Being new to all things Quaker,I have noticed some questioning over the role of theology amongst Friends. Is there a place for theology or should all knowledge be experienced based?
Are there limits to its use? Is there a Quaker way of doing theology?
Your thoughts?
Peace
Jeffrey

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Jim, check out my upcoming(12/10) blog, "The Case of Religious Order vs. Gospel Order" for cross-examination.

Jim Wilson said:

Good Morning Barb:

I have been reading Clark's book as well and find it an encouraging read.  I also appreciate your comment about what I see as the hyper-individualism of our time and how it has impinged on Quaker Faith and Practice.  The idea of submitting to a communal discipline is alien to the hyper-individual, but was the norm for Quaker Faith and Practice for a long time.  In some ways I get the impression that the early Quaker community resembles the kind of commitments that one finds in Christian monasticism.  Of course there are differences, but the sense of commitment to a communal body is what I notice as a shared approach. 

Thanks again for your thoughtful post,

Jim

clem - I do not understand what you are saying. Can you restate it? What is "solo scriptura" versus Christianity? Barb

Barb, like Fox, I am pointing out that the Bible(Scriptura) alone(solo) is not the source, but a byproduct, of the primitive Christianity embraced by original Quakerism. I don't think the progressive Spirit is helped by a conservative Quakerism that bangs the Bible, so to speak, in or out of Meeting.  
 
Barbara Smith said:

clem - I do not understand what you are saying. Can you restate it? What is "solo scriptura" versus Christianity? Barb



Clem Gerdelmann said:

Barb, like Fox, I am pointing out that the Bible(Scriptura) alone(solo) is not the source, but a byproduct, of the primitive Christianity embraced by original Quakerism. I don't think the progressive Spirit is helped by a conservative Quakerism that bangs the Bible, so to speak, in or out of Meeting.  
 

What does "bang the Bible" mean?  And what is "the progressive Spirit"?

Clem - I echo Bill's questions, but what I am seeing in Clarkson is that the early Friends were extremely careful to use a multi-pronged approach in discerning their positions on all things temporal and spiritual. The referred to the Bible to discern whether Christ had specifically given direction ( on communion? on baptism? on swearing?). And of course to understand how the Apostle's had understood Christ's teachings and the Christian experience. In other things the Living Presence was their guide, as in avoiding hat honor, the use of plain language, plain and simple dress, and on and on. In these they only used the Bible where there had been a specific reference to the issue, but they always tested the Scripture against the Inner Christ to find whether they were understanding both correctly. From what I understand the intent was to weed through the accumulated mass of Church tradition that had been added on to early Christianity and find the thread of Truth that may have been lost over the centuries.  So they use the Bible to see into the hearts and minds of Christ and the apostles. This is not the same in my view as holding up specific passages of the Bible as Truth just because they appeared in the Bible, nor tossing the whole baby out with the bath water and saying it was for a different time and place. Reading Clarkson has been a real eye-opener for me in this regard. I had had no idea of the depth of care that Early Friends had taken on each and every stand, including the prohibitions against dancing, theater, music etc. Fascinating and we modern Friends can learn the lessons of discernment from their process.

Barb

My understanding of Bible-banging was the attempt to keep tempo in early Pentecostal-preaching, much like banging the Bible is an attempt to keep modern evangelicals on the same page. As to the progressive Spirit, I quote the Quaker theologian, Rufus M. Jones' "The Later Periods of Quakerism"(1921):

The religious person becomes, too, at the same time, if his religion is vital, progressively grounded in his central faith that there is an eternal God at the heart of things with whom he is co-operating, an environing life which vitalizes his own and corresponds in mutually intimate and reciprocal ways with his own life, and promotes in the long run the triumph of the Spirit.

Yes, Friends, that is a mouthful!
 
William F Rushby said:



Clem Gerdelmann said:

Barb, like Fox, I am pointing out that the Bible(Scriptura) alone(solo) is not the source, but a byproduct, of the primitive Christianity embraced by original Quakerism. I don't think the progressive Spirit is helped by a conservative Quakerism that bangs the Bible, so to speak, in or out of Meeting.  
 

What does "bang the Bible" mean?  And what is "the progressive Spirit"?

Hello, Clem!

Thanks for your explanation of "Bible banging".  I have rubbed elbows with "evangelicals" for much of my life, but never heard of using blows from the Bible to accompany preaching.  Of course, I have only rarely attended Pentecostal worship occasions!  I could discourse for an hour about my experiences with Pentecostal worship, but then I could discourse for an hour about lots of things!!  I won't inflict that on you here.

My experience with "evangelicals" is that they would be very hard to keep on the same page.  The notion that they are a monolithic group, all marching to the same drumbeat (or should it be the same "Bible beat"?), is an illusion entertained by the uninformed.

I do wish Friends could more nearly be "on the same page", in the sense of having a common metanarrative.  But then, I might not like the script they would choose as their common story!

I could also spend several hours discoursing on Rufus M. Jones.  He wrote several memoirs, mostly about his own life but also including one about his uncle and aunt Eli and Sybil Jones.  As far as I know, I have read (and enjoyed) them all.

Rufus Jones was IMHO a genius, and an exceptionally prolific writer.  It's too bad that he was mistaken in his theory of the origins of  Quakerism.  He believed that Friends were a British manifestation of continental mysticism, but historians have found no evidence of actual historical contact to substantiate his thesis.  Rufus' guiding narrative for the origins of the Society of Friends is thus a victim of "continuing revelation" among historians.  For this reason, his approach is no longer influential in the study of Quaker origins.

This is not to say that The Later Periods of Quakerism is not a good book; it is very good, as long as one doesn't give too much weight to Rufus' editorializing.

I don't see anything objectionable in the quotation you have cited about "the progressive Spirit", although I would not phrase the matter in the same way.  If we are talking about the Spirit of Christ, it is ever fresh and always moving forward toward the Divinely orchestrated culmination of the Story; we are the ones who have trouble keeping up with God's work in history.

Which brings us back to the Pentecostals!  Despite their many weaknesses in theology, ecclesiology, etc., they have swept across the Third World with the saving Gospel in a way that millions have found irresistibly redemptive.  I only wish that Friends could influence the world with even a fraction of the same impact.  I guess that this has happened, not only in George Fox's day but also in faraway Kenya in modern times.

Clarification: The Later Periods of Quakerism is not where Rufus Jones expounds his thesis that Quakerism originated as an offshoot of continental mysticism.  He wrote various books on continental mystics.  I am not sure which should be cited as a primary reference for his theory of Quaker origins.  Since this line of thought is not a particular interest of mine, I have not read any of them.

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