Friends and Other Faiths
Early Friends were confident that God had placed the Light of Christ in every heart. And Friends traveled to far places talking to peoples of other faiths, convinced that God's spirit would provide a ready understanding and response. It was in this faith that William Penn and John Woolman approached the Indians in America and found acceptance.
In the past two centuries, Friends in their mission and service activities have been increasingly in touch with devout persons of other religious traditions, and the increased awareness of Eastern religions in recent decades has illuminated for some Friends the mystical elements of their own faith. Among many groups, Friends have found persons whose approach to religion is similar t0 their own. Without denying their Christian heritage, and in fact as an expression of it, Friends have often been able to enter into a relationship of mutual understanding and cooperation with those of other faiths.
Devout Souls Will Know One Another
The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another though the divers liveries they wear here makes them strangers.
William Penn: Some fruits of solitude, 1693, Pt. 1, no. 519.
There Is a Principle
There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names. It is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever they become brethren in the best sense of the expression.
John Woolman: "Considerations on keeping Negroes, Part Second." (written in 1761) in The journal and major essays, ed., Phillips P. Moulton, 1971, p. 236.
Love Was the First Motion
Love was the first motion, and thence a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of truth among them.
In ibid., p. 127 (entry for 1763).
A Christ-Shaped Window
All Quakers from George Fox to the present day have glimpsed God through a Christ-shaped window. It is true that some strange things are said and done in the name of Christianity. It is also true that Quakers recognize that many people receive the light of God through other-shaped windows, and recognize it as the same light of the same God. But until we are prepared to say that some other window is more illuminating, and that we have to identify ourselves with that path, we cannot afford to disassociate ourselves from Christ in any way.
Hugh Campbell Brown, "Some thoughts of a Quaker by convincement." In Friends Bulletin of Pacific Y: M., May 1956, p. 2.
God Speaks to All
The Quaker conviction that God speaks directly to every man who has ears to hear without regard to race, color, status, or religion is a principle that stands above all historic religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity. But this principle found unique historic expression in the life and teaching, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The early Friends believed they were reviving primitive Christianity, and no recognized statement of Friends has ever questioned this. One is aware of the keen sense of need for a spiritual sanction above all divisive factors religious as well as political, economic and social. But Friends will contribute to this desired end by producing the fruit rather than by denying the root of their faith.
Alexander C. Purdy: Questions about Quakerism, 1964, p. 4. (The Quaker lecture at Indiana Y. M.)
Universal Love of God
Our only reply might be that having felt inwardly in the presence of the living Christ both the joy and the misery of the world and having felt our arms being opened to the whole creation, while we may not ourselves at this point be able adequately to formulate a view of the universal Christ, we can be among those who are most open to it. For this universal burst of the limitless love of God has brought us not only to a Jesus Christ who is a "man for others," but to one who is "man for all others," and to sense that his very uniqueness is grounded in his universality.
Feeling this openness may for Friends be accompanied by a somewhat unique fearlessness in entering these ecumenical engagements in confidence that they will not rob us of Jesus Christ. The small clues that we have had up to now would indicate that any truth that we have found in these great world religions has only sharpened the urgency of Christ's inward call upon us and has given us a new sense of how little we yet know of him, and of how much we have yet to learn perhaps through these very meetings with our brothers in other Christian faiths and in the world religions. What these encounters do rob us of is the picture of Jesus Christ in our conventional Western institutional and theological dress. And what they have lavished upon us is that he would have infinitely more to disclose to us, if our free responses both to him and to each other were more adequate.
Douglas Steere: Mutual irradiation, Quaker view of ecumenism (Pendle Hill Pamphlet, no. 175), 1971, pp. 29-30.
No Nation Without a Witness
Is it right for us to put limitations on God to work in a set procedure? Can He not meet the needs of the people of different regions of this world in His own way? Does He have to conform to our method, or do what we comprehend to be the right method? Must we sit in judgment and condemn others because they do not follow our particular "method" of seeking God? How can we ever call ourselves His disciples if we fail to recognize that He indwells every man, every human being with or without a label? That He is the light within the light that enlightens the whole world is a concept that embraces all and all must embrace.
God has at no time left any nation or people without a witness, without His presence. The great religions of this world are part of His revelations, His scheme to save mankind, to bring man closer to Himself, to reveal Himself as the God of Love. And those of us who have had that "Christ-experience" through His earthly ministry 2000 years ago must not only recognise His revelations through other faiths but learn from them and see His hand working through the mosaic of religious experiences.
Jesus Christ did not at any time indicate that he had either come to found a religion of His own or to appoint a certain group of people to do so. He came as the "Light of this world," as the Saviour of this world, as One who would reconcile man to God who would give others the power to overcome in their day-to-day lives and cause the kingdom of God to come upon this earth. This was the sum and substance of His message. The only way those of us who have experienced Him in our lives can serve His cause and further His Kingdom upon this earth is by sharing our Christ-experience with others so that they may be able to recognise the "indwelling Christ" and enter into that state of "asceticism" where everything fades into the background and one is overwhelmed by the ecstasy of His presence. It is a state when one is not conscious of possessing but being possessed, being lifted up to soaring heights.
Niranjan Nath Kaul, "What say ye of Christ?" Friends World News, Spring 1978, p. 3.