Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Just asking

When reading Quaker outreach materials, I often find that views are attributed to early Friends without any evidence being offered. No doubt sometimes those views really were the views of early Friends, but sometimes I fear that contemporary writers are projecting their own views back into the past. Here is a case in point, where the truth of the matter is unclear to me. I'd be interested in others' perspectives. (Note: I'm not asking whether the views in question are true or are good theology, but whether they really were, as stated, the views of George Fox and other early Friends).

The Quaker Finder website has a list of "Frequently Asked Questions" about Quakers. One of the questions is "How Do Quakers View Christ". And part of the answer is
Quakerism is concerned with life in this world rather than the next, and has no theology of heaven and hell. George Fox taught that redemption through Christ and the Second Coming should not be thought of as past and future events. Both can only be experienced in the present, as spiritual truth, independent of history. He believed that "Christ has come to teach his people himself," and that we can be as Adam was before the Fall if we open our hearts to the Inward Teacher.

I have the uneasy feeling that this description of George Fox's beliefs is at best a half-truth. I can see from his writings that Fox said Christ has come to teach his people himself and that we can be as Adam was before the Fall if we open our hearts to the inward teacher. I'm not so sure that Fox ever said the Second Coming "should not be thought of as a future event", though maybe he did, and I'd be willing to find that out if someone can provide a quote. I'd be a little less suprised if the word "only" were inserted into this statement, so that it said the Second Coming should not be thought of only as a future event.

As for the statement that "Quakers have no theology of heaven or hell", I would be astonished if anyone could prove this from documentary evidence. It's almost impossible to prove a negative, anyway, of course. But also it seems to me that there are things scattered throughout Quaker writings over the centuries that seem to indicate an interest by at least some prominent Friends in our eternal destiny.


Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Hi Rich,

Just a quick search through Barclay's Apology has this in the conclusion:

Because when we hear them talk foolishly of heaven and hell, and the last judgment, we exhort them to come out of the hellish condition they are in, and come down to the judgment of Christ in their own hearts, and believe in the light, and follow it, that so they may come to sit in the heavenly places that are in Christ Jesus: hence they maliciously say, that we deny any heaven or hell but that which is within us, and that we deny any general judgment; which slanders the Lord knows are foully cast upon us

That sounds to me like he is saying that while Quakers were accused of denying those things, they did not.

That being said, I just finished reading N. T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God in which he argues that 1st-century Jews expected God to intervene in current history, not that the world would end and there would be a new world, and that the early Christians believed that the arrival of Christ began that intervention, in which God would put the world right. He also wrote an interesting article that touches on the American obsession with the rapture called Farewell to the Rapture.

It may be that some of our modern concepts of heaven and hell are from our reading a Greek understanding back into the bible, in the same way that we may be reading modern ideas back into Fox.

With love,

11:08 AM, October 07, 2008  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

There is something odd about modern Friend' tendency to justify ourselves by the past, imbuing Fox and the early Friends into with a type of authority they would probably be uncomfortable with. Then again if you write about what Friends believe (i.e., what people with membership in the RSOF today believe) you'll get such a mish-mosh of theologies that it won't be all that useful.

I think this FAQ was mostly written by Deborah Haines, who takes these present/past Quaker issues fairly seriously. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be cc'ed on some of her private responses to Quaker theological critics and haven't read this level of robust defense of Quakerism anywhere this side of Barclay! So I would be very surprised if she couldn't cite sources for these claims. Theologically, this part of the FAQ reminds me of some of Pink Dandelion's arguments that some early Friends considered their experience of the Inward Christ to be the Second Coming. I'm not enough of a scholar to argue the details, but that's where I'd go look for backup material.

It's much better than most of the verbal descriptions of Quaker belief you get if you walk into a meetinghouse and start asking questions.

2:06 PM, October 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Quaker position on heaven and hell becomes much clearer if it is considered in light of the Quaker position on the doctrine of the atonement. For that doctrine is a teaching about how the Crucifixion of the historical Jesus changed the fate of human souls after death. If the fate of human souls after death is not a concern, why bother with a doctrine of the atonement?

As it happens, the early Friends did affirm the doctrine of the atonement in their writings, and this has been well documented. But they seem to have done so only defensively, in response to accusations that they didn't believe in it. The doctrine was never a central part of their gospel.

At the time of the Hicksite-Orthodox split, the doctrine of the atonement became one of the central matters of dispute between the two sides. Elias Hicks explicitly denied the doctrine's significance, and some of his followers did the same. The leaders of the Orthodox, on the other hand, treated it as central to true Christianity. After the split was complete, the Philadelphia Orthodox leaders wrote the doctrine of the atonement into their yearly meeting discipline, and made any denial of the doctrine a disownable offense.

Thus it would be truer to say that Hicksism has no theology of heaven and hell, but that Orthodox Quakerism very emphatically does have such a theology.

And it would be fair to say that both these two positions involve some distortion of the original Quaker position — although the Hicksite position is a greater departure from that of the first Friends than the Orthodox position is.

I am just about to leave for Atlanta, for the QEW annual meeting, and will be off line for (I think) the next six days. I'd be happy to discuss this with you further, but it will have to wait until I return!

5:18 AM, October 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After several days of checking this blog and finding nothing new on it, I skipped several days--so of course that was when I got behind!

Early Quakers certainly did believe in a future heaven and hell. The odd thing is that despite their ability to distinguish biblical teaching from popular misconceptions of Christianity, they missed it on this one. The Bible does not teach that anyone will go to heaven. Rather, the New Jerusalem will descend out of heaven, to us. Early Quakers spiritualized the New Jerusalem to the point where its role as something to look forward to disappeared-- but they did look forward to "heaven."

The phrase "Second Coming" isn't in the Bible, so Quakers and their contemporary Christians couldn't talk the same language about this. They did spiritualize Christ's "second appearing," and it's a little ambiguous whether they looked forward to an outward, visible future coming of Christ.

(Your spellchecker doesn't believe that "spiritualize" is a word, but I think it is!)

Early Quakers did believe in the Atonement (Christ's death for our sins), but they were constantly in debate with people who thought that was the whole story. I don't think it's that they thought the Atonement unimportant-- they just didn't need to preach it because everybody else was doing so. Quakers were concerned to say that just because Christ died for sinners, and one believes that, doesn't mean one is saved. It was necessary to let Christ take over one's life such that one stopped sinning.

I'm writing this without any references/quotes having just discovered Rich's new blog entry. I may post again later documenting some of this stuff or commenting further.

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

12:08 PM, October 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are a few quotes from Nayler. I spend a lot of time these days indexing the works of James Nayler, so that I can eventually get Volume 4 out. It's slow work.

Here's a quote from Nayler's reply to an anti-Quaker pamphlet by John Deacon, who posed a list of queries v.3, p. 23). There has been some back-and-forth here, but Nayler doesn't quote Deacon's replies in full but just paraphrases and replies to them.

