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Posts Tagged ‘Quaker Universalism’

 

(revised 01/30/15)

I stumbled across the folllowing blog which addresses a number of issues I have written about. Namely, Quaker George Fox’s “Inner Light” heresy, universalism, Spiritual Formation, the Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible, etc.

I am providing excerpts from the blog below. Click here [broken link] for the entire original text of this blog. As of 01/30/15  I found this blogsite run by Tom Lessing, but could not find his 2009 article presented below. I am emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets]. I have also corrected the grammar in a few places to make the excerpts more readable.

The Unholiness of the Renovaré Brotherhood’s “Holiness”

Posted by Tom Lessing on July 9, 2009

Adherents to the Emergent Church have an uncanny ability to tell their congregants what to do without explaining what they really have in mind. They have the knack to use biblical terminology very skillfully and expertly but often fail to elucidate the biblical meaning of the words they hit to and fro like a little ping-pong ball. “Holiness” is one of these words. I encountered this again in one of Stephan Joubert’s regular contributions on e-church under the title “No Steroids for Holiness.”Although it may be a very clever post-modernish title it wreaks of heresy from the very outset, especially when one takes into account who it was who coined the witty little maxim. But allow me to use Stephan’s own words:

You can’t cheat your way to holiness. Or can you? Presently, I am at the Renovare Conference in San Antonio, Texas where the theme is “The Jesus Way.” Yesterday evening I listened to one of my spiritual heroes, Eugene Peterson. In his fine presentation he stressed that there are no spiritual steroids for holiness. You have to live a holy life, one day at a time (emphasis added).

Have you noticed the little ink spots in Stephan’s declaration of holiness?

[The Spiritual Formation definition of  “holiness” is quite different from the born again, biblical Christian definition. For those in Spiritual Formation, “holiness” basically means proficiency in practicing the spiritual disciplines, particularly occultish contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality. And one usually learns these contemplative techniques from a Spiritual Director who sympathizes with Catholicism in some way. The Spiritual Director, in my mind, acts as sort of a “guru”, a “master teacher”, an “expert” in Spiritual Formation.

Conversely, for the born again, biblically sound Christian, “holiness” means “personal holiness” – obeying the commandments of God’s Word the Bible (the 66 books of the Canon), dying to sin, living for Christ in purity, etc. One passage that describes this is Romans 12:1-2:1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”]

What is Renovare?

Here are a few facts about “Renovaré”:

Renovaré is a movement within the Emergent church that was started in 1988 by Richard Foster, a Quaker theologian. [Although Foster has been  an Evangelical Friend, preaching and teaching in the EFCI, his writings betray him as a nonchristian with positions akin to  those of nonchristian, non-evangelical Quaker denominations.] The [nonchristian, non-evangelical] Quakers’ theology is based on the belief that everyone (believers and unbelievers) have an “inner light” which can lead them to truth while they wait and listen to its subjective leading, particularly with the assistance of contemplative practices such as “the silence” and “centering prayer.” Paul Lacout, in Quaker Faith and Practice, described a “silence which is active” causing the Inner Light to “glow.” Their complete reliance on the leading of the inner light has just about ousted the objectivity of God’s Word and its clear-cut doctrines. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Stephan Joubert pledges not to return to the Bible and the church but to advance forward to God (the inner light that guides all of mankind into the Truth).

As soon as you begin to tamper with biblical doctrine, heresy becomes your way and not as the Renovaré brotherhood claims “The Jesus Way.” The Quakers’ assertion that believers and unbelievers have an “inner light” substantiates their equally heretical belief in Universalism. George Fox and Robert Barclay as well as other respected leaders in the Quaker movement hold to the lie that all people are already saved from sin or will eventually be saved from it, the reason being that the Light is within everyone and nobody will therefore be cast into hell. Then there are those within the Quaker movement, such as the Quaker Universalist Group, who believe that it is unnecessary to have any faith in Jesus Christ. [According to Quaker Universalists] people of other faiths or no faith at all have no need of salvation because they already have Light within them… 

What does the Word of God teach us about the Light?

John 3:19-21 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God (emphasis added).

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (emphasis added).

