Over the past several weeks I have re-read Robert Barclay's Apology and enjoyed comparing it to my own theological convictions. Also during this time, I have wondered on numerous ocasion if God is not calling Barclay College (BC) to revisit the theological and philosophical distinctions of early Quakers given the unique opportunities He seems to be presenting to her in global expansion and partnership. Unfortunately today, it seems that many who accentuate the teachings of early Quakers are liberal in focus and more social in orientation rather than biblical, incarnational and evangelistic like BC.
So again I ask, could God be philosophically re-visioning and re-orienting BC much like He did the Society of Friends in the 1600 and 1700's? Is it time for a revival in Biblical Hermeneutics to balance the Reformed Interpretation of scripture that seems to be prevalent in today's Post Modern Church? Is God calling Evangelical Friends to re-take their place in history once again as the Radical Reformers of the Church as they did so many centuries ago? Is God calling BC to be different than other Christian institutions of higher learning and seek to expand her influence globally through online and extension work for the sake of church planting and growth rather than just limiting her resources and effort to a specific geographical plot of real estate?
I assume more discussion and empirical study is needed to really answer most of the above questions but in my heart the answer is "yes." God is raising Barclay College up for such a time as this and a key component of this transformation will include her embracing the values and philosophies of old as they are lead by the Holy Spirit and affirmed in the scriptures. I think this will be true of Evangelical Friends as a whole as well. God is drawing us back to our roots for greater impact for His kingdom and glory.
One area God may be challenging Quakerdom to re-visit in both theology and practice is in the way scripture is viewed. It seems for many today scripture is idolized and actually becomes a hindrance to Christ likeness and discerning God's will and direction. Let me explain my statement.
In my understanding of scripture, an idol is anything man places between self and God in relationship. The Bible is not deity or is it the Mediator between God and man. Jesus Christ is the only Mediator and Means to the Father according to sacred literature. The revelation of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the sanctified Christian is the only means to intimacy with God and divine Truth for daily living.
Barclay says, "At this point the Bible must be viewed secondary in importance. It is not deity and can only be rightly interpreted through the Holy Spirit by the sanctified individual. Thus the Bible cannot be considered the first principle source of truth and knowledge ... the first principle source must be Truth Himself.
The scriptures are to be esteemed as a looking glass that defines Truth as a Person-Jesus Christ, explains how to receive and walk in or with Truth, tells of the conditions and experiences of ancient Believers in their relational journey with Truth, and serves as a plumb line for maintaining balance in the Christian life." (Apology, p. 50, 57, 59-60) Barclay's conclusion was the "Bible is of little value to man in his carnal state. Those who feel entirely satisfied he says, have been filled with the Holy Spirit and have been inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit" (p. 47).
I concur with Robert Barclay on this point and desire Barclay College to teach students the biblical imperative to be filled with the Holy Spirit in conjunction with sound biblical hermeneutics. For unless there is a transfer of nature in the life of Christian one in not equipped to rightly interpret the scriptures or to be lead by the Spirit of God. Accurate biblical interpretation must begin with heart purity. Only through the act of entire sanctification can the carnal nature be purged and the ability to obtain and emulate Truth be found. I want students to understand this and embrace the principle of Barclay's third proposition.
I want the denomination I love and respect to esteem sacred literature for all the biblical reasons stated above. I wish for her to return to teaching and preaching the rich doctrine of heart purity that is consequential to full consecration and obedience to Jesus Christ. Let's return to a belief system that distinguished us from so many other denominations in the beginning. Let's return to a teaching which empowers people to emulate the life and teaching of Truth Himself. What say you?
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