Query 14. Whether the soul of man be mortal or immortal? If mortal, for what then did Christ Jesus suffer to purchase eternal
glory, and what profiteth holiness in life? If immortal, where then shall it abide after death, since you say there is no heaven nor hell but in a man's conscience?
Answ. The first part of this query I answer: the soul is immortal; but the latter part being made up of a lie, I return it back into thy father's bottle, from hence it came, till thou hast proved that ever I said there is no heaven nor hell but in a man's conscience.
Reply answered. In this reply you call me secret deceit, and liar, because I tell you of a lie you cast upon me in your query, to wit, that I say there is no heaven nor hell but in a man's conscience, and because I will not bear it in silence, but lays it open to be a lie, therefore I am called secret deceit, for laying open your secret deceit, and now another must bear it who is not here to answer for himself, and so to excuse the lie, you have discovered the backbiter, who is shut out of the kingdom with the liar. And now Richard Hubberthorne is named, but you dare not say he ever said it, lest he should be nearer than you are aware to disprove you; but lest you should fail, now you slander all our fraternity (as you call it) therewith which in truth is as much as to say nobody; for I am one, but you clear me, saying, you cannot prove it against me, so not all our fraternity; so take the lie back till you find a father for it, for with us it rests not.

Here's one from "Love to the Lost":

I know there are a people who have a desire to heaven more than to holiness; and they, lest they should spoil their carnal delights, have in their brain- imagination conceited a justification without sanctification or mortification, wresting those scriptures which condemn the works of the law, and therewith they would exclude the righteousness of faith also. And because the Scripture saith God justifies the ungodly through faith, therefore they conclude themselves justified in their ungodliness by a fancy which they call faith, but are without faith in Christ. For that faith which lays not hold upon God's righteousness is not the faith of Christ ...

In the first man's state, the law is broken, and there mortification and sanctification is denied, and there the man would be justified from the guilt of sin but not from the love and power of sin, but would have his carnal delights in the world and heaven also, but this is vain hope and will perish. But in the second man's state the law is fulfilled through mortification, sanctification, justification of the Spirit.

The following is from Nayler's reply to an anti-Quaker tract called "The Quakers' Catechism" by Richard Baxter. Baxter too posts queries--this was typical of the debate literature of the time.

thou concludes with this question: if you think you are perfect without sin, whether do you also think that you are already in heaven or perfect glory; for what can keep the soul from perfect enjoyment of God but sin, and to enjoy God perfectly is to be glorified perfectly; but sayest thou, I have forgot that your brethren think heaven, hell, is only within men. I say, hadst thou forgot that lie it had been an injury to him whom thou serves, but I find little of that forgetfulness in thy book, and for perfect enjoyment of God, had not Adam in his innocency perfect enjoyment of God? and Christ in his time when he was upon the earth, though their bodies was upon the earth, and so far as any is covered with God's righteousness, so far perfectly glorified.

As you can see, there was an idea going around that the Quakers said there was no heaven or hell except in a person's inward state in this present existence. This the Quakers always said was a lie. But one cannot find out just what they believed about "heaven," because of their attachment to "Scripture language"-- there simply is no Scripture language for the idea that anyone goes to heaven. The resurrection and eternal life are in the Bible, but not "going to heaven." So where do we enjoy our immortality?--on earth, I think, but the Quakers didn't work this all the way out.


1:23 PM, October 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a great pleasure to see Licia Kuenning posting here. Licia, you enrich every conversation you contribute to!

I would respectfully disagree, though, with your statement that "the Bible does not teach that anyone will go to heaven." The idea seems implicit in Christ's response that "in my Father's house are many mansions...; I go to prepare a place for you..." (John 14:2-3) — for where, according to the thinking of the time, would God's house be, if not in heaven? II Corinthians 5:1 appears to confirm this reading, since here Paul writes, "...We know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

In Matthew 5:12, Christ assures his followers that their reward is in heaven. Matthew 6:20 makes a similar point.

The idea that some people will go to heaven is more explicit in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. Here, in verses 4:16-18, we are told that Christ will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ and the living faithful will then "be caught up together" to meet him in the air, "and thus [i.e., in the air] we shall always be with the Lord." This, of course, is the doctrine of the Rapture.

In the book of the Apocalypse (Revelation), at verse 3:21, we are told, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne". We are told immediately thereafter (v. 4:2) that the throne in question is in heaven. Apo./Rev. 4:4 shows us twenty-four human elders who are already there; and v. 7:9 shows us "a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues" who are likewise there: "the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God...." (vv. 7:14-15)

I am delighted, Licia, with your quotations from Nayler and your commentaries on them. It is a wonderful work you are doing, republishing these treasures from our past —

11:21 AM, October 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I welcome Marshall Massey's comments, and I hope to soon make a thoughtful response to his several references to the use of the word "heaven" or "the heavens" in Scripture. I just now would like to post one more passage from Nayler, as it expresses very explicitly his belief in rewards and punishments after death. This is from the last section of Love to the Lost, "Concerning the Resurrection," which is in the second 1656 edition.

Concerning the Resurrection
"I am the resurrection and the life," saith Christ, "he that believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live"; and "whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Blessed is he that this knoweth and believeth, "which is the first resurrection, for on such the second death shall have no power. Yet the day cometh, in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the judge, and shall come forth: they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation." Think of this, you wicked workers, who live and die in your sins and yet please yourselves with talking of the resurrection and what a glorious day it will be--a woeful day to you will it be who are found in your sins and in the love of the world, you profane Esaus, and cursed Nimrods, and proud Hamans, who trample upon the despised seed of innocency; you must not then lord it over the poor, and judge their case and your own also; you must not then stop the mouth of truth any longer, but right must be heard and pass, as to the high, so to the low; you hypocrites who confess God in words but in works deny him, what will this be to you when your fair covers must be taken away and by your works you must be judged? will he say to you, because you have been great talkers of me, therefore your deceits shall not be laid open, I will first make you clean before I judge you; but all others will I judge as I find them? You that are pleading for sin while you live, and holiness when you are dead, you will not then find it as you have conceited, but as you are found. A terrible day will this be to you that die in your sins; and this the children of light knows, whom your envious minds is accusing as though they denied the resurrection, though you see them preparing for it by casting off the deeds of darkness and works of the flesh, and all the ungodly ways of the world, the pleasures and vanities thereof, and esteeming more of the cross of Christ and the reproach of the world, counting that greater riches than the present glory of the world and friendship thereof; which were our hope only in this life, we were of all men most miserable, who have denied all these things for the Lord, that in him we might be found at that day, in whom we look for a better resurrection; which did we not see to be an unsearchable reward, we have an opportunity to return; but a better country we desire, and we know that a city is prepared for us, whose maker is God, a durable habitation in the heavens, which such who love the world cannot receive: and therefore in your carnal hearts imagine carnal things, comparing heavenly things with earthly and praising the present world and conforming to it; loving and worshiping the creature more than the Creator; therefore hath God appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, and give a just recompense, when the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, the quick and the dead to judge; and the dead in Christ shall rise first, as says the Scripture: wherefore "Blessed are they that die in the Lord"; but woe to you who die in your sins at that day, who neither live nor die in the faith of Christ; and you are they who live and die in that faith that you cannot be set free from sin while you live; for this is not the faith of Christ, nor did ever any of his profess it or die in it, but believe him that is able to save the uttermost all that come to him. So as is your faith unclean, so shall you be in your resurrection unclean; for all that die in that faith, die in their sins.

4:38 PM, October 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In commenting on Marshall Massey's arguments for people going to heaven I want to start by saying what I think the word "heaven" usually means in the Bible. I think it usually means God, or the mind of God. Thus the phrase "kingdom of heaven" is used in Matthew where Mark and Luke have "kingdom of God," and I think the meaning is the same and refers not to a territory but to God's reign. Where will God exercise His reign? Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven," which I take to mean, may God's will someday be perfectly done on earth, even as it now is in God's own mind. There would be no point in praying for God's kingdom to come on earth, if we are not meant to live on earth when it does.

