Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quakerism: Silence, Spirit, and Disdain for Theology

In a traditional Quaker meeting, there is no sermon or Scripture. Instead, all sit quietly until the Spirit stirs someone to get up and speak. One of their guiding lights, R. Jones, had written that Quakerism:

  • “Turns away from arid theological notions and insists instead upon a real and vital experience of God revealed to persons in their own souls.”
Quakerism prides itself on being doctrine-less. Although Jones insists on turning away from “arid theological notions,” his claim is highly theological. Nevertheless, he is right that God can speak to us in many ways, even directly into our heart and mind, as Scripture even asserts:

  • For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)
  • "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  (John 16:8)

In fact, as Proverbs tells us, the wisdom of God is all around us, crying out to be taken by all:

  • Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand… (Prov. 1:20-24)

Wisdom is available but rejected. Why? It is painful. It carries a “rebuke.” This is because wisdom first requires us to see the truth about ourselves and repent – the last thing in the world we want to do! It is only after we remove our own blindness that we can see clearly enough to correct others (Mat. 7:1-5) However, according to Jesus, we therefore prefer to hide away in the darkness of denial and rationalizations:

  • “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”  (John 3:19-20)

Consequently, unless we are being drawn into the light of truth we will hate it. In order to cover up this hatred, we might even boast that we are seeking or even that the Spirit is talking through us. In fact, Scripture warns us of our almost limitless ability to delude ourselves:

  • Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:16)
  • Then the Lord said to me, "The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14)
  • Thus says the Lord God, "Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.” (Ezekiel 13:3)

How is it that we can be so horribly self-deluded? There are two reasons for this – one voluntary and one involuntary. We voluntarily harden ourselves to God. As a result of this, we beckon in the darkness of self-delusion (Rom. 1:18-32):

  • But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. (Psalm 81:11-12; 2 Peter 2:18-21)

We also struggle against blindness and involuntarily remain in darkness. Growth into the light is a slow process, as Jesus indicated:

  • “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Without being born-again, we can have little assurance that we are receiving the truth. In fact, it is offensive to the non-born-again:

  • The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:14)

However, when someone does have the Spirit of God, they love the Word of God:

  • “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

What does it mean to hear His voice and to follow Him? Jesus explained:

  • “If you remain in me and my words remain in you… As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:7-10)

In His Great Commission, Jesus reaffirmed the centrality of His Word – His teachings:

  • Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mat. 28:19-20)

For Jesus, His teachings weren’t “arid theological notions,” but living and essential truths. Are these Quakers then hearing from God? Not unless they are repenting of their sins and crying out for the mercy of God!

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