Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
There is an old Indian proverb that goes something along the lines of, “he who rides a tiger, can never dismount…” I have recently read Derek Guiton’s book “A Man that looks on Glass: Standing up for God”, and the way he has documented the working out of a liberal belief system, reminded me of the proverb. Once we start down some paths, there is no returning, and so when it is that an institution places its faith in something other than Christ. The title also reminds me of James words, “For anyone who hears the Word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like…”
Derek’s book is essentially an examination of the spiritual state of his own Yearly Meeting, Britain Yearly Meeting, of which he has been a member for many years. This book ought to be compulsory reading for those who think that dollops of ‘tolerance and inclusivity’ are the answers to all our spiritual problems, because it is salutary reminder of the what the end product of a too open and undiscerning liberalism can be; confusion, lack of discernment and over-reliance on human wisdom.
Although Derek makes some points that I cannot agree with, I recognise that Derek Guiton’s book is a spirited and passionate defence of what he believes to be essence of Quakerism, a faith in a living God that is both within us and outside of us, a God who calls us to listen to His Voice. In that, I think that Derek’s book is one of the more positive signs of spiritual life in Britain Yearly Meeting and I appreciate his passion and conviction. Derek has acquitted himself well, but I suspect that his defence will be the last of its kind in Britain Yearly Meeting, and I also suspect his book will not have gone down too well in some parts of that institution. Derek’s observations, particularly the one where he reports a recent that belief in God is attributable to only 56% of Britain Yearly Meeting membership, which actually less than that of the general population in the UK, might be 'too close to the bone'.
Derek studiously charts the growth of atheism, which he terms ‘non-theism’, and describes its effect on the Yearly Meeting over the last 20 years or so. He outlines the debate that has taken place between the rapidly growing atheist movement, the Non-Theist Friends Network, and the ‘traditional’ theist side. He very cogently describes how quickly faith has been supplanted by ideology. On occasion, a militant and unrelenting atheism with an entryist agenda. Derek describes how, David Boulton, one of the leading proponents of the Non-Theist Friends Network, described faith in God as “a lie”.
He is forced to posit the question; “No longer having a shared belief in God or any transcendent reality beyond the human, and treating our core beliefs as outmoded constructs without relevance for our future, we are left pondering the question, wherein lies our unity?” That is the central question of this book, and surely, as the New Foundation, our ministry has been to speak to this, to point to the power and presence of Christ in our midst, as the source of that unity.
What I would like to be clear about is that generally, I don’t waste my time or energy in absorbing myself in the wrangling’s of liberal Quaker institutions. I gave up on that over 10 years ago, when it became clear to me that I could not function as a Christian and remain in membership in Britain Yearly Meeting. I simply could not find the eldership and support I needed, and grew tired of being told how ‘outmoded’ and ‘simplistic’ my faith in Christ was.
On this occasion, I feel that the book is useful for us in the New Foundation in terms of reminding us of how far some Quaker groups have gone from the original message proclaimed by George Fox and the Early Friends, also it gives some insight into the liberal mindset, but also to sketch out some of the pitfalls of having a church which does not have Christ, or in this case, even a belief in God at its centre.
It seems Britain Yearly Meeting is going through fundamental change, much of which is propelled by a group of militant atheists, described by Derek who he describes as openly advocating the removal of any references to God from Britain Yearly Meeting’s faith and practice. Derek fears this process which will lead to an accelerated weakening in the understanding of Quaker fundamentals, such as Meeting for Worship, Ministry and Meeting for Worship for Business. His prognosis is not at all a positive one.
Much of the book is dedicated to exploration to the use of language to describe spiritual experience and a refutation of what he terms ‘non-realism’. It is interesting but is of less relevance to our work, but I was struck by some of Derek’s insights. He says of atheism, “There is a string in the psychology of atheism that is afraid to hope, afraid to take risks, afraid to plumb the depths, because of the swirls of uncertainties it might stir up…”
Derek has outlined how the progress of ‘non-theism’ has led to a prevalence of moral relativism in the Yearly Meeting, my truth, your truth, and everybody elses’ truth even if they lead to diametrically opposed faith and action. This sounds sadly familiar. This is in stark contrast the Truth that we learn, when we hear and obey Christ, which is for all people and all times, which we in the NFF made the cornerstone of our message.
