Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 14 - Quakers (Video)

No. 14. >> Quakers speak of inner light, don't they? Does the Quaker inner light teaching contain both truth and error? And is the idea of inner light as taught by the Quakers similar to the ideas of Lutheran pietism? By way of a side note, I'm always amazed by the extent of pietism I find among those elderly Lutherans who move into our churches here in LA from the Midwest. This seems especially true of those of the Scandinavian background. >>DR. THOMAS E. MANTEUFEL: You mentioned pietism, which was a movement that developed among Lutherans in the 18th Century and continues today in some places. It's a movement that insisted upon living piety in the Christian. And the pietists weren't all alike. Some were more radical than others. Radical pietism was more rationalistic than some of the types. And some was closer to Orthodox Lutheran tradition. But there was a tendency in pietism to what we can call an Osiandrian doctrine of justification. The founder, ***Phillip Jacob Spainer, said that justification is directly related to the indwelling Christ. That is faith is not simply the acceptance of the merits of Christ. It must also call Christ to dwell in the believer's heart. And the concept of the imputation of Christ's righteousness for a declaration of righteousness and justification is replaced by the idea that justification and sanctification form a unite, that is a new birth. Where there's an inner transformation becoming the source of the new life of the Christian. Which really identifies the Christian. Phillip Spainer did not hold that a Christian could live a perfect life in this world. But he did believe there are those who can attain freedom from all intentional sin. And in the emphasis upon the sanctified life as a testimony to the true faith, there also was the feature that came in of a negative attitude toward life in this world. Dieing to this world was it to manifest it self in the avoidance of all worldliness of pleasure and amusement. And there was a tendency and is a tendency toward synergism and also the rule that the Christian should be able to point to a distinct demarcated conversion experience preceded by an inner crisis, that is the repentance struggle revoked by the preaching of the law. Man then in this way is brought to the point where he decides to break with the world and begin a new life. And then it is that the gift of faith is bestowed on him. And through this faith receives forgiveness. Other characteristics of pietism have been the view of experience as the ground of real certainty. And an attitude toward Word and sacrament which overemphasizes the feelings. Now, Quakers whom we want to talk about here are, indeed, like the pietists in some respects, in some of the things that I've just been describing. But Quakers go beyond pietism in teaching the concept of the inner light. That there is an inner light by which Christians -- and in fact all human beings -- can expect to receive communications and messages from Christ and his Holy Spirit apart from Scripture and Christian preaching. The concept of the inner light in Quaker thinking has many ramifications and applications. It affects their view of Scripture. That is Scripture is seen as a collection of the revelations or inner light experiences of the prophets and the apostles. The primary rule of Christianity is said not to be Scripture but rather the Spirit and his inward testimony. And Scripture then is a secondary rule which points and directs Christians to the direct guidance of the Spirit which produced the Scriptures. And the right use of the inner light or the guidance within then will lead to a knowledge of the same truth as found in Scripture since both Scripture and their own spiritual experiences emanate from the same Holy Spirit. So Scripture then for Quakers is a useful guide, a very useful guide. But the final, ultimate authority for faith in life is the voice of God within the individual. And Scripture is simply a secondary guide for this. The concept of the inner light accounts for the name Quaker. That's really a nickname. Officially the Quakers prefer to properly be called the friends. And that's taken from a Bible passage, John 15:15, where Jesus said: I have called you friends. The inner light really gave rise to this nickname, Quakerism, because these were people that quaked and shook in their worship meetings because of the effect of the inner light or the coming of the Spirit which was breaking through to them so that they were quakers in that regard. And their critics then called them the Quakers and made fun of them for that. So it was a term of duration at least in the beginning. The concept of the inner light is also a reason for the difference between the three main types of Quakers. Those three main types are the rationalists, the Orthodox Quakers and the conservative Quakers. The rationalistic Quakers are often called Hicksites after John Hicks of the 19th Century who advocated a liberal kind of theology. But the point is he was saying that his liberal ideas should be regarded as acceptable among Quakers as long as the inner light was being taught. Because that was the really important thing and not the doctrine that is taught by the -- by Christian people. Then there are the Orthodox Quakers who maintained that while the inner light is very important to be teaching and using, it is equally important to teach some Orthodox doctrinal terms and ideas along with the inner light. And the teaching of the inner light does not exclude them or allow unOrthodox teaching. And then there are the conservative Quakers who are called conservative because they are much concerned with the conservation and preservation of the essential and original Quaker convictions as