An Apologetic for a Quaker Theology | Do We Need It (or want it)?

This is a response to a comment I received yesterday about Quaker theology. The comment was good enough that I decided to write a post about it, because I know that many people have the same questions and challenges it brought up. Theology should be done in a way that is not only sensible (in terms of its sources and clarity) but also sensible in terms of its practicality. In other words, as one of my professors used to say, “if your theology doesn’t work, it’s bad theology.” This post tries to set forth why the pursuit of theology can and should be something we support. I’ve yet to really address an apology for why the Friends Church need Quaker theologians (something I am challenged on fairly constantly), and so this is my first attempt of many to come. The post is written as a response to the comment and not as a typical post

Thanks for your honesty and challenge to my experience here. I appreciate all of what you say, but the last part suggesting this could all be a waste of time did throw me a little. Maybe you read the uncertainty in my writings about what I am doing and if so you’re right to suggest it “might well be” a waste of time.

George Fox But honestly, this could be said about anything we do where we put ourselves on the line. I am sure people like: Galileo, George Fox, Robert Barcly, John Woolman, Elizabeth Fry, Dorothy Day, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr, John Howard Yoder, Bob Dylan, etc, were all in danger of wasting their time, and probably told so as well. Not that I think I am any of those people, but I do look up to them because they were (or are) not satisfied with the state of their society and/or church and set out to do something about it. These people blurred the lines and challenged the status quo of their times.

A Faith in Danger

I think that faith ultimately is always in danger of just being seen as, or turning out to be, a waste of time. That’s the nature of faith. Faith that is efficient, safe and purely rational is not really faith is it? At least not faith like Jesus’ – which is ultimately who I am interested in following.

So I heed your warnings, and understand that yes I am in danger of looking back and seeing that I would have been better off collecting change on the street corners of hollywood instead of living at Woodbrooke and studying Quaker theology, or worse yet doing a dissertation on it. However, at this point, I choose to trust that this is my lot and that it’s a step in the direction I have been led. I still honestly believe I’m doing what God wants me to do (though I often question all that it involves). I want to be a part of the tradition that is seeking to turn this ship around (or build a new one out of the old material). I’m not interested in helping to patch holes anymore.

But the rest of what you say I definitely hear loud and clear. I think liberalism at its best seeks to cross boundaries, and actively pursue justice in the world but at its worst is completely stripped of what makes it distinctive, in modernity language looses its meaning, we see an obsession with individualized authority, there is the continued desire for a lowest common denominator religion, and one of the worst possible thing someone could say to us is that “you’re making me feel excluded.” I’ve recently been called an intolerant liberal, and appreciated the irony. I can only imagine how the list of some of my hero’s above answered the people who told them they were being exclusive.

Can Theology Save?

You’re right theology won’t save British Friends, but I do believe that it could save the Friends tradition. In fact, I think that’s a lot of why Quakerism is dying; there have been so few people given the right to actually think about, and challenge, the tradition’s beliefs and practices in a thoughtful, educated way. I have been disheartened a number of times by Friends from all over, who I have met and who have suggested to me that they don’t need the likes of me, or how silly it is to study something like “Quaker” theology (Of course, Quakers aren’t special in their disdain for theology, that’s the normal stance of the Enlightenment). This coming from one of the smallest Christian denominations in the world, and one that has so few theologians and philosophers to its name.

stethoscope Our negative reaction to theology seems to me to be similar to me telling my doctor who has diagnosed me with Asthma, after I tell her that I haven’t been able to breathe for the last year and experience all this wheezing, that she’s wrong and I don’t need a doctor to tell me how to take care of myself because no one in my family (who, consequently in this story, has all but died away) ever went to a doctor.

I would like to learn why there is such a reticence toward theology from Quakers, I know the old arguments about the Light being most important, but we also believe God works through all things and that all of life is sacramental. So why can’t God work through theology? Why no nurture all of life as sacramental and actually allow for that kind of engagement? I think our reticence goes much deeper, but I honestly don’t know what it is. I think there are different reasons for different parts of the tradition, but it’s something I think we should try and work through.

The point is that theology won’t save us, and your assessment is spot on especially the part about there being an overall rejection of Christianity. With no common language, no common telos, no common virtues or practices we will not be able to progress. The saving is really up to God, and the people within the tradition to make serious decisions about whether they want to change or not. This is reason for hope in this, we are a resilient bunch of people and, I believe, truly desire what God wants. But theology is one of the, very essential, missing pieces from our church’s tradition. Theology is to the church, what doctors are to medicine, or teachers to education, but maybe the problem is that we don’t know we’re a church any longer?

But it’s not too late to try something different and experiment, we all know that Quakerism has been in decline for a really long time. And that there’s only been a few people who have diagnosed the tradition, and tried to move it forward in theological terms. People like John Punshon, Elton Trueblood, and Rufus Jones are some of few Quakers to do this kind of work and for this they are heros of mine.

I hope you’ll continue to read and dialogue, and I hope that while you’re right about the bleak nature of what’s going on, maybe together we can find some hope left for the Society of Friends. My hope is that we can all come to a place where we not only see ourselves as a part of the church, but become active again in sharing the good news with the world.

Recent articles on Quaker theology

Towards a Post-Foundationalist Quaker Theology
Orthodoxy as an Event: Questions About Quaker Orthodoxy
Loving Ourselves to Death

[Credit for images: George Fox and Stethoscope]

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger 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.

40 thoughts on “An Apologetic for a Quaker Theology | Do We Need It (or want it)?”

  1. Thanks for your long and constructive email Wess.

    Of course, it all depends what you mean by theology – if you mean faith seeking understanding or something akin to that – then fine, it seems like a fair thing to do with anyone’s time. If though you mean a creative process of engaging with the intellectual discipline of theology and producing, as an academic endeavour – a ‘theology’ of something, or taking on the identity of a ‘theologian’ – I’ve got to say that I still think that is problematic for a Quaker. Indeed, those that you list who acted really don’t seem to have been ‘theologians’ in that sense at all – even if, like all human beings, they had implied theologies that we might be able to learn from. Indeed, if anything, the discipline of theology seems far more likely to prevent godly action and lead to self-interest, and failure to listen and act on the leadings of God. The catastrophe of Luther’s own ethics for others who died as a direct consequence of his lack of judgment is an example of that repeated again and again by theologians. I really can’t agree with you that ‘theologians are to the church as doctors are to medicine’ – at least not in the sense that I think you mean by theology. Far from it. I know this language is used by some other Christian denominations but invariably it is used by churches in a worse state that the society of Friends. The proliferation of – often self-appointed and professional – theologians – seems inversely related to the health of the religious communities they claim to speak for. Although I realise what I might judge as health – obedience to the living, indwelling Word – are not quite the criteria that most would use.

