November 18, 2007

Deifying language

I'll have more to say about deification (or theosis) and how it might fit with early Quakerism, but for the moment I think I'll pause, and present the Bible quotes from the last two articles, with a bit of surrounding context and with the actual citations highlighted.

Quotes cited Pelikan's opening paragraph on deification and the Orthodox are cited in red, while quotes cited by Fox on related (I think) matters are in blue. Quotes cited by both are in purple.

(I've cited the King James Version of the Bible, because it's the Bible that Fox was most familiar with. Definitely feel welcome to check these verses in other translations or the original.)

Psalms 82:6 (Entire Psalm)

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid [them] out of the hand of the wicked.
They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
I have said, Ye [are] gods; and all of you [are] children of the most High.
But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

John 2:10 (9-11)

When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: [but] thou hast kept the good wine until now.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

John 10:34 (32-36)

Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 (1-4)

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

2 Corinthins 6:1 (1-2)

We then, [as] workers together [with him], beseech [you] also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.

Ephesians 4:6 (4-7)

[There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Hebrews 2:11 (9-12)

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

2 Peter 1:4 (2-5)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

1 John 3:2 (1-3)

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

1 John 4:17 (15-19)

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
We love him, because he first loved us.

There are more verses that lead this direction and a huge number of verses that read differently when read with this perspective in mind, but this is a good start for now.

November 10, 2006

An aspiration

From II Corinthians 1:12:

For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. (KJV)

August 31, 2006

Firstfruits of the Spirit

Yesterday I showed a constrast between a Quaker perspective of salvation through a long, gradual walk with the Light with a more traditional Protestant perspective of instantaneous justification followed by a long march toward sanctification. (Instantaneous sanctification comes up sometimes too, but for now...)

Today I'll look at a passage that can appeal to either perspective. Paul talks in Romans about coming closer to the Spirit. This, from Romans 8, is the promise, for "them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit":

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

This follows on Paul's description in Chapter 7 of struggles with sin and the problems of the law. The Spirit is necessary - and separate from our 'carnal minds' - to free us from carnality and sin. Verse 9 appeals to Quakers, with its claim that "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you," but the Spirit is still something distinct from our own selves. There is a clear break here, and it is the Spirit's impact that frees us, "whereby we cry, Abba, Father".

The next verses describe how God leads us to the Spirit. (God leads? Certainly - "we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.") Note that the "Spirit...beareth witness with our spirit," and "not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Hope is unseen, uncertain, "for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?"

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Some read this quotation as a description of the sanctification process, but it seems to me a more appropriate description of the journey after convincement, a process toward salvation rather than a process after it.

(And yes, I did stop short of verses 29 and 30, on predestination, a topic I'm not yet ready to discuss.)

August 22, 2006

Quietly wait for the salvation

In a conversation about nearby verses, I found this quote from Lamentations, 3:22-31:

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off for ever. (KJV)

I only wonder why he "sitteth alone." The rest feels like a good fit for Quakerism generally, Quietism particularly.

June 25, 2006

Revelation old and new

I wrote earlier of the competition between Tradition, Scripture, and Spirit. The world George Fox inhabited had seen seen Scripture raised to new heights in England - mostly at the expense of the old Catholic (and Anglican) tradition, but also at the explicit expense of Spirit.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, made law by Parliament in 1648 as part of the Articles of Religion, led with a section on Scripture:

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased....

Continue reading "Revelation old and new" »

June 4, 2006


Quakers don't celebrate lots of feasts and saints' days, but today is Pentecost on many western Christian calendars, celebrating an event in the New Testament which gives tremendous inspiration to the notion that the Spirit can speak through humans:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance...

And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is [but] the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:1-4, 12-18)

Quakers don't speak in tongues all listeners hear in their own language, as the apostles did, but this and other passages inspired the early Quakers (as it later did Pentecostals) to see a direct connection between the Spirit and humans, as in this from George Fox:

And therefore all friends, that are come to witness the Holy Ghost and faith, in which the true praying and building is, which gives victory over the world, which is the gift of God, in which you please God, keep your meetings, and being met together, as you are moved, speak: for they spake as moved by the Holy Ghost, and as the spirit gave them utterance: and they prayed with the spirit, and it helped their infirmities, for they could not tell what to pray for as they ought: but he that searcheth the heart, knoweth the mind of the spirit that teacheth to pray. And here comes to be known the birth born of the spirit, which God the Father of spirits hears, which is not of that birth born after the flesh, but is with that persecuted. Works, IV, 123.

May 29, 2006

Love against fear

Meeting yesterday closed with a series of messages about love, concluding with one which looked at love in the scriptures, examining how "love's opposite is not hate, but fear," with some discussion of how this means we need to live as if peace is possible, and the kingdom of God is not just coming, but here. This reminded Angelika of 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

I wrote about that passage before, but more in the general sense that God is love, not focusing on love's impact on fear, and love's (and God's) transformative power.

May 5, 2006

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.

April 30, 2006

Reading Scriptures in the Spirit

When biblical literalists question Quakers about how they read the Bible, a common response is to cite Robert Barclay's Apology's third proposition, where Barclay declares that:

Nevertheless, because [the Scriptures] are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all Truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty: for as by the inward testimony of the Spirit we do alone truly know them, so they testify, that the Spirit is that Guide by which the saints are led into all Truth; therefore, according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader.

