Micah Bales and that “extreme” “interventionist” “crazy talk.”

Micah Bales and that “extreme” “interventionist” “crazy talk.”

In a recent piece entitled “God” is no Substitute for Strategy” Micah Bales breaks down the founding Quaker testimony of and witness to the sufficiency of the immediate and direct inward presence of the Spirit of God as “crazy talk.” He then doubles down by labeling or characterizing those who trust  completely and solely in the intuitive “intervention” of the inward Spirit of Christ as “extreme.” He calls us in derision “interventionist.” He also suggests later in the article that those who do not have faith in outward forms manifested through the human facilities (reason) do a “disservice” to God. That is, they are not serving God!

Reading his article is like reading the talking points (tactics) of a political strategist. The article has negative labels tagging crazy interventionists as having a “tendency against advance planning and rational thought.” Watch the strategy in his words. Actually, he is moving between strategy and tactic. The strategy is to bring people into the embracement of a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward teachings, ideas, or plans. The tactic is showing sympathy on one hand by acknowledging Fox’s statement “Don’t think, but submit” [to God].  While on the other hand, questioning the very thing he just agreed with by saying all that trusting completely in the sufficiency of the inward Spirit itself to guide and inform is excessive.  See, this ideological sleight of hand is a time honored political tactic. You have to show some sympathy or they just won’t follow you. Set up an artifice based on sympathy; then slowly add other foyers, rooms, and carports so that the original artifice is unrecognizable. You look around and wonder: “Wow, this isn’t what I moved into.”

But how does Micah label his own outward artifice? Unlike those crazy, extreme, excessive, interventionists who wish to “replace” human facilities (Watch! You first have to agree with or buy into his construct that those crazy people who have faith completely in the inward Light to guide them, “wish to replace the human facilities”), Micah says it is God’s intention to “restore the whole creation - body, mind, and spirit - to its “intended maturity and vitality in Christ.” Watch! By implication, those excessive and crazy people want to “replace” creation and upset God’s intended purpose. Micah is saying if you are a person whose life, meaning, purpose, and identity are anchored in a conscious illuminated by and a conscience informed by “immediate” (in Micah’s own words) Presence itself, that experience is not intended by God. In fact, being that is fulfilled by faith in the grace of Presence itself, works against God’s restorative work and does not serve God. Micah sets himself up as one who is on the side of restoring the whole creation to its intended maturity and vitality in Christ. He is on God’s side and serving him in the fulfillment of God’s intention purpose. By implication, Micah is moderate and reasonable … not excessive. He is a “co-creator” with God … not an excessive destroyer like those crazy people.  

Now what is it about this experience of the sufficient immediate inward Presence itself as the sufficient source of meaning, purpose, consciousness, in the conscious and conscience that is so troubling to Micah? Watch!  Living actively in immediate intuitive Presence itself that is anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience Micah finds cripples “our general inability to do long-range planning.” He doesn’t set out any examples of long-range plans he thinks should be implemented. He merely wants the reader to warm up to the outward idea that abstract outwardly expired long-range planning that comes through the human faculties is how we begin to go about helping God realize his intended purpose. Micah wants the reader to follow his outward reasoning to the place where they are open to a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward long-range plans. That is, wherein their identity, purpose, meaning, and actions, are anchored in and informed by outward ideas and plans. For those who have faith in outward forms, it is a must that people are open to and willing to identify with and adhere to the process of the formation outward plans and practices. This initial posture is fundamental … it is essential because once those with political and religious agendas gain inroads to the conscious and conscience, anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience with outward plans, ideas, conceptual forms, etc. those outside plans and ideas capture the minds and become sources, of meaning, purpose, and direction from which leaders direct people to realize their outward civil and religious agendas. Those of us whose conscious is anchored in and conscience are informed by experiencing inward Presence itself are a problem for those with outward political and religious agendas they wish to see fulfilled in the outward society. We just are not of the right mindset. Our very life and meaning is mis-directed in Presence itself. We cannot be captured or agitated into compliance with the outward forms and plans of the civil and religious state because we live a Life in a completely different State. Those of us who adhered solely to the guidance of inward Presence and are ever touched by the Light itself in our conscious and conscience are just crazy people who cannot be controlled and directed by the outward agendas of people who would rule and oversee and guide through the outward structures of the civil and religious state.

It is never once even considered in the article that perhaps human being sustained and nurtured in Presence itself is long-range planning. Imagine a witness to the living in the activity of the Spirit of Christ fulfilling our conscious and informing our conscience as long-range planning … viz. eternal life. For many of us that is bold living and acting ... presently and fearlessly … in the eternal Kingdom. For many of us the Kingdom is here … there is no-thing to create. There are no objectives to attain. In the inspired Light of Presence itself there are no outward institutions to build, no outward political or religious agendas to fulfill.  They are fulfilled in the immediate experience of Presence itself. It is the actual living of the Life that fulfills and sustains.

