Me on Facebook recently [line breaks added]:

People defending the institution of slavery all those years found much in the Bible to bolster their views. If we really believe in continuing revelation (perhaps as a consequence of belief in the resurrection of Christ as inner teacher -- St. Augustine) then isn't it dangerously lazy of us to keep running to our centuries-old Bible for the resolution of all debates?

Methinks a "priest caste" of professional Bible readers needs that economy of laziness, but the rest of us are called to do more of our own discerning. Who are the prophets of our time, or of any time since Jesus? I'd count MLK.

I'm not suggesting we ignore the past. On the contrary, everything is the past (up to right now). I'm suggesting we include more of it, as a reflection of what it means to be "in God's image". I'm largely preaching to the choir I realize (praise Allah).

These were my thoughts upon reading the thoughts and comments in Chuck Fager's Friendly Letter: 'Push & Pushback in the Northwest 'Showdown'".

The snow is thick in Portland today.

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In addition to MLK, I'd include Richard Stallman. People think I'm joking about that because he's an MIT-trained engineer who doesn't sound "prophet-like" except when he goes into "spoof mode" and does his Church of Emacs schtick.  Yet his GNU project and ideology set the wheels turning for a "design science revolution" (R.B. Fuller) based on open and free software, that transformed civilization in a good way, helping us escape an even crueler fate (not saying our fate isn't cruel -- pretty much because we are, as what goes around comes around etc.).

I had a conversation this past weekend at a Friends of Jesus gathering where someone distinguished between "continuing revelation" and "progressive revelation," the difference being abrogation. Continuing revelation supplements the Bible. Progressive revelation replaces it.

Useful. In my native geek, when we "subclass" (extend) a thing, say the Bible, we then might override ("abrogate") or simply inherit ("continue with") what's already there, then add new features.

The Bible already extends the Torah, some say mainly by continuing, not abrogating, and therefore Jews may be Friends of Jesus (seems a no-brainer to me).

Mackenzie said:

I had a conversation this past weekend at a Friends of Jesus gathering where someone distinguished between "continuing revelation" and "progressive revelation," the difference being abrogation. Continuing revelation supplements the Bible. Progressive revelation replaces it.

What's a best design, in light of continually changing global (promised land) circumstances?

Jesus says our sins are forgiven as we're hellbent on making mistakes. Trial and error: that's how we learn.

In not setting our practice too much in stone (as Quakers) we're free to continue experimenting, during which some sinning may occur. 

However I don't think "forgiveness" means "removal of consequences". We still suffer the wages of sin (death). It's just we should not take those consequences to be our "punishment" as that's moralizing in the same way that got us kicked out of the garden in the first place.

Continuing revelation infers an initial revelation.  Too many rely on someone else's revelation as their starting point and then extrapolate from there.  Result?  Less love, poorer relationships, more reasons why the beatitudes really didn't mean what they say and of course more schisms.

Among many other results of on-line searching, I found this survey giving responses to this question by several Friends:

A simple answer seems clear:

Q: Do Quakers believe in continuing revelation?

A: Yes.

But then we'll find differences in nuance.

James C Schultz said:

Continuing revelation infers an initial revelation.  Too many rely on someone else's revelation as their starting point and then extrapolate from there.  Result?  Less love, poorer relationships, more reasons why the beatitudes really didn't mean what they say and of course more schisms.

Kirby Urner said: "Jesus says our sins are forgiven as we're hellbent on making mistakes. Trial and error: that's how we learn." 

Are sins "mistakes," or deliberate actions contrary to God's will?

Good question William, worthy of its own thread.

If I may suggest a reading to get the ball rolling:

William F Rushby said:

Kirby Urner said: "Jesus says our sins are forgiven as we're hellbent on making mistakes. Trial and error: that's how we learn." 

Are sins "mistakes," or deliberate actions contrary to God's will?

