Recently, I posted about “An Apology for the True Christian Divinity.” Written by Robert Barclay, this was the first orderly presentation of early Quaker beliefs. Early Quakers were deeply Christian while many later Quakers drifted from Christ into subjectivism.
One of my readers left a comment wondering why later Quakers left their Christian roots. I suggested that the way Quakers viewed scripture and the Spirit’s revelation may have contributed.
Propositions II and III of “An Apology” deal with how we know God. Barclay places the Spirit’s revelation above scripture but says the Spirit will never reveal anything contrary to scripture. For what it’s worth, I thought I’d share my views on the Spirit and scripture.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “in the multitude of counsellers there is safety” (KJV). God has given us a multitude of counselors so that we may know Him and remain in safety. Scripture and the Spirit are two of those counselors. The church contains many counselors throughout time. We can speak with those who live and experience past voices through writings, songs, or art.
Scripture also tells us to establish everything by two or three witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1). Multiple witnesses/counselors provide checks and balances as we know God. Scripture can be misinterpreted. Just think about the devil quoting scripture to Jesus in the desert. Paul tells us the scriptures are veiled unless the Holy Spirit removes that veil (2 Cor. 3:15-18).
We can also remember Jeremiah’s exchange with the false prophet Hananiah (Jer. 28). Under some spiritual influence or other, Hananiah prophesied that God would break the yoke of Babylon and return the temple furnishings. Jeremiah retorts, “Amen! I hope you’re right. But every prophet for the last few hundred years has predicted disaster for Judah.” Jeremiah answered Hananiah based on prophecies he read in scripture.
If you were on a road with drop-offs on both sides, you’d want guard rails all around. If, like the Quakers, you lessen one of God’s witnesses, it’s like saying, “Eh, we don’t need both guard rails. One is enough.” Right there, you’ve lost the safety a multitude of counselors provides.
Most importantly, these counselors all point to the same One: Christ.
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me (John 5:39).
When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me (John 15:26)
For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:5).
For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2)
I could go on but I’m sure I don’t need to. You get the point. OK, just one more 😉
This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God (1 John 4:2-3).
No one lays it down quite like John.
We all have our favored counselors–tradition, scripture, the Spirit…. Just remember they are all pointing us to Jesus. But when tradition points to tradition it becomes an empty way of life we inherited (1 Peter 1:18). When scripture points to scripture, it becomes the dead letter (2 Cor. 3:6). And John already told us the spirit who doesn’t confess Jesus isn’t the Spirit of God.
So let’s not look askance at our many witnesses. Instead, as Hebrews 12 says, let’s surround ourselves with witnesses and look to Jesus just as they are.