    I am glad you are not interested in patching holes. I do think that really would be a waste of time. The sheer amount of energy expended by Friends in trying to revive RSoF is appalling and ultimately selfish – why should the gospel be constantly proclaimed on stony ground when there is a world, and a universe, out there to hear it. Ultimately the fate of the RSoF as an institution or even a tradition is inconsequential (and pretty much inevitable given the rather prosaic lack of clarity in its membership procedures). The spirit blows where it will.

    I suppose the great difference between our respective understandings of the Society of Friends is that rather than it needing to try something different – I believe it needs to repent and find again the love it had at first.

    To be honest, I am probably not a very helpful person to join with a dialogue because, unlike you, I have jumped ship (well, I never quite got on board) – at least with BYM. Others, I am sure will be able to give you more constructive thoughts.

    All the best,

    Justin

  2. @ Justin: Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr, and John Howard Yoder were theologians in exactly the sense you describe. Their ethical and spiritual lives were enriched by their understanding of theology — it’s not all sophistry.

    @ Wess: Great post. Your question about why Quakers are resistant to theology reminds me of something I recently re-read in Raymond Brown’s The Churches the Apostles Left Behind. Brown believes that the church community represented by the Gospel of John was so individualistic and relied so strongly on the inner leading of the Paraclete that it led directly to the conflicts we see in the Johannine epistles. In other words, the church community had no set structure or way of arbitrating between competing truth claims, so when the docetists (or gnostics or whoever the separatists were) started saying that Jesus was not the Messiah, the strongest thing the author can say is that “the anointing you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you.”

  3. Chase

    Chase – fair point – I think I should have said ‘most’ of those that you list who acted really don’t seem to have been ‘theologians’ in that sense at all – even if, like all human beings, they had implied theologies that we might be able to learn from.

    John Howard Yoder might well have been – after all he had a job at a university where he was paid to do that – but I can’t see that King or Day are usefully called ‘theologians’ in the formal sense (though that isn’t the same as saying that they didn’t have theologies) as no one paid them to do it. I don’t think theology is sophistry – it is far more dangerous than that.

    Justin

  4. a few thoughts:

    while i am aware that the quaker tradition shies away from theology, creeds, hierarchical structure, etc., i believe this to be evidence that this theology, whether one wants to call it that or not, is not only necessary but vital to the survival of Christianity as a whole. quakers historically helped end slavery, removed the idea of women being property and thus being able to minister, and never have publicly condemned those of other faith backgrounds or of a “different” nature, such as homosexuals.

    i cannot imagine how this tradition should not be on the forefront of christian thought in the 21st century! the quakers have historically done what most churches have yet to do, and as I study queer theology, almost every book i read turns to the quakers as the model for what a church should be: devoid of heterosexism, open to all ethnicities, non-judgemental in its practice.

    maybe theology means something different in the quaker tradition. in my old seminary, we were all encouraged to “do theology” at all times, constantly seeking for insight into the scriptures. by definition theology is the greek method of philosophy applied to god and the scriptures. i am also well aware that quakers follow the lead of the gospel of john in asserting that jesus was the Word, not necessarily what someone penned in scripture. again, i can see no better time in history for this message to be taken to the masses. i think quakers have the ability to help heal wounds inflicted by the “church” at large.

    i do not find it problematic for a quaker to be a theologian. these are changing times. i believe this blog is the perfect representation of the type of dialogue that is needed, and i do not believe that learning and educating and creating theology has to be a self-serving act. to me, it is in fact a bold attempt to rescue an important tradition that can speak to us now, and i applaud anyone who undertakes the task of tackling the issues covered in this space.

    peace

  5. But why, if it is so simple, do we need to do ‘theology’?

    I should own up and say that I’ve studied and taught theology for twenty years (although only in the way someone might teach any other human cultural product – I don’t ‘do’ it because I have no mandate to do so as I am a Quaker and paid by a secular public to teach in a public university). None of those who I have known who describe themselves as ‘theologians’ have been in real life anything like their words – real professors rather than possessors. (The custodians at the place I work constantly use the expression ‘typical church’ when treated rudely by yet another big name theologian – or religious leader of whatever faith – in town to give yet another big name lecture, invariably about how a better theology will make the world better etc).

    Now, if theology is really about serving a community or articulating faith – fair enough although I still balk at the word (and ‘doing’ theology still seems to me to give too much of the initiative to the human and not God in the process).

    Justin

  6. King had a Ph.D. in systematic theology, and his sermons are absolutely packed with highly nuanced theological thought. Day was not a systematic theologian for sure, but she too developed and promoted a theology of self-sacrifice and respect rooted in love for Christ and humility before God. Call that piety or faith or whatever you like, but I call that theology at its best. I imagine that some of the others listed (not Bob though — sorry Wess) are like Day — I just don’t know enough about them to say. (Galileo is an interesting choice — Galileo’s theology was, ironically, a lot better than the Church at large during his time, but although I know he was pious, I’m not sure I’d call him a theologian.)

    I’m not sure what the perceived danger of theology is. Much of the New Testament was written by theologians (Paul, Luke, and John are especially guilty) and pretty much every writing we have from first three centuries of the church’s existence is from a theologian.

  7. I think that, along with the chaos of individual viewpoints already described, refusing theology also carries the opposite danger: certain communal assumptions never get questioned. Many fundamentalist Christians, for instance, insist that they simply go by the “plain meaning” of the Bible, which really means that the theology going into their interpretation of the Bible is never acknowledged as such. Or any number of people who seem to think, “God loves me and wants me to be happy, therefore I can (fill in the blank).” Both reading and pondering these sorts of questions can keep these assumptions from getting too entrenched.

    As for theologians not walking the walk, well, that’s hardly limited to them. Dorothy Day was reportedly not fun to deal with either. The fact that something comes to the church in a flawed vessel doesn’t mean it has no value.

  8. wow, hi all. i am not really sure where to start so a couple basic things:

    1) I thank Chase for making the very clear point that a majority of the people I picked are theologians – the way I think they ought to be – Luther, Day, Yoder, etc. It was much clearer than I could have done, and nice point about Raymond Brown too – something I was unaware but speaks very clearly to some of the bigger issues we’re facing.

    Also I wanted to point out that my intentions for the people I picked wasn’t for their theology (although those who are theologians are all people who’s theology I like), I picked them to respond to the idea of “wasting time.” I said, “But honestly, this could be said about anything we do where we put ourselves on the line.” And “These people blurred the lines and challenged the status quo of their times.” The reason why I picked these people was because they all in one way or another lived what they believed – if we could say faith and practiced were joined without distinction. We can even say that much of Dylan when he challenged the boundaries between the folk and rock genres. People hated him for it, but he believed there was something outside the boundaries of folk – he challenged it, was scorned by many, but now is seen as an almost mythical human.

