Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
[This is from my reaction to a discussion re George Keith on facebook. Thoughts?]
The core implication of the scriptures we have: "God talks to people. Here are examples, illustrative stories, some wild ideas we've gotten that way." The Bible also includes examples of people misunderstanding what God had in mind.
This isn't the sort of communication you'd find in a technical manual: 'Figure this out and your gadget will work.' But that's how people try to use scriptures when they think of them as a source of authority, as if there could be any authority apart from God. It also seems as if w'all [isn't that a nice coinage, so much like 'wall'?] try to use our collective agreements in an analogous way... and hence we end up with Meetings (and churches) where few people believe God exists -- yet they follow a process that [like reading scriptures] requires God's participation to work right.
How to describe an enlightening usage of scripture and personal intuition, in which we neither make an idol of scripture nor wander aimlessly away from what God might tell us through it? The reconciliation of Keith & Bownas?
Through the power and presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ in my conscience and consciousness, it is discovered to me that the direct experience of the impulse (that is, the awareness of the diminishment, increase, or stasis of the spirit itself in itself in a given activity, interaction, or relationship) is the faculty which guides and informs my relationships and interactions and which has drawn me out of the reflective nature. It is the coming into a different faculty through the spirit's appearance in the conscience and consciousness which is not of the nature of the reflected forms of objective or subjective. In this different way, biblical text is absorbed in the self-evident presence of the spirit of Christ and the relating to the text is through the faculty of the direct awareness or witness of the increase, decrease, or stasis of the spirit itself in the act of reading. This faculty is not of the of the reflective process or nature. That is, reading scripture is not a reflective process but an experiencing of the direct motion (increase, decreases, or stasis) of the spirit of Christ. In this faculty or witness there is no distinction between between the text and the reader which is bridged through Christ's unmediated and constant presence. Of course, this witness is the same when reading anything, scriptural or otherwise. This is my testimony to the witness of being or consciousness transcending the reflective nature of which idolatry is a manifestation.
If everyone were continually consciously aware of the presence of God, we wouldn't need Meetings or scriptures to remind us of the presence and nature of God, nor would there be much point to having this discussion.
Why do people in general lack that ongoing awareness? Whether or not that's what God intends for the long run, it seems to be the human norm to date. [I even see some purpose at work behind that condition; but that's a whole other topic.]
So we've had Biblically-oriented people saying that Liberal-Friendish people were just sitting around meeting each other while losing touch with God; and we've had Liberal-Friendish people saying that Biblically-oriented people didn't seem to know God exists outside that book... Wouldn't this suggest that a lot of people, traditional or not, have been losing touch with the reality of ItAll?
Further -- that each has had something that the other side lacked, and should talk about that together?
Awareness of the impulse and self-evident presence of the spirit of Christ in the conscience has led people to testify to the witness of being drawn out of the reflective nature and the need for outward forms like scriptures, meeting houses, or churches to mediate or minister the presence of the spirit of Christ. However, my initial inclination toward concurrence with the reflection that continuous awareness of the impulse of Christ rules out engagement with and participation in mediated forms results in the awareness of the diminishment of Christ's impulse and presence in my conscience which, in watchfulness for the impulse of the Spirit, leads me to a stoppage .... that is, awareness of a stasis or stay. I cannot, for the sake of the impulse of Christ in my conscience, concur with the reflection that all who know the continuous presence of Christ are drawn out of participation in mediated forms, even though I can say in good conscience the immediate presence of Christ in my conscience and consciousness has drawn me out of the need for participation in and engagement with outward forms to mediate Christ's presence. To speak otherwise would be to knowingly and consciously usurp the impulse of Christ inshining upon my conscience.
As to why people, by their own acknowledgement, lack ongoing awareness of God's immanent presence, I can only, speak with authority concerning the impulse of the spirit of Christ inshining within my own heart and thereby perhaps speak to people's conscious in the sight of God through a faith in the mystery of a pure conscience which gives entrance into the peace of God. With that said, as the presence of the spirit of Christ more and more saturates my conscience, the power of the reflective nature diminishes, so that the immanent and self-evident awareness of Christ's immediate impulse of increase, decrease, and stasis enthroned my consciousness. This impulse in itself is become (and is becoming) my guide in matters of human relations and the role of the reflective nature proportionately diminished; so that it is discovered to me I am drawn out of the reflective process to guide and inform human relationships and interactions.
I can say, in the immediate and continuous presence of the spirit of Christ it is discovered to me I can live with scriptures and I can live without them.