This book has relevance to us because it should remind us that we still have work to do, and that our message is still relevant. In many ways, I feel vindicated by Derek’s book.
I lived through an earlier period of revision when Friends who described themselves as ‘Universalists’ aggressively pursued change to Britain Yearly Meeting’s Book of Discipline. They made it clear that they wanted Christian language to disappear, because they felt it ‘excluded’ people. They got their way: ‘Christian Faith and Practice’ became ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’. I well remember Joe Pickvance standing up at a Quaker Conference and shocking the audience merely by asking whether there was actually such a thing as ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’.
The justification for this was, as is now, ‘openness’, ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘tolerance’. But also, “we must not discourage those who cannot use the name, ‘Christ’”. Those of us in the NFF in the UK, including myself, sounded warnings that such changes would bring about a weakening of the spiritual life in the Yearly Meeting, a decline the depth of our worship and ministry.
We were not heard, and thirty years later, Derek describes the end result, and writes what may turn out to be the last spirited defence of a faith that is still in some sense, recognisably ‘Quaker’. Britain Yearly Meeting is about to taken over by atheists, it would seem.
I cannot avoid feeling a sense of irony in that those who were so ready to expunge what they saw as out-dated and outmoded Christian language, are now forced to defend themselves from a similar onslaught from groups who are even more liberal than them. Derek’s quote of G.K. Chesterton, “…those who marry the spirit of this age, will find themselves widows in the next…” is entirely apposite.
One of the things, I like about Derek’s book is that he is relies much on passages from Early Friends to outline what he sees as important aspects of Quaker faith. I think this is significant in that people are still able to recognise the power that comes through such text, and how we can see and explain their relevance for today.
Derek’s book is available from online bookstores;
Published: 20 October 2015
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@Brenda, what do you think Fox was saying when he exhorted the early Quaker ministers to reach or answer that of God in every man. Can you explain how you think he got it wrong? Can you explain the early Quaker's doctrine concerning that of God in every man that you think they have gotten wrong?
John 1:9 says That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. But all men end up in darkness as in John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And David in Psalm 51:11 pleads Take not thy Spirit from me. (Acts 26:18)to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith .
When man falls, as like did Adam, and he loses his innocence at a point in childhood when he chooses to disobey his parents, he has entered into darkness because he has sinned (honour thy father and mother) and the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in him any longer and where there is darkness there can be no light. And he remains in this darkness till the Day of God's choosing comes to him and he is presented with the light, to either accept or repell and most unfortunately repel it. I do not believe in prevenient grace and believe that Fox didn't either.
So there is nothing left to be called that of God unless they meant the imprint left on all mens souls whereby they know they have lost something and indeed they are lost. I can't see how one can call a negative a positive. In my evangelising I would aim for this empty gap that is left to draw them to the light, but with someone who has already made a decision for Christ but is not walking in the light, then one can reach that of God but it is not in every man.
I am open to being changed on this but this is what I believe God has given me.
Another verse that shows that men must follow Him to have light: "When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'" (John 8:12, NIV).
Please show the scriptures that say that all men have the 'seed' within them, the seed of Christ, and explain what Fox meant by it thank you.
This comment and the next contain two passages from Fox that will help you understand the passages from John and what Fox meant by the immortal seed.
P. He saith, Christ doth not give to every man the light that leadeth to the Father, and there is not in every man that redeeming light, which leadeth to the Father. And it is false to say, the light which John speaks of, is a salvation light;' he saith, light in every than is but the candle light of natural understanding,' page 56. And 'the light which every man hath, is a low common benefit, and no drop of this immortal seed,' pages 57, 58. Nor is the light which every man hath, his mediation.' And I call the light which every man hath, natural,' page 59. And the light which every man hath, teacheth nothing of the way, truth, and life of Jesus Christ,' page 60. And the light which is in every man is opposite to scriptures,' page 61. This is the light which is in every man's conscience, which is but natural. And the apostle saith he warneth every man, and teacheth every man, that he might present them perfect in Christ Jesus.' But he saith, 'The apostle did not warn every man: he did not level the saints' light, with every man's,' page 62. ' It is not meant that every man is enlightened, but the church.' See page 63.
