Sunday, April 20, 2014

Queer Quaker: And This is Our Testimony to the Whole World

Queer Quaker: And This is Our Testimony to the Whole World: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who pers...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CHRIST IN EARLY QUAKERISM by Maurice Creasey

CHRIST IN EARLY QUAKERISM

by Maurice Creasey 
Source: Creasey, Maurice. Christ in Early Quakerism. Philadelphia: The Tract Association of Friends, undated. 

This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.


Friends everywhere are conscious of the fact that our Society, although still used of God in ways beyond our deserving, no longer possesses the vitality and unity which marked its early years. A bewildering variety of teaching passes under the name of Quaker, and there is much uncertainty amongst us as to whether we should regard ourselves as called to give expression to a profound and revolutionary conception of the purpose and scope of God's dealings with man, or whether we are a religious fellowship which exists primarily in order to give hospitality to the widest possible range of views. 

Whatever else may be learned from a study of our origins, this much at least is clear: that the early Quaker teaching concerning "the universal and divine light of Christ" was a message concerning the action of God rather than the nature of man. It was saying, not simply that there is innate in every man a private source of illumination; but rather, that what God showed himself to be in Jesus Christ he eternally is in all men. The love and compassion, the challenge and demand which were embodied and expressed in Jesus were apprehended as having been, in measure, present and active in and towards all men everywhere at all times. 

Friends were united in the certainty that the same power, wisdom, and grace of God which had ever been seeking to save man from his futile desire for autonomy, and which had been concretely revealed and expressed in Jesus Christ, was now available to lead into all truth those who trusted and obeyed it. This was the light to which they directed men, even "the light which lighteth every man coming into the world," the "light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 

Friends knew, indeed, that although all men everywhere thus came within the scope of God's saving purpose, not all men responded to it with obedience and trust. They knew that, seemingly, not much less universal was the refusal of this claim. The light of Christ shines, indeed, in every heart; but it is sadly possible to hate the light; and men are saved not simply through the possession of the light but only through obedience to it. Refusal of that claim of God which constituted man's very being cannot but disrupt the whole course of his nature, and set him against himself as truly as it sets him against God and his fellows. 

Again, it seemed clear to early Friends that, although many of their contemporaries glorified Christ in words, their understanding of his meaning was both narrow and shallow. It was narrow in that it seemed to minimize or even to ignore the deep truth of Christ's relation to Creation and, therefore, to every man. It exhibited little or no concern for "the heathen," in whose final doom it seemed blandly acquiescent. It showed little awareness of the present implication of belief in the Lordship of Christ, and seemed able to combine it with an uncritical acceptance of social, political, economic, and military methods and conventions which went far to empty it of all practical significance. It was shallow, too, in that it tended to content itself with an intellectual apprehension of doctrine rather than to demand a deep and thorough transformation of the whole personality by obedience to the contemporary leadings of the Spirit of Christ. When it did emphasize "holiness," this tended to be interpreted in a narrowly pietistic sense which had in it not a little of a sub-Christian asceticism. 

As against such interpretations of the meaning of the fact of Christ, the early Friends proclaimed one which was both more extensive and also more intensive. The Christ of whom they taught was a Christ through whom and unto whom were all things, a Christ whose light shone in every human heart, whose voice spoke in every demand of conscience and every prompting of love and truth. The service of Christ so conceived demanded the patient acceptance of obloquy and suffering, and under no circumstances permitted their infliction upon others. He was to be served in all the ways of common life, in simplicity and gentleness, integrity and love. All customs and practices, however deeply rooted in tradition or sanctioned by usage, were to be brought under the judgment of Christ and, at no matter what cost, were to be broken if loyalty to him seemed so to require. 

Those who so knew Christ knew themselves to have been delivered not only from the penalty of sin but also from its power. They found themselves, moreover, gathered into a community in which were to be known, not merely as a doctrine or an idea, but in reality and in daily life, both the fellowship of Christ's sufferings and the power of Christ's resurrection. 

It was this radical emphasis upon the living presence of Christ among those who desired above all else to hear and obey him that formed the foundation of the Quaker conception of worship, ministry, and the Sacraments. Since Christ alone, as Prophet, has the right to speak in his Church, the only acceptable worship, in spirit and in truth, will be that in which the worshippers wait for Christ himself to speak. This he may do secretly and silently, without uttered words; or he may move any one of the worshippers to utter words of prayer or praise or testimony, as he who alone knows the condition of each person present sees fit. Thus ministry required the creation of no separate "order," but is known in the exercise of a spiritual gift which may be bestowed upon any. It is a "ministry of the word" in the sense that Christ, who is the word, speaks through it. 

Further, the Quaker rejection of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper was not founded merely upon a negative doctrine of the rejection of all "forms" in the interest of a "purely spiritual" worship. It had a positive basis in the belief that, Christ's presence being known so truly in the gathered and worshipping group, no outward ceremony was needed to mediate it or could make it more real. Christ's baptism, with spirit and with fire, had superseded John's, and denoted an inner experience of cleansing and purification and power, Where it was known inwardly no outward baptism could add anything to it; where it was not known, no outward ceremony could impart it. 

Early Quakerism thus took its rise in a vision of the breadth of and depth of the loving purpose of God as this is revealed and made effectual in Jesus Christ. The original Quaker conception of Christ, like that of the New Testament as a whole, was able to hold togather, within its extraordinary profound and flexible group, both the particular and the universal, the historical and the mystical emphasis. Unhappily, this vision has to a large extent faded from amongst us, and the component elements of that comprehensive conception have fallen apart. Thus it has come to pass that some groups of Friends feel called to stress one side, some to stress another, and they do this not realizing that each requires the other to give it validity and meaning. Thus the conception of Christ has become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, occasioning division, whereas for our spiritual forefathers it was the one foundation upon which all was built and in which they all found their unity. 

Our greatest need as a religious Society is, surely, that we should give of our best in prayer, in obedience, and in thought, so that we may, in God's mercy, recover and express in contemporary terms, in relation to the needs of the present day, this tremendous vision of Christ.

A REVOLUTIONARY GOSPEL Lewis Benson

A REVOLUTIONARY GOSPEL

Lewis Benson
Published by the Tract Association of Friends, 1515 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
(Reprinted from The Friend, V. 132, Nos. 16-18, 4/19, 26, and 5/3, 1974)
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.


The rise of the Quakers in the seventeenth century was a revolutionary event. The first Quaker prophets believed that their mission was to redirect the course of Christian history by rebuilding the whole Christian structure from the foundations. They saw their task as turning people from darkness to light, and the community that was gathered by their labors called itself Children of Light. If their revolutionary claim is to have meaning for us today we need to understand what they meant by darkness and what they meant by light. 

