Friday, June 22, 2007

Chuck Fager Responds

My review, not too long ago, of Chuck Fager's book Without Apology, sparked a spirited discussion on this blog. At the time, I expressed interest in hearing from Chuck himself about his view of the issues raised. He has now provided the following thoughtful response, which I am pleased to present as a guest-post.
A Response to Rich Accetta- Evans’s Review of “Without Apology,” by Chuck Fager

Sixth Month 21, 2007

Friends, what goes around comes around. “Without Apology” was written in response to a particular set of trends and circumstances, and it looks to me like many of these trends are converging again. So the timing of Rich’s posting of his review reminds me of the old proverb about how there are no coincidences.

The last major outbreak of this fever, by my reckoning, was in 1990-1992, and centered on what became known as the “Realignment” idea. (“Realignment” for those who have not yet read the book, was a plan to “realign” the FUM-related yearly and monthly meetings by dividing them between the “true Christians” and the non-“true Christians,” with the latter being obliged to go elsewhere. Exactly how this division was to be accomplished, by whom, and by what standards, was never made entirely clear. This proposal, to put it mildly, was controversial; and I was, again to put it mildly, against it.)

“Without Apology” was written in the aftermath of the “realignment” struggle. All through that period, I kept wondering why liberal Friends were putting up with the unending barrage of attacks on their sanity, morality, and legitimacy which was a major aspect of that struggle (and which occurred outside it as well), without speaking up assertively on their own behalf.

Some reasons for this relative silence seemed depressingly clear: first was the cowardly habit of conflict-avoidance which is one of our least attractive features. And second, there’s the equally embarrassing mass ignorance of our tradition, both its history and convictions, that often hides behind the pretense that we have somehow evolved “beyond all that.” Yeah, right; like we’ve evolved beyond breathing. Too much liberal religion, and not only among Friends, boils down to wanting everyone to “be nice,” and for their church time to be a “safe space” and let everything else go hang.

– “A safe space”; now there’s a term which rankles. Sure, we want our children to be “safe” in First Day School. But that’s not the main thrust of this counsel. Yet where did this heretical notion come from, that religious life is supposed to be”safe”??

Not from the history of religion, that’s for sure. “Safe” like it was for Jesus? Or Fox? Joan of Arc? Tom Fox? Or so many others? There are very good reasons why the Bible says “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) And why the first words that need to be said when humans encounter angels is, “Fear not.”

And certainly much of American Quakerism was not a “safe space” in those years, unless one resolutely closed one’s eyes, listened to one’s breath, and then slipped out if something troublesome emerged. That’s a relatively easy stance to maintain in Quaker silence; at least until someone opens their mouth.

I knew all that. But there was something else in play here: in the early 1990s, as far as I could see, liberal Quakerism in the U.S., and maybe in England too, had not produced any scholar or thinker ready to take on this task in an orderly, intellectually serious fashion. To the extent that anyone was thinking out loud about it at all, they/we were still leaning on Rufus Jones, dead almost fifty years, or Howard Brinton, dead nearly twenty years, to do it for us.

But while bowing to their eminence, it was clear to me that these worthies were of another time. Who would advocate for us now? Did anyone even think liberal Quakerism was worth speaking up for?

In looking for a response to these queries, mine was a name which did not occur to me. Not, that is, until it seemed clear that nobody else was likely to undertake the project. I did have a smattering of theological studies and a batch of Quaker journalism under my belt, but there was one qualification which tipped the balance: by God, I felt liberal Quakerism was worth speaking up for, warts and all. So I decided to have a go at it, and “Without Apology” was the result. And I note that, eleven years later, it still pretty much has the field of such advocacy to itself, for better or for worse.

The book seems to have struck a chord with many readers, selling out a number of small press runs, and evoking mostly favorable responses. One doesn’t get rich peddling books to Quakers, but "Without apology" has held its own, and orders continue to trickle in. Such that I prepared a Tenth Anniversary edition in 2006, and its first printing is close to sold out as well.

While working on the book, one thing I learned and re-learned was that, as the opening phrase above states, what goes around comes around. It turned out that “Realignment” was but one skirmish in what had been a century-long contest, many episodes of which had not been well-documented. So the work perforce took on a provisionally historical character, making initial forays into some of these musty corners of our collective attic. I knew then, and know better now, that there is much more to be explored.