Richard Foster, the author of the Renovaré study Bible, endorses many Universalists and pantheists. Here are some of the revealing things they have said in their books:

“The Inner Light, the Inward Christ, is no mere doctrine, belonging peculiarly to a small religious fellowship, to be accepted or rejected as a mere belief. It is the living Center of Reference for all Christian souls and Christian groups – yes, and of non-Christian groups as well” Thomas Kelly:A Testament of Devotion.

“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are …. If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other … At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth … This little point… is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. Thomas Merton: Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Asia, Zen, Islam, etc., all these things come together in my life. It would be madness for me to attempt to create a monastic life for myself by excluding all these. I would be less a monk. Rob Baker & Gray Henry: Merton and Sufism.

The common denominator between Merton’s brand of Christianity and other religions is mysticism, in particular Buddhism. Stephan Joubert’s spiritual excursion to the Renovaré Conference in San Antonio, Texas is consequently no coincidence. He is merely strengthening his affiliation with his brothers and sisters who are extending a hand of brotherly affection to religions such as Buddhism, and affirming his agreement with Rob Bell who said that truth may also be found in other religions such as Buddhism. When Merton could no longer resist the mystic appeal, he intended to turn his back on Christianity. Guess who advised him to remain a Christian? No! You’re wrong. It was not a concerned Christian but a Hindu swami named Dr. Bramachari. He assured Merton that he could find the very same mysticism within the ranks of the Christian mystics. (Henri J M Nouwen: Contemplative Critic). Dr. Bramachari seems to be far better informed than most Christians of Paul’s warning in II Corinthians and seems to know that Merton can do more damage within the ranks of Christianity if he remains therein stead of becoming a converted Buddhist or Hindu.

II Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Merton affirmed that he could incorporate these mystical traditions into his own Christian tradition if he practiced tolerance of and an openness to Buddhism, Hinduism and other Asian mystical religions. Richard Foster’s entire philosophy is based on Merton’s and others’ contemplative spirituality and their efforts to bridge the gap between Western and Far Eastern spiritualities. Why would someone like Foster who claims to follow The Jesus Way endorse and follow Merton’s heresies? The underlying reason is to forge a new Christianity which gullibly utilizes Christian terminology, such as The Jesus Way and holiness, and gathers together every conceivable religious persuasion under a single umbrella called mysticism, simply because “everyone has the Inner Light.” Roger Oakland asks a similar question in his book Faith Undone:

Why would someone who claims to be a Christian as Foster does, after reading and understanding Merton’s position on East­ern religion, promote his ideas? Foster knows the kind of prayer Merton stood for was different from biblical prayer. He admits that Merton’s prayer lined up with that of Zen masters and Bud­dhist monks. And yet he said, “Merton continues to inspire count­less men and women.” [i]

Stephan Joubert  is obviously one of the countless men and women who have been inspired to follow in the Jesus Way of spurious disciples such as Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson and Thomas Merton. The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Study Bible which was released in 2005 has impacted many people to strive for a [so-called] renewal in the church. Besides Foster, editors included Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene Peterson…

[Blogger Tom Lessing then lists a number of heresies in the Renovaré  Spiritual Formation Bible, mostly dealing with prophecy. To read his excellent critique of the Renovaré  Spiritual Formation Bible, click here [broken link] for the entire original blog. Now for the rest of Tom Lessing’s blog…]

So, what is holiness anyway?

Holiness, in a nutshell, is to be like your Creator and Saviour.

I Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

In practice it means that God’s children should talk, think and act completely different from what our world system expects its citizens to do. It comes down to separateness, severance, apartness from the world system and everything it advocates and stands for. The idea of separateness is seen throughout the Bible. Let’s ponder the following verses from Scripture.

Mark 10:34-36 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

II Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

If you proclaim to be a Christian who follows The Jesus Way you dare not associate with false teachers and preachers. Holiness also means to separate yourself from them. It is impossible to plead holiness (without steroids) while you associate with people whose false teaching God hates, to such an extent that He said through the mouth of His disciple Paul:

Galatians 1: 8 and 9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Here are a few verses that warn us not to associate with false teachers and preachers.

