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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I think my original question was to determine if experiential knowledge was the limit of theological exploration among Friends, or if it was common practice to explore in a more objective way.
I have always, since a child, asked the what & why questions and this has continued into my spiritual journey. I find the idea that, 'because I can't 'experience' the Trinity as truth, then it doesn't exist to me',rather dubious.While our thinking about the Eternal is limited, we should not stop trying to reach out in our understanding to try and grasp at least something of an answer.
Pax
Jeffrey
Are your abstract thoughts "more objective" than your emotions?

Are they even, should they be, entirely distinct?

Are they more, or less "objective" than your body? Nobody else will have quite the same experience of any of these that you do, but they're no different, in principal, from what we experience via ours.

I would say (although this is harder to experience) that there is a "spiritual" sense that's equally available to all. People commonly mistake events in their intellect, emotions, even their bodies for this (I have heard certain internal sensations proposed as an 'objective' sign that a person has a true message.)

Not everybody perceives the Pythagorean Theorem as "objective." A good diagram makes it quite clear, but not to people who won't look. The "objectivity" of it consists of the fact that, "You will see it if you work it out."

The true Friends' witness is not that you mustn't attempt theology--but that there's no theological proposition that can substitute for knowing God, and anybody can do that.

& if you want to speculate re "trinity", what's your reaction to http://quakeroatslive.blogspot.com/2009/07/trinity.html ?
I've been interested to see what kind of response might come to this question. I think it would be informative to see what happens if you pose it as a separate entry, perhaps with a reference to that "interesting debate."
As I don't seem to be getting a definitive answer to my original post, I shall bow out of this discussion.
Jeffrey
"You would have to define........" More avoidence!
Why is it that you cannot give a straight answer to a simple question?
Is this some kind of mind game Quakers play on enquirers?
I find it so frustrating that individuals seem unable to articulate what they believe without resorting to vague and obtuse answers.
It is so perplexing for the stranger at the door!
Baffled
Jeffrey
I can see that you aren't understanding the answers you've been getting.

"Theology" the way most churches do it is a structure of ideas about God, attempting to define and describe God the way a sociologist might describe a neighbor of mine.

The answers I'm trying to give you would be analogous to: "Oh yeah, I know him! A real nice guy; you ought to meet him!"

Can we get more abstract about it? Sure, if we find it helps us know him better.
I fear I may have offended you. Please forgive me.
Mea Culpa
Jeffrey
I don't think you've offended people, but you haven't succeeded in making it clear what kind of answers you're looking for.
My belief on theology is simple.

Jesus Christ is perfect theology. If anyone has any question about anything theological, look to the life of Jesus because He is the fulfillment of the old covenant and He came to model how someone could live if they are totally submitted to God the Father.

I have some simple guidelines when it comes to any theological belief or statement. These have helped me immensely in bringing the "airy fairy", to quote one of my elders, aspects of theology into the practical.

1. What purpose does it serve?
2. What is the fruit of it as displayed in the lives of those who believe it?
-Does it produce in you a greater love for God and desire to draw closer to Him?
-Does it produce in you a greater love for other people outside of your normal comfort zone?
-Does it produce in you a desire for social change and social justice, i.e., does it anger you to see people who are abused and misterated and do you have a desire to correct these abuses?
3. Does it line up with the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ?
4. Often theology is rooted in our experiences. Does the theological view create a picture of God as He really is, i.e, all loving, all powerful, all righteous, our provider, our healer, our comforter, the light to our path, etc? Or is there a twisted or warped picture of God, i.e., "He's a mean taskmaster who doesn't care about what happens to me and wants to squash me like a bug the next time I sin."

These are some simple questions I ask myself when I come across any theological statement. I pray they help you all.
Hmmm, if theology is about coming to know the nature of God--Can someone really have a "higher" vantage point from which to decide whether or not that's worth doing? Is there some other "purpose" it needs to serve?--Or is Experimental Theology the purpose, and practice, of everything else?

There can certainly be more or less fruitful ways of going about it.

"Theology" has traditionally meant the construction of elaborate systems of verbal symbol-manipulation, typically with little value for knowing God better, often with unfortunate influence on human affairs.

A poetic approach works better. Jesus did this--let God inspire him with parables and metaphors that illustrated God's view of us, what we were doing, how God was dealing with that.

But bottom line, ultimately, is not "Does this notion make me a better person?" but "Is God really like this?" So we're driven to the mystical method, of letting ourselves know God, then asking, as Jesus did.

All your other criteria seem, at best, side effects.
No my Friend I do believe that you will find an awareness of theology in the majority of Friends in the UK but the issue is perhaps the supremacy they place over experience with regard to it.
The testaments of early Friends e.g. pre-this day is considered important as is Ministry but the various Quaker papers, Quarterlies, Journals are concerned with it as are many of the libraries bith in the Meeting House and at home. The emphasis falls on how the theology is used, that is is it placed before experience or used, along with discussion, to elucidate what Friends encounter in their silence.
As a liberal, unprogrammed Friend I have no call for a priest - in accordance with Fox's words of 'The Bible says this, The priest says that, What sayest Thou?' (not exact as working from memory) - but there is call for discussion and reading.
Yes there is a distinct Quaker theology, if it may be termed that, from their origins in the 1650's (if not before from Winstanley and others). As to limits - time and circumstance circumvent that for many.
In Friendship
Peter
Of course there is a place for theology (knowledge of God) among Friends, and a consistent understanding about God which has characterized Friends from the beginning. It goes something like this:
1 Knowledge of God is important.
2 The best way to know about God is by His immediate revelation of Himself to us.
3 The scriptures are true, because they contain a record of God's revelations to His people in the past, but they are secondary to His immediate revelation within us, without which we could not understand them. No true revelation of God can contradict the scriptures.
4 In our natural state, we are fallen, sinful, and unable to know God.
5 Therefore, God sent His son as a light, that whoever believes in Him may be saved.
6 This light shines in all of us, whether or not we have outward knowledge of Christ.
7 If we don't resist this light (Christ), it leads us out of our sins, and makes us holy and pure.
8 We can be made perfectly free from sin if we follow this light; not free only from the guilt of sin, but from actual sinning.
9 If we resist the light of God in us, it will be our condemnation.
10 Since we know God by this light within us, it is this light that qualifies us for ministry, not any human study.
11 True worship consists in waiting on God, then doing what he tells us to do, which may include speaking for Him. We don't plan how to worship , but do it as God leads us.
12 Christian baptism doesn't involve washing by water, but by the spirit of God.
13 Christian communion is the inward feeding on the spiritual flesh and blood of Christ, not an outward ceremony.
14 Government has no right to force any to act contrary to conscience, or to regulate how anyone worships.
15 Because Christ commands us, we don't swear, use meaningless titles, waste time on useless activities, etc.

That's my quick summary of the main points of Robert Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity, which is the early classic of Quaker theology. There are many who may never have heard these ideas who now consider themselves Quakers, which leads to a great deal of confusion.

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