Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
“He must increase, but I must decrease,” said John the Baptist of Jesus (John 3:30 NRSV). Can you imagine having that be your own seven-word graduation speech when you leave seminary? Five years into your post-graduate career, can you imagine yourself saying, with Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)? If a serious soul comes to you for counsel, will you be able to credibly say “we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16), because Love has at least once prepared you to lay down your life for someone else? If not, why not?
Your professors can’t be expected to work such queries into your curriculum, but as a former seminarian at Earlham School of Religion I must warn you that Christ Himself may do that. In coming to a Christian seminary you have implicitly invited Christ to be your Teacher, and as a student at a Quaker Christian seminary you are likely to learn of George Fox’s discovery that “Christ is come to teach His people Himself” (as he testifies multiple times in his Journal, starting with his 1653 sermon at Brigham, Works (1831 ed., v. 1, 177), or Journal (Nickalls ed., 155). (Interested? Ask me how to source early Quaker quotations using ESR’s Digital Quaker Collection and Quaker Bible Index.) Quaker tradition since Fox and the First Publishers of Truth has identified Christ with “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9), and that Light indwells everyone, confronting each person with their sins through the conscience, but healing them and driving out “the Tempter” if they will just “stand still in the light, and submit to it” (Fox, Epistle No. 10).
Friend, you’ve surely noticed the sickness of the world. A lot of people flee from the Light, hating it because their own deeds have been evil (John 3:19-20), then living in denial that they’ve said and done things that make them secretly hate themselves. Many project their self-loathing onto scapegoats. Most embrace a belief that evil means can yield good results (Romans 3:8). Few suspect that forgiving everyone everything is the key to experiencing the all-forgivingness of God, though Jesus taught it plainly (Matthew 6:14-15).
Your seminary training can help both you and others come to the Light that shows us the truth, stand still before it, and learn the right thing to do about it. But this is not guaranteed. You will be tempted by facile and bogus solutions, many of them diverting your attention to “bad guys” other than yourself, or suggesting that human cleverness unaided by the wisdom of an all-knowing Savior will suffice to do all that can be done to fix the situation. Don’t be taken in! Seek out lovers of good and seekers of truth for your companions, pray to be rightly guided, and don’t shrink from suffering. Anticipate a thorough final examination. It will search your heart more than your book-learning.
- John Jeremiah Edminster, Earlham School of Religion, class of 2019
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