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Spirit and Scripture

I posted recently on early Quaker perspectives on Scripture. Here, for contrast, is Paul Tillich's description of the orthodox Protestant perspective:

What was the doctrine of the Bible in Orthodoxy? The Bible is attested in a threefold way:

  1. by external criteria, such as age, miracles, prophecy, martyrs, etc.;

  2. by internal criteria, such as style, sublime ideas, moral sanctity;

  3. by the testimony of the Holy Spirit

This testimony, however, gets another meaning. No longer does it have the Pauline meaning that we are the children of God ("The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Romans 8:16). Instead it became the testimony that the doctrines of the Holy Spirit are true and inspired by the Spirit. In place of the immediacy of the Spirit in the relationship of God and man, the Spirit witnesses to the authenticity of the Bible insofar as it is a document of the divine Spirit.

The difference is that if the Spirit tells you that you are children of God, this is an immediate experience, and there is no law involved in it at all. But if the Spirit testifies that the Bible contains true doctrines, the whole thing is brought out of the person-to-person relationship into an objective legal relationship. This is exactly what Orthodoxy did.

(A History of Christian Thought, 280, paragraph breaks added.)

I suspect that the largest distinctions between Quakerism and the surrounding Puritanism of its early days stem from that difference. Fox clearly saw the Spirit saying more about the Bible than just "YES". Even today, that difference continues, in my mind, to be a distinguishing feature of Quakerism as much as its practice of silent worship or its lack of formal sacraments.