Quaker Studies

The Experience of Regeneration and Erosion of Certainty in the Theology of Second-Generation Quakers: No Place for Doubt?

Quaker Studies (2008), 13, (1), 6–88.

Abstract

The convincement accounts of first- and second-generation Quakers reveal changes in the implicit, narrative theology of regeneration and revelation, despite a relatively consistent articulated theology. Early Friends experienced one, overarching grace that encompassed justification, sanctification and the restoration of creation, emphasizing the culminating experience of regeneration. Anxiety about election, inherited from Puritanism, was replaced with assurance grounded in an experience of victory over sin that both justified and sanctified, and conferred a new, immediate understanding of the truth. This understanding was a subjective, relational knowledge of God’s presence that was only secondarily propositional.

Without the broad vision linking justification and sanctification, which dissipated with the passing of the historical moment, second-generation Friends were left with the expectation of victory over sin, but with no explicit teaching on justification and an experience that suggested the struggle with sin was ongoing. For some, regeneration was easily reduced to individualized ethical perfection without the assurance of forgiveness, which was compounded by the problem of communicating the experience of grace. Second-generation experience left greater room for doubt; and although immediate revelation remained authoritative, Friends began to raise the question of discernment and draw on secondary sources of knowledge.

The Experience of Regeneration and Erosion of Certainty in the Theology of Second-Generation Quakers: No Place for Doubt?

Abstract

The convincement accounts of first- and second-generation Quakers reveal changes in the implicit, narrative theology of regeneration and revelation, despite a relatively consistent articulated theology. Early Friends experienced one, overarching grace that encompassed justification, sanctification and the restoration of creation, emphasizing the culminating experience of regeneration. Anxiety about election, inherited from Puritanism, was replaced with assurance grounded in an experience of victory over sin that both justified and sanctified, and conferred a new, immediate understanding of the truth. This understanding was a subjective, relational knowledge of God’s presence that was only secondarily propositional.

Without the broad vision linking justification and sanctification, which dissipated with the passing of the historical moment, second-generation Friends were left with the expectation of victory over sin, but with no explicit teaching on justification and an experience that suggested the struggle with sin was ongoing. For some, regeneration was easily reduced to individualized ethical perfection without the assurance of forgiveness, which was compounded by the problem of communicating the experience of grace. Second-generation experience left greater room for doubt; and although immediate revelation remained authoritative, Friends began to raise the question of discernment and draw on secondary sources of knowledge.


Details

Author details

Tousley, Nikki Coffey