To Bridge or Not to Bridge

My 8/21/09 post on “Worship, Nontheism, & Convergence” proposed a bridge by which theistic and nontheistic Quakers might come together, a bridge that I have found in my ministry to be eminently useful for that purpose (with the welcome effect, by the way, of helping some of us to better obey the advice to “take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts”). The post applied a standard reading of a scripture passage — and I am grateful for seasoned Friends’ acknowledgment of the legitimacy of that reading — as a hermeneutical key to unlock the reported primitive Quaker experience qua text, a key that the texts themselves harbor as well.Comprising only about 1,300 words and being shaped to its purpose, the 8/21 post is not a tiny theological or philosophical treatise or the prelude to one; it is simply a light on a way forward in the sometimes stalled, often acrimonious, always peculiar interfaith dialogue between theistic and nontheistic Friends. As interfaith dialogue requires, it is an attempt to point to a commonality, to a place where we might be together in peace, might even work and worship together, while we explore other commonalities and differences. It’s understandable that such an endeavor would arouse anxiety, and, not unexpectedly, I have received a number of complaints — that I am attempting to reduce God, to distort Quakerism, to rewrite scripture or history, or to do some other irresponsible thing — that, being pressed, seem to want to justify switching off this light, shutting down this bridge. They’ve kept me busy. And in addition to those conversations, other correspondents have helped develop the topic, while yet others have written about further interesting, more or less related, material, and it’s easy and all too enjoyable for me to walk down that road with them.

I am very grateful, if a bit overwhelmed, for the dialogue, for the sharing of concerns and information, and for the challenges that have helped me think more clearly and carefully. I’m even grateful for some opportunities to respond to adamantine opinion; if nothing else, they fired up the little gray cells, and sometimes they brought out additional aspects of the topic as well. I have tried to reply to everyone, but I may not be able to continue that: I lack the time now, I have frequent Internet access problems, and I want the post to serve as intended and not be lost in clouds of (again, more or less) related conversation, however much I have learned from my correspondents in these threads.

So while further comments on that post are certainly welcome, I can’t promise to publish or reply to those that rehash issues already discussed or that carry us into philosophical or other areas much beyond the scope of the post. I want to use the time I can give to that post to focus on its ministry of reconciliation for those who are open to the message. And I have more posts in me; for one thing, I’d like to get back to my analysis of George Fox’s metanoia.

I’ll leave you tonight with this from Thomas Merton‘s No Man Is an Island (1955, p. 165):

Charity [i.e., caritas, love] alone is perfectly free, always doing what it pleases, since it wills nothing except to love and cannot be prevented from loving. Without charity, knowledge is fruitless. Love alone can teach us to penetrate the hidden goodness of the things we know. Knowledge without love never enters into the inner secrets of being. Only love can truly know God as He is, for God is love.

2 thoughts on “To Bridge or Not to Bridge

  1. Bridges are being built. The question is more to each individual whether s/he will help construct or even cross those bridges. I know you recognize that the bridges are not just between theist and non-theist, but between other perceptions of religion. I have proposed a basis for bridging in lessons taken from the first council of the Church in Jerusalem by which I hope that those of us who try to follow Jesus as embodiment of the Christ might take a closer look at essentials of our faith:
    In short, the answer is, “bridge!”
    It’s a great conversation

  2. Yes, it is peculiar: that this intrafaith dialogue is in fact “interfaith.”

    Perhaps it can be seen as “peculiar” in the older sense of the word: chosen. (Friends were a “peculiar” people in that sense rather than merely the contemporary sense of “strange.”) I’m not exactly sure what I mean; perhaps “chosen” by God (= Love = Truth) to build a little bit of a bridge to a better world.

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