Open to New Light: Quaker Spirituality in Historical and Philosophical Context

Open to New Light: Quaker Spirituality in Historical and Philosophical Context

by Leslie Stevenson


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This book is about "the meaning of life" or "the spiritual quest". It offers a selective and critical evaluation of some central strands of Western religious and philosophical thought over two and a half thousand years. It starts with Socrates' philosophy of life, and the Greek tradition of philosophy that he initiated. It gives its own “take” on the teaching of Jesus, and on the long and controversial history of Christianity. There is a chapter devoted to George Fox and the beginning of the Quaker movement, suggesting some surprising parallels between the undogmatic spirituality of the Quakers and the heavyweight philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It recommends a non-literal interpretation of language about God, with some reference to Austin Farrer on “poetic truth”. It is intended for the intelligent general reader – it is accessible but not “dumbed down”, knowledgeable but not overburdened with detail, critically argumentative but not prejudiced.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845402303
Publisher: Imprint Academic
Publication date: 01/28/2012
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 6.35(w) x 9.23(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

Leslie Stevenson was Lecturer, then Reader, in Philosophy at the University of St.Andrews 1968-2000 now Honorary Reader (retired). Author of Ten Theories of Human Nature (OUP), and The Many Faces of Science (Westview).

Table of Contents

Preface v

1 A Sevenfold Spiritual Quest 1

2 The Philosophy of Socrates 9

Ancient Athens in the 5th century BCE 9

The life and death of Socrates 10

Our sources of knowledge about Socrates 12

Socrates' philosophy 13

A few comments on Socrates' philosophy 20

3 The Teaching of Jesus 23

Ancient Jewish society up to the time of Jesus 23

The sources of our knowledge of Jesus 27

Jesus's teaching 31

Some comments on Jesus's teaching 42

4 Ancient Philosophies of Life 45

A world of multicultural empires 45

Plato 46

Aristotle 48

Epicureanism 50

Stoicism 51

Roman stoicism 53

5 Rationalism or Fundamentalism: Recurring Tensions in Christianity, Islam and Judaism 59

Christianity - the first three centuries 59

The Council of Nicea 65

The Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity 67

Muhammad and the birth of Islam 70

Medieval Islam 73

Medieval Judaism 77

Christian scholastic theology 80

6 George Fox and the Beginning of the Quakers 85

The Reformation 85

17th-century England 87

George Fox's Light of Christ Within 89

The beginning of the Quaker movement 93

Fox's religious ethics 94

The growth of Quakerism 98

7 Light or Enlightenment? 103

Inward light? 103

Robert Barclay's "immediate revelations" and Descartes' "natural light" 104 Fallibilism in identifying the Light or Spirit 109

Locke on "enthusiasm" and "reason" 111

The Enlightenment 113

8 Kant's Philosophy of Religion Compared to Quakerism 117

Kant's philosophy 117

Does the Religious Society of Friends exemplify Kant's ethical community? 120

How far do Quakers and Kant agree on theology? 123

Do Kant and Quakers differ on the possibility of religious experience? 130

9 God As Metaphor 135

Is it a matter of existence? 135

Conceptions of God in the Bible and the Qur'an 137

Personification in the arts 140

Personification in theology 141

God-talk without personification 143

Farrer on poetic truth 145

Metaphorical realism in theology? 149

10 Resurrection? 157

Dogma and openness in religion 157

What is resurrection of the body supposed to be? 160

The resurrection of Jesus? 165

Resurrection as spiritual renewal 168

Wittgenstein and an epistemology of love? 173

Index 179

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