These arguments and labels against those whose conscious is anchored in and whose conscience is informed by inspired Immediacy itself are not new in Quaker history. The outward words and sentiments used to capture the conscious and inform the conscience of people may change slightly but the meaning, intent, agenda, and derision are the same.

There are those of us who know a life wherein our very consciousness, meaning, purpose, and direction, is guided in and through adherence to the long-range (eternal) perspective of the directly experienced inward Light itself. We have a long-range perspective … the eternal life we are living in this world and at this moment. Ours is to share that Life through testimony and witness. We do not look for or trust in the outward plans, ideologies, and institutions, of the civil and religious state. Ours is to live the long-range inward Plan manifested through personally experienced inward Presence itself. There is our hope. There is our peace. There is our joy. There is our heritage.

I know our way is not the way of those whose conscious is anchored in and conscience is informed by outward forms. We have been lead out of that way and into a different way. That way is sufficient for us in all things and in all circumstances in our daily lives and all we do is share the Way and trust the inward working of the Light itself will convince and guide. We acknowledge that our way is crippling to other ways. However, we will continue to share our way.

Historically, since the very beginning of Quaker history, when we came into contact with others who derided and mis-represented our resting solely in the guidance and meaning of inward Presence itself we reciprocated in kind and derided those who derided us. Today, by power of increased measured of Light filling our conscious and guiding our conscience, we are so deeping into the LIfe itself that the outward feelings and thoughts of anger and retaliation have lost their power and are but on the distant horizon of our soul and managed and overcome in the candling Light itself. By the power of the Candling itself; we do not respond in kind with weapons of outward ideological warfare.

To some, our message of the sufficiency of Presence itself comes across as demeaning. It is true the experience of the sufficiency of inward Light demeans a faith in outward forms in the sense that it cripples the outward designs of the civil and religious state by freeing people from dependency upon outward forms, traditions, and practices for meaning, purpose, and direction, in this life. Again, While we acknowledge this, it is ours to share the different Way.


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Comment by Diane Benton on 10th mo. 26, 2015 at 11:34am

Was it Keith doing the formal analysis or was it God with Keith watching and reporting?

While I find planning incompatible with living, moving and having my being in Christ, there are things other than planning to think on.  I desire all my mental capabilities to be used to know my Creator.  It's that knowledge that allows my conscience to be guided by inward Presence which then manifests in outward doings. 

Forrest said, "while God's arrangements, clunky and inconvenient and chaotic as they're likely to seem, will typically turn out to be a perfect preparation for purposes and needs that nobody would have previously had in mind.

"Perhaps what was going on in past centuries -- rather than a stubborn distrust of human reason as such -- was that many Friends had ample experience of relying on God's choreography in their lives, and finding that a far superior means of navigation!"

I concur.

Comment by Mackenzie on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 1:12am

James said:

As a convinced quaker of a relatively short duration I do not personally have enough information to draw my own conclusion as to the validity of Micah's position that there has been a strong Quaker belief that there is no place for human reason in God's plan for man.

Having just finished reading Bliss Forbush's "Elias Hicks: Quaker Liberal," there were several places in that book where Orthodox Friends were quoted putting down Elias Hicks for his use of reason, calling him unChristian for applying reason to belief.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 2:12am

Thank you for this contribution Mackenzie. Would you mind sharing one or two of those quotes? I am keen to read them. 

Just for the sake of clarity and this is in reponse to James. In my response to Micah I am in agreement that many Quakers, right from the very founding, valued a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by the direct experience of the inward Spirit over a conscious anchor in and a conscience informed by outward discursive reason (natural faculties) in spiritual matters. 

The Wilbur and Gurney schism manifested much the same controversy that showed around 25 years after the founding of the Quaker gathering over the sufficiency of the immediacy of the inward Spirit to guide and the use of the natural facilities of reason guiding through outwardly reasoned forms.  Wilbur wrote in his Journal, and this is just one of many examples:

"In the enemy's attempts to destroy Quakerism in 1827 [I think he was hear speaking of Hicks os the destroyer], his army was nothing like so strong and formidable as at the present time ; for now, the whole body of professors, save a little remnant of our Society, are joined in concert against the doctrines of a religion immediately revealed to the mind and understanding of man." pg. 360

Micah calls this sort of complete faith in the immediate guidance of the inward Spirit to guide and plan in all things and in all circumstances  "crazy talk." He doesn't embrace this experience because, as he suggests,  it cripples "our general inability to do long-range planning" of  those who wish to set up outward plans based on the reasonings of our natural faculties. I am of those who experiences guidance through the immediacy of inward Presence anchoring my conscience and informing my conscience and have faith in  long-range planning through the guidance of immediate Presence itself in the conscious and conscience. My meaning, purpose, and direction in life is by the power of inward Presence itself and many of us do not seek direction - short or long-range - through outward plans and forms manifested through outward natural faculties. Truly, those of use who are of this Spirit are crazy and by extension may very well serve as an impediment to the outward plans and designs Micah may support. 


Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 1:09pm

Hello, Mackenzie!

Bliss Forbush came to Albany for a visit when his book about Elias Hicks was published.  I got to hear him talk about his work face-to-face.  It is important to realize that Forbush was a leading liberal Friend, and had an ax to grind; he portrayed Elias Hicks as being more liberal than he really was.   A more scholarly and balanced view of Hicks is available nowadays in the three-volume work of Paul Buckley.  See http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0983498091?keywords=buckley%2C%20p...

Comment by Mackenzie on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 1:40pm

Oh, I definitely realize that Hicks was far less liberal than the present liberal branch. Forbush does go on about how important the Discipline was to Hicksite Friends, whereas we don't even call it a Book of Discipline anymore, and prescriptivism is, well, shunned. It is certainly clear that as far as Hicks himself was concerned, he was taking the traditional Friends position for order and obedience and maintenance of the hedge and against academic "notions" of God, while these upstarts from England were injecting the Society with newfangled evangelical ideas and ecumenism and trying to turn Friends into some sort of (probably insert Hicks scoffing here) Presbyterians. The work in ecclesiastical history that Hicks read, showing him that rationalism has a long history in ecclesiastical thought, was named in Forbush's book as well...I just don't remember it.

I think the thing that draws me some toward Conservative Friends is that they seem, at this point, to be much closer to Hicksites than modern-day Liberals do.

I will check out that other book on Hicks as well, though, after I work my way further through the to-read and half-read pile. (Forbush was on the half-read pile)

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 3:17pm

Mackenzie and WIlliam

What is so engaging and captivating to me is William Rogers treatise (Christian Quaker ...), written in 1680, opens to all who read it, a prefoxonian experience, that was not of a ecclesiastical nature, that many founding Quakers, gathered in the Light, steadfastly held to. This experience of the sufficiency of the immediacy of the Spirit as guide and teacher is experienced by many today, some 320 years later. Many today label this complete faith in and experience of the sufficiency of the inward Light itself as "Liberal." I do not subscribe to this label because it is so full of baggage that it expresses little meaning (my apologies Howard). I prefer to being descriptive in content rather than labeling. 

Even more engaging is that this prefoxonian testimony and witness laid down for posterity by Rogers calls into question the assumption that the"traditional"  Foxonian outward constructs was the only experience to which the founders of the Children of  the inward Light adhered. It may be that the experience that many label, in derision, as "Liberal," replacing the outward traditions of the "early" Quakers, actually came before foxonian traditional ecclesiastical  constructs to rule over and guide the Quaker gathering. At least the two experiences existed along-side one another for a time (maybe 25 years). Finally, it is amazing that Rogers document still even exists as many of those who imposed Foxonian outward forms on the gathering of Quakers called for its destruction.

Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 4:21pm

I think that Micah Bales is correct in asserting that Friends undervalued the rational mode of knowing way too much.  This applies especially to Conservative Friends.  The idea that inspired ministry arises in a human vacuum is perhaps the foremost case in point.

Some Conservative Friends have argued in the past that there is no human element in inspired ministry; it is given by God, not based on any human knowledge or human input.  From what I have seen, those who attempt to minister on this basis wind up doing "broken record" ministry, based on a few ideas offered over and over again with minor repackaging.  If you have been around long enough to experience this kind of testimony, you will easily recognize what I am referring to.

My understanding of inspired ministry is that we should labor hard in the vineyard of knowledge, and then bring the fruits of our labors and lay them at the Lord's feet.  In His own timing and His own will, He will call forth such testimony as He wills, drawing on our work in preparing our minds and souls to be used as He sees fit.

Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 4:30pm

Moral of the Story:  If you want to be available for God's work in ministry, do your homework!!

Comment by Diane Benton on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 5:26pm

My homework is spending time in the presence of Presence.  The more familiar I am with Presence, which I experience with my heart, mind and body, the more I live and move and have my being in Christ.  I can't imagine any other way that would make me more available to God's work in ministry.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 6:25pm

If a person is simply winging it, without that vital connection -- like striving to be 'spontaneous' in some stereotyped way, practicing Creativity without the inspiration -- Then Reason (or her cute sister  Rationalization) will probably work better.

If you've done the real homework of striving to know God, then you'll apply your reason appropriately and also receive a 'heads-up' when that's likely to go wrong -- and also learn to simply 'Ask' and receive a response that will prove acceptable to reason, over a longer run if not immediately.


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