II John 1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Revelation 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

II Timothy 3:5-14 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; (emphasis added).

I have pleaded with you many times before, Stephan, and I want to do so here again: Repent of your disastrous way which is clearly NOT The Jesus Way and definitely NOT the way of holiness. It is the way that leads to destruction. You are misleading many people in South Africa. Please stop playing with fire and repent!


[i] Richard Foster, Devotional Classics, op. cit., p. 61.

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(revised 03/31/15)

NOTE – In the past, I have reposted entire articles by David Cloud. Recently I read David Cloud’s statement at the bottom of his articles, giving permission to repost excerpts from his articles. Thus, I have taken nearly all of my reposted David Cloud articles offline. However, I am leaving this repost online for now, since it is directly tied to a primary purpose of my blogs: exposing Richard Foster and other apostate teachers in my former, “birthright” denomination the Evangelical Friends. The following article by David Cloud is excellent.

I have written various blogs about Quaker George Fox’s heretical universal “Inner Light” teaching. Many other Christians have written about this as well.

Click here for the original text of the following article, by David Cloud. His article addresses various aspects of Spiritual Formation; I have only copied and pasted Bro. Cloud’s section dealing with the Inner Light heresy. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

RICHARD FOSTER: EVANGELICALISM’S MYSTICAL SPARKPLUG
October 8, 2008 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service)

Richard Foster’s writings have been at the forefront of the contemplative movement since the 1970s. No one has done more than this man to spread contemplative mysticism throughout Protestant and Baptist churches.

Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, which has sold more than two and a half million copies [from 1978 to 2008], was selected by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th century. (For this review I obtained multiple editions of Celebration of Discipline, plus three other books by Foster.)

richardfosterlrg

The Quaker Connection

He grew up among the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends), was trained at George Fox College, has pastored Quaker churches, and has taught theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and at George Fox. One website calls him “perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today.” [Bro. Cloud does not mention here that Foster actually grew up, ministered, and taught in the Evangelical Friends denomination; I have described this connection in several of my blogs.]

The Quaker connection is important, because one of their peculiar doctrines is direct revelation via an “inner light.” This is defined in a variety of ways, since Quakerism is very individualistic and non-creedal, but it refers to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent and passive in order to receive guidance from the inner light. Other terms for it are “light of God,” “light of Christ,” “inward light,” “the light,” “light within,” “Christ within,” and “spirit of Christ.”

George Fox used the expression “that of God in everyone.” In his journal Fox said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any” (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, p. 35).

Another prominent Quaker, Robert Barclay, called this “the light of the heart” and said “there is an evangelical and saving Light and grace in all.”

Isaac Pennington said, “There is that near you which will guide you; Oh wait for it, and be sure ye keep to it.”

The inner light teaching is said to be based on John 1:9 — “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Yet this verse does not say that there is a divine light in every man. It merely says that Christ gives light to every man. The epistle of Romans tells us more about this. There is the light of creation (Romans 1:20), the light of conscience (Romans 2:14-16), and the light of the Scripture (Romans 3:2). When men respond to the light that they have, they are given more light (Acts 17:26-27).

Because of the fall, man’s heart is darkened and foolish (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:18).

The inner light teaching was exalted above reliance on the Bible. Martin Meeker says, “… the early Quakers’ reliance on the Bible as a source of spiritual knowledge and inspiration was secondary to their belief in the Inner Light as the primary path to salvation and communication with God” (The Doctrine of the Inner Light).

George Fox would say to his listeners:

“You will say, Christ saith this and the Apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?”

Fox claimed that he received the doctrine of the inner light without help from the Scriptures (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, pp. 33-35).

This is an unscriptural and very dangerous position that opens the door for every sort of heresy. The Scripture is able to make the man of God perfect; obviously, then, nothing more is needed (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The early Quakers misinterpreted 2 Corinthians 3:6, claiming that the “letter” referred to the Scripture in general.