A. I am the light of the world,' that doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world, saith Christ the life. So the light which every man that cometh into the world is enlightened with, will let them see the life which it cometh from, will let them see their salvation, Christ Jesus, will let them see their mediator, will let them see the truth, for the light is truth, which cometh from Christ the truth. And the light is Christ, the way, the truth, the life, that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. In him was life, and the life was the light of men,' in him by whom the world was made, which light was before any natural lights were; the sun, moon and stars are natural lights, and these were made by Christ the light, who doth enlighten every man, &c. Men having a light from him by whom the world was made, by whom all things were created, who was before any thing was created, this lets them see before any created light, or natural light; this gives every one the knowledge of life; lets every one see the salvation to the ends of the earth; and lets every one see the covenant of God.
They that love it and believe in it, come to the life Christ, him from whom the light cometh. The light is of the immortal seed, of Christ Jesus, one with the saints' light; the saints believe in that the
world hates, and receive that which the world hates; so it is the world's condemnation: it is the condemnation of them that hate it. And so was he promised a covenant to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews, and so doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world, according to John's testimony to the priests and Levites who came from Jerusalem to examine him. So the priests and professors now examine us in this age respecting the light which the Quakers are witnesses of, and bear testimony to,which Paul warned every man, and taught every man, that he might present them perfect in Christ the light. So the light is one with the saints' light, that condemns the unbelievers. And the light every man that cometh into the world is enlightened with, that through it he might believe; and who believe in it, and receive it, have the light of life, and they become the sons of God; and who hate it, it is their condemnation: and they are against scriptures, but the light is not against scriptures, but owns them. And so the light is not so low as ye esteem it, for it was before any thing was made or created... And the light in the converted shines out of darkness in their hearts, and gives them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, &c. And the light in the unconverted shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehends it not.
To all my dear brethren, whom the God of power hath enlightened with his eternal light, and discovered unto you his way of truth, and brought you out of the dark ways, wherein ye have walked; which dark ways all the world walk in But where the pure light of God is witnessed, it guides to himself. The light is but one, which leads out of darkness and the dark world, into the world which is without end. Therefore all Friends and brethren in the eternal truth of God, walk in it up to God, and be not sayers only, nor backsliders; for the backslider is a sayer, and not a doer, and there ariseth ambition, pride and presumption out of that nature. But dwell in the pure light, which God hath made manifest to you in your understanding, and turn your minds to him, and walk as children of the light, and of the day, and be not drunken in any thing, nor run to extremes in any thing; but be moderate and patient. Wait for the presence of the great God, and our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ; and be not so childish as to be tossed with men's words without life. And run not out after others' liberties, which they have got in their notions; for thou that dost so, wilt not abide in the truth; and so thou mayst come to be shaken, and shake others, who look at words. But wait every one in particular, (in the measure that God hath given you,) upon God, in the fear of God, then your hearts will be kept clean; and this is the sure way. And wait all to have the son made manifest in you, and the son alone to set you free in yourselves in particular; and all that are made free by the son, are one. But the first nature, that would have liberty, must go into captivity; which they that live in their carnal reasoning, seek freedom for. But here is man deceived in his first birth.
But ye all, in whom the immortal seed is brought to light, who are raised up to sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, and are become children of the day, walk as children of the day, and as children of the light, and let your light so shine before men, that they may glorify your Father, which is in heaven.' All loving the light, ye love the one thing, which gathers your hearts together to the fountain of light and life; and walking in it, ye have unity one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth you from all sin.' The knowledge of the letter, which you formerly got into your notions and comprehensions, the dark mind gave dark meanings to it, and so kept you in the broad way; but now wait all to have the same spirit manifested in your understandings, which was in them who gave forth the scriptures, who were come out of the broad way, holy men of God, who had escaped the pollutions of the world. And if every particular of you know not a principle within, which is of God, to guide you to wait upon God, ye are still in your own knowledge, which is brutish and sensual. But waiting all upon God in that which is of God, ye are kept open to receive the teachings of God. And the pure wisdom and knowledge is that, which comes from above, which is to know God, and Jesus Christ, the way, which is hidden from the world; and to walk out of your own ways, and out of your own thoughts. And dwelling in that which is pure, up to God, it commands your own reason to keep silent, and to cast your own thoughts out: and dwelling in that which is pure, it discovereth all this. So dwelling in the spirit, it keepeth all your hearts to God. To whom be all praise, honour, and glory for ever!
