"I left Friends sitting in the meeting, and went away to the steeple-house. When I came there, all the people looked like fallow ground; and the priest (like a great lump of earth) stood in his pulpit above.

"He took for his text these words of Peter, "We have also a more sure Word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." And he told the people that this was the Scriptures, by which they were to try all doctrines, religions, and opinions.

" Now the Lord's power was so mighty upon me, and so strong in me, that I could not hold, but was made to cry out and say, 'Oh, no; it is not the Scriptures!' and I told them what it was, namely, the Holy Spirit, by which the holy men of God gave forth the Scriptures, whereby opinions, religions, and judgments were to be tried; for it led into all truth, and so gave the knowledge of all truth. The Jews had the Scriptures, and yet resisted the Holy Ghost, and rejected Christ, the bright morning star. They persecuted Christ and His apostles, and took upon them to try their doctrines by the Scriptures; but they erred in judgment, and did not try them aright, because they tried without the Holy Ghost.."


If anyone is led to a traditional practice by the Spirit working within him, he is right to do so, and I would be utterly wrong to object.

But I really do find people writing here, as if without scripture & traditions we would have nothing to guide us-- whereas the very source of those traditions is God, and the fact that God is in fact always available to guide us. Without that, those traditions, admirable as they may be, would have no solid ground to support them.

Sometimes I am sorry, to have such a great talent for annoying people, and to be so proud of being willing to do so (which does seem to be a rare asset)... but despite a certain tradition of Early Quaker rudeness, in view of the Divine urgency of their times-- and despite the urgency of our times...

if I practice this, if I let it become my self-image, this is precisely the problem I see in practicing any other tradition. The form takes over, distracts me from seeing the other person except as an opponent, so that the argument itself becomes a distraction.

And then there's a great fight between my image of 'traditionalists' and their images of 'Liberal',  etc. Which is not (I think) our purpose, in trying to talk across such divisions.

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What God has shown me, through a fairly long life under His teaching:

The sort of Eternal Warranty you describe is not, so far, the sort of guarantee that comes with divinely-inspired thoughts, customs, laws or traditional practices. Or the Jews would still be sacrificing in the original Temple. (Or actually, rather, still sacrificing wherever some worthy Israelite was moved to set up an altar.)

[In the case of Jesus' precepts, his essential meaning remains valid even when specific statements have ceased to serve their original purposes... But those, embodying divine wisdom, present hard chewing for the typical human mental digestive processes.]

"What early Friends taught, and believed," was that God, in the form of Christ, was available to them and guiding them to properly understand the Bible, as well as how they should embody that understanding in their practices.

Some of them may have thought their descendents could, and should, remain in that same understanding and continue the same practices... but the central fact they did know: was that God was available and guiding them at that time,

and would continue to do so.

Even a casual acquaintance with the history of Friends will show you: We didn't always get it right. But God remained available, remains available.

Lacking any useful "human" means of settling this difference... Does it still seem the same to you, if you pray for wisdom as James recommends? (I, myself, have never found a good reason to stop!)


I must confess that much of what thee types is fairly incomprehensible to me: I am often unsure what thy precise point is. I point this out not as a failing of thine, for others seem to have no similar difficulties, but as way of saying, what I am about to say may have nothing to do with what thee was trying to address . . . which would be accidental and not intentional.

Has thee considered, Forest, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as being perhaps necessarily different from one person to another, that the weight of Scripture or Tradition versus Reason or Experience will be adjusted by a person's proclivities but also perhaps by God . . . that some people may be Given by God a different  avenue to pass through, their own path to the Narrow Way, that will get *that* person Guided through to Him . . . and that different people have been given different spiritual gifts and that not everyone Feels His Guidance in the same Measure. It seems to me thee would have no spiritual "crutches" at all, even those "crutches" for those who feel Called to the Way of Traditional Friends . . . thee would seemingly deny them the "crutches" the earliest Friends found Useful . . . I think God is being more Compassionate than that. I see these Traditions and the Scriptures are for some Friends a form of Heavenly Compassion and a Gift from God that while capable of misuse have real Usefulness, a way of being Faithful to the best of their ability while learning more about being Faithful, when there are gaps in Faithfulness, when there are holes in Understanding and Discernment.