“Along these lines, we might note that early Quakers tended to give an expansive reading of 2 Cor. 3:6, which states that God has made us ‘ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ This verse, if ‘letter’ is taken to mean ‘Scripture,’ obviously places strong limits on the use of Scripture while extending preference to Spirit, at the very least. One thus is not surprised that it is a favorite of early Quakers, appearing as an allusion in the postscript of the Letter from the Elders of Balby, cherished by many contemporary Friends” (Stephen Angell, “Opening the Scriptures, Then and Now,” QUEST, Fall-Winter 2007-2008).

If the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 refers to the Scripture in general, it would mean that Paul was exalting “the Spirit” above the Scripture. It would mean that the Scripture is not the sole authority for faith and practice, but it is only one authority and that men are free to follow their inner lights.

This is a gross misinterpretation of the passage. In truth, 2 Corinthians 3 contrasts the Law of Moses with the Gospel of Grace, the Old Covenant with the New.

2 Corinthians 3:7 leaves no doubt about this, which tells us that the “letter” that killeth is “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones.” That refers, of course, to the Law of Moses given on Mt. Sinai. It was a covenant of death because it requires of fallen sinners what they cannot perform, which is perfect holiness. It was not given to provide a way of salvation but to show men their sinful, lost condition (Romans 3:19-20).

To interpret the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 as a reference to the Scripture in general also contradicts the fact that verse 11 says the “letter” has been “done away.” Obviously the Scripture has not been done away with, but the Law of Moses has. Its purpose was to act as a “schoolmaster” to lead men to Christ and once it performs that glorious function its work is finished (Galatians 3:24-25).

It is easy to see how the Quaker philosophy paved the way for Foster to accept Catholic mysticism. It did this by its emphasis on an “inner light” and its tendency not to judge things in an exacting manner with the Bible.

Other Quakers have followed the same path, and some, like Mary Conrow Coelho, have followed it all the way to the New Age. Conrow believes in evolution, the oneness of the universe, and the unity of man with God, and she traces her New Age mysticism to deep third generation Quaker roots and its inner light teaching:

“The adults in our Quaker community spoke often of the Inner Light, the seed of God, the indwelling Christ. [Thomas Kelly] said, ‘It is a Light within, a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us’” (“Of Leadings and the Inner Light: Quakerism and the New Cosmology,” http://www.thegreatstory.org/QuakerMetarelig.html).

(Richard Foster quotes Thomas Kelly favorably and frequently in his books, and the Renovarè Spiritual Formation Bible quotes Kelly as saying: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center.”)

From its inception Quakerism was a heretical movement that downplayed the Bible and exalted personal revelation, and Foster is a product of that heresy even though he is on the “evangelical” side of Quakerism.

In this light it is not surprising to find him promoting Roman Catholic mystics who exalted their tradition and mystical revelations above the Scripture.

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[blog under construction – I have written a number of related blogs which I will be linking to this blog]

George Fox’s Universalist “Inner Light” teaching has had a deadly effect on Evangelicalism over the years. Two of the most recent big names who seem to have no problem with George Fox’s teaching on this are Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Foster and Willard both played a huge part in popularizing Spiritual Formation, with its occultish spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality. Interestingly, Foster and Willard co-pastored an Evangelical Friends church, and Foster actually grew up in the Evangelical Friends. Yet Foster and Willard both seem as equally comfortable with non-evangelical universalist Quakers.

I came across the following article, written by Quaker univeralist Samuel J. Chadwick. In the article, he makes a case for uniting Universalism with evangelical Christianity via George Fox’s universalist Inner Light/Inward Light teaching. I do not approve of this article. I am merely providing this article in its entirety to show how destructive George Fox’s Inner Light/Inward Light teaching has been to Evangelicalism. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [bracketing].

The entire article is also found here.

The Inward Light: How Quakerism Unites Universalism and Christianity, by Samuel D. Caldwell

We are all well aware of the long-standing tension in the Religious Society of Friends between Christianity and Universalism. Each pole of this historic tension has had its partisans over time. The Quaker Universalist Fellowship represents one pole of the contemporary debate. Evangelical Friends International [renamed Evangelical Friends Church International] is an example of a group that represents the other. Each side of the debate claims that its own view of Quakerism is the true one, and each side feels that the other side’s position is a negation of its own. Typically, the debate is cast in logically exclusivist terms: if one position is true, then the other must of necessity be false; both cannot possibly be true at the same time.