Thank you Ellis that was helpful.
It seems that the eQuakers, were making a doctrine out of one verse, which of itself is unclear as to when men become enlightened. It could be at birth, when man is innocent as was Adam before he fell or it could be when each and every man is given the chance of turning to the light which is the Day of the Lord in my understanding.
I have spoken to unbelievers many times and they say that they did consider Christianity or had a spiritual expereince at one point in their lives but decided to reject it often because of the cruelty and suffering of the innocent in this world that is to say that Satan got in and they listened to him.
No doctrine can be made from one verse and certainly not one which has more than one possible interpretations.
Their interpretation of Romans 1 which they used to back up that one verse is a misenterpretation I believe for the reasons I have previously stated. Paul cannot be speaking of those who have never come to Christ and who have been in the dark since a time in their lives when they cannot remember their fall into sin. This is the reason that God gives them, all men a second chance when He brings the light to bear upon them and they can choose again.
If they accept the light then it will bring about their eventual salvation if they do not extinguish it and that means they will come up like Fox through the flaming sword and have their sin nature burned out of them, the sin nature they aquired, the nature of their father satan when they fell.
I do not find anywhere in scripture to back up the idea that the Holy Spirit can dwell where there is sin. That idea is from apostate Christianity. To say that here is a 'seed' is not proven in scripture. The seed is received when men accept the light.
You will never understand Fox as long as you come at this backwards. Fox began with revelation “without the help of any man, book, or writing.” Later the Lord showed him the agreement between revelation and scripture. Fox preached what the Lord taught him as you may read in his statement of commission and sending forth. Christ himself, not scripture, was their foundation. “And if there was no scripture for our men and women's meetings, Christ is sufficient, who restores man and woman up into the image of God, to be helps-meet in the righteousness and holiness, as they were in before they fell. So he is our rock and foundation to build upon.” (Vol. VIII, p. 115) You begin with the demand that there be at least two passages of scripture according to your understanding before you will accept something as valid. On this basis, you hold Fox’s gospel to be wrong, mistaken, or built on flimsy undergirding. Thus you have closed the door to understanding what Fox and the early Quakers were about.
No Ellis I do not begin there because I agree in the immediate direct revelation as authority for the believer and have said so in previous conversations.
When Fox emphasised the light that lightens every man so much he was refuting Calvinism which was very strong at that time, and who said/say that only certain men will be given light and the rest will remain in darkness. And this is indeed a firm foundation to build on.
But even though most of the revelation was from God, I do not think all of it was and they were a bit off regarding the fact that men lose the light when they sin and it must come to them again.
Ellis, scripture is our safeguard but not the source of revelation. It is secondary. However everything that is revealed to us by God must be found in scripture and the eQuakers were very strong on this and knew scripture back to front. It is unsafe for it not to be so. Do you believe in the devil Ellis?
Brenda, not only must "immediate direct revelation [be an] authority for the believer," one must also interpret Scriptures under this authority, and not as Barclay admonishes against in his first proposition, with "many and various opinions of God and religion, being so much mixed with the guessings and uncertain judgments" (QHP, 20-21). You've guessed and judged wrongly in both chapters of Romans 1 and 7, making your interpretation of them bend to fit your preconception regarding Fox's having come into a second blessing, a notion that fits your theology but is found no where among early Quakers, nor in Scripture.
And now you're claiming that early Friends were "a bit off regarding the fact that men lose the light when they sin and it must come to them again." Where in Scriptures does it say that men "lose the light." Rather, it says that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. The light continues to shine within men's darkness; it is not "lost." Men are "lost" when they prefer darkness, but the light is not lost; it continues to shine whether men prefer it or not, for the light is eternal and cannot be overcome by darkness.
You will have a very difficult time finding your way back to a clean approach to Scriptures because you are so invested in your carnal apprehension:
...he that errs in the entrance is not so easily reduced again into the right way; he that misseth his road from the beginning of his journey, and is deceived in his first marks, at his first setting forth, the greater his mistake is, the more difficult will be his entrance into the right way (19).