Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
This started with an answer to a long-term question -- which was my message for today's Meeting:
If we all have God available to teach us in Meeting -- Why does our spiritual progress seem so slow?
The response I found was to remember Erich Schiffmann's account of yoga lessons from a teacher in India.
The man would welcome Schiffmann every time he came; they'd have delightful conversations; but he wasn't learning anything whatsoever about yoga. Finally he simply asked a question, and his teacher answered it quite seriously. But he would only tell him things he was interested enough to ask about.
God seems to be that sort of teacher. (And some questions just take a very long time for an answer we can understand -- possibly a response we'd only become able to understand over time.)
But this led to me asking: Well, what should I ask next? [Obviously I needed to both 1) produce an answer of 'my own' and 2) be receptive to whatever question God might find suitable.]
That led into another long-standing question, why Liberal Friendism seems to go so far adrift...
-----George Fox did say, "God is here to teach His people Himself." But most often he put it: "Christ is here to teach his people himself."
Whether or not you see this as an important distinction -- to me it seems: "The fact that this could be an important distinction, together with the fact that it isn't -- are both major aspects of Christianity.
What we see at work in Jesus' life and teaching is God's incarnation in us as human beings; this is what we call "Christ" and this is what makes it possible to learn & develop spiritually. Can Jesus appear to people, in person, to provide such help? Many people say this has happened to them, that this is the form in which they know God. Many people [I myself] don't.
There's a perennial argument over the importance of Jesus as living person vs Jesus as a historical/legendary character in certain books. In terms of Jesus as teacher, however -- If we were to suddenly find ourselves in a classroom, with Jesus giving a talk -- Wouldn't it make sense for him to ask: "Have you read the material? -- Well enough to understand what I'm trying to tell you?"
It isn't that Jesus wrote any of the texts for this class -- There are some very good reasons why he did not -- or that they are any more error-free than the texts of any human class. But they seem to provide essential starting points...
Forrest - When you say you have not had "Jesus appear in person to provide such help" I wonder what you mean? First of all, it is Christ (the Spirit) that I think of teaching me, and obviously not Jesus (the man), but we do get sloppy and use those words interchangeably. And also it is a major contribution of the Quakers to point out what others had been attributing to a natural conscience in all of us is indeed Christ within speaking to us! I perceive it as a voice, or rather as words, but it also "speaks" to me as feelings, nudges, restraints, uneasy feelings, comforting feelings in my heart. I think we all have these, so Christ does indeed communicate with all of us, but IDENTIFYING His teaching, or his "still small voice", is a learning process.
On your main point though, I also have thought about how much Friends miss in teaching and growth opportunities when they do not make the connection between the Inner Light and Christ Jesus. I say this because if you do not believe they are the same then you ONLY have the direct teaching of the Light to learn from, and miss the very rich teaching of Christ in the New Testament as well as the experiences of the early Christians as they learned form the Light. These all inform and stimulate my learning process as I follow what I perceive to be the Inner Light. On the other hand I am aware that if you have grown up having a misunderstood Bible pushed on you by the churches it can be hard to find the Truth in the scriptures through layers of dogma. But I encourage everyone to actually READ all of the New Testament and see what the Spirit itself can teach you in a direct way! It is amazing! If everyone would read the Scriptures with open eyes, and not through what they have been told about it, but as if it were Truth, spiritual growth would follow.
Thanks for the question.
Some people literally do experience this as Jesus the man -- Emil Fuchs in his Pendle Hill pamphlet #49 has that experience in a Nazi prison, where he was presumably not in his 'normal' state of mind -- but certainly better grounded in the real reality than us comfortable people usually are. I've never gotten this as a literal voice, but certainly have found God addressing me in a wide variety of ways, inside or out.
The term 'Christ' has never been an easy one for me... God knows Whom I'm talking to, when I can do that.
What the man Jesus conveys in the synoptics is healing me of a great many common human dysfunctions; and I share your regret that so many Friends fail to see the need to study this. John's fiction is sometimes equally cogent -- and sometimes much less so. Paul, I'd have to say, learned a lot from Jesus but didn't quite get it... I am only gradually learning to bear with him as a man doing his best to provide specific pastoral counseling to specific ancient churches. James, yay! But I find most of the NT too annoying, too much addressed to people of a particular culture, which was not ours. The conditions that Jesus addresses, however, remain, however much they may have changed shape.
Hmmm, it's good to have you answering this one... How about: The Day of the Lord ? [This seems to be another difficult question, one I continue to struggle with!]