Quakers, The Friends Church, Religious Society of Friends

by Matt Slick
1/6/2018

In light of what the Quakers teach, CARM recommends people avoid the Quaker movement. It is centered around subjective feelings which Quakers assume are from the Holy Spirit. Though there are those within the Quaker movement that hold a firm orthodox biblical theology, there are plenty that do not. Furthermore, they submit the word of God to their so-called inner light.  It is this inner light position that is the problem because they teach that every person has the inner light from God. Therefore, everyone is welcome in their churches (non-Christians, atheists, etc.) as equal participants in the inner light. 

Founder: George Fox (1625 - 1691)

Headquarters:  London, England.  The Friends World Committee for Consultation overseas the varying forms of Quaker traditions throughout the world. Though it is not necessarily the "official" supervisory authority, it appears to act in that role.

Membership: +350,000, "Africa = 52% North America = 20% Caribbean and Latin America = 15% Europe and Middle East = 7% Asia-West Pacific = 6%. United States: 2007 = 86,837; 2012 = 76,360"1

Origins: George Fox (1624-1691) did not intend to start a new movement.  He wanted to have the church of his time get back to New Testament theology where the Holy Spirit moved through the apostles.  He believed that the Holy Spirit could also move through Christians today in the same or similar way. Those who affirmed Fox's teachings soon organized into a movement.  The Quakers are also known as the Religious Society of Friends and the Friend's Church based on the Scripture in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you." 

When the Quakers came to America William Penn (Pennsylvania) became a convert and this added credibility to the movement whereupon it grew substantially.

Practices: Generally speaking, no preprepared sermons are delivered, though in some groups within Quakerism that does occur. Instead, because the Quakers (The Friend's Church, Religious Society of Friends) believe in the inner light of God's presence, they wait for Him to speak to them before delivering a message. This means that they can receive extra-biblical revelation which can lead to many heresies.  This is because the Quakers do not subject themselves completely to the word of God which they consider to be subordinate to their inner revelation.

Teachings:

Unfortunately, because so much of the Quaker movement is based on experience, there are a wide variety of beliefs within the Quaker movement. Therefore, it is difficult to nail down official theology.  They "do not share a fixed set of beliefs,"2 Yet, there are also statements to the contrary, such as... "Worldwide, the vast majority of Friends confess an orthodox Christian faith."3

