As a Quaker, what is the function of the scriptures to your faith?

I have found it very interesting to read the various different takes on what part the scriptures play in the lives of Quakers.  How do you see their importance.  Are the scriptures an account of God's relationship with man and His people?  Are they meant as a guideline? An anchor?  Do you follow them loosely or literally?  Are they to be read as a discipline of our faith or as an occasional uplifting help causing us to pause and think of God?

Please feel free to share exactly what you believe, I am sure we can all gain understanding from each others experience.

One note, let us please express in love.  Share what you believe and do not be tempted to unkind words towards others. I can't wait to see your comments!

When there are many comments, I will then post my final thoughts on the issue.

Peace to all,

Nanna Kapp

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If this were Facebook, I'd press the "like" button!
Similarly to David, I was a not-necessarily-Christian seeker when I came to Friends and later came to (re)embrace Christianity through the lens of Friends' testimonies and theology. The story of how this happened is, I think, vital to understanding how I read the scriptures, so with your patience I'l tell it.

I was baptized and confirmed United Methodist in a church that gave me a solid education in reading the scriptures in the liberal Protestant tradition. We read and compared various translations, were open to discussion and multiple meanings, and focused a lot on how to reconcile the moral challenges of scripture (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) with the demands of living in the world. Despite what I still think was a great Sunday school experience, as I got into my older teens I was having real trouble holding on to why the scriptures were to be taken seriously, but not literally. Every time I came into contact with Christians who were (in my conviction) not acting very Christ-like, I had little to say to their self-assured scripture-quoting other than "Well, other passages seem to say something different" or (squirming uncomfortably) "Well, I don't take that literally." I felt like maybe my conservative Baptist relatives and the evangelicals I ran into in college were right: maybe if I had trouble with the virgin birth and the literal meaning of the scriptures I wasn't a real Christian.

At this time, I felt an even deeper challenge rise within me, one that I still carry with me as a testimony from the Spirit: I could see (or thought I could see) that my more conservative interlocutors were using the scriptures selectively to baptize their comfortable political dogmas, but wasn't I really doing the same thing? Was the source of my morality Christ or Christianity, or was it middle-class, liberal America?

So by the time I showed up at an unprogrammed, not-necessarily-Christian meeting in New England during college, I would have hemmed and hawed if you had asked me if I was a Christian. I might have suggested that I was really more of a universalist. But as I entered into the experience of Meeting and into conversation with my elders in the faith (including the writings of historical Friends), I slowly came back toward Christianity, to the point that I now find myself standing closer to Barclay that some of my NEYM friends on many theological issues.

One of the first things that happened in this process is that I came to understand the scriptures as records of the various authors' encounters with God. This let me integrate both my older knowledge about historical context, literary genres, multiple authors, etc. with my newer conviction in the necessity of prayerful abiding in the Spirit to empathetically read into the experience behind these documents and see if God has anything to say to me through them. In the case of the synoptic gospels, I came to understand them as after-the-fact records of various traditions about God as encountered in Christ. Perhaps there is some wisdom as well in the many gospels that were not included, as some Friends have said, although as for me I was disappointed and in some cases repelled by the "gnostic gospels" that I have read. (E.g. one where Jesus uses his holy power to swap places with Simon of Cyrene so it is the latter, not Jesus, who is crucified. This was done to satisfy Greek philosophical ideas about the impossibility of God suffering, but I digress.)

So, like many of the Friends who have spoken, I take the scriptures seriously. I also take the Christian tradition seriously, and value the writings of those throughout it who have honestly striven after God, even if their answers are often very different from mine. This is why I found it spiritually as well as intellectually refreshing to read through a good-sized chunk of Luther and Calvin in a Reformation history course last semester.

Since some have mentioned it, while I do not deny that truth may arise from other religious writings, I feel that I'm so deeply rooted in the Christian tradition that, at this point in my life at least, casual reading of others would lead me to do violence to those traditions (e.g. by reading Rumi through heavily Christian lenses and consequently misconstruing what he is saying). When I've found truth in other traditions, it has always been through encounter with friends and colleagues of other faiths, who can walk me through their understanding of their scriptures and how it leads them closer to their conception of God/ultimate reality.