For my part, I have never accepted the terms in which the debate has been cast. It is my own view that Quakerism is neither exclusively Christian, as some Quaker Christians would have it; nor is it exclusively Universalist, as some Quaker Universalists would have it. The fact is Quakerism has always been a powerful amalgamation of both. My thesis is that not only is it possible to be both Christian and Universalist at the same time, but it has always been the very essence and peculiar genius of Quakerism to join the two in holy matrimony! I wish to explain how this is so.

Let me start with the Universalist side of the equation. What many Christian Quakers fail to understand or accept about the Quaker approach to Christianity is that it is Universalist to the core. Universalism is thoroughly embedded in the Quaker perspective precisely because it is intrinsic to our most central and distinctive religious insight: the principle of the Inner Light.

It is helpful to remind ourselves of the essential core of this important insight. Historically, it is this: God gives to every human being who comes into the world a measure of the divine spirit as a Living Witness and a Light to be inwardly guided by. Those who learn to heed the promptings of this Light within them come to be “saved” – that is, they come into fullness and wholeness of life and right relationship with God, themselves, and one another.

Those who resist, ignore, or otherwise deny the workings of this pure spirit within them, though they make a profession of faith, are “condemned” – that is, they become alienated from God, from themselves, and from one another. The chief end of religious life, therefore, is to hearken to and act in accordance with the promptings of the Inner Light in one’s life.  This description closely parallels George Fox’s original “opening” concerning the Light in 1648, as recorded in his Journal (Nickalls edition, p. 33).

A number of important characteristics of the Light can be readily inferred from this description. First, this Light is “divine” or “supernatural.” That is, it pertains to God and God’s activity. Numerous Friends, among them George Fox and Robert Barclay, have been urgent in cautioning us against confusing the Inner Light with such natural phenomena as reason or conscience, both of which are physically and socially conditioned. Rather, they have emphasized that the Light is God’s eternal and indwelling power resident within our mortal frames, there to enlighten and inform the natural reason and conscience with truth of a higher order.

This Light is personal. It is no mindless, purposeless, undifferentiated force or power. It is the mind and will of God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah – who indwells our souls. To claim, as we do, that we are led or taught by the Light is to accept by inference that the power by which we are led or taught is capable of actively leading or teaching us. This requires a personal or theistic conception of the Spirit, which Friends have traditionally held.

This Light is saving. It is the instrument or means by which we are drawn into fullness and wholeness of life and right relationship to God, ourselves, and one another. It is not primarily through the mechanism of assent to certain theological propositions, however heartfelt, nor by participation in certain established rituals, however sincere, that one comes to be “saved” in Quaker faith and practice; it is chiefly through the operation of this Saving Light in human hearts – in the hearing and doing of the Living Word as inwardly revealed in the course of common life.

This Light is eternal. It was before time, is now, and will be forevermore. As the writer of John says, “in the beginning was the Word.” Friends have always identified the Inner Light with this “logos” or Eternal Word [Evangelical Friends however, say, as the book of John says, that this Logos is Jesus Christ the Son of God, not the Inner Light]. It is by this Eternal Light and Word that all of the saints and sages down through the ages have known and spoken the Truth. It is by this Light that the Holy Scriptures of the ages have been written (and must be read). It is by this Light that whatever is true, good, and beautiful has been brought forth in human community over time. This Light is and has always been the source and fountain of all human creativity.

This Light is resistible. It is not an inevitable force or automatic power; it can be resisted, ignored, or otherwise denied in the human heart. To quote C. S. Lewis, “God does not ravish; He only woos.” Although we receive this Light freely and from birth, we are free to choose whether or not and how to respond to its promptings. As someone once remarked, “We are predestinated and foreordained to decide for ourselves!”

This Light is persistent. The Light never ceases to make its Living Witness within each and every human heart, even when it is resisted. Although stubborn resistance and persistent disobedience may greatly dim its luminosity, the Light can never be fully extinguished within us. This is the unfailing love and mercy of God which passes all understanding.

