This is part of a series called “answers for a small-f friend.” These articles are deliberately simple, informal, and under 200 words…the kinds of answers that I might give casually over a cup of lemonade.
If you’re wanting to go deeper, I recommend Faith and Practice (any yearly meeting’s version) or Quaker Process for Friends on the Benches by Mathilda Navias. If you’re a video person more than a text person, try the QuakerSpeak series, available online.
Do you have a question I should add? Let me know in the comments.
How do those other Quakers think about the Bible?
Depends on which Quakers we’re talking about, and every branch of Quakerism has huge variation within it. But generally…
Evangelical Friends (usually associated with Evangelical Friends Church) and pastoral Friends (usually associated with Friends United Meeting):
A few of these are true Biblical literalists, but not many. Most center the Bible in their lives and try hard to live according to its precepts. Their interpretations vary widely. But almost all in these categories would call the Bible the Word of God. (Evangelical and pastoral Friends are not the same thing, but I put them together here because there’s so much overlap on this question.)
“Liberal” unprogrammed Friends, which is a misleading label but I use it as shorthand:
A few of these reject the Bible entirely. More use it as a useful spiritual guide but not central to their faith. For some, it is central. There’s a lot of emphasis on interpretation by Spirit. Almost never literalism.
“Conservative” unprogrammed Friends:
A conservative Friend once told me that that Jesus is the Word of God—the embodiment of Scripture and the Way of reading the Bible. Guidance comes through the Inner Christ and through Scripture. Bible is central but not literal.