Friends and Other Faiths
by Otto B. van der Sprenkel
ABOUT THIS PAMPHLET:This document began as an address to Australia Yearly Meeting in 1971. It was
published that year, and reprinted twice. It was then lightly
- This is the text of the
Ninth James Backhouse Lecture given in Canberra at
Australia Yearly Meeting, January 7, 1973, and published by
Friends at the same time.
This second, North American, edition, came into
being when the Quaker Universalist Fellowship went looking
for expressions of universalist perspectives in Quaker
writings from sources other than Britain and North America.
The text has been lightly revised, to make it
more "reader friendly" in North America. But the use
of masculine terms to represent all people, the norm
when the address was given, has not been changed to reflect
the practice of the 1990s.
Pamela van der Sprenkel, the authors widow,
has participated in the creation of this North American edition.
Friends and Other Faiths
Among the implications of my title is the
following: that Friends themselves have a faith or system of
beliefs that can usefully be compared or contrasted with
other faiths. I shall begin by examining this assumption.
It is well known that the Society of Friends is
non-credal. This of course does not mean either that
Friends, theologically speaking, are committed to no beliefs at
all; or, conversely, that they will believe anything. What it
means is that our Society does not require acceptance of a set
of propositions, purporting to formulate Quaker belief, as
a test of membership. In fact the very concept of
membership was unknown to early Friends, and the practice of
recording people as members of a particular group of Friends,
either at a national or local level, began only in
1737.(1) Today we have become reconciled to the idea and fact of
official membership and have even laid down procedures
regulating its acquisition, transfer and
dissolution.(2) But all this we tolerate purely as a matter of practical convenience.
No Friend would be found to dispute the view that, not
an external sign, but an inward commitment, is the true
test of belonging.
How then did one join Friends when there was no
such thing as formal membership? A beautiful answer was
given to this question by Richard Claridge, around the year
1697, recounting his own experience. It well bears quotation.
This was the way Friends used with me, when I was convinced of truth, they came oftentimes
to visit me; and sate and waited upon the Lord in silence with me; and as the Lord opened
our understandings and mouths, so we had very
sweet and comfortable seasons together. They did not ask me questions about this or the other
creed, or about this or the other controversie in
religion; but they waited to feel that living Power to
quicken me, which raised up Jesus from the dead. And
it pleased God so in his wisdom to direct, that
all the great truths of the Christian religion
were occasionally spoken to. Now this was Friends
way with me, a way far beyond all rules and
methods established by the wisdom of this world, which
is foolishness with God. And this is their way
with others that are convinced of the truth.
Moving on two and a half centuries from the time
of Richard Claridge, we find the Friends World Conference
in 1952 laying it down that the test for membership
should not be doctrinal agreement, nor adherence to
certain testimonies, but evidence of sincere seeking and
striving for the Truth, together with an understanding of the
lines along which Friends are seeking the
Is it possible to reconcile this position with the
view that an identifiable Quaker Faith is to be found in
the Society of Friends? Certainly there are some who
would answer this question with a decided No. Calvin Keene,
in his essay in No Time But This Present entitled The
Society of Friends and World
Religions,(5) takes the view that modern Quakerism, like so many forms of modern
religion, is quite unable to define itself, at least among
"liberal" Friends (p. 82). He distinguishes, among liberal
Quakers, those who deny that Quakerism has any part in
Christianity [and] see its relationships, rather, with the
mystical religions of the East; others again who see in
Quakerism no religion at all, but a form of humanism concerned
with ethics and the improvement of the human lot; and
finally some who veer in every new wind of thought that
comes their way, and so move from Zen Buddhism to Vedantic
Hinduism to existentialism, and, more recently, to
the theme of Honest to God (p. 83).
Hence, when we speak of contemporary Friends we are discussing an amorphous
body concerning which it is not possible safely to
generalize. Clearly, it is equally impossible to discuss the relation
of such a body, already at sixes and sevens with itself, to
other religions; and Keene understandably abandons his task
in despair, limiting himself to a few pages on
original Quakerism and how early Friends regarded
other Christians, and heathen.
But have we really to take so pessimistic a view of
the present generation of Friends? Or even of the liberals
among us? Is it really impossible to identify guiding threads
in contemporary Quaker belief? I cannot think so. We do
not insist on doctrinal agreement or that every Friend
should give his adherence to every testimony advanced by
some, or most, of his fellow Friends. But there is in practice
a broad consensus in the Society about what we see as
basic beliefs, especially belief in the primacy of
religious experience, and in the content of that experience (no
matter how we choose to formulate it, or what concepts we
find best suit our needs as we do so).
There is, of course, a large measure of
agreement among Friends on practical issues; many concerns
are widely shared. And I suspect that even in theological
matters for example, Friends attitude toward, and use of, the
Bible there may be more discoverable common ground than
is sometimes thought to exist. It is a matter of record
that Quakerism has a more than respectable
theological literature. You will remember in the quotation from
Richard Claridge, that though creeds and controversies
were avoided, nevertheless all the great truths of the
Christian religion were occasionally spoken to. Theological
discussion, therefore, was not wholly eschewed; and Claridge
himself later became one of Quakerisms prominent theologians.
It is necessary at this point to refer to the
so-called duality that undoubtedly exists in historical
Quakerism, and see where we stand in relation to it. This duality
arises from the presence in our tradition of two rival views:
first, the evangelical Christocentric position that
stresses Christs supernatural character and salvific role,
and correspondingly emphasizes sin and mans
helplessness, and his salvation as dependent upon specific belief;
and second, the doctrine of the Inner Light.(6)
The evangelical position, in its most literal form
at least, has, to my mind, more historic than
actual significance in the Society of Friends today. On the
other hand, like many theological statements, it is open
to demythologizing reinterpretation. And further, be it
not forgotten that the spiritual experience underlying
the evangelical position has necessarily much in common
with that which finds expression in our recognition of the
However this may be, I propose to confine myself
here to the second view, whose central teaching is that there
is that of God in-dwelling in every man, knowable
from experience, and able to instruct us as to Gods
purposes and our duties.
The existence of the Inner Light is not susceptible
of scientific proof. Our certainty of its presence, in
ourselves and in all mankind, is the fruit of personal and
corporate religious experience. Such experience, it can hardly
be repeated often enough, is at the root of all Quaker belief.
Insofar as my subject is Friends and other faiths,
the decision to take spiritual experience and the Inner
Light, rather than evangelical Christocentrism, as a point
of departure, is a fateful one. For while the evangelical
position relates those who accept it, formally and in a rather defined
way, to the theological stance of most of the churches
of the Christian communion, the experiential position
favors a much more flexible relationship to other Christian
bodies, and, in addition, throws out bridges to the
To define the place of Friends, both within the
confines of Christendom, and beyond them in relation to the
other world religions, and indeed non-religions, we had best
begin by looking at some of the theological consequences
that follow from the full doctrine of the Inner Light. The first
of these is its universality: the belief that there is that
of God not in a few, or in some, but in all men.