By the time the book was finished, I figured that one of these years, the struggle would erupt again. The gray spectre of “realignment” would likely rise from its coffin, in a new guise, brandishing new (and behind them, old) issues.

And so, in 2007, it has. Much is familiar about the current appearance of the ghoul, not least that it seems to hover most over what remains of a much-enfeebled FUM. I won’t repeat here the thoughts about this current conflict posted on my blog, www.afriendlyletter.org . That posting also includes a number of links to other reports on the developing situation.

Rather, I’ll only note here that for Friends wanting to get “up to speed” on this latest dispute that “Without Apology,” whatever its shortcomings, is probably the main available piece of background reading. (Though here I must also add a plug for my more recent collection, “Shaggy Locks & Birkenstocks,” which includes a number of more recent pieces which fill in some important gaps in the earlier tome.)

As to Rich’s comments on “Without Apology” itself, I’m grateful for his many kind and respectful words about it, and the friendly spirit in which even the criticisms were offered. As to the latter, two points seem to me worth addressing briefly.

First, Rich’s complaints turn largely, as such critiques usually do, on Barclay. Rich feels I have misused Barclay’s thinking about the church in service to my effort to legitimate a “universalist” agenda.

Here the response is simple: in my view, I have not misused Barclay, because Barclay is not consistent. When it comes to the church, he speaks, not to put too fine a point on it, with forked tongue, or pen. In his “Apology,” the “true invisible church” is indeed not limited to professing Christians. He said that explicitly, meant it, and I quoted him on it accurately. This “true invisible church” idea is basic to the ecclesiology – the concept of the church – advanced in my book.

But as Rich and others have also pointed out, Barclay also states that in a particular Christian church, everybody ought to be Christian, according to the specific definition of Christian the particular church adheres to. He said that too, meant it, and he has been quoted on that point accurately by Rich and various others.

I noted this in the book, and quoted a fine piece by the late Francis Hall, who knew Barclay backward and forward, and concluded that “Barclay makes no attempt whatsoever,” he admits, “to resolve the difficulties presented by these two sets of beliefs, both of which he fully holds....It is clear that Barclay did not succeed in truly synthesizing these two elements of his faith, but the problem is a profoundly difficult one for the Christian theologian.” (My page 31)

I believe Hall had it exactly right; Barclay is on both sides of this issue, so it's just as fair to me to pick one side of it as it is for Rich to choose another. Thus I meet complaints like the one Rich raises mainly with a shrug. To say a Christian church should be Christian is a tautology. It begs the questions of what “Christian” means, and what kind of church the Society of Friends or its meetings can or should be. My book argued that liberal Quakerism attempts to manifest the “true invisible church” part of barclay; I argued further that this wider approach preceded Barclay, and could be traced all the way back to the words of Jesus.

Rich and some others evidently want the Society to stay within the “particular church” schema. To me that’s an option, not a mandate. Moreover, in my experience there are lots of Christian-identified Friends who are content with the “true invisible” model, so I’m persuaded that it is not inherently oppressive to them. To be sure, there are recurring cases of what my book called “christophobia,” but I am on record there as being opposed to this, and won’t belabor the point again here.

The other main complaint Rich raises is the suggestion that I made “straw men” out of some of the people my book challenges, and failed to do justice to the “Christian” identity of several historical figures claimed there as pioneers of modern liberal Quakerdom, such as John Greenleaf Whittier, Hannah Barnard, and Joel & Hannah Bean.

He also wishes I had paid detailed attention to a list of ten or so other notable twentieth century Friends of special interest to him. As to all these other Friends – I agree they are interesting; but Rich, give me a break – if I’d taken them all on, I’d still be writing it! (Maybe a Quaker in Brooklyn could write the book about them . . . ?)

For the ones I did consider, I’m not sure Rich gives me sufficient credit. The living persons described and quoted were major players in the events the book reports, and I have cited chapter and verse in all instances. This research has not been shown to be erroneous in any of these cases. So I don’t find a lot of straw sticking out of these sketches.

