Home > Christianity, Quakers > Quakers and the Bible – A Quaker Apology, part 2

Quakers and the Bible – A Quaker Apology, part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I want to interact this week with a few of the contested points within the Quaker body and between Quakers and the larger Christian movement, within which the Quaker movement began and in which it needs to extend deeper roots if it is to be true to Fox’s original opening.

In this post I want to look at a Quaker view of the Bible. I believe it is widely known that Quakers have always stressed the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit, and that the truth of Christ is revealed through the immediate work of the Spirit. What is often left out of the conversation, though, is that the experiential spirituality of George Fox was steeped in Scriptural knowledge. This was not because of his limited knowledge, as though after a bit of maturation he would realize the Bible was nothing more than a collection of wise, though not necessarily applicable, words.

Fox’s belief in the Bible as the Word of God was seen in the extensive amount of it which he had memorized, often quoted throughout his Journal, and from which he had his spiritual breakthrough. This biblical knowledge was not seen as en end for Fox, as though if he knew enough Scripture, he could solve any problem. But his experience of the immediate Christ was never separate from his personal investment in the teachings of the Bible.

As Anderson has noted in his article (QRT 114), “Because the ‘prophecy of Scripture’ is no mere factor of human interpretation, coming not ‘by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God’ (2 Pet. 1:20-21), it speaks with authority to matters of faith and practice, providing an objective referent by which to check subjective leadings” (23).

Because the Holy Spirit is the source of both the Written Word and the Living Word, the teachings/leadings of either will always be in accordance with the other, and will lead to the Truth. Hence, the Bible is a dynamic text that provides a framework for the immediate truths experienced by those seeking the Holy Spirit individually and communally.

Tomorrow I’ll share a bit about why Christ is a necessary part of the Quaker movement.

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Categories: Christianity, Quakers
  1. December 28, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    Hi Jamie,

    You and I are on the same page about the centrality of Christ for Quakerism, but I think we differ on our understanding of the “Word of God.” Ultimately, I believe that the only Word of God is Jesus Christ; applying that title to texts – no matter how important – is idolatrous.

    I also think that you have misconstrued Fox’s position. The furthest Fox would ever go with regard to the Scriptures was to call them the “words of God” – that is to say, they are an expression of God’s will in the life of Israel and the Church. But the “Word of God” is beyond outward words; it is the very person of Jesus Christ.

    I hope that we can honor the received authority of Scripture while keeping all outward things – even the Scriptures – subordinated to the uncreated and living authority of our Risen Lord.

    Yours in friendship,

    Micah Bales

  2. Rod Pharris
    December 28, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Fox saw authentic experience and Scriptures as emanating from the Holy Spirit so that both would seemlessly support one another. I agree with Micah that Fox seemed to view the most complete and essential “revelation of God” as the Person of Christ, and that Scriptures were never meant to be pre-eminant in the Christian life but instead to point to and support the knowledge of Christ. Such a view is a great remedy to bibliolotry or the elevation of Scriptures to some kind of “quadrinity”.

  3. December 29, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    Micah,
    Good thoughts, and thanks for sharing them. I don’t strongly disagree with many of your points, though I do think it is possible (and necessary) to hold the Bible – the collected story of Yahweh’s people, the exposition of how Christ has redeemed the world – above other “outward things.” Of course, bibliolatry or any other abuse of them is contrary to the Word of God (Jn 1:1), but without Scripture all experiential revelations may have a tendency to run rampant. This is good food for thought, brother! Thanks.

  4. December 29, 2010 at 6:08 AM

    Rod,

    Thanks for your addition to the conversation. I think what I appreciate most about Fox’s use of Scripture is how he draws deeply from it in order to support his inner leadings. This is needed in any gathered group where experiential spirituality is practiced. Perhaps this is where I become more Wesleyan than anything else, but I like the picture of a four-legged stool in the churches interpretation of truth – community (tradition), experience, reason, scripture.

  5. Rod Pharris
    December 29, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    We Friends are primitivists in that we try to recapture (not the right word, but I am not sure what verb is best) an early, vital Christianity. When I read Fox, that early ideal doesn’t seem to be 1st-century nor is it Constantinian Christianity; rather, the ideal is somewhere in between. A time when Christians were not concerned with an authoritative canon but drawing upon a direct, life-changing relationship with the Present Christ.
    I am troubled when Christians, in particular Evangelicals, use Scriptures as a means unto itself, rather than, as Fox did, a means unto Christ.

  6. December 30, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    This discussion has been great. It points to an issue, an experience if you will, that has been central to the willingness by some to cast scripture aside or totally humanize it and to the substitution by many of scripture for an actual person to person relationship with our risen Lord and for providing human reason and intelligence an equal status, if not substitute for, the experience of living under and by the Spirit of our Holy God, the very Spirit of Christ Himself.

    I am particularly thrilled that many of you raising this dialogue are young, and that that number includes some form the “evangelical” label of Friends. Our living Lord is still active and moving among us. Christ is in our presence and the Presence in our midst. Thank you Lord.

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