Robert Barclay set out this teaching for us most
plainly in his Apology,(7) Propositions V and VI, Of Universal
and Saving Light, paragraphs 25 and 26. He is concerned
to prove that it is by light, seed, or grace that God works
the salvation of all men; and in particular that by the
working and operation of this, many have been, and some may
be, saved, to whom the gospel hath never been
outwardly preached, and who are utterly ignorant of the outward
history of Christ (pp.174-5). This part of his argument is
especially interesting as it poses the question of the condition of
the countless generations that lived before the Christian
era, as well as of those who lived later but in parts of the world
to which, in their time, the Christian message had
Barclay, as is his wont, supports his case by
adducing scriptural texts, in this case Titus 2:11, The grace of
God, that brings salvation, hath appeared to all men;
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we
should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.
His comment is, ...than which there can be nothing
more clear. He goes on to consider objections, and answers
them. One of these, which he calls the great objection, is
much to our purpose, and runs as follows: If it be objected
that there is no name under heaven by which salvation
is known, but by the name "Jesus," therefore they
(not knowing this) cannot be saved. Barclay answers,
Though they know it not outwardly, yet they know it inwardly,
by feeling the virtue and power of it... they are saved by it:
I confess there is no other name to be saved by. But
salvation lieth not in the literal but in the experimental
knowledge. Those that have the literal knowledge are not saved by
it, without this real experimental knowledge. Yet those
that have the real knowledge may be saved without the
external (pp. 184-5). The great importance of this passage
lies especially in Barclays reiterated use of the
word experimental, by which he means founded on
experience. It is also significant that he uses experimental
as equivalent to real.
A page or so later he takes up the odd argument
that if... this outward knowledge... were even of the
essentials of salvation, then how could deaf persons be saved?
And yet, he continues, our adversaries deny not, but
readily confess, that many deaf persons are saved without it.
And so Barclay concludes, But if this charity be extended
toward [deaf persons] who are where the gospel is preached,
so that they may be judged capable of salvation, because
they are under a simple impossibility of distinctly knowing
the means of salvation; what reason can be alleged why
the like charity may not be had to such, as though they
can hear, yet are under a simple impossibility of
hearing, because it is not spoken unto them? Is not a man in
China, or in India, as much to be excused for not knowing a
thing which he never heard of, as a deaf man here, who
cannot hear? For as the deaf man is not to be blamed, because God
has been pleased to suffer him to lie under this
infirmity; so is the Chinese or the Indian as excusable, because
God hath withheld from him the opportunity of hearing (pp.
So in spite of never having heard the gospel
outwardly preached and having no eternal knowledge of
Christs history, the Chinese and the Indian can yet, in the
words of Titus 2:11, deny ungodliness and live
soberly, righteously, and godly by virtue of the universality of
Gods in-dwelling in every member of the human race. This is
in truth a bridge from Quaker Christianity to the
non-Christian world religions, and an acknowledgment not
only of the universality of the spirit but of the solidarity
This teaching, when proclaimed by early
Friends, aroused the hostility of many other Christians. The
reasons for this opposition are obvious, and some of them persist.
In the first place, this doctrine strongly favors
an optimistic view of human nature one that has more
in common with the position of Mencius than with that
of, say, Calvin. It encourages the opinion that
human perfectibility is a not unattainable
goal.(9) A corollary of seeing human nature as God-infused is that the
doctrine of original sin is either rejected or, at least,
devalued. Thomas Clarkson, in his excellent Portrait of
Quakerism (1806), writes: The Quakers scarcely ever utter the
words "Original Sin," because they never find them in use in
the sacred writings.(10) This is one ground why Friends avoid
a phrase whose implications are so inconsistent with
the teaching of the Inner Light.
There is a second reason. If we believe that
a participation in the divine spirit is, and has been, and
will be the birthright of every man that cometh into the
world, from the beginning of history on, we are bound to look
at the doctrine of the Incarnation in a very different light from
that in which it is traditionally regarded. The
unique historical event of Christs coming in the flesh as a
sacrifice for our sins in Gods plan for our salvation then
appears either as a work of supererogation, or as a mystery
that needs to be demythologized if its message is to be
We may turn now to a second theological
consequence that follows from the doctrine of the Inner Light, a
concept which I would like to call Quaker humanism. If we
accept that our human nature is God-infused, and that there
is indeed that of God in all men, it would appear that we
are committed to a position which is both optimistic
and humanistic. Nevertheless, in whatever way we may
decide to interpret the word God in the last sentence, our
position remains an inescapably religious one.
May I quote here some words from David Hodgkin
which I have found useful. "Conceptions such as God are by
their very nature so intangible, that words must fail... The
idea of God as ground of being is meaningful for many
Friends, but for most, this would not conflict with Jesus saying:
God is spirit.[John 4:24] All these expressions avoid
any personalization of God, but I, at least, cannot refer to
him as a non-personal God. . . One thing is certain. I am
not speaking of a man-centered religion, or even of one
where God is made in mans image. It is very much a
God-centered religion, but centered toward a God who is not cramped
by definitions which will satisfy some, but estrange
others; toward the God each of us finds in his own
experience."(11) Quaker humanism, then, far from rejecting or
excluding God, sees our inward experience of divine leading as
critical to our understanding of mans humanity, and of his
potential for good.
I should now like to examine some analogies to
this view that I find in the teachings of Confucius and
Mencius. These teachings are certainly not identical with
those received by us; but they contain, I believe, insights of
value to Christians.
A passage of fundamental importance in the
Confucian Analects is the following, which may be considered a
kind of spiritual autobiography.
The Master said:
At fifteen, I set my mind upon wisdom.
At thirty, I had planted my feet firmly on the ground.
At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities.
At fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven,
At sixty, I heard them with a docile ear.
At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired,
for what I desired no longer overstepped the bounds
What seems to me to be notable in this passage
is, first, that it describes a moral progression from youth
to sagehood; second, that this progression is achieved
by purposeful and unremitting activity on the part of
Confucius himself; and third, that throughout his life he seems
to have been looking within as well as without, seeking
to know the Will of Heaven, and striving, with
increasing success, to shape his life in conformity with it.
How was he able to do this? Friends might reply,
By answering that of God within him. Though a
Chinese response might be differently phrased, I believe the
sense conveyed would be close to ours .(13)
The moral philosopher who tried to give a
precise answer to this question was Mencius, foremost disciple
of Confucius.(14) His name is generally associated with the
teaching that men are by nature good. What in fact
he taught was that all men are born with a potential
for goodness that is part of their quality as men, and that it
is this that differentiates us from the rest of brute
creation. That whereby man differs from the birds and the beasts
is but slight. The common man casts it away, but the
superior man preserves it.[IV B. 19:1]
Mencius is at pains to make it clear that he
regards this potential as an original part of mans genetic
makeup: It is not fused into us from without; we originally
possess it.[VI A. 6:7]
This is all very different from how orthodox
Christianity sees the human condition. Consider, for example
the following sentences taken from the Dutch Catholic
Our destiny is outlined by something that is part of our common but free
responsibility-sin... Christian faith teaches that man is of
himself totally incapable of effecting his own deliverance. Contact with our foundation,
God, has been broken off by sin, and we cannot reestablish it without him... But Jesus
raises us up from our impotence by the gift of his Spirit, which contains a new birth:
the conquest of sin, life with God and salvation
out of death.