Above, Joseph said,  "I believe one can be in danger of throwing the 'baby out with the bath water' when one disregards the historical and traditional heritage of the Early Friends in favour of new and modern interpretations which negate the very existence of what founding Quakers actually taught and believed." (emphasis mine)

It is my experience that some liberal Friends feel a need to deny that anyone can be experiencing the same spiritual reality of the founding Quakers, and that I believe I am experiencing the same Everlasting Gospel that early Friends describe, their descriptions of their spiritual experiences echoing my own so completely, I am somewhat of a problem--as are Tradition and Scripture.

When I walk through the meetinghouse door of a liberal meetinghouse, and it is discovered I am Quaker not Mennonite or Amish, there are always liberal Friends who are made angry by my appearance, without ever speaking a word to me about what I might or might not believe about this or that. My experience has been that these Friends are the ones most ignorant of Traditional Quakerism, the fullness of its practices and beliefs, and that they are really rejecting in me an ugly form of Christianity experienced by them elsewhere. And how many ugly forms of Christianity have there been? Many. I am the greedy televangelist; I am the racist Southerner; I am the superior and privileged WASP; I am the misogynist anti-intellectual. I am the selfish Manifester of Destiny. I am the condemner of Unbaptized Infants. I am the sadistic Inquisitor. I am a swirl of evil and cliche that activates them and troubles them and makes them want to act out and make sure I know they reject me and all I stand for . . .

And while I don't defend mindless heeding of Tradition, I do think that it is actually more defensible than rejecting it without ever understanding it at all . . .


My experience has certainly been that God sends the spiritual & mental nourishment I need, but I normally don't receive it until previous lessons have prepared me to see the meaning.

So I don't deny that what early Friends got was the best truth they could receive, nor that it continues to nourish people, including me, to this day. But it isn't yesterday's stale bread that I'll be eating today. (It may be the same recipe, & certainly has to come from the same Cook.)

If God leads you to find truth in traditions from various previous times, that is not what I'm arguing against.

If you want to appeal to the earliest Friends, however, they did not rely on tradition, but on the Author of traditions.

And there is a difference. Old wine good, new wine good too! (& I don't think thee prone to interpret my 'playful' mode as 'insulting', but some are, hence disclaimer. Poets talk funny ways sometimes; how it be. This may be theology, but that doesn't mean it should come out in formal technical terms as if we were discussing engineering; God is creative and what He wants said, as plainly as possible, just might have to come out with curlicues. )

I believe (and can quote a pretty early Friend to that effect) that as the movement grew, it fell into the same error that Jesus condemned among the Pharisees: a tendency to clean the outside of the cup-- not really meaning to leave the inside dirty, but putting such emphasis on the outside that

the inside, of themselves and others, had begun to escape their attention!

Among the many things God uses the Bible to communicate... is the fact that it's a human invention.

That isn't the most important message it can convey, but (as Love & Truth can not exist as separate things) I consider your efforts to deny it mistaken.

The fact that you and I are fallible-- does not invalidate the fact that God can use us both to tell each other what we need to hear.

Isabel, This site software is putting my replies to individuals at the end of the discussion, not where I intend it to go. So 'to Joseph' may be appearing after your comment... and I'm having to address you by name (a practice I try to avoid!) just to say that this is about what I read from you.

[Talking "about me", "to me", "about what I said" are different-- and the point of saying so, is that people are more likely to be offended when that difference gets blurred.]