Marshall writes, "Christ's response that 'in my Father's house are many mansions...; I go to prepare a place for you...' (John 14:2-3) --for where, according to the thinking of the time, would God's house be, if not in heaven?" I think God's house is the whole universe, and there will be a place for us to live with Christ, but I think this place will be on earth, where we are told that Christ will return to (Acts 1:11). If Marshall thinks that it will be somewhere else, where is this other place? In its literal sense "heaven" can mean the sky, but mansions in the sky is a very odd idea, and despite popular art I don't think the sky was designed for human habitation.

Marshall continues, "II Corinthians 5:1 appears to confirm this reading, since here Paul writes, "...We know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'" The "tent" here, as also the "building" or "house" is the body. I think this becomes obvious in the following verses, as does the fact that the imperishable body is to come to us "from heaven" (rather than that we have to go to heaven to get it). God has a perfect, incorruptible body in mind for us, and some day He will give it to us.

Marshall: "In Matthew 5:12, Christ assures his followers that their reward is in heaven. Matthew 6:20 makes a similar point." I take both passages to refer to what God plans for us, not to where we will be when we receive our reward.

Marshall: "The idea that some people will go to heaven is more explicit in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. Here, in verses 4:16-18, we are told that Christ will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ and the living faithful will then 'be caught up together' to meet him in the air, 'and thus [i.e., in the air] we shall always be with the Lord.' This, of course, is the doctrine of the Rapture."

The early Quakers would have told thee stiffly that the word "Rapture" is not in the Bible, and they would have scolded thee for adding to the text with thy bracketed expression, "[i.e., in the air]." Okay, I'm not an early Quaker. But if we are caught up into the air to meet Christ, does it follow that in order to remain with Him we have to spend eternity in the air? And how can that idea be reconciled with the fact that Christ is going to return to the earth? (See below for how Farmington! Farmington! handles that issue.)

Marshall: "In the book of the Apocalypse (Revelation), at verse 3:21, we are told, 'To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne'. We are told immediately thereafter (v. 4:2) that the throne in question is in heaven."

It's certainly NT teaching that if we suffer with Christ we will also reign with him, which is what I would take "sit with me on my throne" to mean. I think he will reign everywhere, and we don't need to envision all the saints crowded into a big chair in the sky.

"Apo./Rev. 4:4 shows us twenty-four human elders who are already there; and v. 7:9 shows us 'a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues' who are likewise there."

Don't you think all this stuff is symbolic rather than geographical? Again, where is "heaven" if it is a place with crowds of people in it? And if we are to rely upon the author of Revelation, what will you do with his long description of the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven before anyone can live in it (chaps. 21-22). The New Jerusalem is a city; it has streets and gates; and people enter it through its gates from other parts of the earth. It must be on solid ground when this happens.

Some three years ago our blogger wrote a review of my novel, Farmington! Farmington!, which novel I will presume to quote from, as it was inspired, even though I can't expect anyone to accord it authority. I should explain that Gifford's is a very popular ice cream stand in Farmington.

Gabriel found God sitting in the usual place--still looking at Maine.
"Why are you looking at it now?" he asked. Isn't everything there the way you want it?"
"Oh, it's fine," said the Most High; "but the rest of the world still isn't satisfied."
"They want an event they call a 'Rapture.' They talk about it all day long--instead of coming to Farmington where they could enjoy life. I didn't even put that word in the Bible, but nobody remembers that."
"What are they looking for, then?"
"They have this idea that a bunch of people will be snatched out of wherever they are: seats in movie theaters, jail cells, passenger seats in trains and planes, I suppose; and they especially want to be grabbed from behind the wheels of automobiles, leaving their vehicles to cause crashes--which doesn't seem very Christian to me--but their hearts are set on it.
"You mean mostly the Evangelicals have this idea, right?"
"Oh, sure--but I try to be nice even to them."
"Where do they want to be snatched to?"
"They want to meet me in the air. I have no idea why, as I have nothing going in the air."
"Oh. Can't you just tell them that?"
"No--they'd never believe me. It's simpler to just go through the motions and let them meet me in the air--and then we can all go someplace where we can have more fun."
"So whom are you going to rapture?"
"Oh, everybody, of course. I wouldn't want anyone to be left out."

[The following pages narrate how God gathers the entire human race into the state of Maine, till there is standing room only, and then Kathy Lee walks out to the crest of Zion's Hill (in North Chesterville).]

A flash of lightning ripped across the sky. Kathy Lee pointed directly upward, her arm stretched above her head, and shouted, "HE COMES!"
The shout was heard all over Maine.
Ten billion people shot into the air like sparks from a planetary bonfire, and most of them never came down.

There was lots more after that--but it would take another book to tell it. Moreover, I myself don't know much about it.
But I have it from a very reliable source that Christ and Kathy Lee went to Gifford's and treated the rest. She ordered her usual Maine Mud sundae, and he ordered a butterscotch sundae with nuts; and I guess everybody else got what they wanted.


Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


6:13 PM, October 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Licia, I don't know how Rich feels about this conversation, but I, personally, am very grateful to you for that quotation from Nayler's Love to the Lost, "Concerning the Resurrection". It is quite splendid.

As regards the term "heaven", there are many passages in the Bible that explicitly locate God in the sky (I'll provide a list of samples if you wish), so I think denying that "heaven", as the abode of God, means the region of the sky, is unwarranted. If you, Licia, are more comfortable treating the word "heaven" as a metaphor, that's perfectly fine with me, but from where I sit that appears to be your personal position and not the Biblical one.

I don't know that all early Friends would have told me "stiffly" that "the word 'Rapture' is not in the Bible." As Robert Barclay, Samuel Fisher, and other scholarly early Friends would have instantly recognized, "rapture" is simply the noun form of the Latin verb rapio, raptus, which appears in Jerome's Vulgate at I Thessalonians 4:17, and is translated in the Authorised ("King James") Version as "caught up". It is a commonplace convenience to convert the verb into its noun form when discussing the doctrine it expresses; it does not distort the meaning of the verb to do so. Barclay defended the value of convenience in his Apology, so I trust that he would have understood and respected what I was doing.

You ask, "Don't you think all this stuff is symbolic rather than geographical?" Since you ask here what I think, rather than what the authors of the Bible thought, I will give you my personal answer, which is that it is both. It does not take much insight to realize that the lower boundary of the geographic "heaven" is fairly arbitrary; it might be the cloud ceiling, or it might be just out of reach over our heads, and from a fish's or earthworm's point of view it might actually kiss the physical ground. From the ancients' point of view, it was distinguishable as the place where God's will continued to be perfectly obeyed, the weather and heavenly bodies moving exactly as He ordained, as distinct from earth where so much that takes place is disordered by sin. During the present dispensation, sin continues, and thus such a distinction can be made, but after God's triumph at the end of time, sin is ended everywhere and such a distinction ceases to be possible. At that point, Heaven comes all the way to the earth both geographically and metaphorically. I don't actually think this was what Paul meant by saying that at the end of time the faithful would be rapt (caught up, seized up) into heaven, as if by the claws of a raptor. But I find it personally instructive to ponder the idea of a Rapture in such terms.

Thank you, Licia, for sharing your own vision from your novel!

10:10 AM, October 15, 2008  
Blogger Tom Smith said...