As for the dead, I plead more nuance than Rich allows. For instance, of course Whittier was a “Christian,” Rich – and I said so (cf. Page 52). But I also described him as being part of an evolution of that concept, both in Quakerism and broader Protestant circles, an evolution which flows directly into modern liberal Quakerdom.

This portrayal of Whittier as a transitional figure I stand by, and could cite numerous other sources beyond those in the book, which I have explored since then, to reinforce it. It is enough, though, to simply quote a telling stanza, from his poem “Miriam”:

“And I made answer: Truth is one;
And in all lands beneath the sun,
Whoso hath eyes to see may see
The tokens of its unity.
No scroll of creed its fulness wraps,
We trace it not by school-boy maps,
Free as the sun and air it is
Of latitudes and boundaries.
In Vedic verse, in dull Koran,
Are messages of good to man....’”

As for Joel & Hannah Bean, Rich properly points out that they were not “liberal” Friends, and wanted nothing more than to be left alone in their Quietist Orthodoxy. Yet again, my book says this too (cf. Pages 55-57).

But history (and perhaps the Spirit?) had other plans for the Beans. They were pushed into their role as the foreparents of west Coast liberal Quakerism. And if, as Rich insists, some of their spiritual offspring in today’s polyglot Pacific Yearly Meeting might find the Beans’ later mentions of the “living Christ” problematic, that possibility hardly diminishes the Beans’ actual formative role there. Besides which, I am personally acquainted with some very seriously Christian Quakers in that body, who are nonetheless content with its mixed character.

Finally in this connection, a word about Hannah Barnard: Rich again alleges that I paint her as not being “Christian.” But I do no such thing. Instead, I properly describe her as a proto-Hicksite. She is less a transitional figure than a forerunner, or even a prophet, of the changes in the liberal direction that were to come. When Elias Hicks himself came and preached in her home town of Hudson New York twenty years after her disownment, he paid a personal call on Hannah, and according to her they parted in perfect agreement on matters of religion.

Rich then turns to my effort to sort out some of the persisting value of Christianity to Quakerism, even in my liberal and inclusive sense of it. He dislikes my neologisms: “Christogenic,” “Christomorphic,” and so on. Alas; I liked them, and more important, thought them useful. But his basic objection to the passages in which they appear is not aesthetic or based on a lack of euphony. Rather, he asks rhetorically,

“What relevance does the Christian content of Quakerism have, unless we continue to experience Jesus as neither a dead man of history nor a distant figure in Heaven, but as one who has “Come to teach his people himself?”

And here perhaps we come upon a point of substantive difference.

The “Christian content” remains relevant, Rich, because the plain fact is that there are LOTS of ways Jesus can be relevant and experienced in Quaker circles other than the notion of his being “a present teacher.” The “present teacher” formula is one particular approach, which works for some Friends. I respect it, but am unable to accept it as the only way to either think about Jesus or "experience” him and his possible meanings for our community.

Let me quote, in this connection, the section from “Without Apology” describing Quakerism as Christagogic:

“that is, it continues to have much that it can learn from Christianity, its founder, and its larger biblical context.
“This feature may well be the most important, because it seems to me closest to Jesus’ own method. I have argued in my book, Wisdom and Your Spiritual Journey, that Jesus acted above all like a teacher-sage in the mold of biblical Wisdom. Teaching, particularly by example, was what wisdom sages did; and learning was above all the proper response of wisdom’s pupils. Certainly Jesus’ teachings, as recorded in the Gospels, and particularly the parables, continue to repay reflection and study. Further, such study is consistent with the attitude of independence of dogmatic systems which is also a feature of both biblical wisdom and liberal Quaker faith.”

I cite this passage because this way of relating to Jesus has for many years been the most meaningful to me personally, and I must insist on its legitimacy as a path for such Christian and Quaker experience.

Yes, it differs significantly from other such approaches, such as mysticism, prophetism, or “present-teacher”-ism. So what? I didn't invent it; it's there in the Bible. I would also suggest to Rich that the track record of adherents of this approach meets Jesus’ own test in Matthew 7:16 (“by their fruits ye shall know them”) as well as the others, and caution against insisting on more than this.