To a Confucian-minded Chinese who, not
knowing about original sin and fallen humanity, would be
mystified by the notion of needing a Savior to do things for him
that he felt completely capable of doing for himself.
Confucianism is in no sense a redemptive religion, but rather
one concerned to encourage men to move from moral potentiality to moral realization. It is because
Mencius taught that all of us possess a human nature that makes
that kind of movement entirely possible provided
always we have the will to undertake it that he is credited
with teaching that mans nature is originally good.
Mencius teaches that all men are naturally
endowed with what he calls the four beginnings
(ssu tuan). He called them beginnings because each of them corresponds to
a virtue of which it is the seed, the germ, or the
initial growing point; and into which it can be developed if
properly tended, cared for and nourished.
The four beginnings (potential goodness) and
the virtues into which they can grow (realized goodness)
are described in a famous passage of Mencius" writings
From the feelings proper to it, mans nature is constituted for the practice of good. This is
what I mean by saying it is good. If a man does
what is bad, that is not the fault of his original endowment. Every man has a feeling
of Compassion distress at the sufferings of others; a feeling of Shame for his
own shortcomings; and Dislike for the bad
actions of others; a sense of Courtesy and Deference
to others; and a sense of Right and Wrong. From mans feeling of compassion comes
the principle of Love or human-heartedness; from his feeling of shame and dislike comes
the principle of Righteousness; from his sense of courtesy and deference comes the principle
of Propriety; and from his sense of right and
wrong comes Wisdom.
These four principles are not fused into us
from without. We possess them within ourselves.
But we do not always consciously reflect on them. This is why it is said, Seek and you will
you have them; disregard them and you will lose them. These are instances where
one man is twice, five times or countless times better than another man, but this is
only because some of us fail to make the best of
our native endowment. (15)
A few words of comment on the four beginnings
are in order.
The feeling of compassion arises out of what
Mencius calls the non-bearing heart (pu-jen chih
hsin), the heart that is unable to endure the sufferings of others. This
first movement of compassion, he says, is present in
all mankind. We can see it at work, for example, in
Friends" campaigns against slavery and for penal reform, as well
as in our peace testimony. It is interesting, too, to find
Howard Brinton writing: One basis for this doctrine of
the universality of the Light was the sensitivity of Quakers
to the suffering of others... Friends could not believe that
all men have not been given an equal chance by a God who
is love. If he sends his rain on the evil as well as the
good, why not also on the
It is easy to see why the beginning of
compassion should give rise to the virtue of
jen, a term that has been variously translated as love,
human-heartedness, benevolence, and even altruism. I must confess
my preference goes to the first or second of these. The
point, however, is that for Mencius the injunction love
one another has its ground in human nature itself; while
the sense of compassion, grown to positive love, is also
revealed as the strongest motive to moral action.
Shame and Dislike
The feelings of shame and dislike, particularly
the former, are strongly emphasized by Mencius, who
writes, A man must not be without shame, for the shame of
being without shame is shamelessness indeed. (VII A. 6)
Only when a man will not do some things is he capable of
doing great things. (IV B. 8)(17) The virtue in this case is
yi, generally translated as righteousness.
Courtesy and Deference
Lau translates the third beginning as the sense
of courtesy and deference. Other suggested equivalents
are modesty and complaisance (Legge), deference to
others (Dobson), and respect and reverence (Chan Wing-Tsi).
Laus gloss is very good. Courtesy and deference, he
writes, describe both a mans modesty, which does not allow
him to claim credit, and the courtesy that prompts him to
yield precedence to others. This is the basis of rules of
conduct in polite society. In a sense, this is a curb on ones
natural self-seeking tendencies.(18)
A quality can often be best described by naming
its opposite, in this case egotism. A respectable name
for egotism is enlightened self-interest; or less
respectably, Each for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.
Mencius is here affirming that present in our primal human
nature is a beginning that runs positively counter to egotism.
The virtue into which it can be developed
is li, a word that is commonly translated ritual. It has a wide range
of meanings in Chinese, with liturgy at one end of the
scale and good manners at the other. In the present
context, perhaps its best equivalent is propriety, denoting the
kind of behavior that is fitting to the occasion and to
all circumstances. It therefore denotes behavior that is
never entirely spontaneous, but always mannered. And
unless it has become what we call second nature to us, it is usually
preceded, however briefly, by some reflection. It has
some affinity, we might say, with what used to be known as
Right and Wrong
The fourth and last of the beginnings, the sense
of right and wrong, has two distinct meanings. It points
first to our ability to distinguish between right and wrong,
and second to an in-built predisposition in us to approve
the right and disapprove the wrong. The first indicates
the existence of an ethical consensus among us. The
second further asserts that an inclination to good is implanted
in our nature. Note that Mencius says nothing about
our necessarily practicing the good and rejecting the bad.
He says only that when we distinguish good from bad,
and nevertheless pursue the latter, we do so in full
awareness of its badness, and will inevitably feel remorse of
conscience at a result. Dr. Lau believes that in this way the
statement that human nature is good is given a sense which
is completely independent of the way in which human
beings in fact behave.(19) I think this is largely true, though I
have reservations about the word completely. But does
this reduce Mencius statement to nullity? Of course not.
What is important is that when we behave badly we should
know it, and feel badly about it. For only then are we likely to
do better next time. And this is what Mencius claims for
us.(20) It is fitting that the virtue into which this fourth
beginning can be developed should be chih,
Mencius lived in one of the most violent and
disorderly periods in Chinese history, known to her historians as
the Age of the Warring States. Far from living as a recluse
in an ivory tower, he spent the greater part of his life
traveling from court to feudal court, engaging in polemics with
rulers and with other philosophers, and advancing his views
on matters as diverse as family relationships, the organization
of society, democratic government, economics
and conservation, and mans capacity for moral growth. No
mans experience could have been less likely to give him
an idealized picture of human nature, and it is infinitely
to his credit that he never wavered in his belief in
mans potential for good.
Naturally there are fundamental differences
between the Mencean teaching of the four beginnings and
orthodox Christianity, which must set its face against every
notion of self-salvation. There are also differences
between Mencean teaching and our own doctrine of the Inner
Light. Are they too insurmountable? Mencius of course
feels himself under no necessity to account for the presence
of the four beginnings in our nature. He knows
by introspection and experience that they are there, and
from his practical standpoint this is enough. A man, he
believes, because he has these beginnings, can with their help
and with the help of other men and of the transmitted
wisdom of the sages accomplish his own salvation, that is, his
moral progress from potential to actual human goodness.
The intervention of no divine Being is needed either to
start him on the journey or sustain him on the way.