Forrest Curo wrote: "Further -- that each has had something that the other side lacked, and should talk about that together?"
Forrest, what does this mean? It seems to me that nontheist folks and theists operate in different "ballparks" and there is little point in trying to play in the same game. Focussing on trying to play in the same game would dissipate the energy that each group might bring to the encounter. Usually, one group dominates and the game loses its meaning.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is a historical case in point. When the two Philadelphia yearly meetings united, the Orthodox yearly meeting in effect disappeared, and the game proceeded with only one team and a scattered group of disenfranchised marginal dissidents. Many Orthodox players had already aligned themselves with the theologically liberal team. The identity-defining institutions became increasingly non-Christian.
The yearly meeting lost its Christian dynamic and is now dominated by paid leadership and their power structures! As far as I know (and I don't know the inside story), local meetings have gone into long-term attrition.
Do I have it right?
It takes at least three Quakers to have a schism; and we don't have that in my neighborhood. Whatever who did what to in Philadelphia [When?] is not familiar to me, and doesn't seem related to what you imply you don't understand about what I meant about what.
George Fox thought he'd been given an ideal form of worship, akin-to if not the same as what was done in the early Church. It wouldn't get lost in sterile arguments about the meaning of the Bible, because the worshippers would be gathered together in the same spirit as were the people who'd written the Bible, and they'd have God teaching and guiding them in the process.
In the US his later followers broke apart between people who put the emphasis on [certain interpretations of] the Bible and people who put the emphasis on what they experienced directly themselves in worship.
In the present extremely secular age, it doesn't take a lot of explanation that we find people from the latter group drifted far from any form of Christianity. Nor that the former group would dwindle in an urban setting.
And both groups, overall, appear to have lost much of their spiritual juice. Forms of worship in themselves wouldn't solve this. But some forms might have been more helpful toward maintaining connection to God?
Hey, Forrest, thanks for your willingness to address controversial issues, thereby helping to keep the dialogue alive and, for me, interesting!!
You wrote: "In the US [Fox's] later followers broke apart between people who put the emphasis on [certain interpretations of] the Bible and people who put the emphasis on what they experienced directly themselves in worship." I find this interpretation of differences between the Hicksites and the Orthodox problematic; it is the party-line Hicksite framing of the issues involved. But the conflicting narratives behind this approach have never been settled and perhaps can't be. So there is not much point in the two of us trying to sort out the claims and counter-claims.
You also wrote: "And both groups, overall, appear to have lost much of their spiritual juice. Forms of worship in themselves wouldn't solve this. But some forms might have been more helpful toward maintaining connection to God?"
Referencing only liberal and conservative unprogrammed Friends, you assert that "both groups, overall, appear to have lost much of their spiritual juice." I wish this were not true but, unfortunately, I think you are correct! The unprogrammed Society of Friends is in my view largely a "spent force," surviving just barely by drawing down the spiritual capital and financial resources generated by its predecessors!
You also state that "some forms [of worship] might have been more helpful toward maintaining connection to God." Is this notion in reference to unprogrammed vs. pastoral Friends?? Or is it specific to theologically liberal vs. conservative unprogrammed Friends? Please explain what you mean!
When you reflect upon another another person as atheist, how are you using that term? Who you define the meaning you place in the term atheist?
"Atheist" is now a naughty word that is not politically correct! "Nontheist" is the preferred self-descriptor for Friends who don't believe in God. My plea is "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!
I don't think that I used the word "atheist" in this discussion! It would be best for me to refrain from an explanation of the term "nontheist" since that is someone else's terminology.
Thank you for that important correction. The specific quote that prompted my original question is:
It seems to me that nontheist folks and theists operate in different "ballparks" and there is little point in trying to play in the same game.
This quote from you prompts to ask. When you reflect upon a person as nontheist which is not in the same barkpark as a theist, how are you using the term nontheist? Would you define the what a nontheist means to you?
It think it is important to highlight you also used the term to describe your understanding of the dynamic between nontheist and theist. Your use of the term nontheist to reflect upon others prompts me ask the my revised question.
Thanks again for the correction.
I don't really have a sophisticated definition of "nontheist" to offer. I would regard "nontheist" and "unbeliever" as synonymous terms, I guess. Hebrews 11:6~"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Um, where were we?
Thanks, however, for that last example of how not to read scripture. If it were literally true, no atheist would have found God seeking him.
When God takes the initiative, even the recalcitrant can be converted. With God, all things are possible.