This Light is pure. It is utterly infallible and perfectly good. Although we may err in our discernment of the Light’s witness within us, for any and all who turn to it in humility of heart, the Light is an inerrant guide to truth and wisdom. And, because it is the pure love of God within us, this Light is completely good and trustworthy.

This Light is ineffable. It defies complete and accurate description. Like much in the realm of spirit, the Light cannot be completely understood, but it can be experienced and known.

Lastly, and perhaps most important to the present discussion, this Light is unequivocally universal. It is freely given by God to each and every human being who comes into the world, regardless of race, sex, nationality, philosophical orientation, religious creed, or station in life. It is the divine birthright and inheritance of all, not the privileged possession of a few. To paraphrase the scripture, it is the Good News of God “preached to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).

Now it can readily be seen from these characteristics that the Quaker concept of the Inner Light is radically universalist in its thrust. As such, it offers a strong challenge to many of the exclusivist assumptions of conventional Christian faith. Here is where the tension between Christianity and Universalism in Quakerism begins to be felt.

It is hard to overstate, for instance, how radically different the Quaker view of salvation is from the popular Christian conception. According to our understanding of the Inner Light, any person of whatever religious persuasion, who turns in sincerity of heart to the Divine Light within, and lives in accordance with its promptings, will be saved. All of God’s children, Christians and non-Christians alike, have equal access to salvation through the Light.

This view constitutes an outright denial of the exclusivist Christian assumption that salvation comes only to those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and participate in certain established rituals of the Church. One need not be a professing Christian, in other words, to be saved; and many who are professing Christians are (apparently) not saved.

Similarly, Quaker Universalism challenges the now-prevalent evangelical Christian view that the Holy Spirit “comes into one’s heart,” presumably from outside, at the moment of conversion. Friends have testified throughout their history that this Holy Spirit is already resident as a Divine Seed in every human heart, waiting to be decisively accepted and nurtured through attentive obedience in daily life. This difference in viewpoint explains the real distinction between Quaker “convincement” and evangelical “conversion. ”

[Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) today tends to explain away this Inner Light as being the Holy Spirit.  This is in direct contradiction to a statement made in 1877-1879 by one of its own regions, the Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite) – now the EFC-ER. The Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite) was the only Quaker yearly meeting ever to condemn George Fox’s Inner Light teaching. Also, the EFCI’s definition of the Inner Light as the Holy Spirit flies in the face of the previous paragraph, which explains clearly that the Inner Light is vastly different from the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit.]

Salvation and conversion are not the only fronts on which Quaker Universalism challenges conventional Christianity. From the beginning, for instance, Friends have vociferously challenged the fundamentalist Christian assumption that the Bible is the Word of God, insisting instead that the Holy Spirit, the Christ Within, is the Word of God. The Bible is a declaration of the fountain; it is not the fountain itself The fountain is Christ, the Living Word. George Fox argued disarmingly that, if the Bible were really the Word of God, then one could buy and sell the Word of God and carry it around in one’s pocket!

In a similar vein, the Quaker doctrine of “continuing revelation,” which says that God continues to reveal Truth to those who have ears to hear, directly challenges the fundamentalist Christian belief that God’s revelation was completed when the books of the biblical canon were finalized by the Church.

Quaker Universalism also challenges the conventional Christian definition of the Church, insisting that the Church is not a building. Nor is it an identifiable group of confessing Christians. It is, rather, the universal fellowship of all those persons, of whatever background or persuasion, who know and live in accordance with the Living Witness of God’s Light within them. Unlike the standard Christian definition, the Quaker definition of the Church embraces non-Christians, and even theoretically excludes professing Christians who have no real inward, life-changing experience of God. [Now this is a contradiction if every I’ve seen one. How can any non-Christian ever have a “real inward, life-changing experience of God”?]

These few examples should make it clear how deeply-rooted and fundamental the Universalist perspective is in Quakerism, and how profoundly, in turn, this perspective affects the Quaker approach to Christianity – so much so that Quakerism takes a strongly prophetic stance over and against a number of widely accepted interpretations of Christian faith.

