For some reason, this paragraph from the article fascinates me:
When you cannot achieve grace through sacraments, good works or confession, the only proof of grace is a way of life that is unmistakably different from that of others. This requires a certain withdrawal from the world. It requires the individual to supervise her own state of grace in her conduct—that is, it permeates the life with asceticism, forcing the “rationalization of conduct within the world for the sake of the world beyond,” as Weber put it. The requisite “rational” planning of one’s life in accord with God’s will forces you to reengage the world with a plan—or, more accurately, with a discipline (discipleship); that is, a self-conscious deliberateness that includes robust structures and processes for drafting the plan (discerning God’s will) and correcting mistakes through negative feedback (gospel order).
This description of the believers need for discipline describes the usual “Baptist” form of conversion and post-conversion interaction with the world. When we are converted, we are supposedly called to be “not of this world” yet we are simultaneously asked to have an impact upon it. Baptists haven’t given much thought to how this is done as a spiritual discipline. Sure, reading the bible is high on that scale of disciplinary measures, but there is no real advice about how to “supervise” our own states of grace. This dichotomy leads to Protestant Christianity being seen as a culture so intermingled with the world that we have Christian pop culture as a result, which mimics culture, so that we have an excuse to interact with it. What I find about Quakerism that’s appealing is their discipline of silence. It’s a withdrawal with a view toward “a plan.” I don’t believe Baptists are taught to have a “plan” of interaction with the world. If they are it’s merely to bring as many Baptists into the fold as possible. So insistent is that plan that there isn’t much of a desire to follow up on all those conversions (discipleship).
Isn’t this just like capitalism? It may be a simplistic comparison, but think for a moment. There is a need for a product. People buy the product. Others want it. More product is made until finally the market is saturated. Product still gets made but there is no outlet for surplus and no plan to deal with the surplus. There is no thought of any kind taken of the ramifications of mass production, be it spiritual or material. There is no follow through or discipline, only production.
Hmmm. I had not heard of this article before and I’m glad I found it at QuakerQuaker.org. Good food for thought.
- Max Weber and His Sociology of Religion (socyberty.com)
- Quaker Struggles (magdalenaperks.wordpress.com)
- The Beatitudes: Bless This Mess (gatheringinlight.com)