Primary sources II

El Greco, PentecostWho are these people? What do they care about? These are more difficult questions, reading the text, than what does it mean. Perhaps I can only say what it means for me- a Postmodern view- but I might learn a little of the writers.

I am reading Chapter 1, Christian Doctrine, of Christian Doctrine, Practice and Discipline, published by London Yearly Meeting in 1861. It is a book of extracts from the epistles and minutes of the yearly meeting, not as now including writings of individual Friends. The interaction is between the text and Me: what I notice depends upon what I know, and what I care about.

What I know: Quakers are certain we are “non-creedal”, but this did not mean without belief. The first document is an extract from an epistle of George Fox and others to the Governor of Barbadoes in 1671. It is a statement of belief echoing the Nicene Creed in its language- “visible and invisible”- even as it uses different words deliberately to make it personal- “We do own and believe in God, the only wise, omnipotent and everlasting God”. The Creed is expanded, to include more of the life of Jesus.

“We call the Holy Scriptures, as Christ and the apostles called them… the words of God.” I find the Bible inconsistent, a record of continual searching for God, getting closest in Jesus- but I don’t know how far Inerrancy was disputed at the time: that is, I cannot read this as taking a side in a debate, because I do not know whether it existed as a debate, for Fox.

I care about substitutionary atonement, a Protestant doctrine but not the only Christian understanding of the death of Jesus. I care because I reject it. Some words seem to support that doctrine-  Jesus “is the propitiation for… the sins of the whole world”. I cannot be certain, but am suspicious. I like to read later words “at the great day of judgment, when every one shall be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body” as not requiring faith in Jesus to be saved, but this is not a statute, nor a full declaration of every religious belief, so I cannot say that.

In 1671 in England and its colonies, the Anglican church was imposed, as the authorities blamed the civil wars from 1641 on religious dissenters- with some reason. Fox is concerned to tell the Governor that he is Christian. Possibly this is because he declares he believes it his duty to preach the faith to the “Negroes and Indians” on the Island. He does not call for their freedom, whether because he did not think this right, or because he did not think it possible: but preaching to them means seeing them more like human beings, less like livestock.

Oh! I so want them to be Liberal, nice people like me! So I fear they are not, and read with suspicion. What is the problem they sought to address? Why did Friends in 1861 feel the need to quote these passages? I think, to show that they had always had orthodox Evangelical belief: the Bible is “the only divinely authorised record of the doctrines of true religion” they said in 1836.

I can debate with them when they say whatsoever any man says or does which is contrary to the Scriptures, though under profession of the immediate guidance of the Spirit, must be reckoned and accounted a mere delusion. Is there anything in Quaker Faith and Practice 1994 which is “contrary to the Scriptures”? It seems to me that they are concerned to preserve doctrine according to the scriptures against Quakers disputing it, as the epistle is addressed to Friends. Even here they say the Holy Spirit influences our hearts, and enlightens our understandings.

14 thoughts on “Primary sources II

  1. Oh dear Clare,
    I’m so sorry that you feel this way. I am so sorry that you have been so hurt by so much in life regarding religion. But you are free to feel the way that you choose and it is not my place to try to change that. I accept you as you are and I bless you in hopes that you receive it.

    Your friend and sister in Christ,
    Rhonda aka nanarhonda
    Founder ~ LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH Ministries

    God bless you my dear friend!


    • Dear Rhonda,

      I did not think this was a “hurt so much by religion” post. I had to read it again. Yesterday’s was, though. Yes. Grace, and transformation.

      I find a lot of American Evangelicalism a system divorced from reality. Young Earth Creationism involves the wholesale rejection of the scientific disciplines of biology, geology and astronomy in favour of an interpretation of Genesis which arguably Calvin would have rejected. (I’ll find you the quote). There is an obsession with End Times which I find misunderstands the words of Jesus: “Coming on a cloud” is a metaphor, the age really did end for his immediate hearers in 70 with the destruction of the temple, and “life after death” is also a metaphor, we must build the kingdom of Heaven here- for we are born again. Me, too. Complementarianism, based on “Wives obey your masters” and the curse of Eve in Genesis (oops, some anger setting in here) fits some people not well and some people not at all. More on how I feel about religion in two days, but I am nonetheless Christian, seeking to follow Jesus, taking my Bible very seriously but not literally.