George Fox taught that the life of darkness is a life that does not seek the counsel of God and does not obey God. "Darkness," he said, "came into man by transgression. But men and women can be brought from the darkness of disobedience to the light of obedience by receiving Christ as their teacher and savior. "The ground of man's belief and obedience is Christ who doth enlighten him to the intent that he might believe and obey the truth," says Fox, and "after you have heard Christ the light, believe and obey." 

In the Old Testament the Law of Moses was called "light" because by this means God's people were led into the righteousness of God by a word from God. But now, through Christ, the New Covenant, this light-word that leads to righteousness is given to all nations. Christ is "the light of the Gentiles." "That light that Christ hath enlightened thee with," says Fox, "teaches righteousness and holiness." Fox maintained that the whole intent of God's redemptive work was to restore to men, through Christ, the life of righteousness that had been lost through disobedience. Through Christ, the great prophet and teacher, the life of righteousness can become a reality for all men. The Old Covenant was centered on God's righteous law as set forth in the Mosaic code. the New Covenant is centered on a living teacher of righteousness, who is present in the midst of his people as their living leader, counsellor, shepherd, bishop, prophet, priest and king. This is the gospel message that Fox preached and which he so frequently proclaimed in its shortened form: "Christ has come to teach his people himself." Hostile critics called this message "the Quakers' new gospel." It certainly had an unfamiliar sound to many who heard Fox preach. It was, in fact, a revolutionary message about who Christ is and how he saves men. 

THE QUAKER REVOLT 

The early Quakers were not a reforming movement within the framework of a commonly shared belief in Christ as savior. They were in revolt against what the churches were teaching about salvation by Christ. They claimed that the churches' teaching had separated belief in Christ as savior from the call of God for righteousness. Belief in Christ had become divorced from obedience in righteousness. Fox said that the belief of his Calvinist contemporaries was an "unsanctifying belief," by which he meant that it left the believer still captive to sin and a dweller in the life of unrighteousness. The Calvinist doctrine of "imputed righteousness" was rejected by the Quakers. They that have received Christ within, said Fox, "they witness the righteousness itself without imputation." The chief point of the controversy between Puritans and Quakers was whether Christ had the power to make men truly righteous as well as the power to forgive. This is a disagreement about that which is most fundamental in Christianity. It is a disagreement about how we experience Christ as savior. But the Quaker revolt was not directed solely against Calvinistic Puritanism. Before Calvin the Church of Rome had assumed the role of mediator of moral truth to its members, it set a standard of morality defined by the church and kept in force by the power of the church. The scandals that developed in the administration of this church-oriented morality were the occasion of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking back across the centuries of Christian history Fox was able to say, "The righteousness within and sanctification within hath been lost since the apostles' days," and "the sanctifying belief hath been lost since the apostles' days." 

The great emphasis that early Quakers placed upon Christ as the teacher and enlightener has often been grossly misunderstood by out-group critics and by Quakers themselves. It has sometimes been maintained that the central principle of the Quakers is the "Inner Light" -- a Quaker discovery whose universal validity is not dependent on the Christian revelation. this misunderstanding caused some early critics to call the Quaker teaching about the Light, "the Quakers' idol." Fox was not putting an "Inner Light" doctrine in place of Christ, but he was using the biblical "light" terminology to express a greatly expanded understanding of the saving power of Christ. This expanded understanding is the foundation of everything that Fox taught. 

The early Quaker movement was a new beginning on a new foundation. The new foundation is to be found in the Quakers' revolutionary gospel message. Fox says that this gospel "hat been lost for many generations. But that gospel again is to be preached" and "as for the gospel foundation, I say, it is to be laid again in the whole world." "The everlasting gospel will be preached again," and "so shall truth go over all nations, the power of God, the gospel, as it did in the days of the apostles. The announcement that "the gospel is being preached again" is repeated at least forty-two times in Fox's writings. 

In 1676 London Yearly Meeting sent a minute to all Monthly and Quarterly Meetings recommending that they "keep an exact account of those that first brought the message of glad tidings among them." The First Publishers of Truth were bearers of a message of "glad tidings." The Truth that they published was Gospel truth. This message was to go to "professors and profane," that is, to professing Christians as well as non-Christians. According to Burrough and Fox there were few in England that had not been challenged by this "Gospel of Truth." 

Even more remarkable were the scores of missioners whose travels covered a very wide area that reached as far as Surinam, Newfoundland, the Near East and the Baltic countries. Fox himself addressed evangelical epistles to the Pope, the Emperor of China, the Kings of France and Spain, and the Emperor of the House of Austria (with copies to go to the Palatinate, Holland and Hungary) and "to the most part of the world" to proclaim to them that "God was come to teach his people himself by his Son." 

These first missioners were not wearing themselves out for the sake of promoting some sectarian cause. They did not see their missionary task as a work of persuading people to see the value of silence in worship, or the advantages of not taking a vote in reaching group decisions, or the way God uses women in his church and in the church's ministry. All these things belong to the Quaker story, but the Truth that the first Quakers were publishing consisted of something much more fundamental. Their task was to preach a revolutionary gospel and to establish people upon a new gospel foundation. They believed that this was the beginning of a new era in which the saving power of the gospel would be released in the world and experienced as it had not been "since the apostles' days. 

The people who responded most positively to this message were those who had passed from one reforming sect to another or who, like Fox, had not received from radical Christian leadership a word that could "speak to their condition." The appeal of "truth" for such people was not that it represented the ultimate in radical reform but that it held out a real alternative to every kind of reforming strategy. 

The revolutionary spirit of the early Quaker movement comes to life in Fox's great evangelical epistle to Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate. The following abridged extracts give the gist of it: 

The Lord is come to teach his people himself and to set up his ensign, that the nations may flow to it. The work of the Lord is beginning agian as it was in the Apostles' days. Now people are coming out of the apostasy to the Light of Christ to receive the gospel from him. For the Lord and his Sone Jesus Christ is come to teach his people and to bring them from all the world's ways to Christ who is the heavenly rock and foundation to build upon. 

A FOUNDATION TO BUILD UPON 

In the earliest Quaker writings the word "foundation" recurs with great frequency. The first Quakers were convinced that existing Christian foundations were incapable of supporting the new construction that had to be built. their message was a challenge to the old foundations, and they were filled with zeal to turn people to a new foundation. Fox declares that "many foundations have been laid since the apostles' days by such as are gone from the true and sure foundations, but their foundations have proved rotten"; but Christ "is razing down to the ground the world's foundation and is setting up himself, the living and everlasting foundation, for all his to build upon. He will shake the foundations of all false religions, ways, worships, churches and teachers and will make the pillars of them to totter." 

In a paper addressed to all "gathered churches (as they call them) of what sort soever" Margaret Fell puts the challenge: 

Where is your Foundation? where is your Ground? where is your Root? who deny the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, as he is the Light and...The Word of God who lives for evermore. 