Nevertheless there are contexts when Mencius, like Confucius
before him, refers to Heaven. I cannot see why we should
have scruples about seeing his four beginnings as
corresponding closely to what we call that of God in all men. Can we
not, then, on many grounds, claim Mencius as an early Friend?
I should like now to turn to a different matter; to
turn, one might say, from belief to experience, from faith
The Quaker has sometimes been described as
a combination of mystic and practical man of affairs.
The second of these labels is hardly controversial, and I
will consider it later. The first merits prior discussion.
If mysticism is given its most inclusive meaning,
then there is no doubt that Friends are mystics. In his
Systematic Theology, Paul Tillich defines the mystical as a
category which characterizes the divine as being present
in experience.(21) However, mysticism, defined less broadly
and more radically, has other characteristics.
Radical mysticism is more typical of certain Asian religions
Hinduism, some forms of Buddhism, Taoism than
of Western religion. It finds its point of departure in the
I and concerns the innermost self, whose goal is
ecstatic union with, or absorption in, the One, the Absolute,
the Brahman, the Tao. Tillich writes of this radical form
of mysticism that it experiences the Spiritual Presence
as above its concrete vehicles and its various transformations... [Radical] mysticism transcends
every concrete embodiment of the divine... But for this
very reason, it is in danger of annihilating the centered self,
the subject of the ecstatic experience of the
Spirit. Communication between East and West is most difficult
at this point, with the East affirming a "formless self" as
the aim of a religious life, and the West... trying to preserve
in the ecstatic experience the subjects of faith and
love: personality and community.(22) The more extreme
Eastern types of radical mysticism are no less antipathetic
to Quakerism than they are to other Christian groups. In
this area we find no bridges linking East and West.
On the other hand, mystical experiences
of communion with the Spiritual Presence (to keep to
Tillichs phrase) have always held an honored place in
Western Christianity and of course in Quakerism. One has only to
read through the first hundred or so pages in
Christian Faith arid Practice, gathered under the heading
Spiritual experiences of Friends, to realize the vital
contribution mystical experience has made to the life of the Society.
We normally think of mystical experiences
as happening to individuals. Joachim Wach, in his
Sociology of Religion, argues that mysticism favors
individualism, and commends E. Underhills choice of the
term introversion to describe this type of experience. He
goes on to write: This interpretation of mysticism,
which emphasizes its individualistic character, differs from
that of another outstanding student of mystical religion and
life, Rufus Jones. He has traced with great sympathy
and understanding collective movements of mystical
tinge, especially in Germany and England during the Middle
Ages and in the beginning of modern times.(23)
Although Wach is prepared to admit that corporate mystical experience
is perfectly possible, he still maintains that even in the
groups [discussed by Rufus Jones] the individualistic
inclination of the mystic looms large... Mystical fellowship can but
be characterized, in a term Ernst Troeltsch coined, as
a "parallelism of
As a description of a gathered Friends meeting
for worship, Troeltschs phrase strikes one as ludicrously
wide of the mark. A more perceptive judgment, though
again from an outsider, is given by Evelyn Underhill in her
Historically, Quakerism may be considered as the mystical wing of the Puritan
movement. Here the intense Puritan suspicion of institutional worship is pushed to its
logical consequence, in the rejection of any
organized or premeditated service, even the use of hymns. This, however, is the negative and
attractive side of Quakerism. On its positive side, it is a noble experiment in
corporate contemplative prayer. A Quaker Meeting
does not merely provide a suitable environment, within which individuals can follow in
the silence their own devotional attrait [inclination]. It is if it be indeed a
living Meeting an organic and concerted act of recollection. In the silence the
whole community centers down to that ground of
the soul which is the agent of contemplative
prayer; and thus achieves a common experience of communion with God, and with each
This outside witness, however unattractive she
may find the drab setting of the meeting house and the lack
of liturgical color in the unprogrammed proceedings,
well brings out the corporate nature of Quaker
The next quotation, this time from an
insider, describes worship, not in the meeting house, but in
the home. In it Rufus Jones recalls his childhood in a
country Quaker community in Maine a century ago.
We never began a day without a family gathering at which mother read a chapter
of the Bible, after which there would follow a weighty silence... There was work inside
and outside the house waiting to be done, and yet we sat there hushed and quiet, doing nothing.
I very quickly discovered that something real was taking place. We were feeling our way down
to that place from which living words came, and very often they did come. Someone would
bow and talk with God so simply and quietly that
He never seemed far away. The words helped to explain the silence. We were now finding
what we had been searching for. (26)
A text that appeals greatly to all Friends is this: Be
ye doers of the word, and not hearers only
is this, To visit the fatherless and widows
in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from
the world. (James 1:22 & 27) Add to this another text
from Howard Brinton: In Quakerism there are two complementary movements, withdrawal to an inward
Source of Truth and return to action in the
In the light of these two quotations, I should like
now to consider Friends in action, as doers of the word, in
their operational rather than contemplative role.
This needs to begin with some discussion
of worldliness. You may have noticed that the word
world occurs in both the texts just quoted. In one we are told
to return to action in the world and in the other to
keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Up until
recently, worldliness was generally regarded by Christians as
sinful. As Dr. Vidler puts it, To be worldly in this bad sense is
to conform uncritically and complacently to the standards
and fashions of the earthly society of which one is inevitably
Today, worldliness is also used by an
increasing number of Christians in a good sense; and this
turnaround of meaning, which we owe largely to the influence
of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, reflects a veritable revolution
in Christian thinking.
In traditional terms, the world is seen as one of
an unholy trinity, the other members of which are the
flesh and the devil. What nonsense this makes of the testimony
of John that God so loved the world that he gave his
only begotten Son for its salvation, sending him into the
world, not to condemn the world, but to save it. (John
3:16-17). Bonhoeffers teaching on worldliness, which has
worked like a powerful leaven in contemporary Christian
thought, is found mainly in his Letters and Papers
written from Tegel Prison in the last two years of his life, before his death
on April 9, 1945, at the hands of Nazi
Bonhoeffers message is one to which Friends,
I believe, both can and should relate. He sees
Christianity, not as a redemptive religion, mainly concerned with
the salvation of souls for eternal life in another world after
death in this one, but as a religion whose essential business
is with this world as created and preserved and set subject
to laws and atoned for and made new.(30)
It is only by rooting himself firmly in the world and making the worlds
problems his concern that the Christian can be fully Christian.
But once in this world what has the Christian to do?
In attempting to answer this question and
bearing in mind that the context of both question and answer
is Friends and other faiths I shall speak to the
following topics: the task, allies, and the relations between
our actions and our beliefs.
The task of the Christian in the world today,
stated simply and bluntly, can surely be nothing else than
the bringing into existence of the Kingdom: My kingdom
come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matt.
6:10). Around these words of the Lords Prayer, seemingly so
clear and straightforward, disputes over interpretation
have divided theologians for many hundreds of years. I
propose to quote passages from more or less contemporary writers
to help elucidate their meaning. This is first from
Ernst Lohmeyers book, Das Vater-Unser, and concerns the
words Thy kingdom come.
