Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Through flaming sword

I have been writing this blog for 2 ½ years. I have enjoyed the writing and the exchanges in the comments. Every once and a while, it brings me a surprise. This fall I received one of these in my inbox. It was a query from the good folks at Barclay Press as to whether I would be interested in receiving a copy of their reissue of Through Flaming Sword which is Arthur Roberts biography of George Fox. They assured me that I would be under no obligation to review the book. Judging from the mentions of this book that I have seen on other blogs, I would hazard a guess that I am not the only person to have received such a query. Apparently this is how viral marketing is done among Friends.

I am glad that I accepted the offer because I enjoyed reading the book. The biography was a useful, easily read introduction to the life of Fox. The part that grabbed my interest was the section on the legacy of George Fox where Roberts discusses the holiness tradition among early Friends. Growing up as I did among liberal Friends I had tended to view holiness as something that had swept over 19'th century Friends and somehow subverted the Quaker movement. Roberts made Quaker holiness understandable to me. He also showed me that it has been at the heart of Quakerism from the beginning.

As Roberts explains it, holiness is the idea that justification and sanctification are heart of the religious life. It is the work of Christ within us that actually makes us holy. This may happen over time, but eventually we are made perfect and holy by God. This was the part of Barclay that made my heart sing. It is the part of Quakerism that I would like to see liberal Friends recover. It is just that I had never known to put the name of Holiness on that doctrine. So I was a bit gobsmacked to see an Evangelical friend declaring this to be the heart of Quakerism and something that had been preserved in their branch of Quakerism. This confirmed my belief that Friends need to spend more time talking with each other. The different strains of Quakerism are holding on to different pieces of what had been a unified whole. I think that silent worship is a unique gift of Friends to Christianity. But it loses some of its transformative power without the idea of holiness. With holiness, Meeting for Worship becomes more than just a quiet hour of reflection, it becomes a tool whereby the Spirit of God can work in us to bring us along the road to perfection or holiness. I understand how Hannah Whitehall Smith could have heard holiness preached and thought that it was just Quakerism in clearer language.

Reading this got me to start reading Carole Dale Spencer's more thorough and scholarly study of holiness, Holiness: the Soul of Quakerism. Before I would have thought that title a bit of a stretch. Now I am not so sure. I will at least have to finish her book before I can say.

Blessings to all,

Will T

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Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

I'm pleased with viral marketing among Quakers, if your reading this book was due to that; I've been looking for more to read on early Friends. This one sounds like it will be theologically challenging (for me) but perhaps rewarding, too. I'll put it on my list.

Incidentally, I have not forgotten that I have one of Lynn's books, The Quaker Bible Reader, on our shelf. I can certainly mail it back, but I am hoping to use it as an excuse to visit you both some afternoon this winter. Drop us a line at quakerpagan AT mac DOT com if you have ideas on when might be a good time for that... or if I should break down and buy some postage stamps.


December 29, 2008 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

It's interesting to see this appear on the Web on the same day as "Chronicler" Seth's posting on his own blog about holiness.

My understanding about the key difference between early Quakerism and the Holiness movement is that early Quakerism regarded holiness, or sanctification, as the fruit of the vine that is Christ/the Holy Spirit, and therefore, as something that ripened slowly during a continuing practice of obedience; the Holiness movement, on the other hand, thought of holiness, or sanctification, as a gift that came suddenly at the moment one truly accepted Jesus.

Hannah Whitall Smith, one of the leaders in the early Quaker Holiness movement, was a prime example of someone who rejected the early Quaker view of holiness in favor of the Holiness movement's view. She came back from her conversion to Holiness, instantly committed to living a changed life. Early Friends would not have viewed this as sanctity, but only as the beginning of the road, and they would have marked further stages down the road such as the first call to speak in meeting, etc.

Is this how Arthur Roberts also sees it? Or if not, how does he see it? Your answer to this question may well decide whether I read Roberts's book or not!

December 29, 2008 10:31 AM  
Blogger Will T said...

Cat, don't buy stamps just yet. I am sure we can work something out.

If I were a better marketer I would just say buy the book and find out for yourself. Roberts does track holiness through the history of Friends up to the middle of the 20th Century. I cannot say what Roberts' view on whether holiness is a process or a sudden gift, but he does say that Fox considered sanctification and justification to be the same thing and that it occurred over time.

One of the things that I find interesting is that the Holiness revival among Friends came to them from the Methodists. But Wesley lifted his ideas on justification, sanctification and perfection from Barclay. This historical closeness may be why Friends took to Holiness so easily.


December 29, 2008 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey said...

Hi, Will!

Does Roberts really say that Wesley lifted his ideas on justification, sanctification, and perfection from Barclay? I'm startled, since Wesley himself denied it.

Wesley wrote A Letter to a Person Lately Joined with the People Called Quakers, in which he critiqued Barclay's theology< and declared "wherein it agrees with, and wherein it differs from, Christianity." His seventh point, which you may read for yourself on line here, began by quoting Barclay's words, "As many as receive the light, in them is produced a holy and spiritual birth, bringing forth holiness, righteousness, purity, and all other blessed fruits. By which holy birth, as we are sanctified, so we are justified." Wesley commented, "Here is a wide difference between Quakerism and Christianity. This is flat justification by works. ... The ground of this mistake is, the not understanding the meaning of the word justification. For Robert Barclay takes it in the same sense as the Papists do, confounding it with sanctification. So in page 208 of his 'Apology', he says, in express terms, 'Justification, taken in its proper signification, is making one just; and is all one with sanctification.'"