As someone who greatly appreciates the New Testament, Early Friends writings, especially Barclay's Apology, and other historical doctrines, the comment that resonates best with my inner and outer response to questions raised here was one made by my grandfather Omer Smith in his later years. He was a farmer from whom I had not heard much theological or "religious" comments, but whose life of simplicity, peace making, integrity, et. al. spoke volumes to me. We somehow got talking about death, which he recognized was getting close for him, and I asked him what he thought would happen after his death. He looked at me for a short while and then said (as accurately as I can recall) "I am much less concerned about going TO a better place than I am about having left THIS place a better place for my having been here."

It is my sense that rewards or punishment of an "eternal" nature become a moot point when we look at the commands of how to live this life and "taking no thought of tomorrow." I don't think this latter comment excuses us from planning and working for a better future for those around us, Rather we need to put our time and energy into daily life, 24/7, living with the Spirit of Christ providing strength and power to do what is necessary now.

I just wish I lived even 1% (?) of what I believe to be true. At least that is what it seems when I look back at "wasted" time and energy in worry, "pleasing others," going MY own way, etc.

Thanks for this train of thought as I do think we need to challenge ourselves with words and ideas which raise more questions than answers.

2:43 PM, October 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since Marshall Massey thinks my position is personal not biblical, and I think his position is personal not biblical, I thought it might possibly be helpful to quote another Christian who writes in modern English, and who is much better known than either Marshall or me. Studies in Words, by C.S. Lewis (under the heading "World") I think provides the clues we need to understand why God's kingdom is to be on earth--not in some other place. He discusses the several different meanings of the word "world" indicating that in one sense "world" is a synonym for the earth--but in another sense "world" can translate the Latin word "saeculum" (which translates the Greek word "aion"), and it is sometimes used for that purpose in the Bible, where "age" would be a more modern translation. (In the following I use italics for the quote, having not yet learned how to indent on this blog.)

In the New Testament the basileia, the reign or kingship, of God is frequently mentioned (Mark i.15; iv.11, et passim). No one doubts that this conception is closely connected-- it is not for me to say just how-- with that of the new aion. Sometimes, instead of 'the basileia of God', we find 'the basileia of heaven' Matt. iii.2; v.10). These two phrases meant exactly the same, heaven being merely a reverential Hebrew euphemism for God. But it did not sound like that to people who were preoccupied with imaginations of 'the land of the dead'. It sounded like a place--the very same place, up in the sky, once occupied by Olympus or Asgard.

As if this were not enough, the word
basileia took on a new colour when it was turned into Latin or English. Regnum and Kingdom, perhaps from the first, and increasingly as time went on, carried a territorial implication. The basileia of God' had meant 'the aion, the State of Affairs, in which God's monarchy is undisputed'. The 'kingdom of God' comes more and more to mean 'the region or heimr in which God is king'. Now substitute heaven for God, and the territorial aspect almost extrudes every other. ... The idea of living under the direct kingship of God sinks into the idea of 'going to heaven when you die.'
(C.S. Lewis, Studies in Words, pp. 235-236)

The whole chapter is well worth reading. My point is that the earth is not evil--it's the age ("world" in King James English) that is evil-- and when God's kingdom comes it will be a new age. It will not be in the sky or on another planet!

The earth actually is our home--or will be when it is fully redeemed by Christ. It is even now a beautiful place, but the curse interferes with our enjoyment of it. There is no "land of the dead" or territorial "heaven" for us to go to: we will live on this beautiful earth when it is the way God intends it to be.

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

7:05 PM, October 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting back to Rich's original question, I think it is true that contemporary writers often project their own views back onto the early Quakers. The more time I spend with the writings of early Friends the more conscious I become that they were radically different from us.

We live in a naturalistic age, and naturalists all expect to die, and they don't expect to go anywhere after they die, nor do they expect to be resurrected on a transformed earth, nor to experience a day of judgment. I think that even religious people in the U.S. and U.K. today are often closet naturalists. There are philosophical problems with naturalism, but they are usually overlooked, and even my own mind gravitates toward naturalistic assumptions when I'm in a down mood. But if I had lived in 17th-century England my mind, in a depressed mood, would have been more likely to gravitate toward the idea that God had predestined me to hell. People in those days worried much more about their eternal destiny than most people do now.

I would recommend Larry K's paper, "'Miserable Comforters'": Their Effect on Early Quaker Thought and Experience," originally written for a course at Westminster Theological Seminary and later revised and published in Quaker Religious Thought, for a discussion of the kind of anxieties about their eternal destiny that haunted people in Puritan England and the way in which Quaker preaching offered a different answer from Puritanism. It wasn't by denying that there was any eternal destiny, but by asserting that Christ had died for all (Calvinists denied this!) and had given his Light to all to guide them in the way to salvation, if they would heed and follow it. The paper is at:

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


9:45 AM, October 20, 2008  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Marshall & Licia,
Thank you for the interesting points you have both raised. I really loved the paragraph Licia wrote about "the earth actually is our home".

N.T. Wright has suggested that the resurrection is actually "life after life after death" - that the references to us going to "heaven" such as John 14.2 may refer to a temporary place we go until the finally resurrection on the new earth. The word that the KJV translates as "mansions" often has the connotation of staying or tarrying, or of a stopping place (MONH). In many other places, as Licia has already pointed out, heaven may not refer to where we are going, but where God is now.

The verses in 1 Th 4:16-18 are not as explicit as they seem. The Lord comes down from heaven, and we meet him in the air, and we will be with him. That does not say that we all go back up to heaven. Wright suggests that it is like the people of a land coming out into the country to greet the arriving emperor and to escort him back, in this case to the new earth.

With love,

3:38 PM, October 21, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for Mark Wutka's comments. But John 14:2 doesn't mention "heaven."

I have found that people read "heaven" into many biblical passages simply because they expect to find it there. A couple of years ago I wandered around our county fair looking at the booths of various religious groups, and most of their literature was about how to "go to heaven." But the proof texts they cited for their doctrines about "going to heaven" never mentioned "heaven"! They counted on readers to make the popular translation "heaven" = being happy in the afterlife instead of unhappy.

(My booth was right next to the booth of a local Baptist church, where the pastor had set out a printed page arguing against my prophecy. He had an argument why Farmington couldn't be the New Jerusalem; though apart from that, one couldn't tell from his literature that he'd ever heard of New Jerusalem. Most of the tracts on that table were by Jack Chick, and they were all about heaven and hell, and a very unattractive Jesus. The following conversation actually took place in my hearing:
     Man in front of Baptist table:
          "What will Jesus do for me"?
     Woman behind Baptist table:
          "You'll go to heaven."
     Man: "Right now?!"
     Woman: "After you die.")

There was one exception at that fair: The Seventh-Day Adventists have figured out that we don't go to "heaven." I forget just what they think happens instead, as I didn't find unity with it very far. But it's interesting that when an idea very popular among Christians is actually unbiblical, sooner or later some sect will notice this.

Your suggested interpretation of 1 Thess. 4:16-18 is not too different from the scenario at the end of Farmington! Farmington!; I anticipate the new earth being recognizably enough like the old earth that Christ and his friends have no difficulty locating Gifford's!

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

8:26 AM, October 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Licia, I agree with your implicit point that people tend to bend their reading of Biblical texts to fit their preconceptions.

Mark, it's a pleasure to hear from you. I'd be wary of relying on N. T. Wright, however, to the exclusion of the rest of the scholarly community. Wright's interpretations often take liberties with the evidence and/or ignore pertinent evidence altogether.

