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Like a river

I mentioned earlier that I was reading Albert Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus. I'll admit that some of the middle pages weren't quite as exciting as I'd hoped, though Schweitzer's prose is always amazing. He touches on a lot of subjects in Christianity's relationship with history that I think also apply directly to Quakerism's briefer relationship with history, often in ways that are strikingly parallel.

I'll have more to say about his central theme of the kingdom of God and how it may relate to Quakerism and Quaker history later. Right now, I'd like to share a metaphor in his conclusion. After he talking about the "moral consummation of all things" and how Christ "grasped the entire truth and immediacy of it," as well as how "our relationship to Jesus is ultimately of a mystical kind," he writes about the challenge of overcoming divides within Christianity:

Only thus does Jesus create a fellowship amongst us. He does not do so as a symbol, or anything of that sort. So long as we are of one will among ourselves and with him in putting the kingdom of God above all else, serving it with faith and hope, there is fellowship between him and us and with men of all races who have lived and still live guided by the same idea.

It is from this that we can also see how the liberal and conservative forms of religious thinking, which at the moment exist side by side, will meet and achieve unity. False compromises are useless. All concessions with which the liberal side may seek to approach the conservative view can only succeed in weakening it by producing obscurities and inconsistencies. The differences between them lie in the difference in their basic thought forms. Any attempt at reaching a superficial accomodation between them has absolutely no prospect.

It is the lack of elementary and living religious feeling which makes these differences so strongly apparent. Two thin streams wind alongside each other between the boulders and pebbles of a great river bed. Nothing is accomplished by trying to clear sections of the rock massed between them to allow them to flow together along the same course. But when the waters rise and overflow the rock, they meet of their own accord.

This is how the conservative and liberal forms of religion will meet, when desire and hope for the kingdom of God and fellowship with the spirit of Jesus again govern them as an elementary and mighty force, and bring their world-views and their religion so close that the differences in fundamental presuppositions, though still existing, sink, just as the boulders of the river bed are covered by the rising flood and at last are barely visible, gleaming through the depths of waters. (486-7)

The boulders are real, though I don't yet see the floodwaters. Perhaps they're on their way.


That is a really cool citation - and it fits well with my experiences in overcongregational Christian groups, where our common worship was improved by the many different traditions contributing to it. So, the flood is starting already.