Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Just read George Fox autobiography. There is a man who believed the Word of God enough to get moving for God -- and enough to stand against the established religion of the day. He condemned Anglican priests as "hirelings" and insisted that the Lord Himself would teach the believer. Not surprisingly he suffered great opposition - imprisonment and beatings - for standing up for the Word of God against the heresies of the day.
What is the heresy of established religion today? There are probably many, but I have encountered one in particular as I lead music for Methodist Church in rural North Carolina. It well known that many seminaries are turning out pastors who no longer believe the Word of God. They are not forthright about it because their congregations wouldn't accept them if they knew. In fact, the congregations are more faithful to the Word of God than their leaders.
Poses problems in denominations where the pastors cycle through churches, and leadership is responsible for choosing their pastors for them.
I was encouraged to attend a Bible Study called, DISCIPLE. This is a widely popular Bible study
In this study, which is supposed to take the Christian through the entire Bible, I discovered that denomination is pushing theories that run counter to the clear meaning of the Biblical text. And doing so as if it were established fact.
For example, in ISAIAH - one of the most remarkable prophetic books which deals with the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon and their exiling God's people - in order to explain away the supernatural - they say, there were several Isaiahs - writing over hundreds of years.
Another example, in DANIEL - in which prophesies cover the rise and fall of four world powers as well as the coming of the Christ and the end times -- they don't even cover Daniel's prophesies in the DISCIPLE STUDY but instead cover the fiery furnace account - a bedtime story compared to the book's powerful prophesies.
Finally, JONAH -- DISCIPLE STUDY lumps together the mid-eighth century prophet, Jonah, with the post-exilic writings of Ezra saying Jonah was influenced by Ezra's xenophobia. But the Bible says Jonah was a contemporary of Jeroboam II.
What has this review of the DISCIPLE STUDY got to do with anything? Well, for one thing, the Methodist church is about to formalize their heresy. The split of the Methodist church which is likely to happen formally in 2022 - is likely to result in a slicing away of Bible-believers - likely only 20% of Methodist churches are still led by conservative pastors - though a majority of their congregations are still conservative.
Just as George Fox stood against errors of the 17th century - all Bible-believing Christians - not just Quakers - need to stand against the lies of the errant church. Perhaps it is time for all of us to follow the methods of George Fox (as well as the methods of the early Methodist movement) and take it to the streets.
What differentiates Quakers now from 'sola scriptura protestant christians' in your experience? What made us gain your sympathies?
As Quakers we seek to be Led collectively in collective decisions and individually in individual decisions. We help each other reach clearness on those individual decisions, e.g. with Meetings for Clearness and with Advices & Queries. That doesn't make us individually any less accountable.
Yes, Quakers vary both individually and collectively (as groups). In Western Europe, were I found and joined Quakers, the differences between Quaker groups are relatively small. In the USA Quakers have split into evangelical, orthodox, conservative and liberal branches that do vary considerably. Even then individual Quakers also vary within their (branch affiliated) groups.
With f&Friendly greetings,
What helped me most to understand Quakerism 38 years ago was the Faith & Practice books.
With f&Friendly greetings,
Honestly, I came to the forum without a clear understanding of what it meant to be a Quaker. I was looking for good inspirational reading -- historical examples of people who lived their faith well. For example, I have read and found the story of Plymouth colony inspiring. Also, the missionary work of Hudson Taylor in mainland China.
So, I ordered the book by George Fox. I did enjoy reading about him. Found inspiration in his boldness.
Regarding the difference between Quakers and other protestant denominations -- I think it is more important -- especially in the times in which we live -- to look for what we have in common -- I think the most essential thing is having a faith that is not compromised by the current "leaven"...
The Christian faith is being eroded from within -- that is not limited to one denomination. What is happening in seminaries -- I think is shameful.
Quaker history shows that we cannot do without the Bible! That's partly why we are in the terrible state of declension we are in. The Bible is able to rescue us from nontheism and other heresies if we read it in faith!
I just went back to the Fox journal and this is how Fox describes his early seeking :
"But my relatives were much troubled that I would not go with them to hear the priest; for I would go into the orchard or the fields, with my Bible, by myself. I asked them, 'Did not the Apostle say to believers that they needed no man to teach them, but as the anointing teacheth them?' Though they knew this was scripture, and that it was true, yet they were grieved because I could not be subject in this matter, to go to hear the priest with them. I saw that to be a true believer was another thing than they looked upon it to be, and I saw that being bred at Oxford or Cambridge did not qualify or fit a man to be a minister of Christ; what then should I follow such for? So neither them nor any of the dissenting people, could I join with; but was a stranger to all relying wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ."
The point being that as a seeker, George Fox would retreat to natural areas (into an orchard or a field) with his Bible. He didn't seek inspiration outside of the Word -- as much as outside the Anglican tradition.
Hey, folks! Your quick and witty dialogue has left me in the dust! I try to contribute to the dialogue but my comments get lost when I try to document what I am saying. One example is my attempt to find the name of the Anglican bishop who wrote a statement to the effect that "distinction between the inner light and the outer darkness is razor-thin." I fumbled around trying to find his exact name and verbatim comment and ended up losing everything that I wrote.
I also held up the life of Ann Branson (1809-1891) to illustrate the role of direct inspiration and the testimony of the Bible in her ministry and I lost that too!!! If anyone here would like to know how this worked in Ann's case, see William F. Rushby, "Ann Branson and the Eclipse of Oracular Ministry in Nineteenth Century Quakerism." Quaker History, Fall 2016, Vol.105#2, 44-66.
