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Some last qualifiers on Orthodox deification

Before I return to Quaker writers specifically, I'd like to note Timothy Ware's list of "six points... to prevent misinterpretation." These are just the opening sentences of paragraphs from pages 236-8 of The Orthodox Way.

First, deification is not something reserved for a few select initiates, but something intended for all alike. The Orthodox Church believes that it is is the normal goal for every Christian without exception....

Secondly, the fact that a person is being deified does not mean that she or he ceases to be conscious of sin. On the contrary, deification always presupposes a continued act of repentance....

In the third place, these is nothing esoteric or extraordinary about the methods which we must follow in order to be deified. If someone asks 'How can I become God?' the answer is very simple: go to church, receive the sacraments, regularly, pray to God 'in spirit and in truth', read the Gospels, follow the commandments....

Fourthly, deification is not a solitary but a 'social' process...

Fifthly, love of God and of our fellow humans must be practical. Orthodoxy rejects all forms of Quietism, all types of love which do not issue in action....

Finally, deification presupposes life in the Church, life in the sacraments. Theosis according to the likeness of the Trinity involves a common life, and it is only within the fellowship of the Church that this common life of coinherence can be properly realized. Church and sacraments are the means appointed by God whereby we may acquire the sanctifying Spirit and be transformed into the divine likeness. (236-8)

While I suspect that Quakers would read "Church" and "sacraments" very differently from the Orthodox, and I can imagine George Fox muttering about steeplehouses and their outwardness just thinking about it, there's a lot here shared in common - in my own words:

  • This is a path for everyone, not just a spiritual elite.

  • This path keeps its participants on a moral path, without the Ranting Fox and other early Quakers deplored. Repentance is always central.

  • There are no obscure techniques required.

  • People should share this path with others, not just wander by themselves.

  • Love leads to action.

As before, I strongly encourage visitors to this site to track down a copy of Ware's book and consider its message beyond what I'm able to excerpt here.

(I'm not sure what Ware's aside about Quietism is about, but I'm thinking more and more that the word has multiple meanings, not all of which apply to Quaker or even Catholic Quietism.)


I read a little of that book in college. His emphasis in the beginning on love, above all, being the true nature of God made an big impression on me. I couldn't understand it, being an unemotional creature at the time.

I know Quietism is dear to your heart. I think the (or a) problem with it, which he may be keying into, is that though there's nothing wrong with the theory (at least as I've seen it explained), it tends to go unintended places in practice.

The theory is that, by stilling all human impulses, one can be a better vessel for divine ones. (Secular folks might substitute "lower" and "nobler.") Nothing wrong with that. But it can easily turn into stilling all impulses willy-nilly, and hence to becoming passive. I know you've read it before, but this passage from the Exposition of Sentiments puts it well:

[The leaders of the church] bade us stifle the gushing sympathies which link us to our kind, and passively "wait God's time" for the removal of the evils that afflict and curse our race; as if God had not revealed his purpose of doing this work by human instrumentality--as if there were times when deeds of charity and mercy are offensive in His sight--as if the cry of suffering Humanity and the emotions it stirs within us were not a sufficient revelation of His will, and we were bound to wait in listless inactivity for some supernatural or miraculous manifestation of His authority and power!

Alas! how many have thus waited, until at last the spiritual ear has become too dull and heavy to vibrato under the gentle tones of the "still, small voice"...

I'm not particularly surprised that the Progressive Friends would find Quietism to be a problem. After all, they were still trying to retain a Quaker identity while claiming their freedom from what it had entailed.

After reading early Quakers and Quietists, I don't find this description from the Exposition convincing. Rather, I'd describe it as caricature - perhaps liberating caricature for them, but not as helpful a portrait as some.

It may be, but it does sound like they're basing it on their experience, e.g. of weighty Friends opposing abolitionism – as many in fact did. My impression is that they were reacting, at least in part, to real instances of Quietism gone bad.

And then of course there's Woolman, an exemplar (and I'm sure there are others) of Quietism gone well.

My point wasn't to be wholly negative, but just to suggest why some people (like Bp. Ware) stereotype it negatively...