What was this new foundation that these Quakers claimed that they were putting in place of the old foundation? 

In proclaiming that Christ is the one rock and one foundation the Quakers were not saying anything new. What was new was the revolutionary things they were saying about Christ the foundation. The proclamation "Christ has come to teach his people himself" is first of all a proclamation that Christ is alive. "The Lord is come to teach his people himself and is alive and lives for evermore. This statement that Christ is alive is not in itself revolutionary but it is the starting point of a new teaching about Christ that was so unfamiliar to many who heard it that they called it "the Quakers' new Christ." 

The second feature of this new foundation is the affirmation that Christ, who is alive, is present in the midst of his people "in all his offices." He is "a living head -- a living shepherd -- a living bishop -- a living priest -- an everlasting prophet" and"a living rock and foundation." This is the heart and soul of the new foundation that was being laid. 

The third feature of the new foundation is the part that is the most distinctive and the part that was least familiar to those who first received it. The Calvinistic view of Christ understood his saving power to consist in his work as Priest -- as the forgiver and justifier. Thus it is in his priestly office that Christ is known as savior. In Fox's teaching the saving power of Christ is greatly enlarged and expanded because he saw that Christ's power to save is not limited to his priestly office but is also known in what he does as Prophet and King. As Prophet he is able to teach men the righteousness of God and give men the power to do it and as King he is able to gather men and women into an ordered and invincible "people of God." 

The Quaker gospel preaching that "Christ has come to teach his people himself" is a call to know Christ as the prophet who teaches his people righteousness. This message brings a new dimension to gospel preaching and it bring a new dimension to faith. Here righteousness is remarried to faith. Fox declares that "God doth draw people from their unrighteousness and unholiness to Christ the righteous and holy one, the great prophet whom Moses said God would raise up when people "should hear in all things," and he challenges all Christians to consider "whether you do believe that God raised up this prophet Christ Jesus? and if so, whether you do hear him?"
Writing of this new foundation and this new faith Fox says:

And this is the catholic faith that we are of....Christ is the head of his church that he gathered out of the whole world into his name; and he is in the midst of them a prophet, and a priest, and a shepherd, and a bishop, and a counselor, and a king to rule...and to exercise those offices in his church....For Christ is the foundation of God's holy house of living stones, and the rock which his house is built upon, which the gates of hell cannot prevail against: For the foundation of God standeth sure.



This message had a powerful effect on people who felt that the teachings of the churches had not given them a knowledge of God's righteousness or the strength to act in obedience to it. For such people the Truth that the Quakers were publishing was a real breakthrough. Many of those who were convinced were able to say with Francis Howgill "we came to know a place to stand in." 

The work of publishing truth involved three operations. The first part of the work was turning people to "Christ their teacher and savior and their rock and foundation." This was a turning from old foundations to a new foundation and a turning people to Christ their teacher. Fox claimed that during the first decade of the Quaker mission that "there were few in England but Friends were moved to go to them, to tell them where their true teacher was, and a great people was convinced, and brought to their teacher...which is Christ the great prophet." 

But convincement was only the first step and many "did not stand in that which did convince them but turned back." There were always some who were convinced of the Truth but "were not come into obedience to it" and "did not repent" and failed to "live and walk in the truth." These failed to "grow up in the the truth" and so did not go on to become gathered, settled, and established. They who had been convinced needed to be exhorted to come into obedience to their teacher and to become "settled" in him. The work of settling and establishing the newly convinced was the second part of the work of publishing truth and it was a very important part. Those who were convinced but who neglected the work of repentance and amendment of life were not prepared for the work of building on the foundation. Turning people to this foundation and settling people on this foundation was the purpose of preparing for the crowning work which was building on the foundation. 

The Quaker vision was a revolutionary vision of a whole new righteousness based on obedience to the living Christ and a new Christian community ordered and governed by Christ. The gospel foundation that was laid at such great cost by the First Publishers of Truth was the first step toward fulfilling this vision.
Many of Fox's earliest "openings" were related to the nature of the church and so, from the beginning, he must have seen, at least in outline, the vision of the Christ-ordered community that was to be gathered. But he was guided to make gospel preaching his first concern and to give priority to laying the gospel foundation. "I was first moved," he says, "to go up and down the nation to preach the gospel." On Pendle Hill he had a vision of the great work of the Lord in the earth and how he was to begin it. The beginning of this work was the laying of the gospel foundation. 

When the time came to build upon the foundation, only those who had become truly settled and established upon it were able to participated in the work; The gospel that was preached by the Publishers of truth was a message about the light-word revealed to the Fathers, to Moses, and to the prophets which becomes God's light and word to us through hearing and obeying the voice of Christ, who is the heavenly prophet sent to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets and to be the universal covenant of Light of which Isaiah spoke. To many who heard this gospel it was a call to revolution, and a challenge to the Christianity that they had known before. 

A fairly large segment of first-generation Quakers misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolution. They thought it was leading to an individualistic righteousness and a loose association of free-wheeling religious individualists. They failed to catch the vision of a great people gathered to God by Christ who would learn together, obey together, witness together and suffer together. However, faithful Friends, who had grown up in the truth, became builders of the new righteousness and the new community. 

BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATION 

The Quaker revolt appeared as a twofold thrust against two elements in the prevailing form of Christianity that were preventing men from experiencing the full power of God to save through Christ. First, it was a revolt against a form of the gospel that gave Christ less power to save from sin than God intended and left the evil power in man undefeated. And, second, it was a revolt against a view of the church as a "mixed multitude," composed of the righteous and the unrighteous -- a church which is not taught by Christ the righteousness of God so that it can learn together, obey together, and suffer together in a corporate witness for God's righteousness. 

Fox expected that this revolt would produce a new kind of Christian and a new kind of church. And this is exactly what happened -- eventually. But it did not happen instantly and it might never have happened if Fox had not been a man of patience as well as a man of vision. He knew that before the vision would be realized a gospel had to be preached and a foundation laid. 

The Quaker character that began to emerge was soon recognizable by its moral probity. Although the Quakers were vigorously attacked and persecuted by both church and state they were not usually accused of immorality. The moral character of the Quakers was even more remarkable because it was not linked to any kind of legalism, biblical or otherwise, nor was it inspired by some abstract ascetic ideal. Behind the Quaker character was the gospel that they preached: "Christ has come to teach his people himself." They believed that they were being taught the principle of God's righteousness and that when Christ lead them into a course of moral action the power to obey would be given. This gave them a moral certainty which was accompanied by the gift of moral energies which sere sufficient to give them a moral strength that they knew was beyond their human capacities. For the sake of faithfulness to the moral truth revealed by Christ they found they were able to endure much hardship and suffering. The Quakers were tempted to do wrong and to compromise what they knew to be right, and they were subject to inner tensions and inner struggles like everybody else. But they had heard a message of truth and had received that truth and this gave them a faith that overcomes the world and gives victory over that which separates from God. There were many within the early Quaker movement who sought to undermine that faith by reducing it to an individualistic morality and asserting that obedience can stop short of the Cross. These opposers of truth had a scattering effect upon the new community but their counsels did not prevail. 