    That last part is beside the point, the point is that I think theology should risk it all, should challenge the status quo, and should be embodied in practice. Like I said, “if your theology doesn’t work, it’s bad theology.??? That just means, if it doesn’t work on the ground, for the every day person, than its no good.

    2) Camassia makes a very important point, and probably the one that’s most important for Quakers. The assumptions held within silence that rarely get spoken, challenged, or nurtured is part of the large issue that a Quaker theology should challenge.

    3) I see the point about being paid to “do” theology as kind of sidestepping the bigger question. Whether there can be a Quaker theology or not, a Quaker theologian or not? If there can be a Quaker theology, then we could name what it might look like as a Quaker, whether it’s appropriate to get paid for it, or not, etc. But if we stop at the initial question by saying that there can be no Quaker theology, then we close ourselves off to the transformative work of God in all spheres of life. We limit God’s work because there are bad examples in the world. Plus, does getting paid for something really negate it necessarily? Is it possible to be the “right kind of” theologian and receive money for it (whatever “right kind means”)?

    4) Justin I completely agree with you when you say “I suppose the great difference between our respective understandings of the Society of Friends is that rather than it needing to try something different – I believe it needs to repent and find again the love it had at first.” Except that I don’t think those two views are mutually exclusive, I want the same thing. I want both those things. In fact, I think that by trying something different, that may actually help us repent and get back to our first love. As you know there is no common language within Quakerism, and this keeps us from even understanding the word “repent” let alone anything else. Thus I believe we need some major challenges to our overall structure, ideology, and practice if we’re going to get to the point you make.

  9. Well I think I’ll bow out now as there isn’t much more to say and wish Wess well at Woodbrooke. I did have similar ideas myself twenty years ago and was very disappointed to see in BYM at least,as an organisation that was systemically opposed to any kind of Christian theological endeavour other than the very individualistic and personal kind.

    I still do think ‘theologians’ usurp authority that lies within the obedient community and are similar to priests or others that I think Christians – can do without – and in that sense, as ‘teachers’ ‘not walking the walk’ is far more dangerous than it is for others. The mill stone round the neck text is often in my mind on this issue. And the Quaker testimony against hireling shepherds is something very important, I think, and thoroughly relevant to the issue and problem of professional academic theologians and the implications of the value of those who are paid to ‘do’ theology.

    I still have problems with the assumptions of some posts – I would not describe Paul or John as theologians unless the term is just meant to refer to anyone who thinks about their faith and expresses it – in which case that surely is everyone who ever has a whiff of faith about them. Both Paul and John are inchoate and spasmodic thinkers in my reading of them, and certainly not systematic, in the way that someone like Barclay is, but obviously others differ. And I do think that communities are capable of questioning and developing without the creation of a new, specialist class of believer called the ‘theologian’ to do that.

    Anyway, thanks for the responses. To be honest, I think little is ultimately gained because most people supporting theological endeavours in the SoF have a liberal Christian perspective and assume it is some kind of denomination and part of a greater catholic church with a useful tradition for others within that (which it isn’t in the UK but my experience of FUM is that it is, in many ways it is a liberal Christian denomiation in the US and thinks of itself that way). Most UK Friends certainly don’t think it is even a church or Christian and would find it odd to think that was the case. And others are sectarian, such as myself, and don’t see it as part of a wider church at all, but as, in part a protest against all outward forms and notions – although obviously recognising the light within all people as something from which to learn.

    Anyway, best of luck within your respective Quaker groups and visions of the future.

    Justin

  10. When we talk about issues of theology and Friends, I think it’s important to remember the contexts. I was told that Friends House in London is so huge because it was training a huge volume of missionaries. This was a time, not really all that long ago, when British Friends were unapologetically evangelical, Biblically-rooted and Light-suspicious. I don’t know late 19th Century British Quaker history as well as I’d like, but I assume if its doing all that then there were theologians of some sort doing the training and constructing the philosophical infrastructure for this work.

    I wonder if the “we don’t do theology” is still something of an over-reaction to this period. Here in the US we had multiple Quaker traditions running and evolving in parallel–we’re almost like a “what if” laboratory for Friends. In my experience, American Friends that most closely paralleled their British counterparts also tend to be theology-adverse and suspicious of faith claims.

    Just one more observation: Friends do theology ALL THE TIME, we just hide it: most Quaker histories are theologies in disguise, Friends using storytelling to advance their position. Just about every time we say “Early Friends believed…” we’re engaging in theology. In the US, we’ll claim a particular tradition (“I’m a Beanite and we believe…”) without really knowing much about the tradition, the people who started it, their strong differences with the people who started it, or the history of the term (i.e., who first used “Beanite,” and why and when and who did they mean).

    When someone throws out bad history (objectively just plain wrong), I always have to make a judgment call about whether they’re truly interested in the history–it’s nuances, complexities, ironies–or simply telling their spiritual story in historical wrapping. If it’s the latter, I listen to it as a faith statement.

    One can argue (many have) that the stories in the Bible are meant less as historical documents than as a way for the Jews to understand themselves as a People of God. Early Friends believed (smile) that they were that People, still continuing and still living the story. That we all-so-chic modern Friends still use history as story-telling fodder in this way is perhaps quite natural.

  11. I don’t know whether you’ve read the old {US} Friends Journal article on Friends’ theology by Robert Griswold–or his more recent Pendle Hill pamphlet on “Creeds and Quakers.” Or even Ursula Jane O’Shea’s wonderful booklet, written at Woodbrooke a few years ago, on “Living the Quaker Way”?

    [Or William Stringfellow–an Episcopalian of all things, but you might well love his theological rants, if you’re not yet a fan!]

    Anyway. Faith (trust, not credulity) in the true God is not a waste of time; the true waste is everything people try to do without it.

    What Friends need is not to be given a theology, but to practice theology! To practice it straight from the Source, as early Friends (and mystics in all ages) did. Using books, but dismissing (as Walt Whitman put it) whatever insults your own soul. The fruit is not a document, but minds led nearer to God’s.

    [& here’s my usual plug for a site I hope can become a wider vehicle for this sort of discussionA Quaker Watering Hole Please consider yourself invited!]

    And don’t give up on the Quakers yet! As an infamous poet said,
    “Victory
    is never ours
    but miracles
    keep rising up from our ashes;

    it’s been a long death
    and we’re still here!”

  12. As one of those radicals in the UK I am struggling to articulate meaning and points of reference for my membership of Quakers. I value the importance of Buddhist, Hindu or Celtic insights and those Friends who bring these to Meeting. But Friends are rooted in Christianity. Understanding what George Fox articulates in the context of 17th Century thinking and experience is as Quakers were we start from but not where we need to stop. This because all those points of reference have changed over the past 300 years. So whilst I would not see myself as part of a Liberal Christian movement I am interested in Theology if by this it suggests we explore what we mean as Quakers by God, Worship, the Bible, Jesus etc. So the Theology I like is books by Spong, Armstrong, Funck,Ehrman ,Borg, Mcfague, Pelikan, Cuppit etc.

