Crawshawbooth Friends’ Meeting House

I called at Crawshawbooth Friends’ Meeting house this winter. They were finishing a meeting and kindly bade me enter that I might look around and take photographs. It is an old, eighteenth-century cottage and meeting room with an upstairs gallery used for their library. It was gloomy within, on account of all that heavy, dark wood Friends typically inherit from posterity, but the windows were bright enough, and the garden without is likely a paradise each summer.

One gentleman explained how his religious journey had caused him to join several religions and learned much from each one. My face may have showed a lack of impression, for he changed the subject. Modern Quakers certainly admire and draw from other faiths. As popular and laudable as such inter-faith pluralism is now considered to be, it negates the supremacy of Christ and the exclusivity of His gospel (by which I mean the gospel alone offers a way to God, though the offer is open to all who will believe). Even those Quakers who deem themselves within the bounds of Christianity seem cumbered by unbelief. The Quaker scientist Jocelyn Burnell is quoted on the Crawshawbooth Meeting’s Facebook page, saying:

The resurrection, however literally or otherwise we interpret it, demonstrates the power of God, to bring life out of brokenness; not just to take the hurt out of brokenness but to add something to the world. It helps us to sense the usefulness, the possible meaning in our suffering, and to turn it into a gift. The resurrection affirms me with my pain and my anger at what has happened. It does not take away my pain; it still hurts. But I sense that I am being transfigured; I am being enabled to begin again to love confidently and to remake the spirit of my world.

Although this proffered explanation of Christ’s resurrection is not without merit, it does seem to miss the primary point- death is conquered! Sin is paid for! Heaven is open! Its opening clause rather gives the game away. To suggest it may not be a literal, historical event is to dismiss the entire gospel. At least she said ‘God’. One Quaker I once met could not even bring herself to say the word, so ‘narrow’ was its meaning.

Quakers are a nice bunch, a deeply spiritual people and many of their meeting houses were built in times of cruel persecution and discrimination. Yet to be spiritual and open-minded is not enough. That first Sunday in January, I preached on the Queen of Sheba coming to Solomon from 1 Kings 10. Merely hearing about the great Jewish king, his wisdom and riches, was not for her enough. She set off from the south to meet him in person. She was transformed from a seeker into a finder, for he left her breathless and laden with his wisdom and godliness. You are open to spiritual truth? Great. Now set off and find Him who is the Truth.

I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Proverbs 8:17