Friday, October 10, 2008
I think the early 19th century split(s) among Friends led to the "two" sides continuing to widen their differences and diverge from the center. As a student of science I see this as a division between 2 similar poles (of the Christian spectrum) of a magnet which creates a repelling effect. In the specific example of the view on the authority of the Bible, I think this is quite clear. Early Friends seem to have a fairly balanced view that the written word and spiritual experience were of the same Word. However, as the more urban Friends became much more associated with the culture of "Mainline Protestants" and sought a clearer source of direction among the different influences in an urban setting, the tendency was to emphasize a common source that was easily identifiable. The rural Friends, on the other hand, tended to rely more on a common experience which they shared in their community and was less "formal" and more individual.
This has led to the relatively extreme views among current Friends. On one hand we have those that take the "Bible" as literally true in its entirety. This includes justification for war since the Lord commanded "his people to destroy the enemy," and the acceptance of the creation stories as literally true. I find it sadly ironic that the more loudly some Friends call themselves Christians the more they seem to emphasize the ultimate authority of the "Old Testament" and seem to be less literal about the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25.
However, on the other hand there are Friends who seem to pride themselves on not referring to the "Bible," but prefer to speak of the "I Ching," Buddhist writings, Jewish mystics, etc. as a source for their spiritual leadings. In extreme, this is taken as "whatever."
I find great truths in the writings of many religions and spiritual groups. I also believe that the Word of these truths is "Truth." I find a strong reliance on the "Word" of the Gospels in early Friends and I continue to find much enlightenment from studying the Bible. I find the call of "DO UNTO OTHERS" a profound responsibility and often find a passive reassurance in not doing to others what you do not want done to yourself.
Some of my reluctance to blogging is knowing where to end each "blog" as while expressing ideas I usually make connections which sometimes lead to better and more expressive ideas, but, at least as often if not more so, lead to being repetitively redundant ;-} or getting into lots of particulars that seem detractions and distractions from the more spiritual leadings. For example, the question arises on the literalness of Genesis. What was the order of creation? Plants, animals, and then man and woman, or was it Adam, plants, animals, and then Eve? From my perspective, they WERE both true. The first chapter describes the complexity of the natural physical world as seen by humans. The second chapter describes the social order of the time about which it was written. MAN was the master of gathering and hunting, and WOMAN was subordinate to MAN and took care of the immediate family and household.