irreverent approach to the sanctity of truth that motivates his mock scripture and some of what I read in this forum is precisely why the Lord put it on my heart to address these issues here. You couldn’t have picked a greasier glob of icky evidence to support your godless argument if you had cited Karl Marx.

    Using such ‘evidence’ you could more easily convince me that you know neither Jesus Christ, nor the Scriptures, nor have any reverence for truth in you when you quote such a person. His “Message” is un-Biblical filth. It’s worse than dirty; it’s demonic heresy. I can give you dozens of sound, well articulated reasons for my certainty about this, but I am not going to be dragged off topic. Let me just simply caution you, if you persist, that the book of Acts documents a man who presumed too much, and was ripped to shreds by a devil who had no fear of that man’s so-called ‘god’, despite his false and reckless claim that it was the same God who spoke through Paul. (“Jesus, I know, and Paul, I know, but who are you?”) That man had nothing to do with Jesus Christ. This is not a Vaudeville sideshow you are addressing here, however much it may appear that way to you. Lose your smirk.

    How insenstitive you are! Do you think before you put words in front of the whole world or just spit them out mindlessly? How can I bring the severity of your unmitigated gall and the reckless clumsiness of your handling of the Christian message to your attention? Not only do you create a metaphor that has nothing to do with the point I made, but you do it with astonishing insensitivity! (Or is that just a trap?)

    Perhaps by way of a similar device I can make it plain to you just how foolish you sound (and how reluctantly I give your post the dignity of any response at all) while hoping you’re wise enough to learn:

    How, by displaying your own bigotry and thoughtlessness, are you going to persuade someone else to not be bigoted? Don’t bother to answer, there’s no need to.

    Next time, try thinking of someone other than yourself before you thoughtlessly (unwittingly?) insult a group of people as though their feelings were nothing but rhetorical devices for your intellectual ego!

    (Note to the bystanders: if you have no idea what I’m talking about, then feel free to cast your anger in my direction. I have no intention of explaining this to you.)

    And I knew it was but a matter of time before someone with the beam of the letter in his eye would be quoting to me the verse about not arguing over the mere meaning of words. I knew, in other words, that it was inevitable that someone would say “Physician, heal thyself.” So then, if you know that ‘vain jangling’ is a foolish enterprise, why are you so eager to encourage it? For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Or don’t you know that there is a time for every purpose? Or that John was commanded to do that which David was forbidden to do—to count the servants of God? I didn’t start a quibble. I rebuked, and am rebuking, a serious heresy. That will stand long after I cease to press this point, which means, by the way, as of today.

    If you want to say that Jesus was subtle, say that He was subtle. If you want to say that He was indirect, say that He was indirect. But I now insist that you cease and desist from accusing our Savior of ‘subverting’ anyone or anything. The etymology of the word is informative, but not definitive. The salient point is that this word means ‘to corrupt’, ‘to do evil’. It has had this meaning since the New Testament was written, as you can clearly see by the Scriptures that I have quoted below. You cannot remove this connotation from the word. We are duty bound to use “wholesome” words just as Paul explicitly says, and to avoid giving anyone reason to speak evil of the way of Christ. To use this damnable word in the way you and others with too much intellect and too little heart have been using it, is to defame Christ, and stain all of us, His followers, with the bloodshed of Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il and Pol Pot. Stop it! Now.

    The word ‘subvert’ means ‘to do evil’. You have been told. I solemnly warn all of you: do not tempt God. The use of this word as though it were an acceptable thing for a Christian to do, a thing to encourage anyone to do, or to describe anything that Jesus Christ ever did, is heresy. You have all been solemnly warned. This is twice, now. If you henceforth insist on being ‘free’ instead of being ‘faithful’ I will consider you heretical.

    Acts 15:24
    24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.

    2 Timothy 2:14
    14Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

    Titus 1:11
    11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

    Titus 3:9
    9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;

    Titus 3:11
    11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

    Note that Titus 3:11explicitly states that to be subverted is to become a doer of evil, and uequivocally implies that the result of any subversive act is only and necessarily evil.

    There are many more. Do a search on ‘subversion’ or on ‘corrupt’ or on ‘corruption’. Same result. But your patience is shallow and weak and on the verge of disappearing altogether, and I would not knowingly challenge you beyond what I think you are capable of.

    When anyone shows himself unable to discern good from evil and accuses Christ of ‘subverting’ his hearers, the rebuke of this heresy is a gravely serious matter. In no sense is my stance here a matter of ‘foolish questions’ nor ‘geneologies’ nor ‘contentions, and strivings about the law’. Nor is it reasonable to attempt to make a distinction between ‘subverting a culture’ and ‘subverting a person’ or ‘subverting a teaching’ and ‘subverting a hearer’. Subversion is subversion.

    But to stand firm in an error and refute my clearly stated prohibition as though one had the freedom to say and do any and every thing without any regard for its truth condition or its moral affect on others and claim while so doing to be acting responsibly in good faith is to speak a lie.

    Henceforth, if you stand against this plain, honest speech which I have placed before you, you condemn yourself in the presence of the whole world. Only a corrupt fool would laugh at this. It is my prayer that you take your medicine like adults mature in the faith (though I see that you are but babes) and stand humbly corrected.

    What I am saying to one I am saying to everyone. I know that God is real, that He is true, and that He keeps His promises. I have seen this before and I know whereof I speak. Those who mock at this will bring swift destruction into their lives so that others might fear to mock the Word of God and he who speaks it. Should anyone dare to be so foolish, it happens quickly, it happens seriously. Don’t flirt with the possiblility of hearing your own words fall upon your own head. This is no time for being reckless and tempting God.

    If anyone wishes to argue this further, let me simply say that neither I nor any of the churches of Christ Jesus, the Lord, have any other view about this word. If you hear His voice, you know I speak the truth. Amen.

    I wasn’t called to be ‘subtle’ or ‘indirect’.

    3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

    In faith, in Christ, in faith in Christ,

    John

  18. Since reading your essay on convergent Quakers in this summer’s Quaker Life magazine, I’ve been excited to have discovered there are other people who want to get past the 4 basic divisions in Quakerism. I want to speak to people who have ideas about this. Can someone call me to talk by phone? Ring me after 9pm mon.-thurs. at [moderator removed phone #]. We live in east central Iowa near Iowa City/Cedar Rapids.

  19. Amy thanks for reading it, I am glad to hear your initial feelins about what’s going on.

    I just returned from 2 weeks of vacation a half-hour ago so I a bit swamped and I am not much of a phone person – do you do email?

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