Listening to God

Being open to the ‘truth’ within the various branches of Quakerism is one way we exemplify the virtue of “listening to God.” When we listen to others, we also allow ourselves to be made subject to them, and in this form of humility we have the hope of hearing God speak through them. This only happens within reciprocal social relationships. For Friends, who desire God-centered discipleship, we need to be open to hear what others have to teach us about God. I find it ironic that a tradition with silence as a core virtue has been so unwilling to listen to one another, and this is exactly what we need if we want to ever move our enquires past our contemporary situation. In light of this, Alasdair MacIntyre’s words come with a slight sting,

It is by having our reasoning put to the question by others, by being called to account for ourselves and our actions by others, that we learn how to scrutinize ourselves as they scrutinize us and how to understand ourselves as they understand us. When others put us to the question and call us to account, it is generally in situations in which they are unclear either about just what it is that we take ourselves to be doing or about why we take it to be reasonable to act in this particular way or perhaps both. They therefore invite us to make ourselves intelligible to them, so that they may know how to respond to our actions. And what we find when we attempt to make ourselves intelligible to such questioning others is that sometimes we also need to make ourselves intelligible to ourselves. (MacIntyre 1999:148)

And Richard Rhor writes:

Unless we are confronted by true Otherness, we will spend our lives rattling around inside our own world of preferences without any criteria to evaluate or critique them (Jesus’ Plan for A New World, 11).

Because Quakers have struggled to be available to one another in this way, listening is one of the primary works for us as Friends today. In doing this we may find ways in which the whole tradition can locate a common voice.

Published by Wess

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. He works at Guilford College, enjoys riding his Triumph Bonneville, and listening to music.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Wes, sometimes it can be difficult to be a good listener. I appreciate what has been written here.

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