Quaker Universalist Conversations

Share your responses to John Linton’s Friends Journal interview

Friends Journal recently gave us permission to republish Larry C. Spears’ 1982 interview with John Linton, a founder of the Quaker Universalist Group England and inspiration for the founding of Quaker Universalist Fellowship in the United States.

We invite readers to join us in a conversation about Linton’s interview. Please read the interview and then share your reactions using the Comments form.

You can find the passage quoted below here .

In a 1982 interview in Friends Journal, John Linton said: “The belief that Christianity is a unique revelation raises many difficulties. The most obvious is: Why has a benevolent deity split the world up into different and conflicting religious systems in

In the 1982 Friends Journal interview with Larry C. Spear, John Linton said,

The belief that Christianity is a unique revelation raises many difficulties. The most obvious is: Why has a benevolent deity split the world up into different and conflicting religious systems instead of making Christianity available to all?

In view of the geographical dilemma and philosophical arguments about the nature of belief, it makes more sense to conclude that Christianity has no more divine authority than other religions.

We should look for truth in all revelations. If the Society of Friends is concerned with the search for truth, it should not confine itself to one revelation.

Queries: How do you engage with Christianity—if at all—in your own faith and practice? What can you share from personal experience that bears on Linton’s assertion that “We should look for truth in all revelations”?

Share using the Comments form.

Comments

Friends on a number of QUF’s social media channels added comments in response to this invitation. Here are some of them.

From our Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuakerUniversalists

George Amoss Jr
Doesn’t it make more sense to conclude that the conflict of religious systems points to the absence of a benevolent deity?

Linda Lucas Walling
To me it says that The Source of All Things set things going and “allows” change to occur.

Alexander Chase Doty
All revelations are unique.

Richard Melecki
Any religion which is expressed in words is removed from the true religious experience. The true experience of the divine only happens in silence—and in action.

From our Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/QuakerUFVoice

Åsmund Knutson Aukland
YHWH ECHAD = GOD IS ONE.
Mankind is many.
Many in cultures, history, ability to understand.
Mankind creates its God(s) accordingly.
Man’s vocabulary, concepts and level of ethical ability form their mental image of God.
Thus there are religions primitive and advanced.
Religions are designed for various purposes:
The inner urge for a significance in life.
The political need for law and order.
The need for a concept of creation, eternity, beginning and end.
The urge for power over society and to fight down and dominate competing powers.
So, religion serves both good and evil intentions.
Intolerance is a major ingredient in many religions. So in the design and development of religion tolerance must be a motivation and a goal.
Some people have a need for rituals, arts, practical manifestations within their faith. Others want to keep it simple, individual and peaceful. And some remind us that unless our “image” of God is beyond our science and our limits of understanding, it is not true.
“The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao”.
Maybe we must realise that man seeks God, and God meets man according to man’s need and ability. So we need to respect the valuable content in all; and be aware of the destructive and negative elements.

Seek that of God in all people.
Do not condemn, but be aware.
Follow the Light as it shines in your own heart.

Muriel Edgerton
I don’t think God is the one who split the world up into different and conflicting religious systems. It makes more sense to me that we humans who received and INTERPRETED those revelations in particular ways were the ones who assigned various attributes of authority to what we took to be the MEANING of those Divine revelations.

Pam Tilly
I envision all (love-based) religions as a beautiful, multifaceted, round crystal. Hanging in a window, fully lit by the sun, it emits many colorful prisms. And if you turn the ball in your hand, looking at the many facets well there you have all the religions. Same light, many facets emitting beautiful prisms.

Or if I envision a beautiful stained glass window with the sun beaming through it. If the pieces of glass represent all the love-based religions, you can many colors. Same Light.

A friend suggested we really need is for the window to be destroyed. At first I recoiled at the idea but then I got it.

From the Quaker Theology Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuakerTheology

Brandon Zicha
To my knowledge, Christianity is available to all. Generations of Christians have worked quite tirelessly to make that so. Indeed, of the Abrahamic faiths this is true of all but (most but not all forms of) Judaism.

As a Quaker, I don’t get this. There are plenty of reasons to believe that Christianity is a unique revelation that was – in a sense – special. It’s universality, it’s (by traditional Quaker reading) bequeathing to man the way to freedom from sin by communing with the Light of Christ after the crucifixion… it has a unique contribution of attributes…

And as evidence of that, I would posit that [John Linton] gave this interview in the first place and that it was Christian Quakerism (rather than some Islamic Sufism) that was the ‘forerunner’ to his addresses title.

It was Christianity that gave us the revelation that permitted this entire conclusion to be reached…and yet we reject that source as unique? To me this conversation suggests that Christianity is a foundational starting point that is open to all compatible faiths… but uniquely so.

But largely, I just reject the entire epistemological effort here which basically – taken to its logical conclusion – would lead me to conclude that ‘faith in any of these revelations is silly and arbitrary… be an agnostic and go hedonist’ because it isn’t just religions that have a loosely defined ‘revelation’ (and it needs to be if we are including all faiths).

But, I am not a Universalist despite my ‘Hellenistic slant’ shared with Linton.

I am committed to the path of love, compassion, justice, peace, following Spirit instead of rules, and putting faith into practice that are the essence of the way of Jesus. The outward practice of these inward graces saves me and can save the world.

I have learned much of letting go, interconnectedness, and impermanence from the engaged Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh and meditation. Buddhism and Taoism both teach that our mental constructs are not living truth or enlightenment – these are experiential. All of these traditions have much in common, with perhaps a different structure and emphasis.

All for me integrate into my Quaker faith and practice. Since the core of my religious core beliefs and attitudes come from my liberal Christian childhood, whatever else I learn helps me deepen my understanding and commitment to the path of love, compassion, justice, peace and living in the present moment with an openness to transformation and ongoing revelation. It is the inner and outer language I speak best, though I usually stop short of using the label “Christian” because of all the destructive baggage that has and does carry. I wince when I hear people on the news broadcasts identify themselves as “Christian” because what follows is inevitably about excluding or blaming someone else. I recognize that there are many faithful and committed Christians who do practice openness and inclusiveness, and profoundly respect those that I know. Having spent most of my life in the Bible belt, I still have a reaction to the exclusionary and punishing use of the word “Christian.” . Somehow “the path of Jesus” has a different emotions attached to it than “Christian.” My baggage perhaps.

I believe that there is much I could learn from other religions and religious practices also if I delved deeply enough. So much study, so little time. Are all religions equal? In my view, the most valuable traditions are ones that involve supporting life, health and healing, advancing the common good of humans, other forms of life and all that supports life in a wholistic way.

Perhaps ethics can support all that is healthy too. When I think about simply following ethics, I remember the words of James Naylor, “there is a spirit which I feel”. Spiritual experience takes me deep into my heart and transforms me in a way in which reason and ethics fall short.

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