Quaking in Manchester

In the heart of the city of Manchester is a rather grand, classically styled Friends’ Meeting House. Its main meeting room is not laid out in typical Quaker fashion, with chairs in a circle and a simple table in the midst. I suspect it is let for conferences, with chairs facing forward, giving ample view of speaker and screen. The Quakers might be considered wise to take advantage of their central location and market for public meetings and seminars.

Yet when it comes to spiritual truth, I find them rather unwise.

Modern Quakerism is the kind of religion that non-religious people can admire and extol. It has little that is dogmatic save their hatred of war (good for them), while they respect all religions and shades of opinion. This was written on the wall of the corridor leading to the Manchester Friends’ meeting room:

Quakers and God: Quakers have many different ideas about 'God'. Some of us are happy to use traditional Christian terms and some of us find they do not express the truth as we have experienced it. Whenever we talk about our deepest beliefs, we need to recognise that language is inadequate. Sometimes we are using different words to express the same ideas and sometimes we really believe very different things. We are a diverse spiritual community and that is a strength rather than a weakness. We try to listen behind and beyond words to understand what is really being communicated…

I would suggest that hearing The Word is of more vital importance. The weakness of these sweet-sounding sentiments is found in that second sentence. ‘The truth as we experience it’ relegates truth to something subjective, changeable, malleable and flexible. Your truth is true for you, my truth is truth for me. But what if truth is simply true, and all else false? What if Christ is the only way, the only truth and the only life, outside of whom is only confusion, deceit and death? This claim is not so fashionable, not so worthy of worldly acceptance.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death, Proverbs 14:132, AV