Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I have posted an extended version of the article (of the same name) published in this month's Friends Journal at my blog on morality:
Largely agreeing, with some disagreements that seem worth mentioning.
There's this [unavoidable?] emphasis on 'operational' differences. How is 'objective' aka 'describable via external observation' while 'God' -- the only truly objective measure -- is veiled by our focus on different means of access.
I'd see this as three false beliefs with their elements of truth: mistaking tradition for God, mistaking scripture for God, mistaking experience. All with their own unstated difficulties: interpretation of 'tradition' [I find my Liberal Friendists fervently devoted to their own traditions], interpretation of scripture [a familiar pitfall] , interpretation of 'experience' [~This "can't be"/"must be" ____ ]
Fairly obviously, God manifests and works through the influences of tradition, of scriptures, of our total experience and the world in which our experiences are set. Allowing any of these things to become an 'object of worship' in its own right is simply insane. All are parts of one world which God continues to create. And everything God sends us to consider here -- is subject to our 'yes' or 'no'. ''Truth'? 'Illusion'?
In us, God is present and at work, in that sense of whether or not we're fudging the call this time. Learning to attend to that -- could give us a solid basis for becoming one body.
Here's an example:
"In the account given above, the validity of the ministry, for Liberal Friends, was assessed by the results of the ministry, that is, how the message impacted those present. Conversely, for the Conservative Friend, the validity of the ministry was found in the process, that is, how the message was faithfully delivered."
The Liberal group's evaluation of "how the message impacted those present" is itself skewed by the tacit assumption that the purpose of worship is a peaceful and satisfying experience for those present. That's a good practical criterion if you want people receptive to messages and coming back for more -- but not if the deeper purpose is to alert people to the presence of God and align them better with God's workings and intentions, a purpose we've flagrantly lost sight of...
In a similar light, the 'Conservative' Friend' was undoubtedly concerned to be faithful to his leading to deliver that particular message. Which he would also want to have a good outcome -- albeit with his interpretation of 'good' taken to fit that second purpose, connecting people to God, whether or not they rejected it at the time. But I don't think he would say that its "validity" depended on his faithfulness -- but on its source.
Thanks, Forrest, for these interesting comments.
I see what thee is saying, Forrest, that it is slightly misleading to say that the "validity" depended on faithfulness, rather on its source. Thee puts it more eloquently than I, and I think thee is quite correct about one of the tacit purposes of worship being a "peaceful and satisfying experience for those present." I think an accurate description of the minister's desired outcome would be that the Lord's will be done, and whatever follows is left in the Lord's hands.
But we each of us must test within ourselves the validity of a message, and this minister tests it by an internal sense of being Guided and Strengthened and in fact Commanded to speak, and not to speak unless absolutely required. That is what I meant by the validity is in the process. As long as the minister has waited until the Christ Within insists on bursting forth as outward ministry, then the faithfulness of the minister will be rewarded, and any results are in the Lord's hands. The Lord knows all ends. We cannot. Editing even one word out of doubt or concern for how it will be taken is faithlessness, and the minister can expect to be censured by the Lord for that. I had this minister mention to me in casual conversation several times how sin and faithlessness would "hurt" a person's ministry, by which was primarily meant that the Lord would withhold allowing the minister to offer ministry for a time. Other Quaker ministers over the ages have mentioned similar things, some for not speaking when they should, others (I think one famous example was Woolman) for speaking more than they should have.
It seemed to me what the Liberal Friends were saying, without thinking it out all that clearly, was that a different test was required for ministry given in their meeting, which is more along the lines of the tacit understanding that thee so clearly described, that the ministry must not annoy those present.
It will perhaps be interesting to thee that it ended up that there was one particularly exercised complainant who had, apparently, threatened to stop attending meeting because of the Christian ministry. So the Christian nature of the ministry became the organizing point behind the intervention, but over the course of the discussion it became clear that while the others were suggesting editing, the complainant had really liked that their meeting was a silent one, with ministry offered maybe once or twice a year during worship. It became clear to me that this was the actual goal of the complainant, not improved ministry, but almost no ministry. But those details did not seem pertinent to the article, unusually pointed at one person, and not that helpful in elucidating the underlying issues.
Isabel Penraeth wrote: For Conservatives, both the traditional faith (Quaker-Christianity) and the practice of waiting worship under the headship of Christ define Quakerism. They identify as Quakers first, Christians second.
I am a Conservative Friend, and I would NOT rank my Quaker identity before my Christian one.
Thanks for the input :)
I don't know what to say except that I am sure there are plenty of things I wrote characterizing each of the branches that would probably annoy someone who considers themselves within the branch. I hazarded that peril in the interest of clarity, not saying absolutely every time, most, or many, or the ones I know . . . I did have several Conservative Friends review this paper, and none of them objected to the phrasing.
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