As many yearly meetings face the new challenges to their legitimacy raised by the new round of difficulties, I hope that “Without Apology” could still be useful to many in orienting them to some of the background and issues involved. Again, I appreciate Rich’s taking the time to give it such close attention. I'll be interested to see what further comments readers might want to make.

Peace,

Chuck Fager

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12 Comments:

Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

I'm grateful to Chuck for posting his response to my review. It has helped me get a clearer idea of four things: his position, my own position, the areas in which we agree, and the areas in which we don't.

Chuck's reminds us that his book was written in response to the the "realignment" controversy of the early 1990's. For the record, I was never actively involved
in this controversy. I was aware of it, probably from reading Chuck's A Friendly Letter, and I instinctively felt opposed to the divisive spirit that I sensed was at work in those who wanted to "realign" FUM, but I never became passionate about it, because quite frankly I have never been very emotionally involved in FUM itself, nor - for that matter - in FGC or other wider associations of Friends. This may affect my view of some of the issues Chuck addresses. For one thing, I think that the "liberal Quakerism" I encounter in my milieu is a somewhat different animal than the kind of Quakerism Chuck is advocating under the same label.

Chuck also says that during the realignment controversy I kept wondering why liberal Friends were putting up with the unending barrage of attacks on their sanity, morality, and legitimacy. For the record, I'm sure it's clear to Chuck and I hope it's clear to other readers of this blog that I have not participated in any of the attacks he is referring to. In fact, although I do not self-identify as a "Quaker liberal" I imagine that I would look like one to anyone who advocates Biblical fundamentalism, opposes same-sex marriage, or is suspcious of the peace and anti-war movements.

About our disagreements: These fall into two areas - the use Chuck makes of Barclay's universalism, and the role he ascribes to certain Friends as forerunners of liberalism. I welcome another opportunity to clarify that in neither case did I intend to accuse Chuck of misrepresenting or distorting what these Friends have said - only of drawing different conclusions than I think are justified. I seem to have been very unclear about this, since some readers from all points of view seem to have understood me differently than I intended. A third possible area of disagreement - one where we may actually be closer to each other than would at first appear - is on our own personal understandings of Christ.

Let me start, in this comment, with our different perspectives on Hannah Barnard, Joel and Hannah Bean, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Comments on the other areas may have to wait for another day.

Chuck says that I accuse him of painting Hannah Barnard as not being Christian. This was not what I tried to convey. Chuck may be thinking of my statement that "Nothing that Chuck Fager tells us about her supports his contention that she [Hannah Barnard] thought the Society of Friends should equivocate about the central importance of Jesus." I knew that Chuck knew that Hannah Barnard was a Christian. In fact, I only knew she was a Christian myself, because of what Chuck wrote about her. I had never heard of Hannah Barnard until I read "Without Apology". (This certainly confirms Chuck's point about the widespread ignorance of Quaker history and tradition!). Even now, I have read only a little about her in other sources. One reason that I never submitted my review to a major publication was that I was waiting for the day when I could do more research and get my own view of Hannah Barnard more in focus. My point in what I said about her in the review as posted on by blog was that based on what Chuck himself tells me about her Hannah Barnard seems to me more like an examplar of the kind of Christian Quakerism I would like to see than the kind of religiously diverse Quakerism he is advocating. Chuck sees her as a foremother of liberal Quakerism, because she was not a Biblical literalist. But remember, "Without Apology" gives two definitions of what he means by Liberal Quakerism, and neither of them has much to do with whether one is a Biblical literalist. One definition is "institutional", and is basically a label for a certain group of Yearly Meetings including the one I belong to. From what Chuck says about her, I think Hannah Barnard might be pretty surprised and possibly distressed by the views of many Friends in my Yearly Meeting today. The other definition is his "theological" one: the one that says the society of Friends exists to "make visible" a portion of the "invisible Church" discussed by Barclay, and that this visible portion explicitly welcomes and embraces non-Christians as members. I want to save my discussion of our disagreements about Barclay for another day. My point here is only that I don't think Hannah Barnard (or Hannah and Joel Bean, or John Greenleaf Whittier for that matter) ever endorsed such a view. The Whittier passage Chuck quotes in his response is at least as consistent with Barclay-as-I-understand-him as with Barclay-as-Chuck-understands-him.