Raymond E. Brown, who has been one of the twentieth century's top scholars on the Johannine tradition, writes in his Anchor Bible commentary on John 14:1-4 as follows:

"In order to reassure his disciples about his departure, Jesus tells them that there are many dwelling places (monê – vs. 2) in his Father's house, that he is going off to prepare a place (topos – vss. 2-3) for them, and that he will come back to take them to himself so that they will be where he is. ...

"...Jesus is using traditional terminology. Taken against the Jewish background, 'my Father's house' is probably to be understood as heaven. Philo (De somniis I 43; #256) speaks of heaven as 'the paternal house'. As for the 'many dwelling places', we must reject the patristic tradition, going back at least to Irenæus, that they refer to different degrees of heavenly perfection, that is, to higher and lower places in heaven. The 'many' simply means that there are enough for all; the 'dwelling places' reflects the type of Jewish imagery found in Enoch xxxix 4 which speaks of 'the dwelling places of the holy and the resting places of the just' that are situated in the extremities of the heavens (also xli 2, xlv 3). In II Esdras vii 80 and 101 a distinction is made between the souls of the wicked who cannot enter into habitations and must wander and the souls of the just who will enter into their habitations. In the NT the imagery of eternal habitations (skênê) is found in Luke xvi 9, while Mark x 40 speaks of heavenly chairs (prepared by the Father, not be Jesus). The Johannine Jesus' promise to his disciples that there would be dwelling places for them in his Father's house is somewhat similar to the promise made to them in Luke xxii 29-30 (a Last Supper saying): 'So I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones....' ... In Deuteronomy i 33 God says that He will go before Israel in the way to choose for them a place; Deuteronomy i 29 reads: 'Do not be in dread or afraid of them' — a command not unlike Jesus' 'Do not let your hearts be troubled.' In this typology Jesus would be going before the disciples into the Promised Land to prepare a place for them. ..."

Brown goes on in the same commentary to discuss plausible metaphorical interpretations, including the idea advanced by some scholars that "my Father's house" is not intended to mean heaven above, but rather, the body of God. He is careful neither to embrace such an interpretation or to rule it out.

With regard to I Thessalonians 4:17, it is important to note that houtôs — the word translated "thus" or "so" in the passage "...so shall we ever be with the Lord" — does not mean "therefore" or "as a consequence"; it means "in this way" or "in this manner". (Thus, Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, the preëminent dictionary of classical and koinê Greek; cf. Strong's Lexicon.) So what Paul is saying here is not, "we shall be caught up into the air to meet God, and as a result we shall be with Him"; it is rather, "we shall be caught up into the air to meet God, and in this manner we shall be with Him."

Abraham J. Malherbe, in his Anchor Bible commentary on this passage, summarizes three rival interpretations of this text, the first being a straightforward literal reading: "The word apantêsis ('meet') and its cognates in the NT are used in the ordinary sense of meeting (e.g. Matthew 8:28, 25:1,6; 28:9; Mark 14:13; Luke 8:27; 17:12)."

The second interpretation would augment the literal text by borrowing from the book of Exodus: Malherbe points out to the use of apantêsis ".. in Exodus 19:10-18, which shares a number of features (descent of the Lord, meeting, clouds, trumpet) with I Thessalonians 4:16-17".

Finally, Malherbe takes up the interpretation you have embraced: There is a specialized use of apantêsis he writes, in which it "...was used of citizens, or a group of them, going out of the city to meet a visiting dignitary and then escorting him back into the city (see Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 11.26-28, for a priest awaiting the parousia of Alexander in order to go out and meet hypantêsis him). The term was so well known in this sense that Cicero did not translate it into Latin (To Atticus 8.16.2; 16.11.6), and the rabbis adopted the Greek word as a loan word...." Malherbe notes that the word apantêsis is used in precisely this way in Acts 28:15.

This "technical meaning," Malherbe writes, "which was recognized as early as John Chrysostom (Homilies on I Thessalonians 8), has been advanced in support of the interpretation that the Lord's people will "go to meet him in the air in order to escort him back to earth and that this is where they shall always be with the Lord" (I. Howard Marshall, 1 & 2 Thessalonians [Eerdmans, 1983], p. 131). This opinion is strengthened by the connection of apantêsis with parousia (R. H. Gundry, "The Hellenization of Dominical Tradition and the Christianization of Jewish Tradition in the Eschatology of 1-2 Thessalonians", New Testament Studies vol. 33, pp. 165-66), but it is improbable nevertheless on a number of counts. The Hellenistic processions were undertaken at the initiative of the welcomers, whereas here they are snatched up, presumably by God. Furthermore, the purpose of the meeting is to bring about their gathering with the Lord and each other, not to escort the Lord, of which nothing is said. Nothing is said about returning to earth, either here or in I Corinthians 15:23-28, 51-57 or Philippians 3:20-21. Nor does Paul say that they will go to heaven or, indeed, what will transpire when they meet. He retains his focus on the problem at hand."

With all good wishes —

11:16 AM, October 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:22 PM, October 22, 2008  
Blogger Tom Smith said...

I am struck by the discussion regarding heaven and hell as geographical, metaphorically, natural, spiritual, etc. when using Biblical references as instructional.

At the risk of being called a "naturalist," although I am not sure what that means, the shattering of the "heavens" as spiritual and "perfect" while the earth is physical and imperfect happened essentially at the same time that Friends were "shattering" the "long night of apostasy."

My personal point of view is that many of the early Friends were struggling with reinterpreting the language of a culture that was at least a 1000 years old but was being reexamined as a living text. The Church language of a hierarchy and spiritual authority were also being drawn into question.

The Bible says This. The early Friends said That. The Orthodox Friends said something slightly different and the Hicksite Friends said something different. What can you say?

I think we need to consult the marks of the Way that have been left by those who went before us. However, in finding our way through the "thick overgrowth" that we find ourselves in, it usually is only in looking back that we can more clearly see where our path has actually followed the markings left by earlier walkers of the way and where we strayed from their path on our own way and finally reconnected with the previously marked PATH/WAY/Kingdom of God.

I feel that somehow I am missing something. Usually I have been the one that has been described as too academic or intellectual when studying and sharing from the Bible and various commentators ("Interpreter's Bible," etc.), early and later Friends writings, as well as Christian writers from the past and present. Maybe I am just growing older and less intellectually sharp while substituting experience and synthesis as a way of dealing with "larger" concerns/issues that are highly relevant to many.

4:30 PM, October 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only skimmed this demanding discussion but it looks to me like no one has mentioned that Pink Dandelion is doing a lot of work on Quakers and the Second Coming. Apologies in advance if I've missed your mentions of his work.

The most recent publication I'm aware of is his Liturgies of Quakerism (2005). This is work that he began with Heaven on Earth: Quakers and the Second Coming written with Doug Gwyn and Timothy Peat in 1998.

As I recall (he did a short course at Pendle Hill on this in 2005), Dandelion says that in the first ten years of the Quaker movement Friends expected to see the Second Coming themselves, in the flesh. Time was ending. Then they had to modify that view when time went on and didn't end. Dandelion makes much of "Christ has come and is coming."

Having posted my contribution to the bibliography, I'll go back and try to absorb the discussion.

8:53 AM, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two remarks here: one on the somewhat off-topic thread of what the Bible says or what is good theology, and one related to Rich's original question about what the early Quakers said.