In the Light,
Matt
Hello! - This morning I was asked to become a "friend" (to Nanna Kapp) before I could participate in the conversation. I tried to ask for this. Now, coming back in the afternoon, I wonder: Have I become a "friend"? I accept that I have many site things to learn how to manage. :-)

most friendly regards
Enok
I get both surprised and confused by this question. - Surprised because I have never been asked this question before within a religious community. I think it has not been "good manner" to ask it. This question should not be asked, one could feel. Something told you that this question should wait until later, it is the wrong end to start with. - Confused because, well, what will I answer? I could say that the gospels and texts with a special literary quality are "my Bible", and I honestly do not know, and do not need, to answer about the rest. - In spite of this surprise and confusion I have the Bible for my daily food, and as long I will open my mind for it and let it get the chance to grow and ripe, it gives always a rich nourishment. I trust it. -I will think that the facts and the story about the Bible for sure might be very interesting, and also strengthening the faith, but at the moment that is not the most important approach.

This was my debut on QQ and I am feeling a bit helpless and out of words.

Enok
It appears you have, Enok! Welcome to the discussion.
Enok I am confused as to what you are saying. Are you referring to the original question: As a Quaker, what is the function of the scriptures to your faith?" Why do you think it is improper to ask? Social pressures, spiritual leading, teachings? Are you saying that the Bible reaches out to us whether or not we are Biblical scholars and critics? Actually, Christianity did just fine without a New Testament in the post apostolic era. Once the question of Gentile conversion to Judaism was settled, the Old Testament was considered moot by many converts who could neither read nor understand the TANAK. Christianity was not spread by fixed doctrines and texts, it was spread by word of mouth, so convincingly that hundreds of thousands stood up and died for it. At one point, the litmus test dividing Christianity was whether or not a living Christian had faced execution and torture and managed to survive. This occurred up through the lifetime of St. Augustine. I believe George Fox in his understanding of primitive Christianity relied on the word of mouth over literacy in a time when few were literate. We who subscribe to scientific methodology and documented proofs, tend to rely on the documentation more than the word of mouth or the human example of things that can only be defined by faith. Bless you.
Thank you C.M.C.M. for you reply. However, I find it difficult to explain or answer. In my first reply I was referring to my experiences and spiritual behaviour through my life and in that way making an effort to state my attitude and how to bridge it to my faith. I surely agree that this issue could have been more focussed during my adult years. Then, I wonder how CCers who is reading this, will understand (interpret) my first contribution. Thanks again.

As an isolated Quaker, the Bible is very important to me; it gives me the guidance to 'test the spirits' that I might otherwise get from other Friends. It gives me joy, and strength. It often rebukes me.

I can often say 'Yes! I know!' to what I read in Scripture. But other times I have to really dig into a passage to understand it. I try to discern between Eternal Truth and what I consider to be cultural baggage (Paul mixes the two, sometimes in a single passage, I reckon).

 I read from four different parts of the Bible nearly every day; basically from the Pentateuch, the Wisdom books/Prophets, from the Gospels and the epistles. I nearly always find a passage to meditate on and help me to center down. Today I reflected on 'there is no fear in love...perfect love casts out fear.' How beautiful! What perfect Wisdom! I have a long ways to go to get to perfect love, but I know it exists, and I know Christ will take me there. Praise the Lord! 

Putting aside whether to speak of 'function' in the context of 'faith' is oxymoronic (belief systems may not be susceptible to rational analysis of the functionality of their components), my interest in the NT canon is primarily to understand the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, perhaps most succinctly summarised in the Sermon on the Mount. I do however recognise that since the ministry was delivered in Aramaic, recorded into Greek several decades later and then subsequently translated into English from transcribed copies of the original Greek documents, that something’s may have been lots in the process. For this reason I am also open to alternative sources, e.g. the so-called 'Gospel of Thomas', outside the canon but contemporary to it.

A secondary interest in the NT is to understand the influence of Paul of Tarsus and the influence of Greek philosophical thought on the formation of 'Christianity', which is highly significant.

As regards the OT, it is a varied compilation (with Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs juxtapostioned!), written in three originating languages, but an understanding of the history of the religion of the Jewish people is necessary to set the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth in context.

In friendship

Rupert

 

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