My Meeting's M&W Committee Offers A Course on Robert Barclay
This project has been in preparation for some time, and was approved last week by the Meeting's Ministry and Worship Committee.
The class will begin on Thursday April 12th at 6:30 p.m. and will meet every Thursday evening until May 24th. All sessions except the one on April 19th will be in the iBook library at Friends Seminary. The Class on April 19th will be in Room One of the Meetinghouse at 15 Rutherford Place.
- - Rich A-E
Outline of a Course Offered by Fifteenth Street Friends Meeting
By 1676, the early Quaker movement was emerging from its first three decades of growth, tumult, and persecution. The steadfastness of Friends under persecution, their persistence through major changes in society and politics, and even their honesty in business had begun to make a positive impression even on some of their
former enemies. Still, their seemingly peculiar mode of worship, their rejection of outward sacraments, and their unusual approach to doctrines like the Trinity all made them highly suspect in the eyes of other Christians.
Robert Barclay was a convert to Quakerism and had been educated in other Christian traditions (Calvinism and Roman Catholicism). He saw a need to explain the beliefs and doctrines of Friends in a way that could be understood by their critics. The result was a book published originally in Latin in 1676 and then translated by Barclay himself into English and published in 1678. Its full title was An Apology for the True Christian Divinity as the Same is Held Forth and Preached by the People Called in Scorn Quakers. Its sub-title further described it as "Being a Full Explanation of and Vindication of their Principles and Doctrines by many arguments deduced from scripture and right reason and the testimonies of famous authors both ancient and modern, with a full answer to the strongest objections usually made against them." Now we just call it The Apology.
Barclay's influence on later generations of Friends was considerable. Until well into the 19th century The Apology was kept in many Quaker households and read alongside the Bible and the Journal of George Fox. During the great separations, all branches of the fragmenting Society found some support for their own particular
positions in its pages.
In the twentieth century, Barclay was less often read, but exponents and opponents of “Quaker universalism” could both quote him in defense of their beliefs and often did so. (See, for example, "Without Apology" by Friend Chuck Fager). But many who read The Apology today rely on a paraphrase in Modern English by Dean Freiday, a book with many wonderful insights and but also some errors of interpretation.
The conviction underlying this course is that we will benefit by becoming conversant with the original. The preferred text will be the original English edition of 1678, as reissued (with modernized spelling) by Quaker Heritage Press in 2002. Reading each proposition in advance of the discussion will be strongly encouraged but not required. Classroom discussion will be seeded with questions from me, other resource
people, and - - of course - - class members themselves.
First Class (April 12th)- Background on Robert Barclay and the Quakerism of His Time:
- Prefatory Address to “Charles the Second, King of Great Britain”
- Quick Overview of the 15 Propositions
Second Class (April 19th)- First Three Propositions:
- Proposition I - “Concerning the true Foundation of Knowledge”
- Proposition II - “Concerning Immediate Revelation”
- Proposition III - “Concerning the Scriptures”
Third Class (April 26th): Fourth Proposition; Fifth and Sixth Propositions
- Proposition IV - “Concerning the Condition of Man in the Fall”
- Propositions V and VI – “Concerning the Universal Redemption by Christ and also the Saving and Spiritual Light, wherewith every man is enlightened”
Fourth Class (May 3rd): Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Propositions
- Proposition VII – “Concerning Justification”
- Proposition VIII – “Concerning Perfection”
- Proposition IX – “Concerning Perseverance and the Possibility of Falling From Grace”
Fifth Class (May 10th): Tenth and Eleventh Propositions
- Proposition X - “Concerning the Ministry”
- Proposition XI - “Concerning Worship”
Sixth Class (May 17th): Twelfth and Thirteenth Propositions
- Proposition XII - “Concerning Baptism”
- Proposition XIII – “Concerning the Communion or Participation of the Body and Blood of Christ”
Seventh Class (May 24th): Fourteenth and Fifteenth Propositions
- Proposition XIV - “Concerning the power of the Civil Magistrate, in matters purely
religious, and pertaining to the conscience”.
- Proposition XV - “Concerning Salutations and Recreations, &c.”