It should also be clear, however, that Quaker Universalism, as we have described it here, has little or nothing to do with that brand of eclectic, humanist philosophy called “universalism” that is so prevalent in liberal Quaker circles today. This sort of pseudo-universalism – “pseudo” because it bears a superficial resemblance to Quaker Universalism, but is really contrary to it in a number of crucial ways – poses such an insidious threat to the true Quaker view that I would like to spend a few moments describing in more detail how the two are different.

[I must admit, in the following paragraphs, the author does a good job of condemning “pseudo-universalism” – what I would call Unitarian Universalism.]

While Quaker Universalism is strongly religious in content and devotional in orientation, pseudo-universalism typically maintains a pronounced philosophical detachment from all religious traditions (especially, as we shall see, from Christianity). Unlike Quaker Universalism, which calls for a faith commitment to a specific religious path, pseudo-universalism teaches non-adherence to any particular religion at all, referring a kind of smorgasbord approach to religious ideas instead.

Quaker Universalism acknowledges the differences between the major religions of the world, but calls them all to the same universal standard of Truth: the Living Witness of God within. Pseudo-universalism often ignores, trivializes and obfuscates the real differences between world religions, claiming that “all religions are essentially the same.” In effect, it denies all religions by affirming all equally and embracing none.

While Quaker Universalism is a specific religious path that leads the seeker toward transformation and salvation, pseudo-universalism institutionalizes seeking and is highly suspicious of finding in religious life. Partly because it considers the major religions of the world to be primitive (and therefore false?), and partly because it is highly intellectual in orientation, pseudo-universalism discourages the sort of existential faith commitment that is essential for real spiritual growth and transformation. It offers no genuine spiritual path of its own, while discouraging its adherents from embarking on any established path.

Because it is a view of religion and not a religion itself, and because it accepts no particular religious tradition as normative, pseudo-universalism has within it no principle whereby it can discriminate between what is true and what is false in any particular religious view. To what standard, for instance, would pseudo-universalism appeal regarding a membership application from an avowed practitioner of the religion of Satanism? Quaker Universalism, on the other hand, is founded on the premise that there is one true principle of discernment, and that is the Inner Light. In addition, as we shall see momentarily, although Quaker Universalism radically challenges Christianity at many points, it also has historically accepted Jesus Christ and the gospel tradition as normative for faithful living. [Yes and no. Quaker Univeralists profess Jesus as “Teacher and Lord,” but not as “Lord and Saviour.” In another blog, I quoted a liberal Friends General Conference fellow who sang, “I’m not a Christian but I’m a Quaker, I’ve got Christ’s Inner Light but he’s not my Saviour.” What an abomination.]

Lastly, while Quaker Universalism is firmly rooted in the Christian tradition (albeit not always comfortable with it), pseudo-universalism often acts as a smoke screen for anti-Christian sentiment. In my conversations with Friends who have been influenced by this kind of universalism, I frequently encounter significant discomfort with, if not open hostility to, Christians and the Christian faith. This, of course, is in direct contradiction to their own professed principles. To this sort of universalist, it seems, all religions are equal except Christianity!

Perhaps you have heard of H. L. Mencken’s famous definition of a “puritan” as someone who is obsessed with the fear that somehow, somewhere, someone is having fun? The pseudo-universalist is one who is obsessed with the fear that somehow, somewhere, someone has “gotten religion,” especially the Christian religion.

As you can see, the two types of universalism, while similar on the surface, are as different as night and day. It is easy to see why pseudo-universalism is uncomfortable with the practice of Christianity. The two are philosophically incompatible. True Quaker Universalism, however, has a uniquely symbiotic relationship with Christianity. And this brings us to the Christian side of the equation.

If I did not make the Christian party happy with my remarks on Quaker Universalism, it is certain that I will not make the Quaker Universalist party happy with my remarks on Christianity. As we have seen, Christian Quakers have to accept the fact that Quakerism is radically universalist in its interpretation of Christianity. Universalist Quakers, on the other hand, have to accept the fact that Quakerism is radically Christian in its interpretation of Universalism. For, the truth is that, despite its somewhat testy relationship with conventional Christianity, Quakerism is and always has been decidedly Christian.

