Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quaker Perspectives Wanted

Wess Daniels in Gathering in Light  mentions that Jez Smith from the British Quaker magazine “The Friend” is looking for a variety of Quaker perspectives on a few questions. He asks us to read this and consider helping him out-

Just what is the World Family of Friends? From 3-5 September Quakers from Britain Yearly Meeting, Ireland Yearly Meeting, Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting will be exploring this question through worship, workshops, activities and fellowship at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, UK.
The participating Friends will be bringing their own connections to many of the Yearly Meetings and worship groups around the world. But I would like to add some more perspectives to share with participants and to share online as a resource for other Friends who want to explore this starter question. To facilitate this, I would appreciate it if anyone would take the time to answer the following questions:
  • a. Why are you a Quaker?
  • b. How are you a Quaker?
  • c. Please give an example of how a Meeting for Worship is conducted in your tradition.
Ideally please keep to a word count of around 800-1,000 but any length of response will be accepted. Please also give me your name and Meeting details. A photo would be great too. Email to If you prefer to video your response, or have photos online that would help with your response, please email links to uploaded material to the same address. Initial deadline for material for the course is 2 September 2010 but earlier submissions appreciated!

Here's my response:

Why am I a Quaker?

I am a Quaker because when I was in high school I went to county-wide Youth For Christ meetings at Garden Grove Friends Church in Southern California.  Fast-forwarding a few years, I found myself looking for a church to attend and while browsing through the phone book came across Garden Grove Friends.  I was curious about what a "Friends Church" might be since I had grown up in various Baptist churches. 

There I discovered something very different from what I had grown up with.  The forms of worship in this meeting were familiar because it was programmed worship, but the people I encountered there knew God in a way that was new to me.  God was present.  Jesus was teaching his people.  So I stayed.  As I discovered other things about Friends - our way of doing business, our understanding of ministry and the testimony of equality - I realized that I belonged among Friends.

How am I a Quaker?
I am a Quaker who continues to be amazed at how the first generation of Friends broke through the forms and structures of the church of their day and discovered a way of living almost totally in the presence of Jesus Christ. 
I am a Quaker in a programmed meeting who enjoys and gains from unprogrammed times of worship. 
I am a Quaker who is part of a stream of people extending back to biblical times who have experienced the revelation of God in many ways and forms.  I am a Quaker who learns from George Fox, Margaret Fell, William Penn, Robert Barclay, John Woolman, Elias Hicks, Joseph John Gurney, Rufus Jones, Elton Trueblood and the many contemporary voices expressing Quaker faith.
I am a Quaker who understands Quaker faith as an expression of Christian faith.

Worship in my tradition-
I enjoy being part of the programmed tradition of Friends.  Singing, group prayer and preaching are valuable elements of worship for me. We have times of unstructured waiting as well, and I personally would like to move more in this direction.

How would you respond?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Did Jesus Become God?

Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ
A basic defining issue among Christians is the question of who Jesus is.  The Nicene Creed describes Jesus as
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.1
The creed describes Jesus as unique, eternal, true God and one in being with the Father.
One of the widely circulated ideas about this description is that it was late in coming.  The argument is that the first generation of Christians did not have this understanding of Jesus, but that it was developed in the second and third centuries in order to either consolidate church power, justify burning heretics, or encourage military expeditions (or all three).

Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski argues that, based on what the first generation of Jesus' followers have written, they understood Jesus in the way he is described in the Nicene creed.  They argue convincingly that "the deity of Christ is . . . a major theme throughout the New Testament."

The book is a very readable and thorough treatment.  The material is organized around an acronym developed by one of the authors - "Jesus shares the HANDS of God:
Honors:  Jesus shares the honors due to God.
Attributes:  Jesus shares the attributes of God.
Names:  Jesus shares the names of God.
Deeds:  Jesus shares in the deeds that God does.
Seat:  Jesus shares the seat of God's throne."

The authors cite numerous biblical passages and discuss various issues of interpretation in making their case.  They do a good job of dealing with contemporary biblical scholarship and provide a wealth of references for further study in the endnotes and bibliography.

There are two questions that can be raised about this argument for the deity of Christ-

First, can we rely on the New Testament texts to know what Jesus did and what his followers believed?  I think we can.  There are many resources that present good arguments for the reliability of the material we have.  One recent example is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham.

The other question has to do with whether those first Christians were even able to give a clear picture of what Jesus was about.  Perhaps they were confused or self-deluded (or, in some scenarios, even intentionally misleading).  A New Testament introduction such as An Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo is a good place to start in sorting out those issues.

Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ  is a very helpful approach to understanding who Jesus is.