Fox taught that the Light of Christ that shows us evil is the Light by which we are brought into unity. "All people," he says, "must own the light of Christ within them, which light is but one in all men, and brings into oneness all who believe in it." The unity of the church is not a unity that excludes the unity of witness for moral truth. God is a God of order and not of confusion, and what he teaches one he teaches all. The light that brings unity shows all God's people "what is evil" and teaches "righteousness and holiness." "God is righteous, and would have his people to be righteous." 

In the emerging Quaker fellowship "loving one another" involved the concern of each member for the moral welfare of all. "Watching over one another for good" was the way they described the help they gave one another in those things concerning which the whole church had received moral wisdom. This measure of moral wisdom was expanded from time to time as prophets arose to expose the church to the challenge of new moral truth. As the church was led into a unity of witness on particular moral issues, appropriate Advices and Queries were formulated as stimuli to continued faithfulness. These "testimonies," as they came to be called, were a witness to the power of Christ to unite his people in corporate obedience to the moral truth that he teaches them. They are Christian testimonies. The suffering that came to the church as a result of these testimonies was suffering for the sake of Christ and as a witness to his authority over his church. These testimonies had evangelical power; they led people to Christ. But the testimonies came after the gospel foundation had been laid. They were a part of the new structure that was being built and they were evidence that the revolutionary gospel led to corporate obedience in righteousness. Fox speaks of this newly founded people of God as the people "clothed in white raiment" that he saw at the foot of Pendle Hill. The "white raiment" is the righteousness of Christ and this righteousness, says Fox, is "the badge and livery of Christ." 

Preaching the revolutionary gospel bore fruit in a new righteousness but it also produced a new kind of Christian community. This new community was built on the same gospel foundation as the new righteousness. The starting point of this new community is faith in Christ as the living head who is present in the midst of his people exercising all his offices wherever they gather togather in his name. We have seen how the knowledge of Christ as prophet and teacher was the foundation of a new righteousness fir God's people. But we are also to know him as King, and Lord and Ruler and Shepherd, Bishop and Leader, Governor and Orderer. Christ gives his people a new order and the foundation of this order is his promise to be present in the midst of those who gather in his name. The first step for God's people is to gather and to know to whom they are gathered. "The gathering is to Christ," says Fox. the second step is to gather in a spirit of waiting to experience Christ as he is present in all his offices. His presence is a functional presence. He teaches, he rules, he orders, he gives gifts, he empowers a living ministry, we watches over the straying ones like a shepherd. He communicates. In the silence, says Fox, "we can hear our prophet." "We come to hear our own prophet, which God hath raised up, Christ Jesus, to open to us; and him do we hear in all things in our meetings."
In order for Christ to be known in this way the church had to come togather at set times and places, and for convenience it was found best to regularize meetings. This orderly schedule of meetings had no special religious significance. There was no sacralization of structure in the early Quaker community. From the beginning there have been many variant in the Quaker calendar of meetings but, in the main, they follow a pattern of three concentric circles consisting of Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly meetings. Christ is in the midst of all these local, regional and more comprehensive levels of fellowship. He is the center, the middle part. It is his presence and what he does that gives the church its authority and its motive power. He call men and women to be his ministers and gives them the power to speak a prophetic word to his church. "We are not our own," says Fox, 

and are not to live to ourselves, nor to order ourselves, but to live unto him and be ordered, ruled, and governedby him...to be counselled by him, and led by him andtaught by him, as he is heavenly prophet.

The purpose of the structure of meetings was to give the maximum opportunity to experience the presence and leadership of Christ in his church. The "gospel order" is not structureless but the structure itself does not impart order to the church. The unity and fellowship in witness and in suffering will not be features of this church structure unless the presence of Christ is felt and his leadership experienced as a present reality. This is the reason why Fox is continually asserting that the "gospel order" is "not of man nor by man." Fox is not the inventor of the gospel order any more than he is the inventor of the gospel. "So here is the foundation of our meetings," he says, 

the foundation of them is Christ, of the increase of whose righteous, glorious and spiritual government there is no end; nor of the glorious, heavenly unity and orderof his heavenly gospel...which is not of man nor by man; so man hasno glory, but God and Christ alone.


Because the gospel had first been preached and the foundation had first been laid God was able to "raise up" a new kind of Christian community in the seventeenth century. 

And so we have traced the rise of the Quakers from the revolutionary gospel that they preached to the building that came to be built on this gospel foundation. Now we must put the question: Has this story anything to do with men and women today? 

There is surely as much moral confusion today as there was three centuries ago, and the need of men and women to be gathered into a primary community "where righteousness dwells" is as great as it ever was. The Society of Friends seems to have forgotten that it ever had a message that could minister to these needs. But the revolutionary gospel is being discovered again and Truth is being published again. The great work of the Lord is beginning again. 

The call now is for men and women who will be builders again on the one sure foundation.

A PLEA FOR A DEEPER MINISTRY

Gerald K. Hibbert, M.A., B.D.
London: Friends' Book Centre, 1933.
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.


As we look round our Society today we are profoundly thankful for the many evidences of life and development. We thank God for the way in which He is using us, and for the signs of the Divine Life in our midst. 

Our Vocal Ministry 

Some of us, however, are concerned about the apparent ineffectiveness of much of the vocal ministry in our Meetings for Worship. We do not want to be censorious or lacking in appreciation, but we feel there is comparatively little of a convicting searching Ministry. Excellent addresses are given in our meetings - probably the standard was never higher - yet they often fail to make a personal appeal to the listener, or to stir him to a deeper sense of responsibility and even of sin. We seem to be afraid of going deep; we are often content with scratching the soil when we ought to harrow and plough, We need "threshing" meetings as well as those where we "speak comfortably to Jerusalem." 

There are Friends, no doubt, who would deny that there is any such deficiency in our Ministry. Yet it is difficult, after visiting numbers of meetings, to resist the conclusion that there is something lacking. This pamphlet is written by one who feels this deeply, in the hope that by prayer and a closer walk with God and one another we may enter on a stage of greater depth and power. 

