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Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

Blessed Friends, I write of encouragement. This morning in Meeting for Worship (I went to late Meeting) I heard two speakers. One who spoke of individual determination and another who spoke of community. Categorizing the two philosophies I see one as darkness, the other light.

Emil Brunner said something like this, God calls us to Him individually but we are meant to be in communion. Brunner associates individualism with Rousseau and others of spiritual impoverishment including monism. I believe Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind, wrote on it as well. The speaker of individual was reading from Friends Journal.

The other speaker related a personal experience, that of meeting with Anti-baptist, aka Amish, Mennonite, and asking the elders about their personal relationship with God. They told her they couldn't answer that question because they didn't think of a personal relationship with God but of the community's relationship with God. Her spirit was quickened by that answer. She went on to tell of reviewing the reading list for a Quaker retreat (I can't think of the correct word) she'll attend and being surprised to see included books from early Quakers who, like the Amish, had a community relationship with God. That quickened her spirit even more.

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord. He is working in their hearts.

I spoke to this woman after meeting, telling her I heard and appreciated her quickened spirit. I think it so important to acknowledge, encourage, and nurture someone's awakening to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I invited her to join me in preparing for Meeting for Worship a half-hour before Meeting. I'm not going to push it because the Lord tells me He's in control.

Off to a concert.


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Comment by Ellis Hein on 4thMo. 25, 2016 at 12:18

This does sound encouraging. I was interested in your comment about Brunner and monism. I looked monism up in Wikipedia and was reminded of why I never could have been a philosopher. Can you provide more detail about monism and why Brunner included it among the spiritually impoverished?

Comment by Ellis Hein on 4thMo. 26, 2016 at 2:56

A couple of things  need clarification here, which I hope you will address.  You seem to be making individual relationship with God opposite to and contradictory to a community relationship with God. And you seem to imply that this was part of the early Friends experience. I do not think this can be supported. Yes, they  had a communal experience of Christ present in the midst as the functional head of his body, the church. But that experience was in no way divorced from their individual relationship with God. Thus Fox could say on more than one occasion, "Though you be ten thousand, yet you are one" (or words to that effect. I do not have the quote in front of me.) There is no need to play the individual against the group or the group against the individual. The same Jesus, who is Lord of those individuals who will hear and follow his voice, is Lord of the community who waits to hear together, obeys together, and suffers together.

2nd point. The word is Anabaptist, not Anti-baptist. Anabaptist means that they were re-baptizers. Anti-baptist would indicate they were against baptism. Again, I wonder about the report of not thinking in terms of personal relationship with God. This does not really fit with with what I remember from my Mennonite relatives. So I am hoping you can provide more information here.

Comment by Rhonda Fuller on 4thMo. 27, 2016 at 0:00

I'm full of errors. I know it's Anabaptist but at the time carelessly allowed my focus to be on something else and erred in my usage. 

Monism is one, impersonal god. I hadn't heard the word prior to a cd I watched a couple of years ago on the new spirituality, new age religions that are popular. Islam is said to be monist as well as Hinduism, Buddhism and others. It's contrasted to dualism, which is God separate from His creation. Monism is one in all and all in one.

I need to have Brunner's book in order to answer your other question. I will get it again from the library when I finish reading my current book. When I read through the book again I'll be better able to answer your question.

As for your most recent comment, you seem to misinterpret or misunderstand much that I write or say. I'm not a scholar nor do I want to be one. They're the Pharisees of modernity in my opinion. So what I write and say tends to have a down home quality to it. Don't read more into what I write than what I say or intend. If I misuse a word or you're unclear about something, ask what I mean. Please don't assume I write in depth. If there's any depth to anything I write it's not due to my ability. I write mostly as a reaction to something I've read that impressed me or what's been opened to me. I rely upon my Lord Jesus for the truth of what I write. My writing is meant to get people to think and to dialogue. 

One last thing. I did not come from a different religion when I first went to Quaker Meeting. My only religion has been that which George Fox preached and I eagerly embraced because it quickened my spirit. I knew what he said was true. And because he was interested in speaking Truth, I was led to Jesus Christ. I want only to do the same for others.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 4thMo. 27, 2016 at 2:27

Thanks, Rhonda. And just a note, I had no intention to make assumptions but was responding to what I read. I have no way to distinguish between what you say and what you intend. So, I thought I was asking for clarification of what you were saying. If I have offended you, I do apologize. You state, "My writing is meant to get people to think and to dialogue." My comments are the result of my thinking and are meant for dialogue.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 4thMo. 27, 2016 at 11:48

Thanks, Rhonda for bringing this up. I've often seen "community" held up as the primary value in Liberal meetings, often contrasted to an individualism. Ellis, your description of Friends understanding of their relationship to God being both individual and corporate was excellent, I thought.

I've looked up Brunner's discussion of Monism and will transcribe it here. This is from his book The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption under the heading of "The Independence of the Creation":

The fact that God "called the world into existence"...means that He has created something Other than Himself, "over against" Himself. This means that non-divine, creaturely existence, and even all that is material and destined to pass away has been freed  from the odium of standing in opposition to God. [The "odium" of dualism, I think he's referring to here.] This puts both an unreal "spirituality," and the Monism which is so characteristic of speculative thought, out of court. Thus Space and Time, Matter and the causality of Nature, the burden and inertia of things, and the fact that all living creatures are connected with the earth, cease to be regarded as contemptible, disgusting, or unreal. [As in gnosticism.] Creaturely being, which is quite different from God's Being, is not set in opposition to God on account of this "otherness." God Wills this Other, it is He who has established it as the wholly other. It is His will that a second existence, and indeed a very varied and many-sided second existence, a world of very varied creatures, should be over against Himself. The fact that God and the world are not identical, which Monism fears and detest, has lost its terrors. A world which is not God exists alongside of Him.