    The Theology I am not interested in is made clear in one of my posts that I have just posted which got me involved in some debate! This is an extract of what I was saying re anti-intellectualism which includes Theology.

    The roots of this , as argued in “Quaker Theology” was that Early Friends were often loudly sceptical about theology, which George Fox referred to scornfully as “windy notions.??? Their critique had at least five major points:

    1. Intellectualizing about religion takes people away from experiencing God and the Spirit, and letting these change their lives, which is what they really need to do;
    2. The official theologies of various churches were the products of corrupt, faction-ridden, politically influenced church councils.
    3. Theological formulas were/are regularly used as instruments of oppression.
    4. Academic theology wraps its work in technical, in-group jargon, and thus hides God’s truth from ordinary people.
    5. Theological speculation is more likely to promote pride and lead to skepticism than to promote humility and faith.

    Much of this is valid today… but many of us live in a pluralistic and open religious world and so need to prepare ourselves to take a fuller and more constructive part in the many opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue which are now available. Or put in a more negative way we have to show that Fundamentalism is not the only valid expression of any of the key monotheistic traditions. To stop questioning what Quakerism means is to reject the growth that of self- examination and definition requires of any living faith community.

    I think I draw on one of your posts here as I am interested in your notions of reconvergence although I have the image of the moderate Christian wings of each of the strands converging leaving the awkward radical and Evangelical wings to fade away.

    However, the distance to travel can be seen even in this extract from your post.

    The point is that theology won’t save us, and your assessment is spot on especially the part about there being an overall rejection of Christianity.1) With no common language, no common telos, no common virtues or practices2) we will not be able to progress. The saving is really up to God3), and the people within the tradition to make serious decisions about whether they want to change or not. This is reason for hope in this, we are a resilient bunch of people and, I believe, truly desire what God wants. But theology is one of the, very essential, missing pieces from our church’s 4) tradition. Theology is to the church, what doctors are to medicine, or teachers to education, but maybe the problem is that we don’t know we’re a church any longer?4)

    1) what sort of Christianity are we talking about that is being rejected? I could see several types of Christianity and some could even include me so more discussion needed here.
    2) these are of the head approaches, other approaches based on spiritual narratives and experiences may see less differences. I see Blogs from all the different strands of Quakers and see much similarities around faith in action. Also in danger of supposing that some golden age in the past when we did have all those things.
    3) Need a lot of debate if what God is, both as part of our historical understanding and of modern thought. My experience is that many of us a rejecting the Emperor, all powerful notions of God which have a long tradition of rejection by Friends as well as many modern religious thinkers.
    4)Church can be so emotive a term as it implies so much about structures that need far more discussion. We are a movement or faith community with many voices etc

    The struggle is to have a balance that accepts exploring and revising some of our key ideas need not block the importance of experience and practice nor lead to priests, creeds and Churches. One way of doing this is to work with Friends to tease out what we think and why in our local meetings maybe as part of a more radical revision of Quaker Faith and Practice or so that each meeting puts together a journal of spiritual autobiographies

  13. @ forrest “What Friends need is not to be given a theology, but to practice theology! To practice it straight from the Source, as early Friends (and mystics in all ages) did. Using books, but dismissing (as Walt Whitman put it) whatever insults your own soul. The fruit is not a document, but minds led nearer to God’s.”

    Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more.

  14. Theology is like sex talk. Some lovers never talk about sex; they just do it, and it’s fine, they’re satisfied.

    Others have learned that talking about sex with their lover — the psychology, biology, physical sensations, etc. of the relationship — can make the sexual experience even better; the talk becomes an integral part of the entire relationship and enhances it.

    But only talking about sex — especially to oneself — and never following up on it is little more than verbal masturbation or pornography — OK for what it is, but not nearly the real thing you’re yearning for.

    God talk — theology — can be the same way.

  15. @Paul: Yes, Wess says we need to do corporate theology: Why theology should be written on blogs and wikis.

    @Wess: I love how you took Camassia’s excellent point and turned it away from Fundamentalists and back to unprogrammed Friends: “The assumptions held within silence that rarely get spoken, challenged, or nurtured is part of the large issue that a Quaker theology should challenge.”

    (I’m not convinced that assumptions held within silent worship need to be “challenged” so much as brought to light, explained, and narrated from one to another, again and again and again.)

    @John: The point about not yearning for a mythical “golden age” of the past was well put by Brian Drayton at Quaker Heritage Day in Berkeley, Calif. earlier this year.

    @Wess again: You mentioned Beanites, so I decided to publish this.

  16. @Paul – Okay that’s probably one of the craziest analogies I’ve heard recently, but it does make sense. Your point is definitely made, though I’d want to tweak the first part.

    Though, I would have to say that I think we have to talk about sex, even just a little. It’s such a personal thing, there are many expectations, plenty of opportunities for let down, hurt feelings, and much worse feelings, etc. I think anything we share so intimately, like sex and faith, both need to be brought to light as Chris M suggested.

    @ Chris – thanks for reminding us of that post. Apologies for any harsh generalizations I made on Camassia’s point it wasn’t my intention and I didn’t mention the unprogrammed tradition for 2 reasons: a) I was grabbing at the larger narrative quality that silence plays in capital ‘Q’ Quakerism. In other words, silence for worship is something we have all (at least up till recently) agreed on the essential nature of silence; and b) I think even in the programmed tradition now there is plenty of “silence” to go around. There are Many things that need to be brought to light. So I wasn’t meaning to pick on anyone group.

    But I do believe that every strength can have a dark-side, and that as you say more articulately that these things need to be,
    “brought to light, explained, and narrated from one to another, again and again and again.”

    And I would say that the explaining and narrating you suggest is our “corporate” way of doing theology.

    Oh and it was Martin talking about the Beanites, I think he has a small obsession. 😉 Have you seen this?

    @John – thanks for the long comment. It’s always nice to see a new name here.

    I agree I don’t want that kind of theology either, I don’t think anyone does! The only thing I would say about the list is first that #2-5 could be said of any sphere of life not just theology (with the appropriate caveats) and thus we need to always keep the powers in check what group we’re a part of, it’s not just theology. Secondly, the #1 line has me wondering if it’s really true. I mean maybe “intellecutalizing” in the way that word tends to be negatively thought about – but theology doesn’t need to be “intellectualizing” to be well reasoned, critical, and life giving. So maybe it’s the word that hangs me up, or maybe I just disagree. But I’ve had many experience of being drawn closer to God through my own studies, and I do believe that at least personally God has used it to lead me into more faithful witness.