Even since the first commentaries on the Lords Prayer there have been two
contrasting interpretations of this petition. One envisages
a gradual coming of the kingdom and an increasingly deep and extensive penetration of
it into the hearts of men
To use the New Testament picture, the kingdom develops in
men, in nations, in the whole world, through a
steady growth like the grain of mustard seed.
Although this growth is quite clearly in pursuance of
the will of God and is brought about by him, men
are still his co-workers... So the idea of the
kingdom of God becomes the ordering of moral or social
or religious life in accordance with the demands
of the Gospel of Jesus
The other interpretation envisages the
perfect kingdom of God at the end of time and
history, the regnum gloriae. It has not yet appeared
on earth, but it will come one day, and... will
manifest itself in great glory, will put an end to all
dispute and injustice, all evil and godless powers, and
exist eternally in peace and holiness.(31)
Of the two interpretations suggested here, the first
will probably be more intelligible, and acceptable, to Friends
than the second, though I myself have some reservations
about its emphasis on gradualism. In the 1970s eschatology
has acquired a new significance, and we seem not to have
so much time in hand as once we thought.
The second quotation comes from a collection
of occasional sermons preached at Zurich by Gerhard
Ebeling on the theme of the Lords Prayer in todays world. The
passage that follows is taken from the sermon on Thy
will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. After quoting this
text, he continues:
That means surely: may heaven come upon earth and the earth become heaven. May
the realm of hostility to God be broken, and the will
of God be manifestly done in us, and by us, and around us. Is that the spirit of
submissiveness? Is it not the spirit of revolution, compared
with which what we know as revolutionary spirit is
the most harmless romanticism? Jesus teaches no submission to world events. For how could
one declare war on what we call world events in sharper terms than by saying: Here on earth
Gods will is to be done as manifestly and
unopposedly as it is in heaven?(32)
To describe the Christians purpose in the world
as helping to bring in the kingdom of God on earth,
however valid a general statement, is open to criticism on a
number of counts: as being visionary, utopian, impractical
and, perhaps worst of all, vague. What we say in our own
Advices may help make the picture a little more precise: Do not
be content to accept things as they are... Seek to discover
the causes of social unrest, injustice and fear; and try to
discern the new growing points in social and economic life.
Work for an order of society which will allow men and women
to develop their capacities and will foster their desire to serve.
The task we set ourselves or are set is an
immense and daunting one. But we have certain things in our
favor. For instance, if we are standing for Truth, we have
Truth on our side. If we wish to recover and preserve an
unpolluted planet with standing room on it for the next generation,
we need to feel that we are not alone, that we have allies,
that the Light in others will answer to the Light in us, and we
All human populations can be divided into two
groups: those who are committed to the future and determined
to bring about a social order in which men created in
Gods image can hope to realize their full humanity; and
those who are not so committed. The former are our allies.
The latter the unawakened, the drugged, the new heathen
are our missionary field.
We must realize that we have allies all over the
world. Some of them are Christians and some adherents of
other religions. Some are without religious belief and
others perhaps even hostile to the very idea of religion. We do
not always know who our allies are. And even when we do
we are not always happy about recognizing them as
such, especially when they identify themselves as Marxists,
or Maoists. But we in the Society of Friends, a very
small minority even among committed Christians, have
to recognize and take comfort from the fact that we are part
of a great army on the march.
It is incontrovertible that in the Christian ranks
we form a distinct, almost a detached, company. In some
ways, as I have suggested earlier, our relations with our
non-Christian and non-religious friends are easier and
more open than with some of our Christian brethren. But let
me stay for a moment on the question of our relations
with other Christian groups.
Historically we belong to the second wave of
the Reformation, to the century following that of Luther,
the Council of Trent, Calvin and the first wave radicals
like the Anabaptist Thomas Munster, and Hendrik Niclaes,
the founder of the Family of Love.(33) If the earlier period
was dominated by Germany, Switzerland and France, the
second stood under the aegis of England. The historian
Emile Leonard stated an important truth when he said, The
English seventeenth century is entitled to a place in
the forefront of the general history of
Protestantism... elsewhere Church life was mainly the concern of
princes, councils, clergy and theologians, while in England
the popular masses. . .played a decisive
This active commonalty can be generally
characterized as puritan. The word was first used, mostly as a term
of abuse, in the 1570s, but by the 1600s it referred
primarily to the Calvinists and other Protestants of the left
wing(35) who, dissatisfied with the Elizabethan Reformation,
wanted its further purification. It is important to remember
that George Fox and the first generation of Quakers emerged
as a religious force in a turbulent period when the
political and social order as well as orthodox Protestantism
were under radical challenge. It has been well said
that Puritanism implied, rather than a creed, an attitude
of mind, a dynamic element in society which belongs to
all times.(36) Early Quakerism was a vital expression of
After the storm, the calm. In the eighteenth
century, writes Alec Vidler, the Society of Friends gradually
subsided, along with other dissenting bodies, into much the
same condition as the Established Church dry,
commonsensical, averse to "enthusiasms," acclimatized to the Age
of Reason.(37) It was aroused in the early nineteenth
century, after a long interval of Quietism and sectarian
seclusion, by the new and increasingly influential
evangelical movement, whose religious tenets and philanthropic
fervor profoundly affected Friends. If its influence brought
back an intensive life to the Society, it also provoked schism
in America, and effected an appreciable shift in
the foundations of Quaker belief, both there and in
England. During the half century or so when theological
leadership in the English Society of Friends was largely provided by
Joseph John Gurney (1788-1847), the principles of
Light and Leading were overborne and pressed into
the background, and in their place came a new
evangelical emphasis on the total depravity of man and his
dependence on Christs sacrifice for his salvation, and on the
Scriptures as the final authority for making known to us the
blessed truths of Christianity.(38) Friends seemed no longer to
be standing by the distinctive witness of their founders in
the apostolic age.
It would be wrong to suggest that the evangelical
phase in the Societys history was all loss and no gain. It was
a period that saw effective work by Friends in the
anti-slavery cause, in the peace movement, in penal reform,
in education, in the initiation of Quaker Missions abroad,
and in efforts to alleviate the miseries of poverty at
home.(39) We can also see today, with historical hindsight, that the
period was also one of incubation for many developments that
bore fruit only much later.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century and
the beginning of the twentieth, many new movements
technological, political, social, intellectual were
combining to usher in a new kind of world, whose powers of rapid
self-transformation have continued and accelerated during
the last fifty years. These changes naturally affected
the religious climate. They assisted, one could almost
say enforced, the Christian Churches, and also the Society
of Friends, to move constructively away from
evangelical philanthropy and adjust to a social environment on
which labor movements and anti-colonial national struggles
were beginning to leave their mark, and to an
intellectual environment which had digested Lyell and Darwin and
the higher criticism of the Bible and was now
masticating Marx, Freud, and Einstein.
