Monday, August 10, 2009

Christ as Savior

There has been some discussion lately about Jon Watt's video of "Friends Speaks My Mind", especially around the lines:

I'm not a Christian,
But I'm a Quaker,
I've got Christ's Inner Light
But he's not my savior

I was a little uneasy when I first heard this song, and a little more concerned when a couple of young Friends missed the distinction and thought it was saying "I'm not a Christian, I'm a Quaker". Even so, I enjoyed Jon's concert very much (he came to perform for the Southern Appalachian Young Friends in Asheville), and enjoyed meeting him.

As I mentioned in a comment on Jon's blog, my reaction to questions like "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" is often to ask what the person means by that question. One could very well ask about the meaning when someone who declares "I've got Christ's Inner Light but he's not my savior".

Since Jon's song also contains the phrase "but don't blame Elias Hicks for all our problems", I thought it would be interesting to see if Elias Hicks wrote about Christ as Savior. I found a good description on page 304 of Elias Hicks' Journal. I think it illustrates the way the idea of a savior was internalized, and fits well with George Fox's description of how the Light helps you to resist temptation. Hicks wrote:

First day, the 6th of 7th month. Soon after I took my seat in our meeting to-day, my mind was opened into a view of the great need man stands in of a Saviour, and that nothing can give him so full and lively a sense thereof, as a true sight and sense of his own real condition; by which he is not only brought to see the real want of a Saviour, but is also shown thereby, what kind of a Saviour he needs. For it must not only be one, who is continually present, but who is possessed of a prescience sufficient to see, at all times, all man's enemies, and every temptation that may or can await him; and have power sufficient to defend him from all, and at all times. Therefore, such a Saviour as man wants, cannot be one without him, but must be one that is always present, just in the very place man's enemies assault him, which is within, in the very temple of the heart: as no other Saviour but such an one, who takes his residence in the very centre of the soul of man, can possibly produce salvation to him: hence, for man to look for a Saviour or salvation any where else, than in the very centre of his own soul, is a fatal mistake, and must consequently land him in disappointment and errour.

I realize that the above paragraph does not mention Christ, but elsewhere in Hick's journal (p. 330) he does make it clear that he considers Christ in this role. That's not what I wanted to emphasize, though. As I have written before, Friends experienced a transformation from the Light, in which their sins were shown to them, and the desire to do those things was driven out. I believe that is what Hicks is saying here - the Light is saving you from your sin by removing the desire to sin.

I acknowledge that there are other meanings ascribed to "Savior", in terms of atonement and such, but, it seems to me like the transformative meaning is very powerful, and something that can be readily experienced. Shouldn't this be something we desire instead of deny?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fighting My Enemies

I have been listening to the bible during my drive home from work, starting from Genesis. I remember discussing the bible with a Friend from my meeting and he told me he really didn't get anything out of it, especially not the Hebrew bible (i.e. the "Old Testament"). His characterization of it was based on the many battles and accounts of whole towns and villages being destroyed. I have to admit that I find those passages very difficult as well, even though I don't think of them as God telling us we should do the same.

The Bhagavad Gita takes place in the middle of a battlefield where the opposing armies (I think they were all from the same family) are about to do battle. There are some interpreters (including Gandhi) who take the whole war as an allegory - that it is about the battle that takes place in the soul. I had that same feeling of an allegory when listening to a passage from 2 Samuel 22.

The passage is a song of David praising God for giving him victory over his enemies. There was a section that reminded me very much of some of the experiences of strengthening I read in the journals of early Friends:

God is my strong fortress,
and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping. (2 Samuel 22:33-37 NLTse)

This passage struck me as one of giving me inward strength, and I felt that spring of joy and hope that I feel whenever I read George Fox's account of recovering from a beating where he says "the power of the Lord sprang through me, and the eternal refreshings revived me; so that I stood up again in the strengthening power of the eternal God and stretching out my arms amongst them, I said, with a loud voice, 'Strike again; here are my arms, my head, and my cheeks.'"

With that echoing in my mind, the passage continued into David's thanks for being able to defeat his enemies. Normally, this would have been one of those difficult passages that I would be glad to get through, but today, it spoke to me in the context of those things I do wrong, especially those that I know I shouldn't do - those being the enemies:

I chased my enemies and destroyed them;
I did not stop until they were conquered.
I consumed them;
I struck them down so they did not get up;
they fell beneath my feet.
You have armed me with strength for the battle;
you have subdued my enemies under my feet.
You placed my foot on their necks.
I have destroyed all who hated me.
They looked for help, but no one came to their rescue.
They even cried to the LORD, but he refused to answer.
I ground them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I trampled them in the gutter like dirt. (2 Samuel 22:38-43 NLTse)

I was surprise to find this such an inspiring passage, because today it spoke to me of the hope of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit - ever so gradually working on my soul, changing the way I live. Those aspects of myself that are jealous, conceited, angry, uncaring, lazy - those things can be trampled in the gutter like dirt.