To start with the off-topic matter, Marshall Massey's Oct. 22 comment contains a couple of factual errors that I want to correct because most readers probably won't be in a position to check on them.

The first mistake is actually Raymond Brown's, if Marshall's quotation from him was copied correctly. Brown says, "Philo (De somniis I 43; #256) speaks of heaven as 'the paternal house'." Actually the passage cited from Philo doesn't say where "the paternal house" is (in "heaven" or anywhere else) or even that the dead (or some of them) go there. It may just as easily be the "spiritual" abode of living virtuous persons. (I have read only a little of Philo; conceivably he says what Brown wants somewhere else, but not in the passage cited.)

The second mistake concerns the definition of houtôs in Liddell & Scott's Greek lexicon. I don't know which edition of Liddell & Scott Marshall is using, but the fat one on my shelf lists many variations on the meaning of houtôs, including this: "II. sometimes in a really inferential sense, as we say so for therefore ...." So it is not accurate to quote Liddell & Scott as proof that houtôs "does not mean 'therefore' or 'as a consequence'."

Now back to early Friends, and specifically the section "Concerning the Resurrection" at the end of Nayler's Love to the Lost which Licia quoted on Oct. 14. This is, as Licia notes, in the second edition of that pamphlet - not in the first.

This strikes me as typical of the style of Quaker proclamation and debate in the 1650s. Theological topics where they agreed with their adversaries tended to be mentioned chiefly as afterthoughts, often only after they had been accused of denying some commonly accepted Christian doctrine. Even after such an accusation, their first response was often just to say the opponent was lying. Eventually it would occur to them that they could better rebut the "lies and slanders" by stating clearly what they did believe on the subject in question.

Burrough, for instance, does something of this kind in his debate with Bunyan. It is only in the second go-round, after a lot of "this is a lie" responses in the first, that Burrough gets around to a real answer to Bunyan's charge that "the Quakers will not own Christ without them": "we own him as he is ascended far above all Heavens, who fills all things; yea, and without us too." (Possibly as a result of this slowness on Burrough's part, Bunyan scholar Ted Underwood, in his Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb's War, accepts Bunyan's idea that the Quakers believed Christ had ascended only into some metaphorical "heaven" with them.) For a longer account, with links to the Burrough and Bunyan texts, see the relevant chapter of my dissertation at the QHP website.

10:26 AM, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I don't think I have been too academic or scholarly in expressing my own views.  I have relied on my knowledge of early Quaker writings in addressing Rich's original question, which was about what the early Quakers said.  It's a legitimate question which shouldn't be evaded just because it takes historical work and doesn't wind up expressing my own views.  I have also discussed what I think the Bible teaches, have quoted C.S. Lewis in partial support of my understanding, and have in a small way shared my own vision by quoting from the conclusion of Farmington! Farmington!

Since you wrote that you aren't sure what "naturalist" means, what I meant by that term is people who think the natural universe is all that exists.  A supernaturalist believes that the natural universe was created by One who is greater than His creation.  For example, if you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you're a supernaturalist.  A naturalist would say that that's impossible.

I try to write clearly and plainly.  There is nothing wrong with asking whether we are mortal or immortal, and if something lies ahead, what sort of future is it?  I think we would hardly be human if we never asked this kind of question.  Those who insist that it is unimportant are not being realistic.  The question of how we can "make this world a better place" can't be answered in the abstract, it depends on what kind of universe we think we live in.  If I thought the universe as viewed by naturalists were all that exists, I would be at a loss as to how or whether I could possibly make it any better, since I myself would only be a byproduct of blind forces, and I am very weak.  Since I think I am a creature of a God who has a better plan than I could possibly come up with, and the power to fulfill it, I try to follow His directions and leave the outcome to Him.

You wrote,

     "The Bible says This. The early Friends said That. The Orthodox Friends said something slightly different and the Hicksite Friends said something different. What can you say?"

Rich didn't ask us what we each can say, so I have been conscious of getting off his topic each time I depart from the historical question of what the early Friends said--but I am not too very restrained about speaking from my own experience.  What I can say is expressed in my two novels, Farmington! Farmington! and Tales of Styrnmouth (both written in very readable terms for modern, non-academic people), and at
www.megalink.net/~klee .

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

11:43 AM, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I confess that I have had many experiences of Friends, worthy Friends, interrupting conversations about the Bible and/or early Friends, with that business about "Christ saith this, and the Apostles say this; but what canst thou say?" I respect the Friends who have done this, but I have never really understood what their interruptions were intended to accomplish.

When Fox challenged his audience with that question — "what canst thou say?" — he was asking whether they had experienced the Light and were walking in it themselves. He was not saying that speaking of what Christ and the Apostles had said was wrong (he himself quoted Christ and the Apostles quite frequently); he was simply saying that if you only have the Light on the pages of your book, and not in your own experience, you're missing out on something absolutely essential.

This sort of challenge seems to me to be very worthwhile, if it is done in the same context today — that is, when you or I interrupt people who evidently have no personal experience of walking in the Light, and of speaking inwardly from God, and we ask them what they can say from their own experience.

But I have no doubt that I myself have experienced a rebirth in the Light, and I do my best to walk in that Light day by day, and I share the lessons I am taught as they are given. There shouldn't be any doubt about this; I am a known public figure among Friends. As is Licia. As is Larry. As is Mark. And as is Rich, whose blog this is.

And there is also great value, for some of us Friends at least, in turning to the writings of those who have gone before, and learning what we can from them. For you and I don't know everything; and there are still ways in which others can minister to us, even after they have passed away.

The present discussion, about whether the early Christians and early Friends expected their eternal reward to be in the sky or on the ground, may seem to be much like debating the number of angels that can dance on a pin.

But there are, I think, some deep-down resonances in this debate that can affect our walk in life in significant ways. A person who takes the Biblical picture of the afterlife seriously, may have a different idea of what it means to "have left THIS place a better place", than someone who does not; for she or he may be forced to alter her own views of what "better" means, and adopt some measure of the understanding of "better" which Christ is represented as teaching in the Bible.

A person who locates the eternal reward on earth may respond to the simple pleasures of the flesh a bit differently from one who locates it "above". She may also treat the creatures a little differently, because she may have a different view of what (if anything) they are to be saved from and to.

We may think we know exactly what Christ meant when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world." But what if we don't? What if we still have more to learn? The learning might make us vastly richer. How do we know, until we've learned it?

And genuinely realizing that our eternal reward is not located where we have been imagining it to be, may unlock a door or two in our hearts and minds, opening a Light-filled way forward.

To me, then, the value of discussions such as this one lies in the way it can loosen us up, and open us up to new understandings. I am grateful to Rich, our host, for creating such opportunities as this.

All the best,

4:38 PM, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry, I am grateful to you for checking on the assertions in my earlier posting.

As regards Raymond Brown's assertion about Philo: it is indeed true that the specific sentence Brown referenced does not say where "the paternal house" is. Philo did locate God's abode in heaven in De somniis I.x.57 and I.xxv.158. But he muddied the waters by writing, at I.xxv.157, that God stands above the heaven, and at I.xxxii.185 that this world is itself the house of God.