The Society of Friends responded successfully to
the challenge of the early twentieth century. Why it was
able to do this is a question worth examining, for the
answer carries a lesson of fundamental importance for
Friends today. In what, to me, is the most rewarding chapter
in Rufus Joness masterly history of the Later Periods
of Quakerism, the one entitled The Awakening of
England, he has this to say:
In the Quakerism of Great Britain and Ireland... no large separations had taken
place... Very real differences existed, and
controversies were often intense, but they were always
kept within limits and restraints, and the unity
and integrity of the Society were maintained. Throughout the period of theological
earnestness, while Friends in America were breaking
asunder, English Friends
were working out their
destiny together and were preparing... for the
greater things that were coming. It is almost
impossible to overestimate the value to English Friends
of the integrity of the body. The Society as a
whole held an inclusive point of view and united
many aspects of the truth. Friends thus merged
together into one undivided whole the conservative
and the progressive tendency. Neither influence
could have its way unchallenged. Give and take
became a necessity. The situation was often a
heavy strain on temper and patience, but it proved to
be a condition of immense value. The habit of
holding a position confronted by an opposite position
which must be respected has great importance in
the formation of spiritual character. (40)
I think it is fair to say that this is also the temper
of Quakerism in Australia. It must be our responsibility
to keep it so, for in these last decades of the twentieth
century we also stand before great and testing challenges.
In some earlier paragraphs I briefly traversed
the historical periods through which Quakerism has passed.
I gave this review because I wanted to point to a
unifying theme and draw a moral from it. The unifying theme
is that in each century Quakers, together with all their
fellow Christians, were exposed to, and reacted to, one and
the same social and political environment and climate
In the turbulent seventeenth century we too
were turbulent; in the quiet eighteenth century we too were
quiet and withdrawn; in the nineteenth we too were
powerfully marked by the evangelical movement; and in the
early twentieth, in a world that was being changed by
technology and moved by new ideas, we too were aroused to a
new awareness and new tasks. The moral would seem to be
that however much we see ourselves as separate, we
remain inescapably a part of Western Christianity; and hence
that our relations with other Christian bodies ought to
recognize that fact.
At the same time, at every stage our response
has been a characteristically Quaker one; and our
contribution (unless we flatter ourselves unduly, which I think we
do not) has always been one that only we could make. It
is also right to remember that the position from which
we have made our response and given our contribution
has always been to the left of center, both theologically and
in terms of social concern and commitment.
What, finally, is the contribution that can be
expected of the Society of Friends today, and how are we placed
to make it?
At this point I wish to say something about belief,
and its role in the relations between Friends, other
Christians, and non-Christians.
That we are non-credal means that as a Society
we are prepared to be hospitable to a wide variety of
beliefs; and furthermore, that we do not assign a high priority
to the task of embodying our beliefs in verbal formulae.
This last is one of the distinguishing traits of the mystic,
and one we share with other mystics. Chan Buddhists,
for example, also warn against the danger of falling into
the net of words by trying to express what is,
ultimately, inexpressible. When a disciple asked the Chan Master
Wen-yi What is the First Principle? the Master replied, If I
were to tell you, it would become the second principle.
Friends equally share with Chan Buddhists the
belief that the whole of life is sacramental, and that no
one particular observance, or practice, or place, is to be
marked off as more sacred than others. Compare the following
Chan story of a monk who walked into a temple and spat on
the statue of Buddha. When his behavior was criticized he
said, Please show me a place where there is no
These two positions may help to indicate the nature
of the boundaries that delimit Quaker territory from
the formally laid out gardens tended by other more
insti-tutionalized Christian bodies. But Quaker country on
the other side of the garden wall (if I may pursue this
metaphor) lies open and easily accessible to seekers
wandering towards it from the broad heathland of Humanism.
The situation of Friends as between fellow
Christians and nonbelievers is in fact a good deal more complex
than this rather twodimensional image suggests.
It is an unfortunate complication, I think, that so
many Friends who give themselves unstintingly to good
works are inclined to shy away from what they refer to as
theology. Howard Brinton is clearly right in saying that it would be
a good thing if Quaker doctrines and methods were
better understood, especially by Quakers themselves, who
are frequently unaware of the roots, and fix their
attention mainly on the plant above ground.(42)
This is true, of course, not only of Quaker thinking and doing, but of
thinking and doing by Christianity generally. Theology can be
defined as the theory of Christian practice. And who should
know this better than Friends? The precept of looking
inward and acting outward is central to Quakerism. It is
even reflected in the title Christian faith and practice in
the experience of the Society of Friends. Practice tests and
informs Belief, and Belief nourishes and informs Practice.
It is more than ever important at this time that
Friends should be attentive to and informed about what is going
on in theology, especially front-line theology. It has
been claimed in recent years that Christian thinking, after
an interval of some four hundred years, is once
more undergoing a major reformation. Such a claim should
not be lightly made; but indications that great changes are
in train are not hard to find. Some may be listed:
Bonhoeffers continuing and growing influence.
aggiornamento set in motion by Pope Johns Vatican Council.
The religio-evolutionary vision of the
French Jesuit paleontologist and mystic, Teilhard
The forward-directed theology of hope
of Jürgen Moltmann, stemming in equal parts
from Christian eschatology and the insights of the Marxist philosopher Ernst
It is unhappily true that this ferment has so far
left the Society of Friends almost untouched. It would seem
that while we are glad to hear that our Christian brethren
are laboriously raising themselves to higher ground
which we see ourselves as having occupied two or three
centuries ago we are not really sufficiently interested to find
out what is actually going on in modem theology. And this is
a pity. Because of all the minority groups in the
Christian world we are perhaps the best placed (though not, alas,
at this present time the best equipped) to interpret such
new developments to the religiously uncommitted inquirer.
And there are many such: young people
particularly, who are not interested in pursuing their personal
salvation, who are not attracted by promises of everlasting life in
a world to come as a reward for believing what seems to
them incredible; but who are profoundly conscious of the
dangers, injustices, and hardships that are the lot of millions in
this here and now world we live in, who are prepared to
make sacrifices, and anxious to help in building a safer,
juster, and better world. Such people exist in great numbers
outside the churches. They are religiously uncommitted,
probably suspicious of religion, possibly hostile to it. If they
become inquirers, it is because they feel that there is more
purpose in life than pure reason can explain.
I am deeply persuaded that there are none in
our Christian community better able to speak to their
condition than we ourselves in the Society of Friends. In thinking
of our relation to other faiths and non-faiths would it
be too presumptuous to see ourselves as chosen for a
new apostolate to the gentiles?
- 1. Henry J. Cadbury, The Character of a Quaker.
Pendle Hill Pamphlet No. 103. Pendle Hill PA, 1959, p. 8.
- 2. Handbook of Practice and Procedure. Religious Society
of Friends in Australia. Sydney, 1967, pp. 13-15.
- 3. Quoted in Christian Faith and Practice in the Experience
of tire Society of Friends. London, 1961, No. 369.
