Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
MIGHT WE BECOME AS OBEDIENT AS JESUS?
On First Day, 6/24/2019, I was privileged to be among the seventeen Friends who heard Australian Friend David Johnson (_A Quaker Prayer Life_, Inner Light Books, 2013; _Jesus, Christ and Servant of God_, Inner Light Books, 2017) lead an intense after-meeting discussion, at West Richmond (IN) Friends Meeting, on what the Gospel of John has to say about the relation of Jesus Christ to God, His _Abba_.
Friend David had us go around the room, each reading one of the following verses:
The picture that emerged was of Jesus the Man explaining His astonishing ability to do divine works as being rooted in His “having no will but to do the will of Him Who sent Me” (John 6:38), and “to finish His work” (John 4:34). It was clear that, during His years of ministry, Jesus was all the while training, encouraging, and empowering His disciples to act in a similar spirit of unwavering obedience to the divine will. After Jesus’ departure from the earth, David added, the early Church understood this unity with God’s will to be the supreme criterion of its faithfulness. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” exhorted Paul in Philippians 2:5-7 NRSV. The “anointing” that gave members of the early Church this “mind that was in Christ Jesus” empowered them to “abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:20-24).
It was the great accomplishment of early Friends that they recovered this key understanding of the early Church and found the living Christ empowering then to live up to it.
The question that David bade us consider as we parted, at the end of the hour, was this: _Can I accept the possibility of my being as obedient in all things as was Jesus?_
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[On 8/1/2019, I was queried as to why I characterized David's talk as "intense." I answered:]
To my mind, it was "intense" because, if I may so express it, David stood back and let the Truth tell Itself. (And this was reflected in David's going around the room and having one participant after another read, out loud, one of the selected verses from their own Bibles.)
Whether Jesus had been conceived without original sin, was the Second Person of the Trinity, or had any other "divine" qualities to make Him qualitatively different from the rest of us, was not brought into the discussion. The two distinguishing facts David held up about Jesus were (a) His perfect obedience to the Divine Will, and (b) His determination to be "training, encouraging, and empowering His disciples to act in a similar spirit of unwavering obedience" (my paraphrase of David's idea, quoted from my report, which David reviewed before I published it). The clear implication was that if Jesus could do it, so could we.
If both (a) and (b) are true, then we can't use the excuse "but He was divine, and we're infinitely depraved sinners by nature, so we can't hope to be obedient like Him, at least so long as we're embodied in this fallen, sinful flesh." This was not stated explicitly by David, but I felt it as clearly as I could see the sunlight that day. And my heart seemed to say, "Yes, Lord Jesus, I believe You have the power to make me and keep me perfectly obedient, and I ask You to do it!" I can't speak for any of the others in David's audience, but the Lord knows whether there were any waverers or foot-draggers in the room who wanted excuses for not saying "Yes" to the invitation. (And I pray that there were no waverers who stayed wavering.)
Then there was a third important point that David made: (c) that the Primitive Church sought to maintain unity with the Divine Will, and was not just a collection of individuals who liked Christ, or admired Christ, but a corporate body who "let the same mind be in them that was in Christ Jesus" and "abode in the Son and in the Father." So also, evidently, were the early Quakers, in spite of their having been made of the same fallible flesh as we are. The question David left each of us with was: Can I accept the possibility of my being as obedient in all things as was Jesus?
That question was an intense one, but its impact was all the intenser for coming at the end of an hour of David's preparing us for it.
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John I have a question for you. Do you agree with David that mystics from other religions ie Buddhist etc are on the same path? Those that deny the divinity of Jesus Christ?
Brenda, I can't promise to not disagree with your statement regarding Lewis' teaching about perfection. However I would be interested to see your justification for your claim that Lewis did not preach the same gospel as Fox, that a man can be returned to the same state as Adam and Eve and to a further state, the state of Christ who never fell. I knew Lewis and had many discussions with him. Your statement does not line up with the person nor with the writings he has left behind him.
What resources do you have available? There are some things posted on this site under the resources tab. I also have many things of Lewis' in digital format, which I could send you if that would be of service. If you send me a list of what you have, I can send to you, perhaps, things you do not have.