  1. Baptism is not practiced
    1. "The ritual immersions and sprinklings of John the Baptist and his immediate successors were not intended to continue to the present day."4
  2. Bible - The Bible is a guide, not primary, and is subordinate to inner revelation
    1. "The most important thing to know about Scripture is that Scripture is not the most important thing...The Quaker belief that the Bible is secondary and subordinate to the Inward Light and the true Word of God separates us from many others...To say that a book written under divine inspiration is somehow more reliable than the divine inspiration itself is indefensible."5
    2. "The Scriptures are very useful, but are a subordinate source whose validity springs from the Spirit. They contain the minimum necessary information for salvation, if assisted by the Holy Spirit, but alone are not an adequate primary rule of faith, practice, or individual Christian faithfulness. Original sin is not transmuted to infants as a predestined flaw. As men and women, we are born innocent, but inevitably tend to sin by our own natures. God extends His grace to give men and women the power to overcome sin and become genuinely holy and obedient."6
    3. "...most Friends consider the Scriptures to be inspired by God, the Bible is helpful in weighing whether new inward guidance comes from the Spirit of God or from another source."7
  3. Communion is not practiced
    1. "True communion with the body and blood of Christ is intuitive and consists of God’s daily spiritual nourishment of His people. Christ's breaking of bread with His disciples at the last supper was symbolic of this relationship...All these things, including communion rituals, were symbolic of better and truer things, and should be given up by anyone who has accepted truth."8
  4. God - No Trinitarian affirmation, though most Quakers affirm it (not verified)
    1. "God is love, and all else follows from that...human beings in this age as he has to the patriarchs, prophets, and peasants of old, and the testimony of His Spirit is the only true source of this highest knowledge."9
  5. Hell - Hell is a state of mind
    1. "The early Church writers teach that God is both Heaven and Hell, according to each person's righteousness...Paradise and Hell are not two different places. This is an idolatrous concept. They signify two different situations or ways, which originate from the same uncreated source, and are perceived by man as two different experiences. Or, more precisely, they are the same experience, except that they are perceived differently by man, depending on man's internal state...it is extended to all people everywhere, and all have been given enough to become acceptable to God"10
  6. Holy Spirit - No specific statement made
    1. No real statements on the personhood of the Holy Spirit is given.
  7. Inward Light - All have inner light, it is above Scripture
    1. "Conservative Quakers identify the Light of Christ as both the historical, living Jesus, and as the Grace of God extended by him that simultaneously makes us conscious of our sins, forgives them, and gives us the strength and the will to overcome them. The Light might be explained as the outpouring of the loving influence of God, extended through Christ to all people as the means of their potential salvation."11
  8. Jesus - No hypostatic Union affirmation, though it is said that most Quakers affirm it (not verified)
    1. "Jesus teaches and guides us by means of the Inward Light, and this Light illuminates our conscience, convicts us of our sins, and is the agency by which we are given strength to overcome it."12
  9. Justification - The Inner Light produces a transformation in our lives that results in justification.
    1. "If the Light is not resisted, it produces a spiritual transformation that is reflected in our lives, leading to justification, or authentic righteousness, saving our souls while we lead increasingly holy lives. But the responsibility for this transformation lies with Jesus Christ, not with our own actions, no matter how good they are."13
  10. Salvation - Said to be by grace, appears to be by works.  Salvation can be lost.
    1. "The Inward Light of Jesus Christ is the means of our salvation. Salvation comes from the free gift of God's grace, received in faith, demonstrated in our lives by our works.  This universal saving Light is extended to all people, everywhere, and at all times. There is no predestined failure of any man or woman. The Light can bring salvation even if the Scriptures are absent. Outward knowledge of the historic Jesus is not a criterion for salvation by Him."14
    2. Salvation can be lost:  "But rejecting the Light is always possible, and even after we accept God's grace, we can through our own will turn from it and be lost."15
  11. Sinless Perfection - Possible to achieve state of sinlessness in this life
    1. "All [Calvinists, Anglicans, Roman Catholics] fiercely rejected the Quaker assertion that victory over sin meant that God could establish a sinless state of perfection in men and women during this life."16
  12. Women - Women can be in places of spiritual leadership in the church
    1. "ESR [Earlham School of Religion] is a Christian graduate theological school in the Quaker tradition. ESR prepares women and men for leadership that empowers and for ministry that serves. This mission grows out of our Christian belief that God calls everyone to ministry."17

Other Quotes:

  1. No fixed beliefs
    1. "Quakers do not share a fixed set of beliefs. Our unity is based on shared understanding and a shared practice of worship, not on our beliefs all being the same. There is no need to be in unity with Quakers on every issue in order to be part of our meetings."18
  2. Quakers can be agnostics, humanists, and Orthodox Christians
    1. "Some describe themselves as agnostics, or humanists, or non-theists and describe their experiences in ways that avoid the use of the word God entirely."19

Media and Publications:

Analysis:

CARM recommends that people avoid the Quaker movement.  It affirms that justification is the result of the transformative power of the Inner Light that results in transformed lives which results in justification,

This church organization, also known as the Friends Church, does not have sufficiently defined doctrines.  Therefore, it is difficult to know what they actually teach in any capacity, so we cannot say that they are Christian. Therefore, we recommend that people avoid the Quaker Movement.

Resources Used:

  • conservativefriend.org
  • fgcquaker.org
  • quaker.us
  • quakerinfo.org

 

 

 

  • 1. quakerinfo.org/resources/statistics
  • 2. https://www.fgcquaker.org/cloud/gainesville-quakers/pages/3-what-do-quakers-believe
  • 3. quakerinfo.org/quakerism/beliefs
  • 4. conservativefriend.org/faithandpractice.htm
  • 5. conservativefriend.org/faithandpractice.htm
  • 6. conservativefriend.org/whatdowebelieve.htm
  • 7. quakerinfo.org/quakerism/beliefs
  • 8. conservativefriend.org/faithandpractice.htm
  • 9. ibid.
  • 10. conservativefriend.org/viewpoints.htm
  • 11. conservativefriend.org/faithandpractice.htm
  • 12. ibid.
  • 13. conservativefriend.org/faithandpractice.htm 
       Note that "In the year 1676, a young Scottish Quaker named Robert Barclay published a book that has stood for over 300 years as the best doctrinal expression of what early Quakers believed."
  • 14. ibid.
  • 15. ibid.
  • 16. conservativefriend.org/faithandpractice.htm
  • 17.
  • 18. fgcquaker.org/cloud/gainesville-quakers/pages/3-what-do-quakers-believe
  • 19. ibid.
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.