“What canst thou say?” is sometimes taken to be a call to “speak your truth.” But that’s an idea that George Fox could not have endorsed; more likely, he would have taken issue with it in forceful terms. His challenge was, and is, much more radical.
This is the first public draft of the Introduction to the work-in-progress called Quaker Faith and Practice for the Twenty-first Century.
An announcement of my (quixotic?) plan to compose a book of Quaker Faith and Practice for the 21st Century, and a tale of trouble as a Yearly Meeting struggles to update its manual of Faith and Practice ….
My concerns about the contemporary liberal Quaker fascination with what is called “spiritual experience,” a fascination I shared earlier in my life, are longstanding.
Does Quaker spirituality subsist in our climbing a path to peak experience? Are we essentially seekers, our living the divine life deferred as we seek the summit? George Fox would answer those questions with an emphatic “No!”
In this post, I examine the content and the meaning, for him and for us, of George Fox’s famous “There is one, even Christ Jesus” experience.
Will there be a “last judgment,” as described, for example, in Matthew 25? Probably not. But maybe Jesus was expressing a truth both timeless and urgent when he said that we who feast and play while the poor starve deserve unending torture. And maybe, as a George Fox can tell us, “nice” is the truly banal face of evil. But do we have ears to hear?
Liberal Quakerism increasingly identifies itself with a small subset of Quaker vocabulary and practices, all loosely defined if at all. The Quaker metanarrative context which gave our vocabulary and practice meaning is ignored or intentionally rejected rather than faithfully developed, as if our selected slogans (“spirit,” “light,” “continuing revelation,” etc.) and practices (silent “worship,” consensus…
In their proper context, Spirit, Light, and that of God are characters in a narrative. Within the narrative they have well-defined characteristics and roles. They have life. And they have evocative power. Ripped from that narrative, they become vague metaphysical notions that stir no one ….
In my July 10 post, I wrote about the individualism and subjectivism that I see at the heart of modern liberal Quakerism. Contemplating those qualities, we might rightly ask: if “Truth” is a matter of more or less idiosyncratic personal experience, then what, if anything, beyond agreement on such vaguely-defined “spiritual” individualism itself, brings us…