    So yes, there are some intellectualizers who are just practicing mental masturbation (that’s twice in one post) but I think we can safely say that is an abuse of power and isn’t helpful without saying that the whole then is necessarily corrupt.

    Oh and I liked what you said here, “To stop questioning what Quakerism means is to reject the growth that of self- examination and definition requires of any living faith community.”

    And a few brief comments on your questions:
    1) I would have to say it depends who we’re talking about, but in the UK it’s pretty well documented that Christianity is becoming the minority position in Quakerism. In the US, I would nuance it by saying that we’ve rejected a Christianity that goes beyond the political spectrum of American Politics. I guess ultimately I think Quaker Christianity is the Christianity of the Radical Reformers (that last point is to be explained through the rest of my life).

    2) I don’t think I quite understand this point but I can say that I am really against any kind of fetishizing of one particular era – which I wrote about recently.

    3) I am in agreement with you that our tradition has rejected the notion of an “Emperor” type God. All powerful may be a different story – not all powerful as in the Puritan/Calvinist tradition but all powerful in the sense that God does in fact have power and works within history – this is what made early Quakers “Quakers.” Now I realize God’s come under major scrutiny in the last 300 or so years thanks for The Enlightenment, Rationalism, modern Liberalism, and the subsequent theories that follow.

    4) I am using Church in the theological, biblical sense a gathering of people bound up with God in covenant, a people-hood defined by their relationship with God. The church is the community that embodies an alternative polis – in Biblical terms the Kingdom of God, in Quaker terms “Gospel order.” But in either case its a religious, social and political gathering of people formed by the biblical narrative and work of God’s Spirit in the world. Within this includes a movement, a faith community, a multiplicity of voices, and forms of organization that carry the community forward keeping it from degenerating into extinction.

    And what you say is well put,
    “The struggle is to have a balance that accepts exploring and revising some of our key ideas need not block the importance of experience and practice nor lead to priests, creeds and Churches. One way of doing this is to work with Friends to tease out what we think and why in our local meetings maybe as part of a more radical revision of Quaker Faith and Practice or so that each meeting puts together a journal of spiritual autobiographies.”

    I am completely with you here, I think this would be a great idea.

    @Jarrod, thanks for dropping in. 😉

  17. re agreeing on silence… But you and I agree that “silence” is not enough. Theology matters; when we stop examining the significance of our practice we might stop doing the same thing or reaching the same results from it.

    Quoting myself:
    —————–
    [Someone]… referred to “the soothing silence of a Quaker meeting.”

    George Fox did not invite his hearers to meet in soothing silence, but in the felt presence of the living God. As most people don’t experience this in church, Fox disrupted church services and tried to bring people out of them, into the stronger connection he knew was available. “The peace of all religions must be broken, before they come to the true religion from above, and the peace of all worships must be broken, before they come to the worship in spirit and truth the devil is out of; and the peace of all ways must be broken, the men and people are in, before they come into the way of Christ Jesus.”

    George Fox is not an authority for modern Friends (nor should he be) as to whether our ways and beliefs are properly Quaker. To many of us, his Biblical and sometimes combative language inspires more embarrassment than understanding. And he was certainly not opposing silent worship. He opposed ceremonial practices that people did instead of worship. It may never have occurred to him that sitting in silence could become a ceremonial substitute for worship.

    What is worship? My Faith and Practice defines it, unintentionally, with one of the queries on ‘Simplicity’– “Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence, so that all things take their rightful place?”
    ————————
    I think that question, “What is worship?” might need to be central to a Quaker theology. Simply by what we do, we collect people who agree on the occasional value of silence, but not at all (in my experience so far) on its significance and purpose.

  18. @forrest, great addition to the post.

    “I think that question, “What is worship???? might need to be central to a Quaker theology. Simply by what we do, we collect people who agree on the occasional value of silence, but not at all (in my experience so far) on its significance and purpose.”

    I think that’s a great place to focus our theological inquiries.

  19. It’s not a waste. What you’re doing, thinking, processing, theologizing, is awesome.

  20. Well, I didn’t manage to bow out very effectively but I do want to set one thing straight before I really do vanish. When I originally raised the possibility that what Wess is doing ‘might be a waste of time’, this was a comment about his work at Woodbrooke – it was not about ‘theology’ per se. The resulting discussions have been useful for seeing how elastic that term is from different people’s perspective, even if for obvious reasons I’m not keen on it and some of its implications but my initial post was in response to his own questioning about the mixed feelings he had about his work there (or at least as I read it). I quoted something he said and responded to it:

    “‘So thus far Woodbrooke has been great, it’s also been hard as it has continued to push me in ways I wasn’t prepared for. I think that is where all the real learning happens’ – be careful, this can just be a Quaker way of trying to convince yourself that there is something valuable in an experience which, ultimately, might well be a waste of your time and energy. Discovering that might be a difficult thing but, paradoxically, the most valuable thing you can do.”

    Within the Friends Church/FUM or wherever, I am sure more formal theologising might well be useful and more understandable but I do worry that from what I know of British Quakers, and my experience of the way we can speak, to talk about being pushed in ways we hadn’t expected is the kind of language often used by us to justify to ourselves pain involved in trying to make sense of perspectives and insights that actually turn out to be incompatible. This is quite a common experience as we often only really share the same administrative processes, a few institutions, and polyvalent symbolic actions (the blank canvas that is silence). It is often all too apparent in worship when the last person to minister tries to bring together a range of sometimes quite bizarre ministry in often quite tenuous ways. Obviously many times it is the right thing to do – to get pushed in unexpected ways – and I am sure encountering largely non-theistic permutations of Quakerism for a few months might be valuable and allow real learning to happen – as Wess put it – but it ‘might’ well also be a waste of time – in the sense that Wess might not actually have anything much to learn there and the atmosphere might not really be a positive one at all (although Woodbrooke’s food is great). I thought it ‘might’ be a waste of time in the sense that rather than an obviously talented and committed person spending time trying to learn from a group that has nothing much in common with most Quakers in the world, except the odd bit of shared history, Wess ‘might’ find it more useful to expend his energies theologising with other Quakers or Mennonites, Catholic workers, Jesus Army or whoever.

    By the way, as I am sure you know, if you want a really good, young British Quaker theologian then do look out for Rachel Muers (although I’m sure you’ve already come across her) – http://www.huss.ex.ac.uk/theology/staff/muers/index.htm – In addition to her own excellent work she edited with David Ford the useful collection The Modern Theologians 3rd ed (Blackwell, 2005). And just in case I look like a real hypocrite, only she and Don Cupitt passed the custodian test of not being ‘typical church’ but genuinely nice people.