Emotionalism 

What are some of the reasons for this state of things? One obvious reason is a distrust of emotionalism. We have seen so many unhealthy re-actions after the great Mass Revivals of the past, or we know of so many individual cases of over-wrought feelings, in the religious circles in which we move, that we hesitate to make the emotional appeal at all. This is a quite understandable reason, and sound up to a point. Surely, however, we are not going to neglect the emotional element entirely, and fall to the other extreme. The mere fact that the appeal to the emotions has been over-done does not prove that is in essence wrong. Rather would it be true to say that until a man is touched in his feelings, until his interest is aroused, no amount of reasoning or logic will do much to move him. We Friends are probably too reserved, and not willing enough to "let ourselves go" when the right time comes. There is a right time, though some may doubt it, and he who walks close to God will recognise it when come it does. 

A Teaching Ministry 

We emphasise, and rightly, the value of a Teaching Ministry, and in that we think mainly of the intellectual, the rational element. There is always a temptation here to over-stress the purely rational, and to neglect the emotional. But the rational of itself "cuts not ice," though it produces an atmosphere favourable to the reception of truth and is an indispensable ingredient in any lasting religious experience. Every teacher knows that until he makes his subject "live," that is until he presents it in such a way that it kindles the interest (i.e., the emotions) of the pupil, he is not teaching al all. He may be talking, but that is a very different thing. He does not "get it across" until he so interests the pupil that the latter is fired with a desire to explore the subject for himself. So it is with a Teaching Ministry. We can unfortunately be Preachers without being Teachers, and no Ministry can teach unless it kindles the interest and stirs the emotion of the hearers, and makes them long to become "Seekers" for themselves. The over-emphasis upon the intellectual brings its own nemesis; in tends to kill the very thirst for the rational that it endeavours to inspire. 

A Gospel Ministry 

There is in principle no antagonism between a Teaching Ministry and a Gospel Ministry, any more than there is between a Mystical and an Evangelical view of religion. Misunderstandings and mistakes arise from our misuse of words, and from our inveterate habit of thinking in compartments. We have only to look at the Ministry of Jesus to see how it was a Teaching Ministry because it was a Gospel. He taught "as one having authority" because his message was the Gospel of the love of God, which touched men's feelings to the depths and quickened their intellectual faculties as well. If we try to teach without having a Gospel, not merely on our lips but in our hearts, we shall fail. 

A Convicting Ministry 

Another reason for the lack of a convicting Ministry is the modern demand for practical results. Here again, the demand is good up to a point. We want deeds, not words: "by their fruits ye shall know them." Our present re-action against much of the vagueness and impracticality of much religious exposition is understandable and healthy. But it tends to go too far. We demand immediate results that we can measure and handle and tabulate, and in consequence a very practical note has come into our preaching. We give addresses on "The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth," "A New Order of Society," "Christianity and the Slums" - and again quite rightly. But gradually there comes a feeling that it is only these addresses that are practical or that get things done: the deeper, more spiritual addresses tend to be dismissed as dreamy or unpractical. "Just fancy X. talking this morning about the deepening of our spiritual lives, when our one and only concern at the moment is the Housing Question," is a comment one can understand, but it shows a woeful lack of perspective, and a putting of the cart before the horse. Not so did the early Friends or the great Social Reformers talk. They found their "practicality" in their religious experience: as they walked with God in the great deeps of the soul their sympathies were quickened, their consciences sensitised, they gained insight into the problems and needs of their time and foresight as to the best remedies to be employed. Spiritual sensitiveness stimulated their intellects: they grasped what they had failed to grasp before. An hour spent in prayer may be more "practical" than days of rushing about. We owe and unpayable debt to those unknown saints who give their life to prayer: with a shallow impatience we may dismiss them as "passengers," but the Lord sees not as man sees. At any rate there is no need to be shy at the spiritual in order to be practical. 

The Group Life 

The chief reason, however, is probably the low level of our own spiritual life. this may sound hard and unpleasant, but must we not admit its truth, if we are honest with ourselves? The Ministry on the whole reflects the spiritual life of the group among which it is exercised. A few exceptionally dedicated souls, or even one such, may of course sound a deeper note and stir their fellows to a larger life, but where the whole Group is spiritually active the Ministry is bound to be be far more vigorous and widely shared. Thus can we all, vocal or silent, help towards a deeper ministry. Each one of us might well examine his spiritual condition from time to time, not morbidly, but healthily, and ask himself whether is ministry is as deep as it might be, and, if he is offering no vocal ministry at all, why this is so. "Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh," and the richer our experience of the Divine Life the more powerful will be our ministry. To give an ethical address, or to speak on some literary subject, ned make no very big demand on the speaker: it call for little "travailing" of spirit, it does not cost much. But to claim men for Christ, to convict them of sin, to lead them to repentance at the foot of the Cross, involves deep-going for ourselves, and some of us have not gone deep enough. We may smile at the old evangelists, but with all their failings they enabled men and women to become "a new creation" - and that is what need need paramountly to-day. the old order is played out: you and I on the old level are helpless as we face the problems of to-day; we must be born again, become new creatures, if the whole creation is to have another smell. None but the newly born are capable of producing a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. 

Discipline and Definiteness 

Discipline and Definiteness are tow of our chief needs today. Discipline has an unpleasant sound, and Definiteness is a bugbear to most of us Friends. Discipline suggests the hairshirt and ascetic life: Definiteness challenges our love of vagueness (sometimes styles "broad-mindedness") and our positive passion for woolliness. Any attempt to pin us down makes us wriggle and squirm: no wonder some of our fellow Christians grow impatient with us and ask, "Do you know where you are?" Yet surely there is a place both for Discipline and Definiteness. Discipline, it the sense of self-discipline, is an essential element in morality and goodness. It is a necessary factor in the religious life. It is easy to become slack and nerveless, to suffer from that deadly sin of Accidie that so benumbs the soul. Thousands of our fellow Christians find discipline essential to their devotional life: they impose upon themselves duties and routine and hardship: they feel that their prayer life needs constant keying-up. We do not wish to imitate them in all their detailed actions, but they stand before us as a living challenge to our sloth and complacency. We may pride ourselves on our whole life being a prayer, on every day being the Lord's Day, on every act of life being a sacrament, on every Meeting for Worship being a Communion Service - and all the time our lives betray us to our fellows, and show how hollow is our claim. The need of self-discipline is urgent, and we may well get help and inspiration in this respect from our fellow Christian of other communions. It is so difficult to keep the balance; we need to take ourselves more seriously, and at the same time to be able to laugh at ourselves. If we lose our sense of humour we are done: we become spiritual prigs. Still the nobles characters show is is possible to hold the balance even - to take the spiritual life in deadly earnest, and to smile at ourselves the while. 