We have already sketched how the Quaker view of Christianity is distinctively Universalist. How is the Quaker view of Universalism distinctively Christian? It is really quite simple: Friends have always identified the Inner Light with the living Christ. Christ, in Quaker theology, is the Light [but non-evangelical Quakers do not believe that we are saved by accepting Christ as our Saviour]. “There is One, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” said the voice to George Fox at the moment of his convincement [notice again that the author uses the term “convincement” – which is vastly different from “conversion”]. And this Christ Jesus, Fox perceived and subsequently preached, was the Eternal Risen Christ, the Light of the World, come to teach all people who would hear his voice, not just professing Christians. To be Quaker is to be a follower of Christ, Who witnesses Within each one of us as we walk through life.

This strict equivalency of Christ with the Inner Light is the key to understanding how it is that Christianity and Universalism are so inextricably bound together in Quaker faith and practice. Not only is it possible to be both Christian and Universalist at the same time; it is the very essence and peculiar genius of Quakerism to marry the two in one powerful synthesis through the doctrine of the Inner Light. In the final analysis, the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light is really a radically Universalist interpretation of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit. To be Quaker is, therefore, to be radically Christian.

As a result of this unique marriage that Quakerism has effected, the quintessentially exclusivist text of the Christian faith – “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes unto the Father except by me” (John 14:6) – is transformed into a powerful Universalist message for the whole world. Friends have witnessed for 350 years that the Light of Christ Within is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to God except by it. This Light is the universal, saving, eternal, personal, resistible, persistent, and pure witness of God within every human heart, and no one is excluded from partaking of its riches. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “Christ has returned, and everyone is invited to the reception!”

And, how fortunate for both Christianity and Universalism that Quakerism has joined them together. Fully embedded in the context of Christianity, Quaker Universalism is richly informed by all of the pregnant imagery and profound meaning of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the transforming story of Jesus Christ. In the Quaker synthesis, Christianity saves Universalism from the vapid sterility of mere abstraction. Universalism, in turn, saves Christianity from the spiritual poison of religious parochialism and exclusivity. The two not only complement each other, they are essential to one another.

In the end, the marriage metaphor we have been using is not very satisfactory, for it implies a kind of voluntary association that is not applicable here. The union of Christianity and Universalism in Quakerism is one of mutual entailment – more like two sides of one coin than like a marriage. Friends on both sides of the discussion need to face the fact that divorce is out of the question. Quakerism is, by definition, both Universalist and Christian at the same time.

After reading the above defense of Quaker universalism – and the damage the Inner Light teaching has done to evangelical Christianity – how could any member of the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) accept or fellowship with non-evangelical universalist Quaker denominations?

Amazingly, the EFCI is proud of its Quaker ecumenism with all non-evangelical Quaker groups. If we dig beneath the surface, we find that non-evangelical Quakers have many ungodly beliefs and practices – everything from universalist Quakers to LGBT Quakers to atheist Quakers to Buddhist Quakers.

There is no way around it. To insist on ecumenism with non-evangelical Quaker groups is, in essence, to endorse the heresies of these non-evangelical Quaker groups. Leaders in the EFCI who insist on Quaker ecumenism know very well the heresies of these non-evangelical groups, yet they still proclaim “let the conversation continue.” What an abomination!

Edward Mott, one of my favorite fundamentalist Evangelical Friends, warned against Quaker ecumenism. Tragically, Quakers eventually ignored the warnings of Mott and others, developing ecumenical ties with non-evangelical Quakers. Click here for my blog about Edward Mott, in which I included the following quote:

“Edward Mott, who was a leading minister and teacher in [Northwest Yearly Meeting] for many years earlier in [the twentieth century], strongly and bitterly opposed any moves toward ecumenical contacts or fellowship among what were then much more fragmented groups of Friends. In his memoir, Sixty Years of Gospel Ministry, published in the late 1940s, he insisted, as he had for decades, that such efforts “cannot have the blessing of the Lord upon them.” In fact, he insisted that “The attempt to fellowship and work with unbelievers [which is what he considered other Friends to be–Ed.] spells death. Any conclusion to the contrary is ruinous to all concerned.”

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