I do not see an "economy of laziness" by "professional Bible readers" in a broad sense. I believe ML King Jr. was in many ways a "professional Bible reader" and most "early" Friends were, if not "professional," avid Bible readers. The question is, "What do we do with what we read?" If we take the Bible as literally a science, history, and rule book, then I might accept an "economic laziness." However, I believe that if we read the Bible, as we do the writings of "early Friends," writings of Gandhi, ML King, etc. there is much to be learned regarding the development of human understanding. It is this development of "human understanding" that I see as "continuing revelation." As someone with some science training, I believe that "This I knew experimentally" is to be understood as "continuing revelation" in that, e.g. the Atomic Theory, "early" understanding of "atoms" were accurate for the term but subsequent learning provided much better understanding and in many ways showed very different concepts. I will not belabor the point with relation to "theology" or biblical interpretation, but believe that many of the same principles apply.


Thanks for you comments Tom. Yes, it's lazy to not read the Bible, if you're able to read, lazy not to read period, if it's a skill you've invested time in.

The Bible is one of the great "switchboards" of our time, a telegraphic way to share thoughts, a cultural shorthand, like the I Ching.  Such shared databases are valuable once established.

The Bible has well earned its place in the sun. I'd like to see more reading of it in public school, not less. Anthropology (the A in STEAM) is wide open to reading religious texts and learning religious dances (the music part is important).

We take reading so much for granted, it becomes OK to just watch TV. The idea of "reading for entertainment" has become somewhat alien in a TV-oriented world.  One has so much more random access over a book than over a sequential movie reel or tape. Programmed broadcasts are the worst.  No fast forward, no rewind (more like life itself).

However it's unfair to count Internet time as "screen time" in the sense of "anti reading", as if "screens" were the culprit. Look at Kindle.  Some guardians seem to think that forcing junior off of screens will result in more reading. More book reading maybe, but screen reading comes with its own skill set.

Once on the Web, we're usually reading again, at least half the time, including the Bible, which I enjoy much more as an on-line experience, complete with scholarly commentary. My random access is restored.  I'm able to consult, lookup. I might even switch to cartoon renderings, to see what the kids are getting in First Day school.

The Bible contains lots of violence and in First Day school I would emphasize that we do not wish to live in a society wherein the things done in the Bible, even to punish people found guilty by law, are necessarily the things we do. The point of reading the Bible is not to emulate the civilizations it contains. We have our own dreams and aspirations, different from theirs. It'd be lazy to just fall back on Mesopotamia etc. for all our lifestyle templates, going forward.

We go into the Bible with a lot of caveats, in other words, about how we're not in any way suggesting the "Holy Land" (so-called) is all that great a role model for our New Jerusalem, our best rendering of God's Kingdom here on Planet Earth (which, yes, is made of molecules made of atoms, and powered by a campus fusion furnace, continual grant income to our socially engineered enterprises -- we love our sciences).

What we'd really look at though, more than the Middle East, is at the US civil war, were this in a US meeting trying to work with public school kids, and/or private ones with an overlapping (in-common) core. We want to share perspective on our own times and predicaments, not continually live in the past, heads in the sands of Egypt or whatever.

The Bible was relied upon much more in those Civil War days as the shared GPS system, in terms of providing a moral compass to everyone able to read or listen to some revival tent "PhD" give a sermon (lecture). Yet the pro-slavery Christians were as adamant as the anti, that the Bible showed their envisioned way of life going forward, could and would depend on slave labor. People had slaves in the Bible and Jesus never explicitly faulted them for it. If he'd been against slavery, he might have said something. He seemed more of a feminist than anti-slaver.

"If the Bible were Google, trying to drive all our cars autonomously, it would crash them into each other" is how I might put it, as one of the adult Quaker elders. Relying on the Bible as one's sole GPS system is a recipe for disaster.  That's not what we mean by faith.  Faith of that kind is more like rote memorization.  Intuition is not involved, nor is divine grace. Such laziness is pure sin.

By the 21st century, we've proved as a nation that using the Bible as our one and only moral compass is not a trustworthy solution to self governance.  Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin et al would no doubt say "I told you so" to that lesson, as these enlightened Anglophones of the 1700s were already way beyond using some "Bible only" moral compass, i.e. were far from lazy or maladapted. They understood about continuing revelation.

