What do the Advices and Queries tell us of the Quaker view of God?
Quakers don’t have a creed, a formal statement of belief. One thing we agree about is that words are inadequate to express deep spiritual truths, so we refuse to be bound by them. Many of us are particularly cautious about using ‘the G word’ ie God. For some of us that is because we don’t believe in what we understand the word God to mean, for others it is that we feel our listeners or readers won’t understand what we, as individuals, mean by ‘God’. Most Quakers do turn to Advices and Queries, occasionally or frequently, individually and in communal worship, for guidance and challenge in all the varied aspects of our lives.
In Advices and Queries the word ‘God’ appears thirty-six times, along with several other words such as Love and Light that are used as synonyms for God.
I had a look at how the word God is being used in these cases. Frequently it is used with another word which I feel describes an attribute of God. This may help to give us an image of the Quaker view of God. On eight occasions Advices and Queries refers to ‘God’s guidance’ or ‘the leadings of God’; five times to ‘God’s love’; twice to ‘God’s light’; twice to ‘God within’ and seven times to ‘experience of / awareness of / presence of / communion with God’. There are also references to God’s healing power, purpose / will and continuing creation. There is mention of our responsibility to and service of God. There is NO mention of vengeance or judgement.
The image of God that I draw from this fits with my experience. This God is a Presence rather than a person, it is loving, forgiving and healing. It is an energy or force, rather than an entity. It has a purpose, a positive, creative purpose and will guide us (if we pay attention) to co-operate with it in carrying out that purpose. It is through people that God acts in the world.
As Quakers, individually and corporately, we try to listen to ‘the promptings of love and truth’, to ‘trust them as the leadings of God’ and to apply them in the decisions and actions of our daily lives. The Quaker understanding of God is a Presence that guides us; our responsibility is to ‘take heed’ of that guidance.
Oh look – we’re back at Advices and Queries 1!