I am somewhat surprised to find myself cast in the role of Chuck Fager's critic, when as often as not over the years I have found inspiration and insight in his writings. On some things, like the realignment controversy, and the issue of openness to homosexuals, I have felt my views were similar to his. On others, such as the "sweat lodge" controversy in FGC we were farther apart. On the stance of Friends toward militarism and racism, I have taken comfort from that fact that he is speaking and acting for Friends in areas where I have not personally been able to be very active. Even on theology, apart from the "visible church" issue, I think we may be on - - if not the same page - - then at least the same chapter. I note that his book does at least acknowledge and welcome a much closer relationship between Quakerism and Christianity than would be acknowledge my many of the Friends I know who self-identify as "universalists".

But these issues, too, will have to wait for another day. I will post this comment, and await responses.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

2:19 PM, June 23, 2007  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Chuck Fager writes, "The last major outbreak of this fever, by my reckoning, was in 1990-1992, and centered on what became known as the 'Realignment' idea. ... All through that period, I kept wondering why liberal Friends were putting up with the unending barrage of attacks on their sanity, morality, and legitimacy which was a major aspect of that struggle ... without speaking up assertively on their own behalf. Some reasons for this relative silence seemed depressingly clear: first was the cowardly habit of conflict-avoidance...."

All this may have been true in Chuck's own part of the Quaker world. But in the liberal monthly meeting I belonged to at that time, and in a number of liberal meetings I later became acquainted with, this was a time when openly Christian ministry was "eldered" by those who thought it was inappropriate in a Quaker context. The openly Christian members of the meeting I belonged to were driven out by such intolerant "elders" in those years.

So at least in the meeting I belonged to, and some others I'm familiar with, liberals were not just the peaceable victims of attacks, in the way Chuck portrays in this essay. Some of them were practicing an active, aggressive intolerance quite comparable to that of their opponents.

I do agree with Chuck's dislike of that sort of religion that "...boils down to wanting everyone to 'be nice,' and ... let everything else go hang." "Being nice" is not always an appropriate or productive way to respond to challenges to one's religion. Sometimes you have to bear witness to truth, even when it makes you unpopular.

But I think there is a profound difference between bearing witness to truth, and taking sides in a partisan struggle. "Bearing witness" means upholding truths in ways that allow them to sink into other people's consciousness. It has nothing to do with trying to "stand up to" or "defeat" some other side.

At a later point in this posting, Chuck talks about the disparity between the way Barclay wrote of the "true invisible Church" and the way he wrote of the "visible Church" which was organized Christian communities. I would encourage Chuck, and others, in this regard, to look up the historical Christian usage of the term "invisible Church", which was the context within which Barclay was writing. One can find some useful articles on the Web here, here, and here -- although all of these are partisan works and suffer from the usual weaknesses of such things. The commentary in Wikipedia, here, is probably too brief to be really helpful.

Chuck argues that "liberal Quakerism attempts to manifest the 'true invisible church' part of barclay". What I think is important to recognize -- and I think Chuck would recognize it if he studied the concept a little more deeply -- is that the term "invisible Church" refers to the Church as God sees it -- composed of all whose names are in the Lamb's book of life. (Apocalypse/Revelation 21:27) Its true membership will not, cannot be known to us mere mortals until the Day of Judgment, when the sheep are separated from the wolves. (Matthew 25:31-46) We do not have God's power to discern this matter truly, and thus it is presumptuous to equate our own discernments, regarding who belongs in a Quaker meeting, with God's discernments at the end of time.

God may very well -- and in fact, I feel that He probably does -- recognize many, many people as members of the true Church, who are not professing Christians. But that doesn't mean that we are applying His principles properly when we decide to admit every Buddhist and Wiccan and atheistic Communist to membership in the Society of Friends who says she or he "feels at home here" and "has always felt like a member". For those are not the principles on which Christ has told us that God will make his judgments.

Finally, I wholly agree with Rich, and disagree with Chuck, on the "present teacher" business. Matthew 7:16 is no support for Chuck's position if it is understood in the context of John 15:1-8.

8:07 AM, June 24, 2007  
Anonymous john said...