- 4. ibid., No. 368.
- 5. J. Calvin Keene, The Society of Friends and
World Religions, in No Time but this Present: Studies
Preparatory to the IV World Conference of Friends,
1967. Birmingham, England, 1965, pp. 82-89.
- 6. Henry J. Cadbury has a brief but useful discussion
of this dualism in The Character of A Quaker,
pp. 24-28. He expounds both points of view and attempts to find
an accommodation between them.
- 7. Robert Barclay, An Apology for the True Christian
Divinity, 1675. Page references are to the 7th English
edition, London, 1765.
- 8. It is right to mention that some modem theologians
arrive at the same conclusion that some may be saved
to whom the gospel hat not been outwardly preached
not as derived from an explicit acceptance of the universality of the Inner Light, but as inferred from
Matt. 25:31-46. See, e.g., Gunther Bornkamm, End-Expectation and Church in Matthew, in G.
Bornkamm, C. Barth and H. J. Held, Tradition and Interpretation
in Matthew, London 1963, pp.23-24. But cf. also W.
F. Albright and C. J. Mann, Matthew, a New Translation
with an Introduction and Notes. Anchor Bible, New York,
1971, pp. 308-9, note (g).
- 9. See Matthew 5:48 and Mencius VI B, 2:1. The
latter passage reads: Mencius was asked, "Can all men
make themselves like Yao and Shun [saintly rulers of Chinese
antiquity]?" Yes, he replied.
- 10. Thomas Clarkson, A Portraiture of Quakerism.
3 vols. London, 1806. Volume II, p. 313-4. Howard
Brinton describes this work as the best account of
Quakerisms second century.
- 11. David Hodgkin, Quakerism, A Mature Religion for
Today. 1971 (reprinted 1995 by Quaker Universalist
Fellowship). pp. 3-4.
- 12. Analects, 2:4. The dates traditionally assigned
to Confucius are 551-479 B.C. Most of the material in
the Analects probably dates from the middle of the
4th century. See Arthur Waley, The Analects of
Confucius. London, 1938. p. 88. Also James Legge,
The Chinese Classics, I, Confucian Analects.
Oxford, 1893, pp. 146-7. There exist many translations of this great book.
Also recommended is W. E. Soothill, The Analects of
Confucius, in the Oxford Worlds Classics, London, 1910.
- 13. Self-cultivation towards sagehood is never
advocated by Confucius for any reason other than that it is
the way of truly human fulfillment. As Howard Smith
puts it, Though goodness was his supreme aim, he
refused to dangle before men the expectation of reward for
virtue either in this life or the next. As regards this life
he knew from his own bitter experience that the
pursuit of virtue may lead to suffering and poverty. As regards
a life to come he seems to have been totally
unconcerned. Chinese Religions. London, 1968, p. 43.
- 14. Meng Ko (372?-289? B.C.) Recommended
translations of the Mencius book are D. C. Lau,
Mencius, Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth, 1970. James Legge,
The Chinese Classics II, The Works of Mencius.
2nd rev. ed., Oxford, 1895. W. A. C. H. Dobson,
Mencius, a new translation. Toronto, 1963.
- 15. Mencius VI A, 6:5-7. An important parallel passage is II
A, 6:3-7. It is usually advantageous, if the Chinese
text is not accessible to the reader, to compare
several translations of a passage as important as this
one, particularly if it includes so many key expressions
for which it is difficult to find English equivalents. The
two passages will be found as follows: Lau, pp. 193 &
82-3; Legge, pp.402-3 & 202-3; Dobson, pp. 113 and 132.
- 16. Howard Brinton, Quakerism and Other Religions.
Pendle Hill Pamphlet No. 93. Pendle Hill, Pa., 1957, p. 13.
- 17. Both the sayings in this paragraph are quoted by Lau
in his excellent introduction to his Mencius. I
have reproduced them in the form in which he gives
them, which differs a little from, and I think improves
upon, older translations.
- 18. Lau, Mencius, p. 17.
- 19. ibid., loc. cit.
- 20. Compare the following statement by Francis H.
Knight (1881-1945): I am by temperament a skeptic. But at
my feeblest, I am conscious of a power of choice, of a
better and a worse. This ought is my insignia of
personality. Directly I admit that my life might be better than it
is, I have a sense of failure and feel a need of help
from something or someone outside myself. This sense
and this need are to me the meanings of the terms
"sense of sin" and "need of salvation." From The Faith of
a Skeptic in 24 Wayfarer (1945) pp. 110-11, quoted
in Christian Faith and Practice, London 1961, no. 107.
- 21. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology. London, 1957. Vol.
II, p. 96.
- 22. ibid., Vol. III, 1964, p. 152-3.
- 23. Joachim Wach, Sociology of Religion.
Chicago, 1944. pp. 163-4. The further reference is to Evelyn
Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of
Mans Spiritual Consciousness, London, 1911. The books by
Rufus Jones mentioned by Wach, which I list
for completeness sake, are Studies in Mystical
Religion, London 1909; Spiritual Reformers of the 16th and
17th Centuries, London, 1914; Mysticism and Democracy in
the English Commonwealth, Cambridge, Mass, 1932; and
The Flowering of Mysticism: The Friends of God in the
14th Century, New York, 1939.
- 24. ibid., p. 164
- 25. Evelyn Underhill, Worship. Fontana Library of
Theology and Philosophy, London, 1962, pp. 308-9. Miss
Underhill makes no reference to the fact that there are
Quaker groups in some parts of the world, though not in
England, whose meetings are programmed, and who sing hymns.
- 26. Rufus M. Jones, Quoted in Christian Faith and Practice
in the Experience of the Society of Friends. London,
1961, No. 91.
- 27. Howard Brinton, Friends for 300 Years.
Pendle Hill, Pa., 1965. p.58.
- 28. A. R. Vidler, Essays in Liberality.
London, 1957. p. 96.
- 29. Letters and Papers from Prison. Fontana Books, 1959
et seq. This is an English translation of one of the
most influential theological books of the century. It has
a message of particular relevance for Friends. Understandably, an enormous literature has grown
up on Bonhoeffer. On his theology I can recommend
John D. Godsey, The Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
London, 1960; Peter Vorkink (editor), Bonhoeffer in a World
Come of Age, Philadelphia, 1968; and James W.
Woelfel, Bonhoeffers Theology, Classical and
Revolutionary, Nashville & New York, 1970. The great biography
by Eberhard Bethge, now available in English
translation, is indispensable. A book that has been described as
the most perceptive interpretation of Bonhoeffers
thought to date  and one that had special relevance for
the Christian dialogue with Marxism and
secularism is Hanfried Mullers Von der Kirche zur Welt: Ein
Beitrag zu der Beziehung des Wortes Gottes auf die Societas
in Dietrich Bonhoeffers theologischer Entwicklung,
- 30. ibid., letter of May 5, 1944. Fontana edition, 1959.
