Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
This is a central question for Quakers these days. It is a difficult one to deal with. As someone who spent a long period of time, decades, identifying as a Buddhist, before becoming a Quaker, I would like to make some tentative responses.
First, there is in the Christian tradition a teaching referred to, sometimes, as 'natural theology'. As I understand it God reveals Himself through the creation and as the creator of all that exists. It is possible for someone to access the divine through this understanding of creation. Jesus at one point says that "I and the Father are one." I take this to mean that there is no difference between God the Creator of all that exists and Jesus who walked the earth. If this understanding is accurate, then comprehending God through natural theology would, it seems to me, also mean accessing the reality of Jesus because they are one.
I have read that natural theology is used as a way of pointing out that those who have never heard of Christianity, or even monotheism, are still held responsible for their actions and their life by the Creator. This is because God is displaying His reality through the creation constantly. Natural theology implies the possibility of salvation outside of a specifically Christian context, in particular for those who, for example, lived before Jesus, or live in areas not accessed by evangelists, or those who dwell on other planets and worlds.
I once met a Mennonite who considered the Buddha someone who had found a lot of the truth through this means of natural theology, so I think it has some play in conservative theological circles, though I'm not overly familiar with that arena.
I don't think this undermines the unique efficacy of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. If I may make an analogy; the world we observe is based on certain natural laws and they are there for anyone to access provided they apply themselves. But because scientists have taken the time to explicitly open up these laws of the natural and physical world, it becomes much easier for us to access them who follow in their footsteps. I would suggest something similar for Jesus as uniquely efficacious, in the sense that the bridge to eternity has become much more easy to access since His appearance. While it is possible for someone to walk the bridge to eternity simply by contemplating creation, it is extremely rare that someone does do that. The function of Jesus, from this perspective, was to make that access available to all people, not just a select few.
These are just a few thoughts stimulated by your post. I hope that they are helpful.
The thing is that I would be being dishonest if I chose Buddhism or Quakerism. Uncomfortable though sometimes it may be, I am a Buddhist. And I am a Quaker. I cannot deny the experiences I have at Meeting for Worship, nor can I deny the benefit and truth I discover while meditating. I cannot deny the Truth of the Testimonies, nor can I deny the Truth of the 4 Noble Truths.
To do so would violate both the Quaker Testimony of Integrity and the Buddhist practice of Right Speech.
So, I will apologize if my dual affiliation makes others uncomfortable, but my faith is what it is and I will not deny it.
Hi Tania. I am a Conservative Quaker. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.
I practice mindfulness, or recollection ("I will keep in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Me"; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, WITH ALL YOUR MIND, with all your strength..."; "Pray continuously") , and I practice meditation (contemplation, waiting, LectioDivina). I believe there is suffering, and a way out of suffering. I believe Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light. I believe there are many "Christians" whose Gods are Mammon, Caesar, or Mars, and I believe there are Buddhists who know the Eternal Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, was, and will be. I would prefer to wait on the Lord with other Christians, but I would also prefer to wait on the Lord with Buddhist Quakers than with those whose lips preach Christ but whose hearts are far from Him.
Peace to you, Tania!
I, like you, felt I was out of place once. But I was among fundamentalist Baptists. I, like you, thought, 'this is supposed to be a Christian group'. But what I heard preached was nationalism, hate, and bloodlust. The letter, which kills, was the law, rather than the Spirit, which gives life. I literally became a quaker in that church, trembling and having to speak out every time God's love was turned into hate. And I, like you, decided I would wait on Christ alone before sitting in that church again.
I also know that the One who speaks within us and leads us from our sins is Christ Jesus. But I recognize a brother or sister in Christ not from professions of Christ but from expressions of Christ.
I will wait on the Lord with Gentiles who know the Eternal Christ inwardly, even if they don't know Him by name, before waiting on the Lord with Scribes and Pharisees.
Thank you, Kenneth. Your comment has been a breath of fresh air to me.
I sometimes feel like an assumption is made that because I'm both Buddhist and Quaker, I deny Jesus's relevance or am ignorant of him. The truth is that this is the first year in 6 that I haven't started reading the New Testament on Christmas with the intent of finishing it by Easter. (I'm taking the year off because I think I need to come at the NT with some "new eyes".) I've read the Bible--as a whole.
I am very much a fan of Jesus's. I think the world would be a better place with more people like him. The reason I usually don't identify as a Christian is I am not sure of my beliefs about the Resurrection, which is very much--as you well know--integral to most Christians.