Bye the way, did you have the opportunity to know Lewis and Sarah personally?
Thank you for your offer of resources. I have to say that Lewis Benson draws a false dichotomy between Pentecostals and ‘Christ’ centred’ believers as he has left out Holiness believers, who would agree with him about Pentecostals having it wrong but not on his understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit. So I ask you, what role does the Holy Spirit have in salvation? What was missing in the discipleship stage of following Christ, and how was that remedied after the death of Christ?
He says ‘But its emphasis on holiness is on individual holiness. Where it takes a corporate stand on questions of morality it tends to keep well within the limits of the conventional morality of the society in which it finds itself.’
I am afraid that he was incorrect here as regards to Holiness teaching which requires that a man is perfect regardless of his situation, and that he will, if he is holy, adhere to scriptural standards. I do not find him to have read very deeply or at all concerning Holiness teaching. He has failed to see where it agrees with Fox and disagrees with Pentecostalism and he has made false assumptions regarding its teaching.
I will say that I am not ‘Spirit centred’ but Christ centred in my theology. I do have some books written by Benson but it is in regard to Holiness that I take issue.
Ellis, Judas Iscariot lived with Christ, but did not understand His teachings.
I own 'That of God in Every Man', 'The truth is Christ' and of course the items in Resources.
It would be helpful Ellis if you could provide a critique of holiness teachings by Benson, that is to say, a critique of 'second blessing' holiness preaching as in the Holiness Movement in the USA and revival preaching from 20th century England. There are teachings from earlier periods even right from the period of the church Fathers, which are less accessible though useful. It will help me to show that he had scant understanding of the teaching and confused it with Pentecostalism. Thanks.
Brenda, I have sent you a number of files containing Lewis Benson's writings. I have done this for the purpose to enable you to make a comparison between what Lewis had to say about being free of sin and what George Fox had to say. Your contention is:
If you wish to substantiate your claim, then lay out for us what Fox had to say, what Lewis had to say, and what the differences are. You now have the material to accomplish this. I look forward to seeing your results.
Thank you both for continuing this discussion, Ellis and Brenda. I just now saw that there was a little "page 2" tab at the bottom of the first discussion page that allowed me to access this new material.
I have to confess myself deeply ignorant about the Holiness Movement and its beliefs, and not at all well-educated about the teachings of George Fox and Lewis Benson, so as to be able to discern for myself where, if at all, they might differ, besides the obvious matter of their having lived in different centuries. I'd welcome further education. If I get confused, I'll turn to Christ Jesus for help, knowing that He may instruct me to take my attention away from theological questions and focus instead on a more thorough submission to Him.
Right now I have little freedom to focus on doctrines, except for an ongoing project I'm involved in, which is to edit the Appendix of John Wilbur's Narrative and Exposition of the Late Proceedings of New England Yearly Meeting (1845) for the use of students of the Wilburite-Gurneyite split -- which may prove of interest to NFF members.
I've been moving into a new home over the last month, and it's been exhausting and physically painful. I'm wearing a 76 year-old body and caring for a wife with dementia, which means virtual house arrest and limited energy. Angels have come to help with the heavy lifting, and I'm enormously grateful for all the manifestations of the Lord's kindness I've been experiencing, but I'm still feeling worn out.
I sense that the burden of proof is now on you, Brenda, to show where Lewis Benson differed from George Fox. But the Lord's blessings be on you both! If any one of us is carrying a wrong understanding of things, and/or an unreasonably obstinate heart, may the Lord Jesus soon correct us and restore the love that ought to prevail among His family.
Thank you John and I pray that you get the help you need at present. You should not have to do heavy lifting. Moving is bad enough.
Thank you also Ellis for the writings by Lewis Benson which I am working though but obviously will take a bit of time. My age and health get in the way of the things I want to do too!
What I will comment upon, after doing some of the reading, is that Benson seems to have said that sin is to be understood as living outside of a living relationship with God, whereby what is required is for a man to be listening to Him and doing what he says. And saying that Adam was in that state. That goes against scripture however, as God made Adam perfectly able to do what was right in his own sin free eyes, with only one rule, the one to counteract the temptation that God knew would be put before him.
Please give me some time to get back.