I grew up raised by atheists who sent me to a Methodist church because they thought it would be good for me. So I owe John Wesley a wonderful interpretation I heard as a child in his church, but I don't consider his "quadrilateral" the best way of conceiving the human multilemma:

"How can I recognize God's voice in the midst of all this?"

("All this" necessarily being filtered through "all me", which can certainly add another layer of confusion.)

I'd say that God has addressed me through all of those elements... and that none of them are the Voice of God (which we also call 'intuition,' though what people mean when they say "my intuition" may often be something far less reliable!)

And how do we know that God is addressing us in this "still small voice" but not in whatever internal thought seems sure at every moment?-- is not in that whirlwind, while this whirlwind however does have my name on it.... really does come from the solid source of all truth?

And the best answer to that question is: It is only by God's power that we can know God's voice. We can only trust that it is God's voice, that we're receiving God's inspiration-- because God is the appropriate object of our trust. [More later. Good place to pause.]

My belief is that while naturally God can communicate directly to each of us, I agree with Isabel that our capacity to notice the communication, or to receive it or benefit from it varies from person to person, from time to time in our lives and depending on what else is going on in our lives maybe. I also know for a fact that God communicates to me through other people, through their writings, through rituals, and most of all through the Bible. When I am stressed, or stuck, or whatever, then I often will be comforted by one of the above, especially if I am feeling that God is not present (which happens to me periodically). I also need Jesus and to know him, through the Light and through the Bible.

So I could never say that all I need is the "direct" communication with the Inner Light, though that (Jesus) is the basis of all the communication obviously.

Also, I wanted to point out that though the early Quakers were steeped in the Bible and interpreted all of their experiences through their reading of the Bible. so it is never true to say that they saw the Inner Light as their sole guide - they saw Jesus as their guide as he communicated to them through the Light. Don't know if anyone said this here, but I've heard Quakers say this many a time.

Just my two cents.

Blessings, Barb

Barbara Smith said:

[Let's see if including the header puts this reply where I intend it...]

I think everyone here has said that God addresses people by many diverse means. So I don't understand what this "All we need is direct input" idea is doing in the conversation.


What I've been saying, in that connection: That direct input is what tells us which modes of God-to-human communications to trust in any particular moment, and how to interpret them.

An example of this would be Fox's idea (not new, by the way) that to understand the Bible, you needed to ~'be in the same spirit as the apostles (etc) who wrote it'.

We have many many people (quite a few of them on the net) who try to interpret the Bible as if it were a technical manual. They're too busy figuring out "what He must have meant" to ask, and see, "What did You mean?-- How should I see this?"

So what makes scriptures helpful is not the literal words there, but those words plus God's immediate leading as to how to read them. Without that 'direct input' in the process, it becomes sterile. Even if we're trying to practice "the way Early Friends read this." It could be a perfectly good way, but that isn't what we need to practice! Because their "way" was to ask God-- and how did they know themselves answered?

Forrest - I totally agree with this:

"That direct input is what tells us which modes of God-to-human communications to trust in any particular moment, and how to interpret them."

and the rest of what you've said. I was not responding to what had been said here, exactly (sorry). I was more responding to my experience of the opposite of what you are saying, which I found common among my liberal meeting, which is to see the Bible, for example, as a historical document, of little meaning today except to show us how the folks back then understood God.

I fully understand about the emptiness of traditions when kept for their own sake - or even worse because humans have added on myths of their own about "why" those traditions arose, which is a common human behavior. And I find this tendency among Quakers to divide themselves into the the tradition/non-tradition or the Bible/no - Bible or the pastor/no pastor groups disturbing. In fact one of the reasons our family does not currently attend a meeting, and instead have been members of a nondenominational small fellowship for the past 17 years is that in this fellowship the emphasis is on the journey of each one of us, a recognition that each of us is on our own path, and that together we will support each on on those paths. We are not part of a greater denomination, so we do not spend time and energy worrying about how the denomination is doing, whether we are conforming or not to the historical background of the group etc. Of course there are wonderful things about learning from those who went along similar paths before us, but Christ is the center, not George Fox, and I feel this is not always so clear among Quakers.

