Scripture is not essential to salvation

Scripture is not essential to salvation

Section 2B of Traditional Quaker Christianity asks “Are the Scriptures essential to salvation?” and it answers “no, Scripture is not essential to salvation.” Uh oh, them’s fightin’ words?

This is a good example of why many describe Conservative Friends as the “middle” in Quakerism. Because really? This is a topic where Quakers vary heavily. Evangelical Quakers would tell you, “yes, of course you need the Bible.” To Liberal Quakers? After getting over “salvation? What are we? Evangelicals?” you’ll encounter a mix. Some will agree with these Conservative Friends. Some don’t see any need for the Bible at all.

How does this work as a middle way? Well, the idea is that the Scripture is not essential but is useful. Were people saved through God’s power without Scripture? Sure, look at Abraham. Jesus wasn’t even born yet. Look at the first couple hundred years of the Church. Yes, the Light is sufficient.

But sometimes things are easier when you have more than the bare minimums. And that’s what this chapter gets at.

Terry Wallace gives four reasons why he believes it’s dangerous to say “because Scripture is not essential, we can just ignore it.” In summary:

  1. We can easily center “well my personal experience is…” instead of looking at the broad communal experience.
  2. It gives ammunition to those who oppose religion and would jump on any excuse to further marginalize Scripture.
  3. We can fumble our words and confuse the message “the written words are inessential” with “the Gospel is inessential.”
  4. We don’t want to hastily throw away a useful gift from God.

That third point gets interesting when you consider Barclay talking about people who had no chance to hear the Gospel and saying they still have a chance to be saved by obeying the Light. Certainly the early Church, with no New Testament canon yet, had the Gospel without the written gospels.

Then, toward the end of this episode (ostensibly while answering the discussion questions) we take a meandering wander over topics like:

  • Liberal Quakers are not Protestants but are mainline
  • The books of the Bible are most readily taken out of context
  • Under-appreciation for history, continuing revelation, and progressive revelation