Input requested

Been thinking, and thought I would ask on the blog:

For those Quakers reading this outside of the Evangelical circles, what do you consider as helpful books on the history of Quakerism? I’d be interested in reading a good history of Quakers from a non-Evangelical perspective.

Also for those non-Evangelical Quakes, have you read John Punshon’s “Reasons for Hope: The Faith and Future of the Friends Church”? What are your impressions and thoughts of his work?

Thanks in advance.

10 thoughts on “Input requested

  1. Well, since you asked, here are a few suggestions off of our bookshelf:

    A Western Quaker Reader: Writings by and about Independent Quakers in the Western United States, 1929-1999, edited by Anthony Manousos (also current editor of Friends Bulletin)

    The Reformation of American Quakerism, 1748-1783, by Jack Marietta (out of print but worth looking for)

    The Growth of the Peace Testimony of the Society of Friends, by Horace G. Alexander. I have no idea how we got this little pamphlet, published by the Friends Peace Committee in Britain in 1939, and reprinted in 1956, but if you can find it, I think it is nicely done. This is the last paragraph:
    “As Rufus Jones said: “If Friends are to challenge the whole world and claim the right to continue in the ways of peace while everybody else is fighting, they must reveal that they are worthy of peace, and that they bear in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

    This Jones quote is footnoted as being from his Later Periods of Quakerism, p. 718. Jones’s massive history series is liked by some and discredited by others. I haven’t actually read it.

    Fellowships, Conferences, and Associations: The Limits of the Liberal Quaker Reinvention of Meeting Polity by Elizabeth Cazden comes recommended by Martin Kelley.

    Two well recommended books by Thomas Hamm (that I haven’t read) are The Quakers in America and The Transformation of American Quakerism

    Last, I haven’t read the Punshon book you mentioned, but I will now look for it. I have read Testimony and Tradition: Some aspects of Quaker Spirituality, which was the Swarthmore Lecture at Woodbrooke in 1990. I read it a few years ago, as part of our Thursday night study group in our Meeting. I wasn’t really ready for it then, but I may have to go back to it now.

    I hope I’ve got all these links correct.


  2. Hmm… I’m inside an Evangelical circle, but critically so. Does that count… for anything?

    If it does, or even if it doesn’t, I think Punshon mis-states what Evangelicalism is in an effort to bring together two incommensurable streams. Or at least he doesn’t address how untenable scriptural infallibility is within Evangelicalism from a faithfully Friendsesque position.
    Maybe Friends are the necessary corrective, but as infallibility is understood and accepted among self-identifying Evangelicals it doesn’t jive with the way I think Friends understand scripture.

    I don’t think Punshon dives into that deep enough and he really should have.


  3. Hi Gregg,
    Well for general history, I think Thomas Hamm’s recent “Quakers in America” is great. He’s one of the few out there that really tries to understand where the different branches are coming from. He does a nice job near the front introducing readers to a lived experience of worshipping with four different types of Friends.

    I personally have liked the times I’ve met John Punshon but I’ve not been able to start in on “Reasons for Hope.” My understanding is that he was aiming it toward FUM Friends, trying to find a way to bridge between them and Evangelical Friends (although a British Friend now back in the UK last time I heard he was still keeping his membership in Indiana Yearly Meeting). It might be a fine book but on cursory glance it doesn’t seem to address the issues I’m facing. Who know though, maybe some time I’ll open it up and go “wow” and read it in an afternoon (does happen sometimes).
    Your Friend,
    Martin Quaker Ranter


  4. Woops! I’ve been a bad blog host, and haven’t acknowledged all these comments. Sorry!

    Robert, good to see you here! When I was at Fuller, we were always hyper in our distinction between “infallibility” and “inerrancy”. Do you make that same distinction? Or do you still see infallibility, as distinct from inerrancy, as untenable from a Friends perspective? I’d be interested in your thoughts about that.

    Robin, Chris, and Martin: thanks for the reading suggestions, and more than that, thanks for letting me journey with you. This is a fun journey, and I have lots to learn from you all.


  5. OK, I’m almost half way through Reasons for Hope, and my first word for it is “dry.” But I’m still plugging along. I just finished ch. 4 where he does address the difference between infallibility and inerrancy. But he basically ends that discussion with the hope that we can all just get along.

    Maybe I’ve been out of school too long, but it’s been a while since I’ve read such a book so obviously written by an academic – “While such a conclusion would be contested in some quarters, we shall assume …” “The second important element in any theory …” “This chapter will look at these diverse influences and think about how …” I hear this all in my head in an arch and somewhat pedantic tone.

    But I’m curious whether you think this was a good explanation of modern Evangelical Friends?


  6. I wasn’t so much curious about what you thought of Reasons for Hope because I thought it was a great book (it’s fine, but yeah, academic)…I’m more curious what it was like to read from the perspective of someone on the unprogrammed/liberal side of Friends. Punshon starts his journey from the liberal Friends side, and ends up articulating a fairly Evangelical perspective. Evangelical Friends love that, of course…so I was curious how compelling (or not) his journey was to someone from non-Evangelical circles.


  7. I’M DONE! I didn’t finish Reasons for Hope before I came to Newberg, as I had hoped, but I slogged on and finally came to the end. I think I will write a longer book review on my blog, but I will give you some notes.

    For me, it was like reading about a foreign culture. Part of it, I think, was that he was trying to make very logical arguments about religion, a topic which for me does not lend itself to airtight logic.

    Second, it seems like he is having to shore up his evangelical credentials along the way, and so he keeps repeating his assumptions that “x is essential to evangelicalism and therefore is a priori correct” which doesn’t hold water with me. I just don’t start from the same place and so I get tangled up trying to follow his logic.

    Two things that were interesting to me:

    One was his discussion of the place and importance of open worship in evangelical Friends programmed worship services. I liked his description, as I understood it, of all the singing and preaching as being part of the process of bringing folks into greater awareness of the presence of God and then leaving them there in open worship. Other evangelicals might argue about this, but it made a lot of sense to me.

    Second was at the end, his description of what the Friends Church needs to do to survive sounds a lot like what I think unprogrammed Friends need to do to: to be clear about who we are so that folks can choose to be part of it, not to water down our distinctive character so that “everybody” will feel comfortable.

    In the end, I’m glad I read it but I wouldn’t recommend it to people as a primer on the Friends Church. Do you have another suggestion for that role?


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