they see these. Above all the teaching of the inner light, which is what is most important. And these are often called the Wilburites after John Wilbur, who was a 19th Century preacher of the Quakers. And a leader of them. Who complained that the Orthodox Quakers of this time were stressing traditional Christian doctrines too much at the expense of the inner light teaching. And wished to give greater emphasis to the inner light and the use of the inner light. The inner light concept shapes their view of the Christian life. That is to say the Quakers emphasized the development of spiritual experience by communion with the inner light shining within a person. So they say, for example, the chief end of all religion is to redeem man from the spirit and vain conversation of this world and to lead him into inward communion with God. That's an experience of the inner light, which is then to be expressed in a Christ like lifestyle. Quaker piety, for which Quakers are well known, has been described as a sensitivity to the wider spiritual life above us, around us and within us. A dedication to duty, a passion for truth and an appreciation of goodness and eagerness to let the love and grace of God come freely through one's life. A reference for the will of God wherever it is revealed in past or present and a high faith that Christ is a living presence and a life giving energy always within the reach of the receptive individual. So this is living by the inner light. And by the power of God that comes through the inner light. Quakers also take the notion of the inner light to the extreme of teaching that the Christian who is being led by the inner light can come to live a perfect life, that is to say he can become free from all sinning all together. That is to say as the founder of Quakerism, George Fox, said: He can rise above sin level. The concept of the inner light is also applied in their view of conversion. That is to say Quakers teach that every human being that's ever born into the world has two seeds within him. That is to say two features within him, the features of spiritual life within him, which can grow into something. There is the good seed and the bad seed. The bad seed is sin and tendencies toward sin and one can let that grow within one -- oneself and so become a very evil person. But the other seed, the good seed, is actually the inner light. And conversion comes about by cooperating with that inner light and letting it shine within a person so that their doctrine of conversion is certainly a synergistic doctrine. That is it's a doctrine of cooperating with the inner light that all people actually have. If only it will be recognized and used. Similarly, the doctrine of the inner light among the Quakers is applied in their view of justification. They say that justification is based upon the working of the inner light. That is upon the rebirth that cooperation with the inner light brings about within a person. So for them, justification is definitely not simply a declaration that one is righteous on the basis of an imputed righteousness of Christ. And they explicitly refer to Luther's teaching on that and reject it. So the Quaker teaching is not forensic or declarative justification. But rather a justification by becoming righteous. A justification based upon transformation by the use of the inner light. The idea of the inner light is applied to their view of the call into the ministry. That is to say they believe that whenever somebody becomes a minister, whether man or woman, the call into this work of ministry always comes about through the inner light within a person. Telling that person to become a minister and to serve God as a minister. And many Quaker congregations have no ministers because no one among them has received such a call through the inner light. Only certain people receive such a call. When they do, then they announce that to the congregation and then this announcement is recorded. And that person then serves in that congregation as the recorded minister of that congregation. And as I say it can come to both men and women, they make no distinction on that. The concept of the inner light is applied in the worship meetings of the Quakers. That is to say in their practice regarding worship meetings. The traditional Quaker meeting which is used by many, many Quakers of various types is called the silent meeting and the unprogrammed meeting. Because it is a worship service that's not programmed in any way by the planning of sermons and hymns and the like. But rather, it is a meeting in silence for the purpose of letting the inner light shine within us and meditating upon that inner light. And all of this continues in silence unless the Spirit through the inner light moves a person to speak a word or a prayer or preach or sing. Otherwise, there is complete silence until the very end of this service. There are some Quakers that have what's called a programmed service. That is to say there are some planned things in it so it's more like a Protestant service with which we are familiar. But nevertheless, also they still make provision for the working of the inner light in such a service. So that if someone is moved to give some kind of testimony or some such thing, they are free to do so. The concept of the inner light is also applied in the decision making process in business meetings. That is to say all decisions -- the Quakers have this principle: That all of their decisions are to be unanimous. That is to say they are not to be made simply by voting and deciding to do what has the most votes. But everything must be unanimously decided. And this then must be done by the use of the inner light. Letting the inner light work so that there is persuasion that takes place. And sometimes they will simply say: Let us simply stop and