Friend Wilmer Cooper returned Wesley's compliment in his book A Living Faith: Historical and Comparative Study of Quaker Beliefs, 2nd edn. (1990, 2001), pp. 85-86: "...There is an important difference between Friends and other Christian groups at this point, for Friends do not make a distinction between justification and sanctification in the redemptive process. They believe that one is not fully justified before God until one is sanctified — that is, brought into holy obedience and spiritual unity with God. Likewise, Friends have taken issue with Wesley's first and second work of grace to effect justification and sanctification following conversion." (Etc.)

Wesley did owe some debts to Barclay, and to Fox and early Friends generally, but I wouldn't have thought to number his views on justification and sanctification among them. And frankly, having read Wesley's tract on Christian perfection, and compared it with the writings of early Friends, I wouldn't say there is much real kinship there, either.

It's all very strange, at least to me.

Anyway, thanks for trying to answer my question. I guess I'll have to read the book myself, but I don't feel any need to do so right away!

December 29, 2008 3:48 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

I don't think that Roberts claims that Wesley lifted ideas from Barclay and I can easily have misremembered exactly what it was that was lifted. This is what comes from having a discussion about one book while I am in the midst of reading another on the same topic.

I have seen the claim before that Wesley lifted much Barclay but what I was referring to immediately was comments in Carole Dale Spencer's book Holiness: The Soul of Quakerism. Specifically, she says that it was Barclay's formulation of perfection that served as the basis of Wesley's development of the stages of sanctification.

So I will leave the strangeness of this as an exercise for any reader who is interested in plumbing the relationship between Methodism and Quakerism.

Will T

December 30, 2008 1:05 PM  
Blogger Tom Smith said...

With regard to Holiness, I wonder if there is any connection with the Central Yearly Meeting of Friends (mainly in Indiana, but meetings in other states as well.)

I would think there is a great deal of difference between EFI and Central YM.

December 30, 2008 8:30 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

I don't know much about Central Yearly Meeting. Their web page indicates that they consider themselves part of the Holiness movement. They say that they were founded in 1926 out of dissatisfaction with the tendencies of other yearly meetings. (This is a wonderful turn of phrase in the finest Quaker tradition of letting the reader know that something happened but giving no clue as to what it was. :^) I have the impression that dissatisfaction with the tendencies of other yearly meetings is a common condition among Friends of all persuasions. )

They do not appear to be affiliated with any of the Friends umbrella groups. If anyone out there can provide more information about Central Yearly Meeting (the one in Indiana and not the one in Kenya) I would appreciate it.

Will T.

December 31, 2008 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey said...

Central YM and Guatemala YM belong to the Holiness branch of Quakerism, which is a distinct branch alongside EFI, FUM, Conservative Friends, and unprogrammed liberal Friends.

No, they are not like EFI. Their yearly meetings are dominated by tent-revival preaching and singing; and they use tents for the purpose.

Holiness Friends are as outwardly old-fashioned, in their own way, as Ohio (Conservative) Friends; if you go to their meetings, you will find no one in jeans, shorts, or short-sleeved shirts: the men wear suits, the women full dresses, all very plain, and because their meetings are not air-conditioned they change clothes several times a day.

All this information I get from a couple of Friends who've visited their meetings; I've never done so myself.

December 31, 2008 2:20 PM  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Arthur Roberts wrote an article entitled "Holiness and Christian Renewal" in the Spring 1967 issue of Quaker Religious Thought. I can't tell for certain, but it does appear that he believes that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an instantaneous thing. I think part of the reason I have trouble finding a place where he talks about sanctification being instantaneous or gradual is that he says "The baptism with the Holy Spirit is a more Biblical term than "entire sanctification" or "Christian perfection" and this better describes divine grace experientially known. I can't find anything that contradicts the early Friends' view of a gradual process.

Carolw Spencer also wrote in QRT (#90) on the Holiness movement and the Quakers. She isn't very complimentary of the current Quaker Holiness movement:

"The Fundamentalist leavening of the Holiness Movement has muted the social witness of Evangelical Quakers (including the peace testimony) and undermined the leadership of women. Furthermore, Fundamentalism has shifted Evangelical Quaker theology to a doctrinaire, rationalistic system, and a bibliocentric (rather than Christocentric) spirituality completely alien to the Quaker tradition."

I really wish there had been responses to Carole Spencer's article. I am pretty sure Arthur Roberts would have taken exception to some of that.

With love,

December 31, 2008 4:59 PM  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I hope you will post a review of Carole Spencer's book on Holiness when you are done. I just read 3 reviews of it in QRT and they were all pretty positive. One thing Steve Angell wished for was a wider range of people involved. For example, she focuses on Hannah Whitall Smith for the Holiness Revival, but Steve says "she was far from the scene of most of the revivalistic action during the decades when the Holiness Revival was at its height among Quakers in the Midwest and elsewhere in North America."

January 01, 2009 11:00 PM  

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