The progression of Philo's argument in De somniis from I.xxxi.183 through I.xxxii.186a suggests that Philo meant this as a multivalent understanding of God's location. Alas, beginning in I.xxxii.187 we come to missing and corrupted portions of the text, creating some uncertainty as to exactly what Philo was driving at. But I.xxxii.186 identifies "this world perceptible by the outward senses" as "the gate of heaven", and seems to give that idea a status above the idea that it is itself the house of God. And in I.xxxii.188 the argument turns Neoplatonist, distinguishing between external appearances and ultimate Reality. Philo, then, would seem to have been saying that, to the degree that God's home is located on earth, it is not the earth we see with outward eyes, but a Reality hidden or half-hidden behind what we see.

And still we haven't finished. Philo also says, at I.xxxi.181, that at birth the soul comes from heaven to earth, and at I.xxiii.151, that the wise go to heaven, the wicked to hell. So in I.xliii.256 (the verse Brown referenced), where Philo specifically referred to "the paternal house" in the sense of a house provided by the Father for human souls — a place that "you will be able to return to" — that house is indeed in heaven.

That, I think, was what Brown was actually getting at: that in Philo's world-view, the place we go to if we are saved is "the paternal house" (I.xliii.256), and when we die that place is located in heaven (I.xxiii.151). That is a little more complicated than what Brown wrote in his commentary. But I don't see that it falsifies his argument.

For the reader's convenience, there is an on-line translation of De somniis here.

Turning then to Liddell and Scott: the volume I have on my shelf, which is the one I consulted when writing my last posting, does not offer "a really inferential sense, as we say so for therefore". It is, however, an abridged edition! The edition I have on my hard drive, which (I am ashamed to say) I neglected to check before posting, does offer an "inferential" usage equivalent to the Latin itaque. So it is clear to me that you are correct, and I was in error on that point. Thank you for calling my attention to it!

All the best,

4:55 PM, October 23, 2008  
Blogger Tom Smith said...

Licia and Marshall,

I regret that what I have said has offended anyone or was considered an "interruption." I actually followed the discussion and ENJOYED the close examination of Barclay, Nyler, etc. and believe that such discussions are very helpful in examining beliefs and faith.

I have been a "lurker" on blogs etc. until just recently. One of the reasons is that I have come to distrust the way in which my expressions are taken in written and spoken word. Often people say that what I say has been helpful but too often it seems that what I say from my relatively firm beliefs and faith with a very curious and searching mind to add to my experience and knowledge. To invoke a science topic/"naturalist" view," I still am fascinated by the exploration of the basic components of matter. This is partially due to the recognition that Dalton, a Friend, contributed very significantly to this inquiry. I have studied quantum physics, relativity, electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, the "God particle," etc. (although I really do not like that last name since it does imply a totally naturalist view which I reject.) However, with my relatively extensive study and knowledge I am acutely aware of how little I do comprehend.

This seems to reflect my spiritual position as well. The more I have studied, worshipped, shared, etc. the more I have learned and developed. However, the more I "know experimentally" the more I am aware of how woefully inadequate my spiritual nature is when compared to the "Kingdom of God."
My grandfather was a very strong believer that there was a much greater "place" than that of the earth. He spent a good deal of time in trying to follow His Father's will on earth as he understood it in a spiritual sense. His comment was NOT taken or shared to indicate that the "earth" was somehow more important or exclusive of a spiritual world in which he would dwell, but rather that he believed that his "calling" had been to carry out the commandments of Christ in "doing unto the least of these," or loving God and his neighbor which did include his enemies in the way in which he approached all people. Thus at the end of his life he was saying that if I have been true to those commandments then the consequences are not what he should spend time worrying about.

As to the use of "What canst thou say?" I was NOT trying to imply that anyone was "speaking" without discernment or living in the spirit. What I was trying to extend (not interrupt) was somewhat more of a recognition that "proof texts" can be used to "say" different things to different people. I have been in many a conversation with those who use proof texts from the Old Testament literally to justify war, capital punishment, creationism, etc. but who do not seem to take literally the Sermon on the Mount or on the Plain, nor Jesus warnings against accumulating wealth at the risk of one's soul/spirit. I had meant to ask for more than just proof texting but possibly a clearer interpretation of responses to the basic question from the point of view of the discussants as well as from the "original" sources. I regret that I did not take the time to provide my background in studying the Old Testament at ESR, learning from many persons while a Campus Minister in a Friends College, being the Endowed Chair in Faith and Practice at a Friends School, etc. I also did not take the time to say what "I can say." Much of this reluctance was NOT to interrupt the discussion, but rather to ask for possibly a little more personal explanation of what is meant by specific interpretations of the texts.

Although an avid student of the natural world with an inquiring mind to learn as much as I can about the natural world, I believe that the "spiritual world" is just as "True and Real" as the natural world but find that the language of the spiritual world is often limited by the use of natural world terms such as heavenS and earth. The earlier interpretation was of a "physical" realm "above" the imperfect earth that had at least several layers which were locations for various "natural" but perfect things. Perfect worlds were compared to the imperfect/sinful earth. "Pure spirits" were compared to humans who were tied down by "original sin."

Maybe I had ben correct in assuming that discussions would proceed better without my input since my expressions tend to be as brief as I can to be less of a distraction and without "wasting" other people's time, etc.

If so please let me know. I still am seeking guidance from others and am very aware of my many shortcomings.

6:47 PM, October 23, 2008  
Blogger Tom Smith said...

I regret not proofreading my last comment as thoroughly as I should have until after it was posted. There are obvious omissions and "skipping" that often happens when my mind works faster than I can type. This is particularly true when I become more "emotionally" (emoting feelings, etc.) involved as I was. Please accept my apologies. If you can forgive my "interruptions and naturalistic" view, I would very much appreciate your comments on my blog at quakerseeker.blogspot.com. However, (and I mean this with integrity - a very important attribute to which I aspire) I completely understand if you choose to spend your very valuable time and energy on other leadings.

In Peace and Friendship


6:56 PM, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifications, Tom. I realize that there is a difference between doing history and doing prooftexting--and usually when I am doing history I'm not doing prooftexting (i.e., I'm not trying to justify my own beliefs by quoting some ancient authority who allegedly believed what I believe). Especially with the early Quakers I have had to resign myself to the fact that they were what they were; they were not what I am; and try to honestly represent what they were.

When it comes to the Bible, and to a question like whether we will spend eternity on a perfected earth or in the sky, I suppose Marshall and I have both been doing some prooftexting--and I at least know that the eschatological material in the Bible is extremely difficult. I did not arrive at my own vision by analyzing the texts, and I am suspicious of anyone's claim to get a coherent and consistent system out of those texts, though people are always making such claims. But I have found it gratifying to discover more biblical support for what I received inwardly, than I would initially have guessed was there.

Thanks for inviting us to your blog; perhaps I will pay it a visit some day. First I have to go to Augusta tomorrow morning and get 3 teeth extracted, all because God still hasn't gotten around to turning Farmington into the New Jerusalem yet. I may not have even my tiny allotment of energy, for a while.

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

8:56 PM, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over 3 weeks ago I mentioned at the end of a comment that I would soon be out of it for a while due to having oral surgery. Conversation immediately slammed to a halt, and though I recovered from the oral surgery within a week nothing has been said here since.

I really miss the opportunity for intelligent, friendly internet discussions.  I appreciated the one we had going here on Rich's blog.  If people here don't want to talk, can any of you recommend another blog or active forum where they don't either hate Christians or spend all their time making prayer requests?

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

8:39 AM, November 17, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really thought my "interruptions" and apparently inappropriate comments regarding the form of dialogue had brought the exchange to a halt.