Standing For Something 

As to Definiteness, is it not true that we have carried our dislike of it to an absurd point? We are proud of saying we have no Creed (which of course is not true: each of us has some belief by which he lives), and we think this excuses us from making up our minds about anything. Up to the present, at any rate, the Society of Friends has been a branch of the Church of Christ, and that ispo facto implies certain beliefs, e.g. that the view of life taken by Christ is truer than that of Confucius, that we gain our life by losing it, that true mastery is show by service, and so on. Have we not had enough of the "orgy of vagueness" from which we have been lately suffering, and do we not feel the need of standing for something? This must not be taken to mean that one has any desire to fasten a definite Creed upon our Society: that would be contrary to its genius. But it does mean that we invite all our members to examine and see whether there are not deeper riches in the spiritual life than we have hitherto dreamt of, and whether our boast of "creedlessness" is not actually standing in the way of our further growth. It is a terrible mistake to cry "I have no creed," and to leave it at that, thinking that we are thereby excused from further attempt to understand the nature of God and of Christ, to explore the riches of the Divine Love, to get clearer light intellectually on some of the great mysteries of life. If the possession of a Creed has sometimes stultified men's progress and made them satisfied with what they have already attained, the proud boast of Creedlessness has often had the same effect. In fact the man who says "I have not Creed" is an out and our "creed-ist": his creedlessness is his creed. The only justification for out refusing to be bound by a Creed is that we press forward whole-heartedly in the intellectual and the emotional search for God, using our freedom form the bondage of the letter as a wing to bear us up toward Him. If our freedom becomes merely an excuse for slackness and vagueness, truly we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

Plea for Deepening of the Spiritual Life 

And so I would appeal quite frankly and simply for a deepening of our spiritual life - for more understanding and searching prayer, for more concentrated meditation, for fuller communion with our Heavenly Father, for a more disciplined spirit, for a greater definiteness and fixity of purpose. I would ask our Society to go behind all its philanthropy and activity in so many helpful direction, to that which underlies it all. I am sure we have not sufficiently explored the realm of the Spirit, that we have not thought enough on the deep things of God, that we have often walking in blinkers and shied at questions which we ought to have faced, and I believe that we are running dry in consequence. I am not pleading necessarily for more attention to Philosophy or Theology (though there are worse things than that, and we need not plume ourselves on our notorious weakness on the philosophical and theological side: we ought rather to be ashamed of it), nor am I suggesting that our Society should become a community of cloistered Saints (though again there are worse things than that), but I do most earnestly suggest that we need a closer walk with God and a stronger grip on Christ, that we are content with a superficial experience, when we might have a deep one, and that our ministry is weak in consequence. We are, thank God, strong in some points, but we are weak in our attitude to Christ, we are weak in our appreciation of History and in our sense of indebtedness to other communities, we are weak in the surrender of ourselves to God. Do we try to think things out to their logical conclusion, do we see where our beliefs would lead us if we lived them out, do we love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and strength, and do we love our neighbour as ourself? 

The Divine Constraint 

There has been in the past, and there might be again today, a tremendous power in the personal appeal of a consecrated spirit. When a man feels that he is called of God to the winning of souls, when he believes he is the ambassador of the Most High and commissioned by Him, he goes forth to the work convinced that the God who has called him is calling each one of his fellows. He has felt the Divine constraint in his own life: he is not his own: he is a man under authority: he is a commissioned officer in the service of his King. In that spirit he approaches others: he reminds them that the same God is claiming their allegiance and their service: that behind them and above them and within them is the Everlasting God, the Spirit of Truth, the Lover of their souls: and he urges them to respond to the claim, and to take life as a trust, a commission from the Most High. It makes all the difference whether we think of ourselves as merely drifting, or as "laid hold of" by God and called to co-operate with Him. And is is, I think, largely because the sense of a Personal God has become dimmed of late, that this note of urgency and of Divine Commission has died away. 

Speaking To Their Condition 

As we look back in our own Quaker annals, we notice how powerfully this note has been struck at certain periods, and what remarkable results were achieved. It is, of course, the old prophetic consciousness of "Thus saith the Lord," which never completely dies out, and which (in spite of its dangers and possibilities of abuse) is one of the most tremendous things in the world. This sense of "Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel," "The Lord God hath spoken: who can but prophesy?" is at the back of the greatest religious movements in history. A further point of extreme interest emerges. Those who thus feel the Divine commission often seem led into sympathetic rapport with their fellow-worshippers, so that they are able to some extent to read their hearts and "speak to their condition." We may call it telepathy or thought-reading or what we like, but the fact remains. At times it seems almost weird and uncanny, but there is nothing of this about it, unless the development of one's finer feelings and faculties is uncanny. It is the natural result of the Divine indwelling in the soul of man. "Theysat, or seemed to see, says Rufus M. Jones, "the inner state and condition of persons before them. They were gifted with unusual insight for understanding situations. They were more telepathic than the rank and file of the membership were" (Later Periods of Quakerism," p. 224). They "travailed with the suffering seed" as they called it, that is, they sat in silence with a meeting till they had worked their way down, "centered down," where they could feel out and discover the state and condition of the meeting or of individuals in the meeting. Then they could speak with extraordinary power, and many a heart was yielded to God because its owner felt that he personally, she personally, was being claimed for Him. Think for example of Elizabeth Fry, and how how the gay "Betsy" was claimed for God by William Savery, much the the consternation of her sister Richenda: what the world might have missed had William Savery given a weaker message! Read again the instances given by Rufus Jones in chapter vii. of the work just quoted. Smile at the reluctance of a certain young man to be long in the presence of Samuel Emlen, of Philadelphia, because he feared to hear unpleasant truths, but rejoice with him when after a period of silence Samuel "addressed himself to the trembling youth with such a soul-searching testimony as unveiled all that the latter most wished to be hidden," and so enabled him to find his true self and realise the claim that God was making on him. 

The Price of Shallowness 

Now of course it is not suggested that we should try to imitate our ancestors in every particular: other times, other manners. Nor is it suggested that we need to acquire any "uncanny" sense or to undergo any professional training for ministry, or that we should think there is anything unnatural about it. But it is suggested that we are not going as deep in the life of the spirit as these men and women of old, and that we are paying the price in shallowness. The reading of Quaker history is immensely valuable both for the warning and the inspiration it gives. The mistakes we can now avoid, and the inspiration might be ours. So why should we not do the "greater things" that are promised us? 

The Glorious Gospel 

For after all, what a glorious Gospel has been entrusted to us! The boundless love of God, God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, Christ in us the hope of glory, God in man, man the Shechinah of the Most High, Divine Fatherhood and Human Brotherhood - is it not worth proclaiming, togather with all its implications? None of us can go too deep in this: there is no getting out of our depth here. We meet people sometimes, who, as we put it, "go too deep for us": we cannot follow them, and they hinder rather than help us. But we can never go to deep into the love of God. The deeper our own sense of it, the richer will be our lives, and the greater our power to bless. As we grow more into this love, understanding it better, realising both its stern and tender side, feeling its cleansing, healing, stimulating influence, our lives will re-act in a new way on our fellow-men. Our Ministry - in the widest sense of the service of our life - will have something of the Master's spirit, and that part of it which we call the Vocal MInistry will go deep and "remove mountains." Prayer, faith, consecration, self-surrender - no-one knows what these may do. The spiritual life is one long adventure, full of surprises, and it may yet be that we - even we - may be enabled to give a message that shall bring mankind to the foot of the Cross.