This, however, means that God does not wish to occupy the whole of Space Himself, but that He wills to make room for other forms of existence. In so doing He limits Himself. He limits Himself by the fact that the world over against Himself is a real existence. Hence the maximum of the divine self-limitation is equally the maximum of actual "over-againstness"--the free position of that being who is "over against" God, and is therefore able to answer the Word of the Creator in freedom. Yes, indeed, this is precisely the ultimate, and the real meaning of the divine Creation of the world. In the full sense of the word, God can only glorify Himself and impart Himself where a creature in freedom gives His word back to Him, the Word which He addresses to it, the word of love. Now we begin to see what a large measure of self-limitation He has imposed upon Himself, and how far He has emptied Himself, in order to realize this aim, to achieve it, indeed, in a creature which has misused its creaturely freedom to such an extent as to defy God. The Kevwois [Greek word], which reaches its paradoxical climax in the Cross of Christ, began with the Creation of the world. 

This being who stands "over against" God--who is the actual purpose of God's Creation, is a creature which may, can, and must pray to Him, a creature, moreover, to whom God pays so much attention that He listens to his prayer. I say this now in anticipation, because only thus can we perceive how seriously God acts in His self-limitation, and how far real Biblical thinking is from all forms of Monism and monergism.

[Brunner spends several paragraphs at this point discussing "the graded variety of the created forms of life," which in the Bible move from "the plant world to the lower and higher forms of animal life, finally reach[ing] its zenith in Man." He then goes on to say that the "graded hierarchy is rooted in God's Will as Creator" and "corresponds to the greater or lesser distance from the human way of existence"...[which is] "the maximum of freedom, which, for its part, has its essential characteristic an its theological significance in the fact that Man may and should answer the divine Word in freedom." 

In sum, Brunner is saying, I think, that God is distinct from his creation, and self-limits Himself in order to give Man maximum freedom to respond to his divine Word. "God can only glorify Himself and impart Himself [says Brunner] where a creature in freedom gives His word back to Him, the Word which He addresses to it, the word of love."  

Comment by Ellis Hein on 4thMo. 27, 2016 at 12:59

Thank you, Pat, for the quote from Brunner. This makes so much more sense than the Wikipedia article I tried to read, which I found to be very confusing. I really like Brunner's statment, "God can only glorify Himself and impart Himself where a creature in freedom gives His word back to Him, the Word which He addresses to it, the word of love." I find that particularly rich when coupled with the realization that Christ IS the Word.

Comment by Rhonda Fuller on 4thMo. 29, 2016 at 19:08

Hello, Ellis. Peace be with you, and me.

"I have no way to distinguish between what you say and what you intend. So, I thought I was asking for clarification of what you were saying." God bless you, Ellis. You can't know what I intend and asking for clarification is reasonable. The clarification you were asking for (if I remember correctly) required recall of concepts I had read from different books over a period time. I wasn't prepared for an extensive clarification, which most likely frustrated me. I was probably thinking, "Why doesn't he just accept what I write? These ideas don't come from nowhere." But of course you deserve explanation and had I been prepared for your query I would not have been frustrated. Now, Ellis, keep in mind I'm writing in a lightly self-deprecating manner because I see my foibles.

"If I have offended you, I do apologize." I was not offended but frustrated.

You state, "My writing is meant to get people to think and to dialogue." My comments are the result of my thinking and are meant for dialogue. (This I know and knew without being told. Why did I write it? Frustration.)

On a more serious note, I will respond to your one question regarding the topic on individual relationship with God. I can't do it now but will soon. 

Comment by Rhonda Fuller on 4thMo. 30, 2016 at 11:24

Good morning, Ellis. Following is the clarification, preceded by your statements.

"You seem to be making individual relationship with God opposite to and contradictory to a community relationship with God. And you seem to imply that this was part of the early Friends experience."

First, I was relating, as best my memory served, what the speaker at Meeting said. Brunner, in his lecture on personality talked about the difference between the Christian and non-Christian way of forming community. Christian community is a result of God calling the individual to Him. Because Christianity is a dualistic religion human beings are known to be separate from God in the sense that they aren't Him but His created creatures. But they are separate personalities, they are distinct individuals and equally valued by God. God wants communion with them. When they respond positively to His calling they are in communion with Him. Brunner says that in Christianity community is formed naturally through man's relationship with God. I can't go any further here because I don't recall exactly Brunner's explanation. However, he distinguished between Christian community as a natural formation and Western Civilization's forced communities when it turned away from God. The individual in these communities had no communion with a higher, absolute being. The individuals were lone travelers who formed communities out of necessity, per Rousseau's philosophy of a contract society. The individual could get out of the contract. That's the individual determination I referenced as darkness.

I didn't make nor intend to make individual relationship with God opposite to and contradictory to a community relationship with God. I can't imagine what I wrote that implied that since the thought never entered my mind. 

Comment by Ellis Hein on 4thMo. 30, 2016 at 12:57

Thanks, Rhonda, for the clarification. 

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