I hope I stated that clearly. It is always so hard to put multi-dimensional concepts into the linear format of words on a page.

Blessings to all,

But I really do find people writing here, as if without scripture & traditions we would have nothing to guide us-- whereas the very source of those traditions is God, and the fact that God is in fact always available to guide us. Without that, those traditions, admirable as they may be, would have no solid ground to support them.

Forest-- Honestly. Who? Because I don't see anyone writing like that, and I don't personally know any Conservative or Traditional Friends who would argue that without scripture and traditions we would have nothing to guide us. Not remotely. What I read on this site are people writing about an *aspect* of their faith, and having few outlets for those callings towards traditional practices, place their seeking about them here to share and fellowship with others who have had those experiences. 

Evangelical Friends have clearly chosen Scripture over the Guidance of the Inward Christ (the ones I know don't deny that Guidance--and in fact place it as quite important), but they have clearly set aside most of Quaker tradition. But thee cannot mean them, as there are almost no Evangelicals here.

What thee describes I have only seen among the Amish, traditional Mennonites, Old Order River Brethren . . . not among Quakers. And I am pretty sure I have had more experience and communication with Traditional and Conservative Friends than thee has . . .


Isabel Penraeth:

I'm not being paid to edit this site, nor keep notes, nor serve as a prosecutor of it.

But I am a former editor, and do notice nuances and implications-- and disconnects between what people mean and what they actually say.

When I point these out, people get defensive and hostile, go into "defending my position mode"-- and if I'm not extremely careful, so do I. Which is not good for me, or for what I intend. If it's making people feel the way I feel when everyone decides to thump on me (and they wouldn't feel like doing that if I hadn't been too good at winning arguments, insufficiently good at addressing people) then I don't want to do it.

Certainly not in "Look what you said awhile ago" mode.

I'm going to return to considering what you said earlier, that is, what I think you meant, a little later, because I think it deserves some sympathetic attention, and when I say "I don't have time to do this adequately right now," that is what I'm talking about.

Karen Mercer said: [...]

There are four and twenty ways, of inflicting covert psychological violence against children, and every single one of them is wrong.

I don't even consider that the sexual forms of this are intrinsically worse than the others (though sexuality does add powerful emotional leverage); what they have in common is the tendency to undermine and attack a person's honest perceptions.

If someone truly comes to believe that "the Light in them is darkness," they've got a serious uphill battle, just to be able to let themselves know and say: "This way is up"!


Jesus was not faulting the Pharisees for lack of knowledge of Hebrew... or for being "Jewish". An enormous part of what looks like 'anti-Jewish' rhetoric in his sayings (both the accurate quotes and those suffering later embellishment) can probably be laid to an extremely heated argument, within the proto-Judaism of his time, between Jesus and the hierarchy of the Temple cult, in which some Pharisees ~"began to press him hard, and to provoke him on many issues,  lying in wait for him, to catch at something he might say."

We have at least one (probable!) story of a highly sympathetic and appreciative encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee. Jesus and Pharisees, after all, were arguing within strands of one complex web of scriptures and traditions, and many of them, in the tradition that eventually developed into modern Judaism, were quite close to some of his positions; some likely became followers.

But he objected to certain tendencies, which he observed in many Pharisees of his day, and would undoubtedly find among Christians, "Liberals" and etc etc in later times...

One was to lose sight of the internal essentials behind too sharp a focus on the externals.

One was to  be so attached to learning traditions from other people... as to lose sight of God's present and ongoing work among people less observant of those traditions.

And what truly kept them, and even the prophet John, guarding the doors to the Kingdom but unable to enter (despite being among the best people of his day): the deceptive pleasures of indignation and self-righteousness, and the warped vision that comes of them.

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