Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Horses and Carts, Chickens and Eggs

I may have been on Mars for the past few years, but it is only very recently that I have come across the fact of people calling themselves NonTheist Friends, with their siblings the Theist Friends. Apparently, there has been conflict in some Meetings over the issue of whether one believes in God or not while acting after the manner of a Quaker.

Oh my. I hope that I am not asked whether I am a theist or non-theist Quaker.

One of the brilliant innovations in George Fox’s inspiration was that doctrine is not truth, regardless of content. I believe that he even said “stay with the experience of the life within you, and this will free you from a dependence on words.” (from Rex Ambler’s Truth of the Heart)

Yes, I understand that Fox was steeped in the theist traditions and that the vocabulary and interest of the early Quakers was rooted in Jesus and the Scriptures. But none of them defined what they meant by God, while all of them rejected the notion of a creed or a formal declaration of the content of one's belief, as far as I know.

So my experience says to me that to be or not to be Non/Theist is a matter of taste, since we have no idea what the words actually mean anyway. Since they are a description of experience, the words come later, it seems to me. If at all.

I do not aim to be divisive here, nor to be flip. I am actively concerned by Quakers who change focus from experience to conceptual doctrine.

I am neither a theist nor a non-theist Quaker, nor am I agnostic, nor atheist. I do not reject the idea of divinity - though I am also pretty sure that I cannot accept many, if not most, of the commonly used descriptions of God.

All these are just words.

What's beyond the words? Talk to me about that.

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