The Holy Spirit and the Quakers

Part V - Soteriology - the Doctrine of Salvation
Chapter 27 - The Holy Spirit

The Spirit is crucial in our salvation (soteriology).
The Puritans affirmed the "full deity and personality of the Spirit" (420) with the early church (see Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 9).
The Spirit brings us to the Father, equipping Jesus in His ministry of humiliation and exaltation.

One of the appointed means of grace the Spirit uses for us to connect with God.  To attempt to access the Spirit directly without such means (Bible reading, fellowship, sacraments) is unwise.
We have an "allergic reaction to God's presence" in our sinful nature, so only by the Spirit will we come to Him at all.
The Spirit helps us pray (Romans 8:26-27).  Not that we are totally passive; Owen said the Spirit "is the fire that kindles all our sacrifices to God" (428).  This led many Puritans to reject form and written prayers, especially as the Book of Common Prayer was imposed upon them.

In the 1650s, the Quakers grew in number.  They disdained academics, asserted a divine spark in every person based on John 1:9, and the Spirit's direct work apart from means of grace, which the Puritans emphasized.  "The Spirit... is greater than the words" of Scripture (434).

Owen's criticism

  • Their tremblings weren't necessarily evidence of the Spirit's presence, but gave them "an un-son-like frame" (435).  They discarded the sacraments, since they pointed to the objective work of Christ.  Their focus was inward, not on that work.
  • They had the Spirit exalting His own work, while Scripture says He exalts Christ.
  • They don't call Scripture the word of God, wanting to reserve that for Jesus; but Scripture calls itself the word often.
  • Quakers treat Scripture as Rome does, making something else ultimate, whether a magisterium (Rome) or individual interpretation/conscience (Quakers).  Rome is right that there must be authorized public interpreters of the Word, not just anyone who wants to speak/preach.
  • They reject exposition and commentaries, but God has given us reason to best make use of the Word given us.
  • Scripture is the perfect and final rule for our obedience, not the inner light in us.  The inner light idea rejects the radical fall into spiritual blindness, as the Bible describes it.  The inner light was the Spirit, Quakers often said, but He is not given to all men, as they assert the inner light is.  The saving light is given by the Word as well as by the Spirit.

The Puritans insisted on the Word and Spirit working together.  Prayers apart from the Spirit are useless.  The Spirit without the Word leads us into mysticism.

My thoughts
Many evangelicals are functional Quakers today, if we go with the definition given here.  They agreed God revealed Himself in the Bible, but also wanted to insist God reveals Himself to us apart from the Bible directly by the Spirit.  It is common for Christians to talk this way, and we should affirm that God leads and guides us by the Spirit in the present.  But we shouldn't take this as revelation that we can impose upon or disrupt others with, or that competes with Scripture in any way.

No comments:

Post a Comment