Monday, July 25, 2005

Those Crazy Quakers

For the past 30 odd years the Gainesville (FL) Friends Meeting has met in an old rundown dwelling a few blocks from Gatorland (the Univ. stadium). They outgrew that location and resolved to build a more suitable meeting house out in a residential area. Then they (very indiscreetly) sold their old place, and lost possession of it months (years?) before the new meeting house could come into existence.

The monthly Bible study group has existed almost from the beginning, but recently the long term Bible study leader moved to Oregon to be near his children. Ellie and I were selected to take his place.

The Jewish student center was retained for the regular weekly meeting for worship -- for one hour on Sunday morning. The second hour was 'catch as catch can'. For our Bible study group someone wangled space in a back room in a book store.

Ellie had the best line: so there we were, a Quaker Bible Study group, meeting in a coffee house, and studying something else. The group, after recent exposure to the Jesus Seminar had decided to look at Thomas, an excellent choice, I thought.

For a month (sporadically) Ellie and I prepared material so we would have something to present, but the eight eager students had all sorts of questions and opinions to express. The consensus was that while the other four gospels, especially John, seemed to focus largely on belief, Thomas was all about the inner experience. As one man put it, "Thomas' Jesus didn't care whether you believed or what you believed; he just told it like it is: seek until you find and you 'shall not taste of death'" (verse 1).

I asked the group what they wanted to study next month: "more Thomas" was virtually unanimous. Call it Quaker consensus.

Thanks for your attention, dear reader. If you're ever in Gainesville on the fourth first day, I hope you'll come by.


Mark Walter said...

Yea Larry, Ellie and group! Yea Thomas! Yea teaching about the inner experience!

I have recommended your site in my SideBlog.

Thanks for being there, Larry. You're great.

Larry said...

That makes two of us, Mark. Theosis is the name of the game for me, unfortunately obscured, IMO, by much of western orthodoxy.

Mark, I've been following your blog occasionally (with many others), but I mean to up the priority now.


david said...

Do you recommend Thomas as a bible study? The kwakersaur skripture study will be rounding down thsi summer and we'll need to choose a new text.

Larry said...

Re "Thomas as a bible study": I would love to see that happen, David. It presents a picture of Jesus that must be refreshing for many unprogrammed Quakers and quite a challenge to everyone.

There are oodles of copies of it on the net as well as hard copies in libraries.

I'm all for it.

Larry said...
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Mark Walter said...
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Mark Walter said...

Thank you Larry. That's a really nice thing to say.

Theosis? IMO? I'm in the dark.

Larry said...

Mark, as near as I can gather, theosis means divinization. It seems to be more current in Eastern Christian circles, and in (far) Eastern religions as well.

This Wikipedia page has an extended discussion of it.

In the Western tradition, especially the R C tradition, this sort of idea seems to me partially eclipsed by the doctrine of the atonement (Christ died that we might be saved). In distinction to that theosis is set forth in various ways without necessary reference to his death.

Unfortunately in Baptist circles there has been controversy over whether we are 'saved by his death' or 'saved by his life'. The second of these points for me toward theosis rather than atonement.

Mark, I think everyone would love for you to join in with my other blog, friendly skripture study. We may soon be studying the Gospel of Thomas.

Larry said...

Mark, Oh! IMO means in my opinion. Sometime IMHO: in my humble opinion.