I likewise have high respect for the early Quakers, and those who came into their own in the mid to late 1700s and could contribute to the USA's founding. Quakers running businesses are my role models, not as tyrant-tycoons but as Quakerism-inspired managers open to experiment with new management theories (e.g. Agile). I predict a bright future for Quakerism in Japan, because the latter culture, although hierarchical, has proved itself more willing to adopt flattened, more egalitarian org chart models, with less disparity in responsibility and/or compensation.

USers seem more reflex-conditioned by their militarism, to create these tall pyramids, with uber-boss CEOs more like Pharaohs. They're hellbent on hierarchy. Liberal Quakerism with its "management by rotation" may be of fading relevance in the Lower48 therefore (we see many signs of dwindling interest in this post-democracy). "Are Anglophones too hierarchical in their habits to keep the Quaker experiment alive in the business world?"  I ask myself that a lot.

Friends are fully invested in continuing revelation.  Everyone is encouraged to look forward for an hour each week, with divine assistance appreciated.  Everyone in the meeting hears what one person has found.  Next, our business meetings are geared to seriously discern over what each person has said, until everyone agrees.

We don’t rely on the Bible’s inerrancy but we do use it when appropriate, which is where I’m about to go.

I find the story of Noah to be completely strange.  God tells Noah, one man and his family, that protecting all of the world’s animals from mass extinction is a sacred task.  Actually, Noah, protecting all of the world’s animals from mass extinction really is a sacred task, and yes you have a family.

You, Mr. Woolman, will in time find that heating your meetinghouse with natural gas leaves you increasingly uncomfortable.

350 years of Friends have been famous for their innovations.  Now, somebody or other must invent renewable alternatives for each major market of the fossil fuel industry.  I’m telling you that Friends are eventually going to name the specific somebodies along with the where and how.  Hand-waving for this critical innovation job is a clear path to failure, and failure is going to hurt most of us inside too much.

Yes, we also need to go all prophetic to the world.  Pharaoh, how many plagues?

1.  Various local droughts

2.  The Arctic ice pack is gone.

3.  California is turning to dust long-term.

4.  Too many of the world’s forests are turning into dead sticks.

5.  Megafires are wiping out towns.

6.  Hurricane Sandy was a 900 mile wide storm that took out NYC’s subway system.  Hurricane Katrina was a category 2 hurricane when it caused a 38 foot storm surge on the Mississippi coast.

7.  A wedge tornado in Moore, Oklahoma was 1 1/3 miles wide.

8.  Corals, frogs, penguins, gorillas and much more are at risk for extinction.

9.  This isn’t going to end well.

I’ll close with Isaiah.  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.

Thank you Paul.

The story of Noah feeds into the Tower of Babel story, as the uniformity / conformity of thought enjoyed by the Great Flood survivors was a consequence of their starting over with a blank slate so to speak. Noah and Mrs. Noah were the new Adam & Eve.

What humans did not understand owing to their lack of diversity in thought, was that their Promised Land is a ball, a sphere, a planet. A lot of them still have some trouble with that concept in 2017. It's not a closed system in any thermodynamic sense. A star (the campus fusion furnace) feeds us energy for free, the basis for ongoing cell division and our daily bread.

Noah's descendants were at first under the misapprehension that they lived on some horizontal XY plane to infinity, with "God above" in the perpendicular Z direction. What better way to reach God and make a name for themselves as a superpower than through the construction of some humongous skyscraper?

This seemed like normal thinking to them, so great was their confusion already (Babel and babble connect in Hebrew as well [1]).

God knew that a single culture with a single-minded approach would think nothing impossible or unrealistic about their foolish skyscraper plan. No "new Noah" would arise to prophesy this was madness, because they all thought the same way. Besides, had God resorted to another flood (having promised not to do so) He'd be facing this same predicament in a few generations.

God undertood that diversity in thought patterns would guarantee that people spread out and around, and come to terms with their being on a spherical spaceship (an Ark, likewise once our Eden).

In his mercy He gave us the humanity we have today: diverse, spread around, and not organized under one uni-polar pyramid hierarchy. No superpowers here folks, just a lot of feedback mechanisms connecting hominids by means of various networks, religious, political, economic. Don't think of your skyscrapers as containing some single-minded illuminati caste that all speaks the same language.  There is no "global civilization" that traces back to some singular inner circle, much as some cabals would love you to think so.


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