- 31. Ernst Lohmeyer, The Lords Prayer. London, 1965,
pp. 101-2. Lohmeyer was born in 1890; in 1920 he
became Professor of New Testament at Breslau. He
disappeared at the end of the war, and it is assumed that his
life ended somewhere in Russia in September 1946.
- 32. Gerhard Ebeling, The Lords Prayer in Todays
World. London, 1966. p. 83.
- 33. Hendrik Niclaes (c. 1501-c. 1581), the founder of
the Huis der Liebe or Familia Caritatis (House of Love), is
of great interest to Friends. His Familist
Movement declined on the continent after his death, but spread
to England where it enjoyed some popularity in the seventeenth century before its virtual absorption
into Quakerism. The basic study is F. Nippold,
Heinrich Niclaes und das Haus der Liebe in Zeitschr. F. d.
hist. Theol. 32 (1862) 321-402. This has been largely
reworked by Rufus Jones in his Studies in Mystical
Religion, London, 1909, pp. 428-48. See also Allen C.
Thomas, The Family of Love, or the Familists,
Haverford College Studies 12, Fifth Month, 1893, pp. 1-46.
- 34. E. Léonard, A History of Protestantism,.
London, 1967. II, p. 284.
- 35. The phrase is from Owen Chadwick, The
Reformation. Pelican History of the Church, Vol.
III. Harmondsworth,1964. p. 176.
- 36. Quoted by E. Léonard, op.cit.,
II, p. 290, from Oliviers introduction to his edition of Miltons
Areopagitica, Paris, 1955, p. 10.
- 37. Alec Vidler, The Church in an Age of Revolution, 1789
to the Present Day. Pelican History of the Church, Vol.
V. Harmondsworth, 1961. p. 40. Vidler is writing
with England mainly in mind. The Quaker experience
in America, notably in the first half of the
nineteenth century, was different, in that spiritual quietism
was fruitfully combined with an active political role.
- 38. The words quoted are from London Yearly
Meeting Epistle, 1836. See A. Neave Brayshaw, The Quakers,
Their Story and Message, 2nd ed., London, 1927, Chapter
XIV, and especially pp. 199-204. See also Rufus M.
Jones, The Later Periods of Quakerism, London, 1921, Vol. I,
- 39. It is appropriate to mention James Backhouse at
this point, whose name these lectures bear. He was
a forerunner of Quaker missionary work, and as
Rufus Jones has it, felt a call to pay a religious visit
to Australia, Tasmania and some of the islands of Australasia, with a special "concern" for the men
in the penal colonies. The Later Periods of Quakerism,
II, p. 880. Backhouse was a fine example of
outgoing evangelism at its best.
- 40. The Later Periods of Quakerism, II, p.
- 41. For both stories, see Fung Yu Lan, A Short History
of Chinese Philosophy, New York, 1938, pp. 257 and
263-4. Chan is the Chinese term used for Sanskrit
dhyana, of which it is a rough phonetic equivalent. The
Japanese reading of this character is zen. Dhyana is
usually. translated meditation. It refers to a religious
discipline aimed at tranquilizing the mind and getting
the practitioner to devote himself to a quiet
introspection into his own inner consciousness. K. S.
Chen, Buddhism in China. Princeton, 1964, p. 350.
- 42. For references to Bonhoeffer, see note 29. The
literature on Vatican II is already large and continues to grow.
One of the best informed and most readable accounts
of the Council, written while it was in progress, is in
the four volumes by Xavier Rynne: Letters from
Vatican City; The Second Session; the Third Session; the
Fourth Session. They cover the debates and the decrees.
Also recommendable is John Moorman, Bishop of
Ripon, Vatican Observed, an Anglican View of Vatican II.
No better introduction to the Council could be found than
Pope John XXIIIs Journal of a Soul, available in paperback
in a Four Square edition. The best first approach
to Teilhard is through his own writings, especially
The Phenomenon of Man and Milieu
Divin, together with the more recently translated
Christianity and Evolution. Short and extremely good is N. M. Wildiers,
An Introduction to Teilhard de Chardin, Fontana, London, 1968.
Two standard books on Teilhards thought are Henri de
Lubac S.J., The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin,
London, 1967; and Emile Rideau, Teilhard de Cjardom. A Guide to
His Thought, London, 1967. The definitive life is
Claude Cuénot, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Les Grandes
Etapes de Son Evolution, Paris, 1958. Abridged
English translation, 1965. Also by Cuénot:
Science and Faith in Teilhard de Chardin, London, 1967, with a comment
by the French Marxist Roger Garaudy. On the theology
of hope the basic text is Jürgen Moltmann,
Theology of Hope, on the Ground and the Implication of a
Christian Eschatology, London 1967. Also Ernst Bloch,
The Principle of Hope, New York, 1971, some chapters of which
appear in Man on His Own, Essays in the Philosophy of
Religion, New York, 1970. Also recommended are the
following from New Theology, No. 5, London and New York,
1968: Carl E. Braaten, Toward a Theology of Hope (pp. 90-111);
J. B. Metz, Creative Hope (pp. 130-141) and Harvey
Cox, Ernst Bloch and the Pull of the Future (pp. 191-203).
About the Author
Otto Berkelbach van der Sprenkel was born in
Holland in 1906, and educated in England, taking a degree
in economics at the London School of Economics.
After graduating he lectured at the University of Toronto
in Canada, and on his return to England worked in
adult education, journalism and broadcasting. During the
second World War he joined the London School of Oriental
Studies, as a student of Chinese and lecturer in Far Eastern
history. In 1949-51 he was Visiting Professor, under the
British Council, at Nankai University, Tientsin, and
experienced the Chinese revolution there.
In 1956 he left England to accept an invitation
to Canberra, where he initiated the Department of
Asian Civilizations of the Australian National University.
He retired from the University in 1971 to devote his
full attention to a major selected and annotated bibliography
of Chinese History and Thought begun several years
earlier. He was recognized internationally as a
distinguished scholar in Chinese history, thought and social institutions.
He had a non-religious upbringing, and first
became aware of Friends in China. Soon after his return to
England in 1951 he joined Hampstead Meeting. He was a
member of Canberra Meeting from 1956 until his death in 1978.
The Vatican II Council of the 1960s greatly
stimulated his interest in the re-evaluations being made at that
time by Christian thinkers. He became an active participant
in the debates of the day, listening to new voices and
seeking to question, clarify, and deepen his own understanding
of the Quaker position in the world. That involvement
prepared him well for the role of ninth James Backhouse
Lecturer in 1973.
The James Backhouse Lecture Series
James Backhouse was an English Friend who
visited Australia from 1832 to 1838. He and his companion,
George Washington Walker, traveled widely, though mostly
in Tasmania. His visit led to the first Quaker Meetings
in Australia. A botanist, James Backhouse published
full accounts of what he saw. While encouraging Friends,
he also pursued his deep concerns for the welfare of
convicts and of the Aboriginal inhabitants of the country.
Australian Friends established this series of
lectures in his name, dedicating them to bring fresh insights
into the truth, and further the aspirations of