    Anyway – all the best,
    Justin

  21. Sorry I started a tangent with the Beanites. Wess, you’re right I do love beans: coffee beans, black beans, I even like the two Bean descendants/relatives I know along with most everyone I’ve known who have called themselves Beanite. I was just observing that we use historical terms as a kind of tribal identity and sometimes lose the original context of the movement.

    @Justin: I want to pull Justin’s comment out because, well, it’s feeling kind of brilliant—“to talk about being pushed in ways we hadn’t expected is the kind of language often used by us to justify to ourselves pain involved in trying to make sense of perspectives and insights that actually turn out to be incompatible.”

    Yup. I’m not saying this is what’s happening with Wess, of course. But part of modern liberalism’s demands is the suspension of judgement. We don’t have even the self-authority to say something’s wrong. Conservative American Quaker Lloyd Lee Wilson uses the term “Quaker gestalt” to describe how all the pieces of Friends belief, practice and life fit together into a logical piece where theology informs even when it isn’t expressed.

    The way I read this, pulling in outside influences from other gestalts tips this balance and sooner or later the system will work to find an equilibrium. Friends pulling in mainstream evangelical Christian ideas in the 1820s might have insisted that this wouldn’t necessitate a change to a pastoral system but in hindsight it seems like an obvious outcome.

    When theology and practice aren’t whole, the practice becomes a empty form. Sooner or later someone’s going to challenge it’s necessity and a fight will erupt, a fight seemingly about the form but really about how we see ourselves as a church body. The trouble is, it’s almost too late to talk about it then. When a liberal meeting fights over the arrangement of benches in the meetinghouse, for example, it’s almost always a fight over theology and the traditionalists will only be able to argue their point if there is still an understanding of classic Quaker theology informing the meeting.

    I could pick other examples, i.e., why not have water baptism?, why not vote in business meeting? I’m not necessarily a kneejerk traditionalist in all this. I think some Quaker churches might as well have water baptism and some liberal meetings might as well start voting. I guess I value consistency, the idea that religious bodies should be who they are and shouldn’t cling onto the trappings of a religious tradition whose influence has become merely historical or nostalgic.

  22. Over 300 years ago Robert Barclay wrote an Apology and it is still as valid today as the day he finished writing it through God’s Power. Robert Barclay and the other true Christian Quakers had God’s one and only Holy Spirit baptism, the one and only baptism that will open the Scriptures, the one baptism of Eph 4:4-7 the one baptism we must spiritually drink as Paul wrote in 1Co 12:12-13. That baptism will never be made available to anyone who ignores and rejects the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. Seek ye first God’s Kingdom and God’s Righteousness, especially in Mt 3-7. anne robare / canawedding at aol dot com

  23. Jesus Christ said only a few will find the narrow Gate and narrow Road. He also said, “Many are called but few are chosen.” He always tells the Truth, always. He made it so easy to begin to be saved that an illiterate person can easily understand it all.

  24. @Anne – thanks for dropping by but your comments are a bit off topic – we’re not really debating issues of baptism or salvation at this point. Though a post on baptism could be interesting, especially from someone like myself who sees value in both the inward and outward forms of worship.

  25. @Justin – thanks coming back! Thanks for clarifying the initial point which I think is extremely valid and I accept it. Thanks also for your concern to go to great lengths to be supportive in the mode of study but challenging in the actual place that it’s happening.

    You were perceptive to read through my own struggles, which are the result of some of what you’ve named.

    Ultimately I know my audience as you say, “Within the Friends Church/FUM or wherever, I am sure more formal theologising might well be useful and more understandable…”

    Though I can’t help but hope that there is enough desire from enough people outside those branches to make for wider-reaching project – I have met a number of Young Friends here who I would say fit into this category. But I also understand that as a whole theology isn’t desirable or going to work for BYM and a number of the YM in America. This is ultimately what the title to this post suggests.

    And thank you for your comment here:
    “I thought it ‘might’ be a waste of time in the sense that rather than an obviously talented and committed person spending time trying to learn from a group that has nothing much in common with most Quakers in the world, except the odd bit of shared history, Wess ‘might’ find it more useful to expend his energies theologising with other Quakers or Mennonites, Catholic workers, Jesus Army or whoever.”

    This is encouraging from the standpoint of my being enrolled at Fuller Seminary as a Full-time student and only a visiting student here, I can go back to my ongoing dialogue with a number of people who represent the traditions you’ve named and I love (though I am not sure who the Jesus Army is? They sound kind of tough).

    Anyways – About Rachel Muers, thanks for the recommendation, I’ve heard her name a number of times but I think I will try and work her into my final project, it looks like she’d be wonderful to dialogue with. We use the Modern Theologians book at Fuller very often as a textbook.

    @Martin – thanks for bringing this to our attention again:

    “I want to pull Justin’s comment out because, well, it’s feeling kind of brilliant— ‘to talk about being pushed in ways we hadn’t expected is the kind of language often used by us to justify to ourselves pain involved in trying to make sense of perspectives and insights that actually turn out to be incompatible.'”

    It is something I am going to hang onto as some I did learn from my time at woodbrooke! 😉

    Where does Lee use that term “Quaker Gestalt?” I am interested in looking into that more.

    I’d have to also say that something I’ve been rolling around in my head is thinking of Evangelicalism and Liberalism as Ad Hoc theories within the Quaker tradition, to use a MacIntyrean insight. In other words, in order for the Quaker tradition to deal with the “epistemological” challenges that arose in the 19th century they adopted the theories of modern liberalism in its more conservative (evangelicalism) and more Schleiermacher-type liberalism. In other words these were theories adopted in an Ad Hoc way, that eventually got adopted in as the actual theories – I think mainly because Quakerism hadn’t developed its own theories in a strong enough way, nor had it taught passed them on well-enough. And up till know, I don’t think, we’ve focused enough on dealing with the epistemological issues that were raised in the 19th century, or the new ones raised since Wittgenstein.

    That’s why I think MacIntyre’s essays and thought on a Epistemological Crisis and Traditions is so helpful for our situation.

    Anyways – I think that is why our positions have become so incommensurable, and that his tradition-constituted-rationality may be a way forward beyond the impasse.

    @John – I could help but find some irony behind your last comment and what I’d written in my post, which now seems like a long time ago, “…and one of the worst possible thing someone could say to us is that ‘you’re making me feel excluded.'”

    I don’t mean that in an offensive way, but rather to challenge you as self-avowed Liberal to answer the charge. If modern liberalism, in both it’s fundamentalist and more-liberal forms, is degenerate then millions and billions of people maybe written off as an epistemological tradition, but if it is a live tradition then it ought to be able to make sense of its successes and failures, and move beyond them. Liberalism and Fundamentalism (and all the modernist groups in between) may be a theory now in crisis, I think it is, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t move beyond those positions, examine it’s holes and progress. But I don’t mean progress in the kind of stay the same, don’t ever change progress, I mean progress where it actually learns from it’s errors and weaknesses.