1:47 PM, November 17, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's very unlikely, Tom.  Sometimes a discussion just runs out of steam, and it only takes a few days for responses to seem almost impossible.  I've noticed this in many forums; am not sure why it happens.  I had been feeling upbeat about this one, partly because what looked like a hopeless standoff between Marshall Massey and me got a little friendlier when my scholarly husband put in a few remarks that I would have been incapable of.  But finding nothing new here I was thrown back upon an utterly dreadful liberal e-mail list where it seems to be assumed that anyone who believes in God in the sense of Creator is out to kill everyone else.  Today I finally set it to nomail, and I was really starved for good communication.

(If you're wondering what other sense of "God" there is than the Creator--well just about any, in the view of those I was trying to converse with, so long as it doesn't mean anything that might exist.  I was actually told that when I said the ordinary English meaning of "God" was the Creator and ruler of the universe, I was making a "strategic definition" for the purpose of denying legitimacy to liberal religion.  Then they started a thread called "My experience of God," but I didn't stick around.)

I was interested in Marshall's comment: "A person who locates the eternal reward on earth may respond to the simple pleasures of the flesh a bit differently from one who locates it 'above'. She may also treat the creatures a little differently, because she may have a different view of what (if anything) they are to be saved from and to."  I suppose this is possible, though I can't say that I've noticed this in practice.  I do have this special feeling about Farmington, Maine, and feel it almost blasphemous when something happens to diminish the town (like Rite Aid buying up property near the center of town just to build a bigger store about a quarter of a mile closer to UMF than their old store was, and thereby displacing the Farmington Diner, a beloved old town landmark.  Though it would take more than that to make Farmington other than beautiful, but it shouldn't have been allowed to happen.  In the eschaton I don't think we will need Rite Aid, and maybe God will put the Diner back.)

I do not believe in a "spiritual world" (Tom's phrase).  I believe in God, and in his creation.  I don't know what Marshall thinks it would be like to live in the sky, but it doesn't feel attractive to me.

I think I will celebrate Christmas in a small way this year, though for 36 years I've been too Conservative a Quaker to do that.  At some point in 1996 my Guide told me that in eschatological Farmington we will celebrate Christmas and Hallowe'en.

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


"All my cats are in one basket."

8:44 PM, November 17, 2008  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:13 PM, November 25, 2008  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

I think this was (or is) a good discussion even though I haven't made much of a contribution to it beyond getting it started. I think it has all been in a good spirit and I hope we can continue to have such discussions. I may post in the near future about my own thoughts on the underlying issue (the actual issue being what did early Friends think about death, the kingdom, heaven the afterlife etc and the underlying issue being what's true about death, the kingdom, heaven, afterlife etc.)

In the meantime, I was intrigued that Martin Kelley said Deborah Haines may have written the passage I originally quoted. Like Martin, I have a great respect for Deborah Haines. I hope she can be induced to weigh in on this discussion.

Other possible future posts include a contrarian one that is brewing in my brain about the flurry of interest among Quaker bloggers in something called "post-modernism". I may be on the verge of declaring myself an anti-un-non-post-modernist (the triple negative is intended to deliberately confuse). And while I'm at it, maybe I'm a divergent Quaker and part of the submergent church.

1:19 PM, November 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see Rich posting here again. He writes,

"I may post in the near future about my own thoughts on the underlying issue (the actual issue being what did early Friends think about death, the kingdom, heaven the afterlife etc and the underlying issue being what's true about death, the kingdom, heaven, afterlife etc.)"

So far we have been discussing both the question of what did early Friends think and what do we ourselves think--and remembering most of the time that these are not the same question, which is good.  Far too often we see statements about what early Friends thought which are really statements about "what I think."  This has contributed to widespread confusion about history.

When misstatements are made about Quaker history (perhaps this is true about other kinds of history too, but I have most often noticed it in Quaker discussions) sometimes the speaker/writer is sincere but misinformed.  Other times they are propagandizing and know perfectly well that they are doing so.  Getting one's history right is of course not the highest value in the world, but we still shouldn't tolerate misrepresentation.

"In the meantime, I was intrigued that Martin Kelley said Deborah Haines may have written the passage I originally quoted. Like Martin, I have a great respect for Deborah Haines. I hope she can be induced to weigh in on this discussion."

The statement which Rich quoted in his opening contribution was definitely misleading, whoever made it.  It has a feel of a statement made to influence contemporaries, probably by someone who thought that was a more important goal than being accurate or truthful about historical facts.  It definitely does not have the feel of a statement made by someone who had thoroughly studied the texts.  He or she is wrong whether or not Rich respects him/her.  If s/he is honest s/he can be corrected and will learn something and not continue to make such misleading statements.  If s/he is a propagandist, alas, s/he will come up with some nice-sounding politically-correct excuse and will go right on doing it.

Licia Kuenning
Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press

http://www.megalink.net/~klee http://www.qhpress.org

"All my cats are in one basket."

8:28 AM, November 27, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this IS a demanding discussion. Carol, I haven't seen any of Pink Dandelion's work concerning the Second Coming, but I've recently encountered the belief among Friends that the Second Coming already happened, at Pentacost, and that this is the basis of our faith that Christ is HERE as a living teacher. I suppose that Revelation would then describe a sort of Third Coming, or a different sort of event altogether. I wonder how widespread this belief is among Friends? You are more widely traveled among Friends of differing views than most, so you might have some idea.

4:04 PM, December 19, 2008  
Blogger David Korfhage said...

I'm a little late to the discussion, but here goes:

When I read (in Rich's original post) of Fox denying the Second Coming, I thought I had read something like that in his journal. This is the quote I believe I was thinking of (written about the 1661 uprising by the Fifth Monarchy Men):

As for the Fifth-monarchy men I was moved to give forth a paper, to manifest their error to them; for they looked for Christ's personal coming in an outward form and manner, and fixed the time to the year 1666; at which time some of them prepared themselves when it thundered and rained, thinking Christ was then come to set up His kingdom, and they imagined they were to kill the whore without them.

But I told them that the whore was alive in them, and was not burned with God's fire, nor judged in them with the same power and Spirit the Apostles were in; and that their looking for Christ's coming outwardly to set up His kingdom was like the Pharisees' "Lo here," and "Lo there." But Christ was come, and had set up His kingdom above sixteen hundred years ago, according to Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's prophecy, and He had dashed to pieces the four monarchies, the great image, with its head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and its feet part of iron part of clay; and they were all blown away with God's wind, as the chaff in the summer threshing-floor.

And I told them that when Christ was on earth, He said His kingdom was not of this world; if it had been, His servants would have fought; but it was not, therefore His servants did not fight. Therefore all the Fifth-monarchy men that are fighters with carnal weapons are none of Christ's servants, but the beast's and the whore's. Christ said, "All power in heaven and in earth is given to me"; so then His kingdom was set up above sixteen hundred years ago, and He reigns. "And we see Jesus Christ reign," said the Apostle, "and He shall reign till all things be put under His feet"; though all things are not yet put under His feet, nor subdued.

What exactly that means is open to some interpretation, but the phrase "But Christ was come, and had set up His kingdom above sixteen hundred years ago" can certainly be read as saying that Christ has come already, and has no need to come again (since he's already here)--and that those who look for a physical second coming put too "carnal" a spin on Christ's rule, which is essentially spiritual.

But, as I said, all his writings are open to interpretation.


10:53 PM, December 30, 2008  

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