A Few Comments on Terminology Used on This Site
Early Quakers used the term "Inward Light" to refer to God's direct revelation
into the hearts of all believers, as described particularly in John
1:9. Many Friends today
describe the core of their faith being belief in the "inner light". This phrase, to me, leads to major
confusion with personal conscience and undefined goodness or potential for good
within each human.
Although the term has not been
widely used by Friends, I like to use the term "Holy Spirit" (in a similar manner to Inward Light) to refer to
many of the ways in which God touches and inspires individual people of
faith. The Holy Spirit can draw
Friends together when their hearts are opened to the divine presence in silent
communion. This same Spirit that
can "cover" waiting worship is also capable of giving words to those called to
offer vocal ministry out of the gathered silence. I also believe the Holy Spirit can play a critical role in
physical and emotional healing. I
am not, however, a Trinitarian and in no sense believe that the Holy Spirit is
a separate "person" from God the Creator or Christ. God is one person, but certainly God acts in our lives in
many different ways!
Many Friends today like to use
the word "Spirit" (or "spirit"), often as a way of avoiding offense to others
who have a block about the words God or Lord.
I have no problem with using "Spirit" if it is clear that the word
refers to the living Divine being who speaks, teaches, inspires, guides, heals,
and gathers us together. Unfortunately, however, it is often very unclear what "Spirit" actually means to
Friends who use this term. Too often, I sense it is used to refer not as a word for God but to a kind of vague force or spirit of goodness, devoid of divinity, power, or
intentionality. To me the heart of Quakerism is the direct intimate guiding relationship between God and the faith community. If one does not believe in a God that can guide or lead, I do not understand what Quakerism is about.
The word "Christ" was originally the Greek word for savior or
messiah. Only later did the word
come to be interchangeable with Jesus' name. Friends traditionally have used the word Christ in a unique
manner among Christians. They have often used "Christ" as yet another way to
refer to God's direct relationship with the believing community in the present. The term Inward Light, in fact, originally referred
to the Inward Light of Christ. The expressions Inward Christ, Living Christ and Spirit of Christ emphasize this understanding of Christ, which is emphatically not limited to the
historical Jesus of Nazareth or to a single (if universe changing) act of salvation that took place in the 1st century.
Early Friends clearly made no
distinction whatsoever between Christ as the human who lived in Galilee in the
first century and Christ as God acting to transform and guide lives today. This unity is not always as evident for
Friends who use terms such as Inward Christ today. I will not attempt to address here my
beliefs on Christology other than to say that when I use the term
Christ in these writings I am referring in most cases to God acting in hearts, lives, and communities in the present day.