While I find "only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself" to be a useful description, Barclay's presentation is very theological, and sometimes feels, well, remote. Fox's Journal offers a much more detailed explanation of the hazards of reading scripture without the Spirit:

I saw the state of those, both priests and people, who, in reading the scriptures, cry out much against Cain, Esau, Judas, and other wicked men of former times, mentioned in the holy scriptures; but do not see the nature of Cain, of Esau, of Judas, and those others, in themselves. These said, it was they, they, they, that were the bad people; putting it off from themselves; but when some of these came, with the light and spirit of Truth, to see into themselves, then they came to say I, I, I, it is I myself, that have been the Ishmael, the Esau, &c. For then they saw the nature of wild Ishmael in themselves; the nature of Cain, Easu, Corah, Balaam, and of the son of perdition in themselves, sitting about all that is called God in them.

So I saw, it was the fallen man that was got up into the scriptures, and was finding fault with those before mentioned; and with the backsliding Jews, calling them the sturdy oaks, tall cedars, fat bulls of Bashan, wild heifers, vipers, serpents, &c. and charging them, that it was they that closed their eyes, stopped their ears, hardened their hearts, and were dull of hearing; that it was they that hated the light, rebelled against it, quenched the spirit, vexed and grieved it, walked despitefully against the spirit of grace, and turned the grace of God into wantonness; that it was they that resisted the holy ghost, got the form of godliness, and turned against the power; and that they were the inwardly ravening wolves who had got the sheep's clothing; and that they were the wells without water, clouds without rain, trees without fruit, &c. But when these, who were so much taken up with finding fault in others, and thought themselves clear from these things, came to look into themselves, and with the light of Christ thoroughly to look into themselves, and with the light of Christ thoroughly to search themselves, they might see enough of this in themselves; then the cry could not be, it is he or they, but I and we are found in these conditions.

I saw also how people read the scriptures without a right sense of them, and without duly applying them to their own states. For when they read, that death reigned from Adam to Moses; that the law and the prophets were until John; and that the least in the kingdom is greater than John; they read these things without them, and applied them to others, (and the things were true of others,) but they did not turn in to find the truth of these things in themselves. As these things were opened in me, I saw death reigned over them from Adam to Moses; from the entrance into transgression, till they came to the ministration of condemnation, which restrains people from sin that brings death. When the ministration of Moses is passed through, the ministry of the prophets comes to be read and understood, which reaches through the figures, types, and shadows into John, the greatest prophet born of a woman; whose ministration prepares the way of the Lord, by bringing down the exalted mountains, and making straight paths. As this ministration is passed through, an entrace comes to be known into the everlasting kingdom.

I saw plainly, that none could read Moses aright without Moses's spirit, by which he saw how man was in the image of God in paradise, how he fell, how death came over him, and how all men have been under this death. I saw how Moses received the pure law, that went over all transgressors; and how the clean beasts, which were the figures and types, were offered up, when the people were come into the righteous law that went over the first transgression.

I saw that none could read John's words aright, and with a true understanding of them, but in and with the same divine spirit by which John spake them; and by his burning, shining light which is sent from God. For by that spirit their crooked natures might be made straight, their rough natures, smooth, and the exacter and violent doer in them might be cast out; and those that had been hypocrites might come to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and their mountain of sin and earthliness might be laid low, and their valley exalted in them, that there might be a way prepared for the Lord in them: and then the least in the kingdom is greater than John. But all must first know the wilderness in their hearts, which through transgression were to become a wilderness. Thus I saw it was an easy matter to say, death reigned from Adam to Moses; and that the law and the prophets were until John; and that the least in the kingdom is greater than John; but none could know how death reigned from Adam to Moses &c. but by the same holy spirit which Moses, the prophets, and John were in.

They could not know the spiritual meaning of Moses, the prophets, and John's words, nor see their path and travels, much less to see through them, and to the end of them into the kingdom, unless they had the spirit and light of Jesus; nor could they know the words of Christ and his apostles without his spirit. But as man comes through by the spirit and power of God to Christ, (who fulfils the types, figures, shadows, promises, and prophecies that were of him,) and is led by the holy ghost into the truth and substance of the scriptures, sitting down in him who is the author and end of them, then they are read and understood with profit and delight.

(Nickalls, 30-32; Works, Volume I, 87-89.)

The words on the page are not, by themselves, enough to enlighten us, however much we may hope for that. We must instead allow ourselves to be led by the spirit - a spirit separate from our fallen nature, the same spirit which animated the writing of scripture - as we read the scriptures. Reading and study will take people into the words, but not into "the light of Christ thoroughly to look into themselves". With the spirit, however, the scriptures "are read and understood with profit and delight."

March 10, 2006

He that doeth good is of God

Another verse from John's Epistles worth contemplating, this one from the Third Letter, 1:11.

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

It fits well with Quaker expectations of the behavior of those who encounter God through the Light, and "seen" suggests experience, a personal encounter.

March 2, 2006

God is Love

The First Letter of John, 4:7-21 is a section of the Bible that seems to embody a good deal of Quaker belief. While "God is love" is commonly quoted, I've also heard people challenge that phrase. Sometimes they've argued that it is too reductionist, and other times it just doesn't seem to fit with people's notions of a more squarely authoritarian God.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

I'm quoting from the King James Version, as it is a version early Friends had available. (They may also have had the Geneva Bible, though it's hard to imagine George Fox enjoying the severely Calvinist notes.)

"God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." There's a powerful source of hope.