Why making friends with God may not be the best idea

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Autumn 2005 No 17 – 01/10/2009

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Author: Ben Pink Dandelion

Description: Preparing and delivering a lecture could be considered a very different exercise to writing an article to be published. The reception of the first will depend on the physical setting, the audience and maybe even the time of day. It is set within a specific time frame, and although carefully researched it is of a more temporary nature. What listeners take from it depends on the personality and skill of the presenter as much as the argument.

I am, therefore, very pleased that Ben Pink Dandelion readily agreed to my request to publish the 2004 Ellen French Lecture. I was intrigued by the title and wondered why ‘making friends with God may not be the best idea’. Having introduced the notion of friendship being the most subversive form of relationship on the first page what follows is an account of how the idea of God has changed since Fox’s realisation in 1647 that ‘humanity can be spoken to, directly and without mediation of text and priest’. After setting out the early history and the significance of the direct experience and spiritual intimacy Ben is able to compare this with the twentieth century movement away from an interventionist God to one who did not act in the world and ‘who in humanised form was only equal to their own sense of potential, or no God at all.’

It is uncomfortable reading and does bring into question for me personally what have the forty years since John Robinson’s Honest to God, and all that followed, resulted in? In the final section Ben addresses the question of what this has meant for the Religious Society of Friends in the twentieth century. A God who has become so humanised has severe limitations and can easily lead to the loss of hope within society, it also diminishes the mystery of God. This is a thought provoking article and I recommend it warmly.

Judith Jenner

Tutor in Quaker Studies

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