    This is ultimately what many of us are talking about and trying to do. I come from the Evangelical, fundamentalist group, our theories have many holes, and my plea for a Quaker theology is aimed at moving the Quaker tradition beyond these ad hoc theories that are increasingly failing us.

  26. The issue is not whether we call it “God’s one and only Holy Spirit baptism,” making a brand name of “Christ” or “Jesus,” but whether we seek and therefore find the Rock that we need to build our lives on.

    Faith in Barclay won’t do it (although I don’t doubt that Barclay was touched by the Real Thing behind the words.) Faith in “Jesus Cure” doesn’t mean anything unless it means to reach far enough to touch the man’s garment, pay attention to his words, “eat his flesh”–which comes down to knowing his words so deeply that as the Zen people sometimes put it, we “have his bones” and “look out from under his eyebrows.”

    Jesus told us to seek a “narrow” gate because we’ll get lost if we follow the crowd. Getting lost means going through places we wouldn’t have chosen if we’d known better, which also builds up our map of where we don’t want to go anymore; it doesn’t mean that God permanently misplaces us. This God is the very one Jesus tells us about, who loves and blesses all people. Those “several billions written off” are “written off” only by the teachings of men.

  27. @wess. I am English so irony is in the blood to the complete bafflement of many Americans. if you think I exaggerate please read Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox. However, my last post is a sign not to comment early in the morning.

    I was aiming it @Anne. Its this language that makes me feel excluded from the discussion, and my experience is that its Christians within this theological stance that excludes me and many others. I have over 30 years in Quakers only heard christcentric followers concerned with my presence whereas I embrace them in the fellowship of Friends.

    But if I am confused(easily done I may add!). Where you saying that’s it you and your tradition that feels excluded by the secular or liberal traditions in their various forms? And so feel written off when their visions of Christ etc is marginalised by these liberal/secular views?

    More position is not dissimilar to yours, I want a dialogue but if reconciliation is the goal then the peace process in Northern Ireland serves as a model of building up trust and processes that directs the parties to give up cherished notions but not overall visions. By this I mean that a post converged Quaker Community that has me and you in its membership would see both of us letting go of many ideas and practices that we think are core to our “beliefs” now. A second element is that this can not be done by talk alone it has to use visual, physical means of discussion. It has to be about poems. stories, spiritual journeys This means thinking about Direction of Travel manifestos ,agreed processes, ways of dealing with break down

  28. No, I too was taking aim at Anne’s baaad sheep tone of “voice,” which I also read as saying “I’ve got it because I know the right magic words and you and all those other people don’t! — a far, far different tone than I find in Jesus. I too tend to a Rumier way of seeing things, as in: “Sick? I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here and he wants to resurrect somebody.”

  29. @wess. I am English so irony is in the blood to the complete bafflement of many Americans. if you think I exaggerate please read Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox. However, my last post is a sign not to comment early in the morning before Tea has engaged brain.

    I was aiming it @Anne. Its this language that makes me feel excluded from the discussion, and my experience is that its Christians within this theological stance that excludes me and many others. I have over 30 years in Quakers only heard christcentric followers concerned with my presence whereas I embrace them in the fellowship of Friends.

    But if I am confused(easily done I may add!). Were you saying that’s it you and your tradition that feels excluded by the secular or liberal traditions in their various forms? And so feel written off when their visions of Christ etc is marginalised by these liberal/secular views? If so then I agree I am in danger of putting up a fence as well.

    My position is not dissimilar to yours re the holes and flaws in liberal thinking. Not sure what they are yet! I have the advantage of being new to this Theology thingie and not escaping from negative Christian experiences. I do know from a deep involvement in political and social studies that power, social status, gender etc has to be built into the reflection And that competing groups often have partial views of what needs to be done which are both true. Yet at times, debate had to end in a common line.

    So I want a dialogue but if reconciliation is the goal then the peace process in Northern Ireland serves as a model of building up trust and processes that directs the parties to give up cherished notions but not overall visions. By this I mean that a post converged Quaker Community that has me and you in its membership would see both of us letting go of many ideas and practices that we think are core to our “beliefs” now. A second element is that this can not be done by talk alone it has to use visual, physical means of discussion. It has to be about poems, stories, spiritual journeys , paintings songs etc

    Two of the most spiritually alive people I have met where such by deeds not right thinking. One was a communist who during the Bristol riots in the 80’s despite being in his 70’s and white gained the trust of the different black groups and worked with them to rebuild a more secure and open community. He had no time for Religion but spent his life struggling for social justice- the republic of heaven now. The other was a very traditional Christian Quaker in her late 90’s who looked at my “soul” not my words and who held on to life so that she could continue to care for a depressed fFreind that family and the Meeting had long given up on. She did this until he died and attended his funeral alone as her last final act of love before she died.

  30. No, no! I’m one of you dirty liberals although not a Liberalquakerist.

    I’m also frequently guilty of poetry, which is why I just responded to you with a quote from Rumi inviting his neighbor to a gathering of mystics.

    (If you want a better idea of how we relate or don’t, try http://www.sneezingflower.blogspot.)

    We escaped colonists are utterly incapable of and impervious to irony.

  31. And also I see I answer where the actual POST is addressed to someone else! Sorry!

    Maybe my reply to Anne a little while ago was in the right language; I suspect however that “dialogue” with us heathens may be less her priority than getting us properly saved!

  32. @apologies to all, I seem to have posted a draft as well, so ignore the first post.
    @ forest curo, its right to say how something may make you feel but not at the expense of others. Some of the theological language here may make me uncomfortable but I need to make the effort that my tone and remarks do not disrespect the people who hold them.

  33. We’ve had a lot of misunderstanding going on, and I’ll try to stop doing more than my share of it!

    Tone & remarks? I roomed for a year with another mathematician who continued to believe that I would be going straight to Hell, along with most people. We respected each other, but not each other’s beliefs on this issue.

    Similarly with Anne here; I am not meaning to disparage her when I say she has other priorities than having a dialogue with us. She has the answer and we do not; that is the tone of her message and I don’t believe I’ve misread it. Nor am I trying to make her ashamed of believing that she is right, us wrong–I consider that belief incorrect, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with her thinking so. Considering someone else wrong may be sinful under LiberalFriendian mores but she, and I, both consider it perfectly acceptable.

    So, if you reread my first response, I refer to the same Bible she considers authoritative but interpret it differently, in hopes that this may make more sense to her than appealing to a liberal ideal of reconciliation between different positions. There’s nothing to reconcile here, rather a question of whether we will agree as to the core of Jesus’ message or not.

