Immediate Revelation

The validity of the Religious Society of Friends, as a Christian expression stands or falls upon the understanding of ‘Immediate Revelation.” There is much debate, for and against. Basically, if I bring it down to the simplest point — the question is “Does God still work in the world, or has he abandoned humanity?” The entire form of Friend’s worship was built upon the assumption that God goes out of his way to meet people, and he welcomes all who thirst for him. If Friends are mistaken on this point, Friends are beyond rehabilitation. One cannot correct an error if the entire foundation is an error. Unfortunately, with the Quakers falls every Evangelical groups that stresses a “Personal relationship with Christ”, for the center of this belief is that God, for our sakes wants to meet us personally.

To answer the first criticism that comes: “This is continuing revelation… and point to the Mormons — that cannot be, for God stays the same.” I must answer, God may stay the same — but people do not. The idea of God being real to us, and us learning is not about God changing the nature of the universe, but about us growing and learning. If we believe there is a personal touch, but God changes us completely making us mature and complete in an instant, we are saying that #1: we no longer need God, and #2: God makes an infant into a man in a moment. Unfortunately, this leads to people who think that they are beyond any fault and refuse to be checked no matter how great their error.

Another criticism is that this revelation is unstable. People want God to agree with them — this is very true, and it is valid. Unfortunately, even scripture reading has this problem… arguments abound because for every prooftext, there is an equal and opposite prooftext. Actually, if the revelation is of God, then it would be better to say that man is unstable, no matter the transition of Divine revelation.

The crux of the problem of Quakerism is: Assuming that Friends are not mistaken about Immediate Revelation (If we are mistaken, the only thing to do is scrap the Society of Friends, and remember it as a great mistake), how do we come to the Divine Source? If there is a Divine Truth, should it not be consistent — both in the past and now? Why is it that the majority of Friends seem to follow the spirit of the times instead of this Divine Truth? How can we transcend the Zeitgeist, and learn from the Heiligen Geist? Without solving this difficulty, the Society of Friends will be blown and tossed by the winds of the day. [allusion to James 1] How can Friend’s find stability in their faith in God? How can we rise above the spirit of the time, and meet our timeless Lord?

I am meditating on my role in the Religious Society of Friends — I remain optimistic, but I find more and more that I am a non-conformist among non-conformists. Friends taught me to make Jesus personal, and to have a faith that touches my day to day life — but I fear that as they taught me, they were forgetting themselves and seeking the next wave. Perhaps these waves are part of learning in Christ, but I am becoming sea-sick.


9 comments on “Immediate Revelation

  1. Phil says:

    Good stuff.

  2. kevin says:

    Well, as someone who associates with the Conservatives, I have no problem with the notion of abandoning “continuing revelation” and re-translating the concept as “cumulative revelation.”

    God doesn’t change. As you say, we merely understand better.

    May I point out some important premises to what you’re discussing?

    — God exists.
    — God cares.
    — God intervenes.
    — God is knowable.

    Each of these will be denied by legitimate members of legitimate branches of the Society. Only when you pass them by does your question about whether God speaks the same message to everybody become relevant.

    Does he speak the same message? I believe he does, but I don’t require him to use the same words at all times with everyone else that he uses to me. I also believe necessarily that some people get his message wrong. How he deals with that is not under my control or within my understanding, as you pointed out with respect to ambiguities in Christian Scripture.

    Gos works with us according to our needs on the journey.

    • Thanks Kevin — I might have to quote your premises in a related essay sometime. The question I see is: “At heart, is Quakerism a radical understanding of Christianity (Penn’s primitive Christianity revived), or is it a social method of exploring spirituality?” or perhaps “Is the goal of Quaker worship to hear God’s voice, or to become more familiar with one’s own voice?”

      There is an evangelical / ‘silent’ meeting about 50 miles from where I live. I attend when I can. [EFC-MAYM has two deliberate traditional worship groups that I know of — and our smaller meetings face the challenge of learning to survive.]

  3. […] A core principle of Quakerism is that the risen Christ is still with us. Friends believe that Jesus is the Word of God that gives light to the world — and this role continues, so that Jesus is a more perfect Word than anything which could be written. People come to Christianity because the risen Christ shows Himself to us and teaches us. Christianity is about living with and learning from the risen Jesus. This interpretation of John’s gospel puts each of us in a place where we learn and explore what it means to be Christians. Each Friend is able to learn from Jesus, and struggle with what this means in his daily life. It also allows change as we experience continued revelation. […]

  4. […] possible to ‘hear’ God, in one way or another, and thus is dependent upon a doctrine of revelation. If we accept that God speaks to humanity, then we will accept that there is a history of this […]

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