Friday, February 09, 2007

My Meeting's M&W Committee Offers A Course on Robert Barclay

I just sent the following announcement to many members and attenders of the 15th Street Meeting. I'm posting it in here because if there are others close enough to NYC to attend this course, I hope you will contact me and come join the class. It seems pretty likely that we'll have enough room.

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

Reading Barclay’s “Apology” – An Early Brief for Quakerism
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.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeow! That's really going to be a high-speed gallop through Barclay!

I'd be very interested in hearing how it goes, if you feel so moved as to post reports.

7:19 AM, February 10, 2007  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Thanks Marshall,

Yes, it's a pretty ambitious schedule. Of course we'll have to touch pretty lightly on some things, but I'm hoping that we'll get deep enough so people can get turned on to Barclay and continue to read him on their own.

Realistically, I didn't see any way to stretch the course out more than 7 or 8 weeks. It's not like a college course where the teacher is paid and the other partcipants get marks on their academic records. Everyone, including me, will be balancing Barclay with busy work lives, family livesa, and social lives (including our lives as Quakers with all our worship meetings, business meetings, and committee meetings). A big part of my "preparation" for this coursae has been trying to discern whether I was up to the expenditure of time and energy.

I do intend to post about how it goes, and in fact I intend even before the course to throw some of my own questions about Barclay out to the blogosphere in order to get others' perspectives.

One category of questions I have is about Barclay himself. I recently read that his father became a Friend due to the influence of other Friends he met while he and they were in prison. Barclay's own experience of convincement through being reached by the Spirit when he attended Friends worship is well known but I'd like to understand better how that fit into his life story.

Another category of question would include things like the amazing dearth of material in the Apology about women's role in the ministry. After all, this would seem to have been a major difference between Friends and other groups of the time. I wonder why he doesn't make a point of it.

- - Rich

8:24 AM, February 10, 2007  

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