Monday, April 14, 2014

So I'm just writing this to get a little practice in. I haven't written a blog post here in a very long time. I have a Tumblr now, so that is more stimulating in some ways than confessions about theological positions, or inner feeling, or goals. But I'm back for now, and that is the thing that matters.

I'm a little bit on the down side today. The news today was pretty depressing, as it looked like another nation was going to get away with manipulating another, by using false double standards and obfuscation to meld with the isolationist bent in a number of other nations. It's frustrating to see evil triumph so effortlessly in foreign affairs. So that has put me in a bad mood, which causes more problems because when I'm in a depressed mood, I'm not very self motivated. I don't do enough with the time I have, which is a big flaw of mine. I also get the urge to spend money on comfort foods that I shouldn't be looking at. I'm trying to lose weight, and you can't really accomplish that if you're eating pizza and wings and burgers and cheesecake all the time.

I'm going to start posting quotes in my wordpress blog from the books I've read. I'll also be doing that with Tumblr. There is so much religious knowledge that is simply unavailable to people because the people who are really interested in it aren't willing to to post that knowledge on social sites. So I'm going to try to make my little contribution to the cause, and hopefully inspire people to learn more about following the way of Jesus Christ.

A few more things to add before I disappear for another week or so. My brother is coming to town for a few months of rest from the Philippines, which I should prepare for. And I'm looking for another job. I have no idea whether I'll be successful or not, but I'm going to study and prepare for the entrance examination.and hopefully, I'll do well. I haven't talked much about God's will in my life lately, because I don't really feel like he has much to do with my existence right now, But if being able to get back into school is part of his will, and if getting this job is part of that journey, I can only beg for him to be a present help in my efforts and intervene on my behalf.

I'll be back.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What (or Who) is the Word of God? By Danny Coleman

What (or Who) is the Word of God?


The Bible is not the Word of God.  It never refers to itself as such.  According to the New Testament, Jesus is the Word of God.  The Word of God is a person, not a collection of texts.  The documents that make up the Bible contain words of God and inspired words about God written by people who encountered God in 
various ways.  The grand mistake made over the last 500 years has been to substitute the text for the Word.  This inevitably leads to a well-intentioned Phariseeism, a subtle idolatry.  It can also, paradoxically, lead to a reluctance to honestly and rigorously examine the scriptural texts."

The 17th century Quaker theologian Robert Barclay used the analogy of the Living Word (Christ) being the fountain--the source--and the Bible being a stream that flowed out from that fountain.  "Nevertheless," Barclay wrote, "because [the Scriptures] are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, 
therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all Truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty: for as by the inward testimony of the Spirit we do alone truly know them, so they testify, that the Spirit is that Guide by which the saints are led into all Truth; therefore, according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader."

As Jenny Duskey points out in her excellent essay below entitled 'Scriptural Evidence that the WORD OF GOD is not the Bible and Concerning what the Word of God is', "Christ's power was not diminished after his resurrection.  From the time of the resurrection (Jn. 20:22) or at least from the day of Pentecost, until and including the present time, the Word which is Christ has lived in the hearts of his disciples, who hear him speak, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah." (Jer. 31:33-34)  She concludes, "From time immemorial people have tried to fit God into forms that they could touch, hold, study, classify, and finally control.  People are still trying to do this by clinging to the unscriptural view that the Word of God is a book."