Marshall writes: Day of Judgment, when the sheep are separated from the wolves. (Matthew 25:31-46)

The sheep are separated from the goats in that passage, and that parable is part of the core of Chuck's argument in Without Apology. It is very much tied to the concept of the true invisible Church, but you should read it for yourself.

7:42 PM, June 24, 2007  
Anonymous Marshall Massey said...

How funny that my subconscious should substitute "wolves" for "goats"! I was of course writing in a hurry, while getting ready for work & for meeting.

I don't think I denied that that parable is tied to the concept of the invisible Church. John, if you're saying that I did deny it, I'd be grateful if you would indicate the passage in my own writing that led you to think so.

8:39 PM, June 24, 2007  
Blogger Rudy said...

Marshall writes...

"Finally, I wholly agree with Rich, and disagree with Chuck, on the "present teacher" business. Matthew 7:16 is no support for Chuck's position if it is understood in the context of John 15:1-8."

Wasn't John written considerably later than Matthew? I don't have a Jesus Seminar type Gospel here, but it seems problematic to read the
earlier text in the light of a later text.

Nearly everyone reads the phrase in Matthew as "you will know Christians by their visible actions." John's Jesus suggests
that He causes the good fruit to appear, but Matthew's Jesus suggests checking the fruit, and doesn't say "And don't get distracted by the good fruit on those other wrong trees." The good fruit is, uh, are, the sign.

9:53 PM, June 24, 2007  
Anonymous Marshall Massey said...

Rudy writes, "Wasn't John written considerably later than Matthew? I don't have a Jesus Seminar type Gospel here, but it seems problematic to read the earlier text in the light of a later text."

I don't see why it should be problematic, Rudy. When a later historian publishes a new study of, say, the Cherokee Indians, or the first Friends, that revises the view put forward by a previous generation of historians, it's pretty much a standard practice to re-read the historical data presented by the previous historians in the light of what the new one has to say. John was such a later historian, so why not re-read the synoptics in the light of John?

As for using the "Jesus Seminar", and its discounting of John, as a measuring stick, I would suggest you have a look at Wikipedia's article, and particularly at what it has to say about the group's weaknesses.

"Nearly everyone reads the phrase in Matthew as 'you will know Christians by their visible actions.'" -- I don't know what survey data you are relying on in making this claim, friend Rudy; if you'd cite your source, I'd be grateful. My personal impression, though, is that those who actually read the Gospels, rather than just quoting proof-texts out of context, generally know that the passage in Matthew does not refer to Christians but to false prophets. (Please start reading at Matthew 7:15, and continue through verse 20.)

In the Biblical view, "bearing good fruits" is not a qualifying test for membership in the visible Church. Balaam (Numbers 22-24) was a true prophet, one whose fruits were good, but who was not a member of the visible Church of his time (the people of Israel), and whom no one around him proposed for membership in the visible Church of his time. The conquering kings of Persia, who rescued the people of Israel from oppression, bore good fruits, and yet were not accounted Jews. The book of Acts, in the New Testament, mentions any number of people who did good things, bore good fruits, and yet were not accounted members of the visible Church of their own time, which was the early Christian community.

The visible Church is thus, in the view of the Bible (and also in the Church's view ever since) not just a universally-inclusive do-gooders' club, but an association of those who are under a very specific yoke. In Old Testament times, that yoke was the covenant of God with the Jews, a.k.a. the Law. Christ replaced that old Law with something new, a path of obedience both to him personally and to the Paraklete he would send; he said that this Paraklete would be one with him, and would testify of him and remind us of all he had commanded. In other words, it would be the "present teacher" that Rich has referred to, and it would be specifically in unity with the rulership and teachings of the historical Christ.

8:02 AM, June 25, 2007  
Blogger Rudy said...

Marshall, I will return to the passages you suggest and think about them, and post my thoughts.

I didn't mean to sound as though I had taken a survey, only that the interpretation of Matthew I gave seems to be common - the theme of hymns ("You will know we are Christians by our love...") and sermons. I did try several wordings of that sentence before I posted and couldn't get it to sound right.
Your phrase, "personal impression", is much better. That is what I should have said.

By the way, it is
F/friend Rudy now :) as I am now a member of my Meeting. You've corresponded with me for years on SRQ so I thought you'd like to hear that.

