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Far above every Name that is named
A Challenge to Quaker Universalists
By: Unknown Author
It is frequently stated, amongst liberal Quakers, that there are many names for spiritual power and reality which is at the centre of the Quaker faith: Inner Light, “Light within”, “Christ within”, “enabling spirit”, or most frequently just “the spirit”. Some people use words from outside Christian terminology also, for the same thing.
But these many names refer to many different, personal experiences, and do not all necessarily point to the same thing.
It is hopeless to discuss this simply on the level of choice of language, or to argue that one term is right and the others are wrong. However, there are important and clear differences.
With the tendency to use impersonal terms, such as “the light within”, Rather than speaking specifically of Jesus Christ, this is that such impersonality leaves everyone to do what’s right in his own eyes, so the basis for corporate testimony is undermined, and such corporate witness does not now exist in the liberal Society of Friends. The “claim of “Unity in Diversity” can be seen to be a sham.
For those who are gathered around the one name that is above every name, and who turn to him, and are led by him, and brought into truth by him, and enabled by him to do the truth, this produces consequences which can be tested. That there is truth to be witnessed; there is a name of which we must not be ashamed, a name that can bring people into unity.
People talk of “The Light», and mean many things by that. George Fox said: “The Light is but one, and this is Christ”. The only light we must follow is that sent by God, in the fullness of time, which fulfills the promises of the Old Testament, ends the Law and the old Covenant, and begins the New.
We must not surrender when we are told that the name of Christ is only one of a dozen or more that we can use, and make a witness with, and which we will all be equally effective in our witness. Lewis Benson speaks of his wartime experience amongst modern Friends thus: “Without the power and name of Christ, we can’t have a testimony to the world, a united, corporate testimony to the world against war; and we haven’t been able to have one!” The same witness has to say about his own Faith and experience.
“Since I came to Christianity, through a very hard, rocky, bumpy path, through philosophy, and mysticism, and all kinds of ways to God that bypass the Law and the Prophets, and Jesus Christ and the apostils, and George Fox and all the rest of it, I could see that every other way is a way that leaves us struggling alone to pull ourselves up by our own boot strings; so that they are all ways of self -redemption. And this is a way which is not a way of self-redemption: That God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe in him and obey him should have life eternal. This is Good News! It isn’t particularly “good news» that the “inner light “has come, or that the “Spirit of Christ” has come, or something else has come. But this Christ that has come is the Christ who was sent by the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the one who gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai. He is the one who sent Christ into the world, and he is the one towards who we are to make a response of faith and obedience, and to become gathered as his disciples. This we can’t do under any kind of terminology; this is just one choice.”