meditate about this. That is to say: Let the light shine within us. And in each of these business meetings there's always a clerk of the meeting who has the duty to watch and observe whether the discussion is showing a consensus being reached. And if he or she notices such a consensus taking place, then that is recorded as the sense of the meeting by him. And if no such sense of the meeting is reached, then no decision is recognized. And also, the inner light is the ground for their view of equality and their view of benevolence. Quakers often say that their insistence upon the quality of all men is based upon their recognition of the fact that the inner light is found in all men. No matter who they are. Whether they are Christians or not. So that all people are equal because all have the inner light. And furthermore, we should love and help all of them because they all have the inner light, just as we have the inner light. And so a recognition of the duty of benevolence toward all people then arrives out of taking the inner light seriously. One custom for which the Quakers have been well known in their history is the linguistic habit of always using the pronouns thee and thou and sometimes just thee in referring to the second person. And this came about because of their view of the equality of all men. There was a custom in the time when Quakerism arose in the 17th Century of referring to certain individuals of high nobility with the plural form in the second person. Even though it was only one person being addressed, they were addressed as if they were more than one person. And this was said to be a recognition of respect for them in addressing them. But the Quakers did not want to do this. Because they regarded this as the denial of the equality of all men. So whether they were talking to a prince or a pauper, to a nobleman or just to an ordinary person, they always said that he should be called with the second person singular pronoun. And in that day the second person singular pronoun was often thee and thou in the old English. So they used thee and thou for referring to everyone. And Quakers have often done this. Although, that custom has now been pretty much discarded because of modern linguistic usages which does use the second plural form, mainly you, also for the second person singular form nowadays. Now, in this teaching of the inner light, there is, indeed, a mixture of truth and error. There is some truth in it. That is to say the Bible certainly teaches us that Jesus is the light of the world. John 9:5. Jesus says it there. And in John 1:9 there is the statement that Jesus was the true light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world. That in fact is often called the Quaker text. Because the Quakers like that text very much. Because they say that it says that every man that comes into the world has the inner light. And is enlightened by the inner light. Whether they are Christians or not. Whether they have ever heard the Gospel or not. Whether they confess Jesus or not. They all have the inner light which gives them light by which they can be saved. II Corinthians 4:6 is another one of the many passages about light in the New Testament. It says: God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. And I John 2:10 and 11 is one of the many passages that speaks of the great and thick darkness of the sin and immoral attitudes and the like from which we certainly do need -- we need deliverance by illumination. So John says there: He that loves his brother abides in the light. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness. So there is certainly biblical truth in the concept of the inner light. But Quakers have added some errors to this basic biblical truth, as I've been pointing out already. One of these errors is that there is salvation apart from the name of Christ. That is apart from knowing and using the name of Christ as Savior. Acts 4:12 as the words of Saint Peter in talking about the name of Jesus. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we are to be saved. So we do not believe that every person, whether he knows the Gospel or not, has light by which he can be saved. Because it is the Gospel of Jesus which saves. He is the Savior and the -- the saving truth is found only in the Gospel. We must insist upon that. Also, the teaching the of synergism in form of the cooperation with the inner light and bringing about one's conversion, that also is not a true biblical teaching. In the passage that I quoted before from II Corinthians 4:6, one thing we notice is that it's God that turns on the light within a person. It's not a person that has the light within himself or can use that light within himself. But rather, it is a light that's turned on by God. And that's what conversion is. Let me read the passage again: God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. And furthermore, John 1:9 really does not say that every person that comes into the world has the light of Christ or has Christ as a light. The use of this text as the Quaker text is really a wrong use of the text. Because the words there, "that comes into the world," is really referring to the light himself. That is to Jesus, the historic Christ. So he is the light that enlightens every man. Who was coming into the world to give that light to every man. We have to look at the context here in John 1 because the context then also says that there were people who definitely were going against the light, namely, the light of Jesus who had appeared to them in his earthly life. And they were rejecting him. They were rejecting the light that had come into the world. And that's what the text is talking about, the historic Christ. Not an inner light that is in all people regardless of whether they know the Gospel of Christ or not.