11:17 AM, June 25, 2007  
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3:41 PM, June 25, 2007  
Anonymous john said...

Marshall writes: I don't think I denied that that parable is tied to the concept of the invisible Church. [...] I'd be grateful if you would indicate the passage in my own writing that led you to think so.

I'm sorry for the confusion! That wasn't my point.

As a student, I often have to participate in class discussions without reading the material. It's part of the difficult cost/benefit analysis that must go into balancing work and family and my commitments to my meeting with college.

Although I can sometimes contribute to discussions regardless of my lack of preparation, I try not to venture too far into commentary when I haven't read the documents under consideration thoroughly.

That doesn't stop me from saying foolish or stupid things in class, but it is one way I try to be intellectually honest and honor the energy of those who have devoted more time and thought to the material than I have. I know I don't have the energy or tenacity of some students, and I can often learn a lot just by asking a few questions.

Having followed the first spool of comments after Rich's review with some interest, it seems obvious that you have a great deal to contribute to this conversation. It is evident that the matters under consideration are both important to you and that you have held these issues in the Light.

As you know, in historical writing and theological polemic, details are important. I find Rich's review pretty faithful to the text he is considering, but I don't endow his reading with more weight than my own. We both have our own unique filters. Given the extent to which you have engaged these matters, I think that the stakes and value of the conversation would be raised considerably if you would be willing to read Without Apology and weigh in on the relevant issues with details that are not conveyed in Rich's review.

The 'sheep and goats' parable, for instance, forms the basis of one of the book's most compelling arguments, in this reader's oppinion, pertaining directly to what you wrote about in your first response to this post. Shall I transcribe the argument here? That would be a bit much for the constraints on my time with regard to online discussions. However, I expect that it would advance the conversation if this information was part of the discussion, and that you may have significant insight to contribute.

A small portion of the text is available online here, and another review posted by Larry Ingle (the first Friend to compose a biography of George Fox and a history of the Hicksite separated based on sound scholarship and documentary evidence). But the book is available from Amazon.com, Kimo Press, and I've seen it in many many Quaker meeting libraries.

I'm not sorry I haven't joined the discussion before, becuase it is mostly above my calibre, and I am learning a lot from it. I hope this helps.

3:29 AM, June 26, 2007  
Anonymous Marshall Massey said...

To Rudy: I am delighted to learn that you are now a member! But let me explain that I address people as "friend", not "Friend", because I want to emphasize my own feelings of friendliness, and my own sense that our relationship is friendship. Capital-F "Friend" seems to me like a more impersonal term.

(And besides, capital-F "Friend" refers to Christ's own criterion in John 15:14 -- "you are my Friends if you do whatever I command you" -- and I feel ever more strongly as the years go by that my rôle is to leave that judgment to Christ, rather than to presume to make it myself.)

To John: Sure, it would be good if I could read the book. I have very little free time, though, and it's going to be some months before I can get around to it.

I don't think it is necessary to read the book in order to address the issues. Chuck certainly doesn't own the issues.

8:52 AM, June 27, 2007  
Blogger Rudy said...

Marshall, I read the passages in question, and you are right, the
phrase "by their fruits you shall know them" is referring to false prophets. The rest of the passage, though, could be read as giving the "positive" version that is popular.

I have seen one pop culture reference to the "positive" interpretation of this passage since last posting.

I think that the rest of what Jesus says here could account for why people interpret "good fruits" as the sign of Christians, as after he spells out that you can know false prophets by their bad fruits, he amplifies this by saying that good trees don't give bad fruit, and bad trees don't give good fruit. While this isn't a direct statement like the beginning of the passage, it is at least arguable that he means to say that you can know his followers by their good fruits. But it is not explicit.

I haven't read through the "visible" vs. "invisible" church references yet so I won't comment about that.

6:33 AM, July 05, 2007  
Anonymous John P said...

Jesus' words that His followers would be known because of their fruits (Matt. 7:16) must be understood in the context of His Lordship.

The very essence of the New Testament is that Jesus is the Messiah, and that those who disbelieved this were on the wrong side. The verse in question must be understood within the context of those who profess to believe in Jesus. If we deny this, we're bringing something absolutely foreign into the context of the Bible.

10:35 AM, July 24, 2007  

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