Furthermore, I would contend that the role of direct inspiration and the testimony of the Bible is not as simple or uncomplicated as either Wim Nusselder or Coleen Love make it out to be. Indeed, discerning God's will for us mere mortals is in fact very problematic, leaving us as individuals, as a Quaker denomination and as Christians struggling continually to "get it right!"
There is a term for the process of collective discernment of God's will in the Anabaptist/Quaker tradition, and right now I can only think of "the hermeneutical community." Isn't that what we are attempting to do right now??
In the middle of the night, Bishop XXXX's name will probably come to me. If it does, I'll let you know in the morning.
By the way, Wim and Coleen have really livened up the dialogue on QQ. Apologies to Debbie Elder; I haven't gotten to you yet!!
P.S. Coleen: try reading the Journal of Ann Branson to see how she struggled with the issues we are discussing.
Hello, Debbie Elder!
I read what may have been your opening email and found it intriguing. I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember and a Friend since was 19 years old! And yet, I still struggle with many of the issues you raised in your opening email.
Let's bear in mind that these matters are BASIC for us as persons, to the Society of Friends and the Christian faith, and to all of humanity!
Your trials and tribulations when trying to document your contribution may serve to guide you to speak from own experience rather than invoking the authority of other people's writings?
Do you experience 'inner Light' and/or 'inward Light' yourself or do you (like me) fail to experience the difference?
What roles do direct inspiration and the Bible have in your own ministry?
Things are as complicated as we make them ourselves. Things are as complex as they get when we let go and trust the outcome of discernment processes that we cannot and should not want to control.
In my experience discernment in Meetings for Worship (for Clearness or otherwise) works best when we manage to let go of individual opinions and expectations of the outcome. The issues that I have asked my worship community to help me reach clearness about have been 'should I do or should I not do X' issues rather than 'should I believe X or Y' issues. They are so specific for me and so timebound, that the Bible doesn't tend to be of much help except by providing us with stories, metaphors and language in which to express ourselves. In the course of Abrahamic/christian/Quaker history people have struggled with similar issues. We have been sent the Spirit to help us with our specific issues, building on and going beyond what the Bible offers us.
Quakers are known for finding and (by example rather than words!) giving others Guidance on the role of women in faith communities, on getting rid of slavery and other social malpractices, on developing alternatives to violence and other issues on which the Bible doesn't suffice as support. From my perspective Quakerism that limits itself to the Spirit as shown in the Bible fails to be what it is Called to be and to contribute to the Body of Christ what it has shown to be able to contribute.
With f&Friendly greetings,
You wrote: "George Fox would retreat to natural areas (into an orchard or a field) with his Bible. He didn't seek inspiration outside of the Word". And so did Jesus (except that Jesus probably didn't carry the scrolls of those days with him, but knew most of it by heart). And yet Fox found his life changing inspiration in the form of a voice that spoke directly to him and Jesus is reported as talking directly with his (and our) Father.
With f&Friendly greetings,
GREAT STUFF: Lots to think about.
The question, "How can I know the will of God?" is in fact the subject of many books. I have read some of them. And, yes, sometimes we may be tempted to think the Scripture (with its histories of the Israelites and early Christians) doesn't speak to my current situation. But that is not true. We need to think again.
Is it important to know who God is and what he is like? If the knowledge of God is important -- then Scripture is necessary. We need to think right and right thinking begins with the knowledge of God. How this unchanging God has worked in the past informs us about the present.
I'm really not trying to be pedantic. I just am so inspired by the prophesies and history. How those combine to convince people of the truth of God's word. What they have to say about the times we are living in. In fact, it is the prophesies of Daniel that give me reasons for my faith.
I would not be who I am without the Bible and without the way in which specifically my parents spoke to me using its vocabulary, metaphors and stories. Through them God spoke. (My father happened to be hireling minister in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands; the Bible had a large role in my upbringing.)
There are quite a few sermons from my father that I took to heart. One of them, about the two (!) stories in Genesis about the creation of mankind, focused on us being 'created in the image of God: creative, responsible and together'. We have been given all that we need if we dare to be creative (rather than conservative), are answerable to our fellows for our deeds and stay together in whatever we do.
Jesus earned a large part of his following from doing miracles rather than from quoting Jewish Scripture. That is true of early Quakers, too; please look up "Book of miracles" and "Fox" and/or see this video.
The crucial Quaker Advices for me are #1&2 (in British Faith & Practice, which I use most):
The Bible is mentioned (in its proper context) in #5.
I'm not sure that I need to know 'about' God; I rather need to 'know' him in how He works love and truth in me (and in us, through collective discernment). My faith is ... trust: trusting those promptings. Trust that grew in practice, in practicing opening myself to Guidance, in practicing following guidance & Guidance and learning to discern the difference.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's autobiography had a telling title: "Experiments with Truth". There is a saying: "Poetry is what is lost in translation". Likewise: "Truth is what is lost in bickering about interpretation". Truth is found in doing what we feel we Must do, after sufficient collective discernment, answerable to each other, daring to be creative. God shows himself in our connectedness in doing so, as He did in Biblical times.
With f&Friendly greetings,
I do not mean to be disagreeable -- I respect your experience. The thing I am concerned about - is the thing I often see in other churches - an unwillingness to see the things about God that have been more problematic for humanity. So, when they read in Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Jeremiah how God judged his covenant people - and brought against them the Assyrians and Babylonians - that can be uncomfortable.
It led the Presbyterian church in 2013, for example, to remove from their hymnal the song, "In Christ Alone". They didn't like the phrase "the wrath of God was satisfied".