Points for Discussion on Quaker Beliefs, with readings from
John Punshon's Portrait in Grey: A Short History of the Quakers.
by Ted Goertzel. I have selected three short passages for recommended
For more information on Quaker Beliefs,
go to Chuck Fager's Quaker Theology
For some discussion of Quaker Pacifism,
go to http://crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/pacifism.htm
Pages 158-167. "A Divided Inheritance" This discusses the
different theological tendencies within Quakerism. Quakers have never
formally adopted the "Trinity," but the three streams of Christian theology
can be found in Quakerism.
Pages 171-176 - The 1827 Separation in Philadelphia. This section
makes the theological difference between Orthodox and Hicksites clear.
In 1806, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting made it "a matter of disownment
to deny the divinity of Christ, the immediate revelation of the Holy Spirit,
or the authenticity of scripture." (172). The Orthodox, in effect,
wanted to impose traditional Christian doctrine as imposed in most Christian
churches. The "Hicksites" were somewhat more diverse, but they had
in common a stress on inward reality. The Hicksites were Quietist,
they believed in waiting for revelation from God, more than finding it
in the Bible or from rational thought. The Orthodox were more evangelical,
the Hicksites more pantheist and Quietist. At the time London Yearly
Meeting was Orthodox in philosophy. New England never split.
The Hicksites were more numerous in PYM.
Deism, the "doctrine that God is quite other than the cosmos and entirely
transcends it. Having created it as a closed system, he remains aloof
from its operations and lets it go its own way" (160). This is God
the creator, the "father." People who adhere to this theology tend
to stress rational thought and science as a way of discovering truth, they
tend to also place great emphasis on classic religious texts. Orthodox
Quakerism is more sympathetic to Deism. For deists "the light was
the inherent rational capacity of the mind." (161)
Evangelical, the focus on Christ as the unique Son of God, the Redeemer
who died for our sins. People are sinners who can be saved only by
accepting Jesus as their Savior. This approach tends to stress charismatic
leadership, strong emotional appeals and adherence to doctrine. At
certain points, this has been strong in Quakerism, and it is stronger among
Friends with Pastoral form of worship.
Pantheist, the "the view that God and the universe are one entity, and
that the divine is wholly immanent in the creation." (160).
This is God as Spirit, as Holy Ghost, as Sanctifier. Silent and unprogrammed
worship is most compatible with this theology, since it facilitates awareness
of the spiritual dimensions of reality. It also leads to Universalism
(as we define it, the belief that all religions are means to approach a
the same spiritual reality) since many other faiths also practice this
form of spiritual worship, e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism. Gandhi's book
"All Religions Are True" is consistent with this philosophy. Pantheist
Quakers view the "light [as] the direct operation of God upon the soul,
something which the deist cosmology in principle refused to admit." (161).
Pages 226-229, Rufus Jones and Mystical Quakerism. This section
relates to more modern developments. In the 20th century, Friends
who worship silently have stressed the mystical approach over the doctrinal
approach. Rufus Jones developed these ideas clearly.
In my own view, Quakerism is better off emphasizing pantheist and universalist
perspectives. Our mode of worship is especially well suited to this
theology. Other denominations probably better serve people who are
looking for strict adherence to doctrine (i.e., Roman Catholicism) or for
Christ crucified as a personal Savior (evangelical Protestantism).
Strict Deists are probably better served by Unitarian/Universalist churches
which emphasizes science and intellect. (Incidentally,
the Unitariarian/Universalist churches use the term "universalism" in a
different way, to mean that all people have inherent goodness and can be
"saved." This differs from some Protestants who beieve that only
an "elect" can be saved.)
Theologically, among the various Christian denominations, Quakerism
can be classified as a "Unitarianism of the Spirit." We give most
emphasis to the third element in the Christian Trinity, without denying
the value of the other two.