SWISS QUAKERS

Creeds and Theology

The attitude of Friends to formal creeds and theological dogma is different from that of most Christians. Creeds do not form the basis for association in their fellowship. Friends are aware of the limitations of words to express one’s deepest experiences. Friends also realise that words may suitably express the personal convictions of someone at one time, but that they will almost certainly be unsuitable for the same person later in life. It is even more difficult to define the religious conviction of a group of people. Words and phrases often lend themselves to very different interpretations.

The absence of creeds does not mean that Friends feel that it does not matter what a person believes. They recognise that personal beliefs vitally affect behaviour. Friends are people of strong religious views, but they are quite clear that these views must be tested by the way in which they are expressed in action. Many Friends have hesitations about the value of theology, fearing that it too easily leads to speculation and argument. But all would agree that humans, as rational beings, must think about the nature of their religious experiences.

This may make it easier to understand how the Religious Society of Friends can accommodate such a range of religious outlooks among its members. Pretty well every colour in the religious spectrum seems to be reflected in the views of Friends. There are Friends whose faith is most sincerely expressed in the traditional language of orthodox Christianity. Other Friends could justly be described as religious humanists.

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