Friends, Scripture and Our Living Faith

George Fox was involved in the religious movement of 17th century England that found radical differences between the Christianity of the established church and the Christianity of the first century as portrayed in the Bible. Fox abandoned the church—but not the scriptures—as he searched for a direct relationship to God. He ultimately experienced that relationship in silent waiting, alone and in assemblies with other seekers. He received insights, or “openings” as he called them, first by God’s “immediate spirit and power,” and only later found them to be “agreeable to Holy Scriptures.” Fox realized that scriptures must be read in the same spirit that inspired those who wrote them. The Christ Within speaks in all ages in ways that people can understand in their situation and time.

The concept of the Inward Light, the testimonies, and other ideas and practices that distinguished the early Quaker movement and have remained essential to Friends through 350 years are all rooted in the gospels. As Friends seek to know and live in the Light that is alive in them, they can benefit from studying and knowing the biblical texts that were important to shaping and nurturing the early Quaker movement.

Friends may deepen their understanding of the historical Jesus and the universal Christ by engaging in group study and discussion of the Bible and the works of contemporary Quaker writers and biblical scholars. Maturing insight and experience often lead us to discover that passages once thought irrelevant and lifeless acquire power and meaning.

Friends know that their shared knowledge of the Bible deepens both spoken ministry and inward listening. And Friends continue to find the Bible to be an important touchstone against which to test their leadings.

Quaker faith and practice can be compared and combined with a wide variety of other traditions: such as Buddhism, or ethical humanism. But we will find our deepest and fullest resonances with the biblical Christian traditions that nurtured early Friends and with the Jewish traditions that nurtured Jesus.

— Douglas Gwyn, 2013

Friends do not consider any scriptures, including the Bible, to be the final Word of God. Robert Barclay cautioned that the scriptures are only a declaration of the source and not the source itself. Friends believe in “continuing revelation” arising from ongoing communion with the Living God. This expands our sensitivity in relationships with one another and likewise our knowledge of the universe.