Scriptural Evidence that the WORD OF GOD is not the Bible and Concerning what the Word of God is.
by Jenny Duskey
Published by Friends of Truth, 16 Huber St.,Glenside, PA 19038
http://prweb0.voicenet.com/~kuenning/fot/WordofGod.html
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." (Gen. 1:1-3)
God created the heaven and the earth by speaking, and what he spoke, as his Spirit moved upon the face of the waters, was his Word. John wrote later:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (Jn. 1:1- 3)
All things were made by the Word. (See also Ps. 33:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5-7). They were not made by the scriptures, which were not there in the beginning but were themselves written later by people.
Moses spoke of the Word of God when he said to the people of Israel:
"For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." (Deut. 30:11-14)
Moses was not speaking of the scriptures, for even the Old Testament had not yet been compiled; he did not mean only the words he himself had just spoken, for he knew that he was soon to die, and that his spoken words would not long be near the people. He did not even mean the tablets of the commandments kept in the ark, because stone tablets could not be in the hearts and mouths of the people. Moses meant the eternal Word of God, through which all things were created, which had come to him on Mt. Sinai, and which he now said was in the hearts of all the people of Israel as he urged them to hear it and do it.
The Word of God, what God speaks, has come to people in various ways (Heb. 1:1). The Word which was with God in the beginning and by which all things were created, of which Moses spoke, is the same Word which God spoke to Abraham, telling him to leave his home, to the other patriarchs, and to all the prophets, who prophesied only by the Word (Is. 2:1; Jer. 1:2; Ezek. 1:3; Micah 1:1; Hag. 1:1; and others).
John continues:
"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of men, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (Jn. 1:10- 14)
This same Word, which was with God from the beginning, which Moses said was in the heart and mouth of the people of Israel, which was spoken to the prophets, was made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. (See also Heb. 1:1- 3.) Jesus taught "as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mt. 7:29), who taught the scriptures. He had in his very person the authority carried only by the Word of God. When he spoke his teaching was the Word of God in him, the good news of the Kingdom which God had sent him to proclaim and which he embodied (Lk. 4:43). When "the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God" (Lk. 5:1) it was to hear this message he preached, not just the scriptures, which they could hear read in the synagogues every sabbath day. The seed which he was sowing and which his disciples are to sow and which will grow in the hearts of those who keep it is the Word of God (Lk. 8:11-15).
Jesus does not use the phrase "word of God" to refer to the scriptures. Usually, he says, "as it is written," or an equivalent phrase, when he is quoting scripture (Mt. 4:1-11; 11:10; 21:13; 26:31; Mk. 7:6; 11:17; 14:27; and others). Sometimes he says as it was "spoken of by the prophet" (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14), or refers to "all that the prophets have spoken" (Lk. 24:25). Sometimes he simply uses the word "scriptures" (Mt. 21:42; 22:29; 26:56; Mk. 12:10, 24; etc.)
When Jesus uses the phrase "word of God" to refer to something in the scriptures, it is clear from the context that he means the word God spoke to someone, not the entire collection of scriptures. For example, when he accuses the Pharisees of "making the word of God of none effect" (Mk. 7:13) the word of God means the specific commandment God spoke to Moses: "Honour thy father and thy mother," which Jesus has just quoted. When Jesus says, "Have ye not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" (Mt. 22:31-32) he is referring to the words God spoke to Moses (Ex. 3:6) and which Moses passed on to the people of Israel and later to the descendants of his contemporaries in the written account of the incident. He does not mean that the entire body of the scriptures was spoken by God; over and over he says that they were written by Moses or by the prophets, as the case may be (Lk. 5:14; 20:37; 20:42; 24:44; Mt. 8:4; 19:3-9; Jn. 7:22). Even in the other two accounts of this saying (Lk. 20:27-40; Mk. 12:18-27) Jesus credits Moses with having written of what God told him.
Jesus warned that the scriptures are not sufficient to assure the presence of God's Word:
"And The Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (Jn. 5:37-40)
There is no evidence that after the end of his life in the flesh Jesus Christ ceased to be the Word of God personified and became instead merely an interpreter of the scripture, or someone who spoke only through the apostles and prophets. Hebrews 13:8 states "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." It is true that Jesus interpreted the Scriptures to his followers after his resurrection (Lk. 24:27, 45), but he also spoke to them in other ways. He dealt with their needs on a personal basis, comforting Mary Magdalene, who was afraid (Mt. 28:10; Jn. 20:15-18), proving that he was alive to Thomas, who doubted (Jn. 20:26-29), telling Peter not to be jealous of the beloved disciple who was to live longer (Jn. 21:21-22). He gave a specific commandment to some of his disciples who were fishing, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find" (Jn. 21:6). He carried on a rather lengthy conversation with Peter in which he told him of future events and admonished Peter to follow him (Jn. 21:15-19). He told his disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Mt. 28:18), and he reassured them by saying "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20).
Christ's power was not diminished after his resurrection. From the time of the resurrection (Jn. 20:22) or at least from the day of Pentecost, until and including the present time, the Word which is Christ has lived in the hearts of his disciples, who hear him speak, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah:
"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31:33-34)
On the day of Pentecost Peter said:
"But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:16-18)
It is said over and over in the New Testament that the Word of God lives in God's people. 1 John develops this concept: ". . . and the word of God abideth in you . . ." 1 Jn. 2:14). "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us" (1 Jn. 3:24). "Hereby we know that we dwell in him and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit" (1 Jn. 4:13). The Word of God which lives in Christ's followers is none other than Christ and his Spirit. Many passages confirm that Christ lives in Spirit in his disciples (2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 12:3; Gal. 4:6; 3:27; Eph. 3:17, 20; Phil. 2:13; Col. 3:11).
The word is said to have powers which clearly belong to Christ and his Spirit. Paul says to the elders of the church at Ephesus, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). Paul says to the Colossians, "I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God" (Col. 1:25). He goes on to say that the word of God is "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints" (Col. 1:26), and that this mystery is "Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach" (Col. 1:27-28). Later in the same letter Paul says "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16). To the Ephesians Paul says "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). The letter to the Hebrews says:
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12)
Here the word clearly means Christ, for the next verse says, "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13, emphasis mine) and it is Christ, not the scripture, who is a person to be referred to by the pronouns "him" and "whom." The book of Hebrews is harsh with those who have fallen into apostasy after having acknowledged the power of the Word which is Christ:
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." (Heb. 6:4-6)
James writes of "the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). It is written in the book of 1 Peter, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1:23; see also James 1:18). We are born again of the Spirit of Christ, not of the scriptures (Jn. 3:1-8)
In the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the phrase "word of God" is sometimes used to mean the good news about God's kingdom which Jesus was sent to preach. In the other New Testament books, especially Acts, it is used in a similar way, to refer to the same good news which the disciples were now preaching as they told of the resurrection, as well as to refer to Christ who was commanding them to preach it. Acts 5 tells how the disciples were beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus. Acts 5:42 says "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Then when they were resolving the problem of how to distribute food to the Grecian widows, they said, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables" (Acts 6:2), and "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). In these verses "the word" is the news of Christ's resurrection. We have just been told that the disciples "ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ," and it would make no sense for "the word" to mean the scriptures. Acts 6:7 tells us "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly." This does not mean that the scriptures increased, but that many heard and believed the gospel being preached. There are many other examples: "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:4-5).
"Now they which were scattered abroad upon to Christ, many of them believed the word, but the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus" (Acts 11:19-20). "But the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 12:24). "And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews" (Acts 13:5. In Acts 13 it is after the customary reading of the law and the prophets, the scripture, that Paul preached the word of God which the whole city gathered to hear again the next sabbath (Acts 13:15-16, 44). "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" (Acts 19:20).
In Acts 17:11 a clear distinction is made between the scriptures and the word of God. The Jews at Berea are said to have received the word (which Paul and Silas brought them) eagerly, searching the scriptures (the Old Testament which they had had long before Paul and Silas had come) daily to see whether or not it testified to the word. Since the scriptures, including the Old Testament, do testify the word is not identified with the scriptures.
The letters to Timothy were written at a late date. They give more importance to the scriptures than do earlier New Testament books (2 Tim. 3:15-16). Even in these books and in the similar letter to Titus, however, the scriptures are not called the Word of God. Given the way the phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible, there is no reason to assume that the exhortation "Preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2), the statement that God "hath in due times manifested his word through preaching" (Tit. 1:3), and the description of the bishop as "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught" (Tit. 1:9) are based on any meaning for "word" besides Christ and the gospel preached about him by his disciples. Nor is there any reason to propose a different meaning when Titus is admonished to speak "the things which become sound doctrine . . . that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit. 2:1, 5).
The book of Revelation continues to use the phrase "Word of God" in the way that the other New Testament books have used it. John has been exiled to Patmos because of "the word of God" (Rev. 1:9), that is, for preaching Christ. Later John says of the symbolic figure of Christ on the white horse, ". . . and his name is called The Word of God" (Rev. 19:13).
God's Word was, is, and always shall be with God. God created all things through his Word. His Word was spoken to the patriarchs. Moses said that the Word of God was in the hearts and mouths of the people of Israel; this same Word came to the prophets. God sent his Word to earth in the human form of his Son, Jesus Christ, who preached that Word and personified it, who lived in the flesh and died on the cross and was raised to life. That same Word of God now sits on the right hand of God and speaks in the hearts of Christ's followers and will judge all things. There is no scriptural basis for the claim that the Bible is the Word of God, for the scriptures do not exalt themselves, but they testify to Christ. From time immemorial people have tried to fit God into forms that they could touch, hold, study, classify, and finally control. People are still trying to do this by clinging to the unscriptural view that the Word of God is a book.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dirt Window: Mundane

Dirt Window: Mundane: Mundane And in the midst of the mundane, we are reminded. M inistry is mundane. I plan and prepare an event. I write about t...