      This is how I see it: against Evangelicalism, a human system created for humans who find God’s creation a bit difficult and complex, and want to retreat into a world of clear Good and Bad (Nothing is good but God alone; what the Lord has declared clean who are you to declare unclean?- mixed messages there) I seek relationship with God in my Quaker worshipping community, growing in truth and understanding. God has turned me inside out.

      It is really not just attitudes to LGBT that divides me from the Evangelicalism which is your heritage, and even if I had not been I would have rejected young earth creationism and the undue interest in the Rapture. Now I am reading NT Wright, “Christian Origins and the Question of God”, a series of books on how Jesus and Paul and the events of history challenged and subverted the Jewish world view and created the first century Church.

      What does Love ask of us?

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is interesting that I never thought that people in other parts of the world would think differently than I do. I am quite ignorant, and I apologize, yet again, for that ignorance. I am interested in the Quakers. We have Quakers here too. Are they the same? Even in the U.S. there are people that do not ascribe to the Creationism but believe in God. There have been debates. I am a young Earth believer, however, I only stick to my Bible as the inerrant Word of God. That does not mean that I cannot have discussions and friends that don’t agree. I respect their right to believe how they are led as well. I can give you a website that has one of the men that debates for a young Earth founded by Ken Ham from Australia. Unfortunately, part of my disabilities includes a short term memory and attention span. I have a book from my sister-in-law who has majored in History and works as a curator in the 3 museums that we have in our City. I have not yet started to read it as I needed to find a note pad so I could take notes and not write in her book! Also, I am not caught up in the Rapture as others are. My goal is just to help people get to hear the New Testament instead of the Old Testament. The New Testament is what will help the believer in how to live. The Old Testament has been done away with, except for a history record. It was Jesus concealed and the New Testament is Jesus revealed. In both sections, Jesus is there.

        Thank you so much for sharing with me as much as you have. I appreciate that you trust me enough to share such intimate parts of your personal life with me. It truly means a lot to me, Clare.

        You asked, what does Love as of us? To love others as we love ourselves. If we cannot love ourselves, how can we love others? And the other side of the spectrum is some love themselves too much to love others. The pendulum swings so far both ways. But, it is to love others as we love ourselves. And we are to owe no one anything but to love them. In today’s society this is difficult! Credit card debt, mortgages, vehicle loans, student loans, etc. makes it difficult.

        Much love and faith my friend,


      • Clare,
        I have not read it, but I would be happy to post it on the site. I don’t know how to have comments come to you but I will let you know if comments come in, ok? I am happy to post whatever you are willing to write! Thank you for contributing and adding some flavor to the site! It is LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH. It is from “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 1 Peter 1:1b

        I will go look at your article and copy and paste it into my Word so I can make it a page!

        Thank you my friend!

        Many blessings and hugs,


            • I so appreciate having another perspective for readers to consider. So far there are only two authors, me, beenblessed, and my wonderful daughter, Little Mama. And to have new, fresh writing is wonderful! I am hoping that a few other people that I have enjoyed their writings will also consider contributing as well. Thank you for being the FIRST ONE to be brave enough to step out and offer something wonderful for the visitors! I cannot thank you enough!


          • I want to put you as an author on the site and it asks for an email address… do you have one that you use exclusively for your blog? I am also just using pen names as I don’t want to have some weirdo end up at my daughter’s door! Or mine either! So I took all of the real names off and put the pen names. Email me an address you would want to use so I can add you as an author. Also, it asks for a short bio, it would be best coming from you, or I could cut and paste from your site. I would prefer you would just write a short bio on the topic of your faith, if you wouldn’t mind. Then I can just add you as an author so when you send me something, I have a way to connect you to your other writings, I hope! LOL

            Thank you so much, dear Clare! I so appreciate your contribution. We don’t all see things the same way and I think it is good for us to learn from others’ perspectives. It surely can’t hurt!

            Rhonda aka nanarhonda
            Founder ~ LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH Ministries

            P.S. When you have time, of course! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Love and genocide | LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH Ministries

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