    I do think that it’s profoundly unChristian to believe that God lacks the power or the desire to save us all. And have no respect for that belief, hence my bad jokes about that tone in her message, but I’m not offended with it, and hope she’ll cut me some slack about my tone. (You too! Once I got the notion that you thought I shared her opinions, I was ripe for confusion and flailing in all directions! I wouldn’t mind cutting a lot of the last few messages, if that could only make me any better!)

  34. anne’s reply to: author: c. wess daniels comment to Anne – thanks for dropping by but your comments are a bit off topic – we’re not really debating issues of baptism or salvation at this point. Though a post on baptism could be interesting, especially from someone like myself who sees value in both the inward and outward forms of worship.

    canawedding / anne’s reply: Thanks for the thanks but what i wrote is not “off topic” at all. Today’s so-called Quakers have no idea what the first Quakers really believed in because they do not have the one and only Holy Spirit baptism that all truly saved Christians must have to be born again. I use “one and only Holy Spirit baptism” because that is the one and only baptism of the New Covenant. Almost all non-Quakers, who continue with the physical rituals from the OT Law, John’s baptism included, have no idea that there must be only one spiritual baptism that we must spiritually drink. So-called Quakers, who are going to institutions to learn, institutions that the first true Christian Quakers would never, ever attend, also need to know about the one and only Holy Spirit baptism that is the very same anointing the first true Christian Quakers repeatedly wrote about. It is the one and only anointing from the Holy One of God that must teach us everything we need to know to be saved. When you people attend these types of institutions run by false Christians, that the first true Christian Quakers proved false over 300 years ago, all you are doing is committing spiritual suicide! A true Christian never teaches God’s Gospel Truth for money! You should have been able to learn that from the first Quakers!

    Everyone, without the one and only Holy Spirit baptism, including the vast majority, if not all of today’s Quakers, will hear the real Jesus Christ tell them that He never knew them and they will be tossed where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. If you don’t like it, then do something about it. All you need to know is freely available in the writings of those you claim to follow! Quakers have had God’s Gospel Truth about baptisms for over 300 years. Most of you, who still dare to call yourselves Quakers but aren’t, have done nothing but sit on this critical salvation issue, bickering about nonsense among yourselves, while you let millions and billions of people go to the eternal Lake of Fire! You people are more interested in how you can sound important and knowledgable than finding out what you must know to be saved and then to help others to be saved.

    And, for those who do not know the real Jesus Christ, i will suggest that you read Ps 1-2; Ps 12; Ps 52; Ps 110; Pr 1:22-33; Isa 63:1-6; Mt 23; Rev 19. He is coming back to destroy the earth and almost all of its people with fire whether you people are ready or not! You can also get a good idea of what is coming by reading what George Fox and Isaac Penington wrote about the Daughter of Babylon. Guess who that is? You don’t know, do you? September 11, was prophesied to happen to the very day, 2700 years ago. You don’t know where, do you? God could have stopped it but He didn’t. Read Isa 24. That Day is coming and He will not stop it either because most people have done nothing but rebel against His Gospel Truth. As usual, only a remant will be saved.

    Now it is up to each one of you to do something about what you are being told. I will suggest that you trash what you only think you know and become fools as Paul suggested you do. Read 1Co 1-6. For a couple of thousand years, God warned He would destroy worldly wisdom and He has been doing exactly as He said He would do. For a couple of thousand years, God warned that the nations are but a drop in the bucket and He will destroy all who rebel against Him and He is going to do that too. You have been warned for your own good and i truly hope you will listen to Him. God has given everyone the opportunity to be saved. If you mess it up; it is your choice and your problem. This world is going to be destroyed because of sin and those who love it. God won’t be creating and recreating worlds just because some fools decide they can rewrite His Rules and expect to get away with it, anne robare

  35. @anne,

    “You people are more interested in how you can sound important and knowledgable than finding out what you must know to be saved and then to help others to be saved.”

    I’m sorry do I know you? You visited my blog, where we write out ideas, that’s all a blog offers, it doesn’t offer actual interaction with a person, you have no idea what I do on a day to day basis, what goes on in my heart, and whether I am helping other to “be saved” or not.

    So maybe the baptism response wasn’t off topic, and maybe it was, but what really bothered me was someone I don’t know condemning a bunch of people in friendly dialogue on my site. I’ll have to ask you not to comment anymore if you’re going to insist on condemning people you don’t know. That does not reflect the Jesus of the Gospels, when he challenged people it was face to face much different than on a blog.

  36. Anne is being quite traditionally Quaker in warning us of The Day of the Lord, as those of Fox’s time often did, and in not letting anyone’s ideas of politeness stand in the way; one reason Fox refused to take his hat off for anyone was that subservience to an earthly power would undermine this message, which (in at least one place in his journal) he felt obliged to deliver to his judges.

    And you don’t need to read Isaiah (scarey passage, that!) to see that we (all the present nations) have blown it and continue to blow it in a bad way. God has been mercifully allowing our folly to continue but the damage and suffering we do is starting to cry to Heaven like the sufferings of Sodom. (As the midrash interprets the Torah, it was the cries of suffering people that motivated God to that destruction, because of the inhabitants’ cruelty to foreigners and the poor.) Sometimes the love of God has to resemble wrath.

    The differences I see between me and Anne are partly in interpretation, and partly (I think) in my belief that we can have our knowledge of God enhanced by people we disagree with. (Without that, we get warnings but not much reason for dialogue.) I did not mean to disrespect Anne or her urgency, but I do see the scriptures as human documents that only point towards God, and I have to dismiss any interpretation that limits God’s intention to save, or that limits his annointing only to believers in a particular doctrine.

    While the sword still hangs over us (as it has all my life) I think that theological matters are not less worth discussing, but more so.

    The Rabbis were discussing a passage in Torah, about the commandment to stone an incorrigible child. “What kind of child is this, that we should just take him out and stone him?!” They talked for some time, and were unable to imagine a child that wicked. “Then why did He give us this commandment?” they wondered. “So we would have the pleasure of arguing it.”

    We have a little time left here to know God better through bumping up against each other’s ideas–but we live also in Eternity!

  37. I presently live in an Quaker Homestead, in fact I am the first non family member to reside in home, 1785 being the first year of their residence. I am very impressed with your dialogue and I am versed in Christianity and its beliefs. The local meeting house is standing but empty. I came on line to find what do Quakers believe? and did not find the answer. What makes a Quaker a Quaker?
    I do have the Holy Spirit within and it does awaken me to my life and its purpose but unfortuantely it is not a full time experience. I find other voices do lead me to God’s word but it not what they are saying but another voice enters with a different thought and for that I thank the speaker for saying what they were not saying. I have spoken that to speakers and look at me in various uncertain ways. When I speak what is inside there is a break or a seperation of which interfere’s with my purpose or thought. Light is a term that applies.

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