Standing firmly in authentic Quaker tradition, we engage those practices that elevate our lives. No spiritual practice fulfills its meaning unless it make us a better, more loving person.
What would refocusing our theological efforts and religious impulses on God as metaphor for the life-giving, creative, ordering power of reality look like?
If God is conceived of as creativity as the sum of animating, organizing forces and relationships which are forever making a cosmos out of chaos.
We can connect this notion of divinity with the notion of salvation. However, keeping true to an evidential theological approach, we will bracket, for the time being, the traditional concepts of salvation as redemption from sin and the future of heaven.
Let’s suspend for a moment, or even move beyond, claims of the existence of any supernatural salvation. For many contemporary individuals wrestling with finding meaningful yet not irrational religious practice and expression, there is no afterlife, no heaven or hell, and Jesus isn’t coming back, either.
Salvation as a process or reality in this world, in this life, can be a metaphor for a process of integration (or harmony/eudaemonia), or sense of self-fulfillment and maintaining an orientation towards such ideals which foster peace, justice compassion, and affirm human dignity.
This concept of salvation is both personal and communal each overlap and neither can exist without the other.
Personal salvation implies a sense of individuation, integration, and wholeness. This is a dynamic state where thriving, growth, and moral and practical development are happening and possible.
At the personal level, a person is experiencing salvation when they are in pursuit of valid ideals which create self-fulfillment through the integration of all their beliefs and talents.
Social salvation occurs through ordering society in such a way that every person is capable of achieving personal salvation, when the community, and broader society uphold the ideals of justice, peace, love, freedom, and so on.
Salvation is the central task of religion, and according to Kaplan God is the power through which salvation is possible. Kaplan argues that “in the very process of human self-fulfillment, in the very striving after the achievement of salvation, we identify ourselves with God, and God functions in us” as life’s creative forces, tendencies, and potentialities (26). The entirety of Kaplan’s theology is commentary on the basic idea that God is the power that creates salvation.
Kaplan is identifying God with the dynamism which animates the entirety of the universe, from galaxies to subatomic particles, as well as with all those qualities which make the existence of the universe possible, such as order and the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. The creative power of the universe is an attribute of God, and without both the order and dynamism which underlies creation, the universe could not exist.
If anything, it makes God a fundamental aspect of reality by identifying God as the underlying unity of existence.Because God is forever creating a cosmos out of chaos,
Kaplan asserts that to believe in God is to believe that reality is constituted in such a way that salvation is achievable, i.e. that human beings are capable of achieving those things which are of greatest value to them (29). He does not explain how this is so, but he seems to assume that as part of the universe humans are being acted upon by God and brought forth out of chaos. As such, God is acting through us and upon us to bring us into a truly ordered existence, i.e. God is acting through and on humanity to create its salvation.
Salvation is achievable when order overcomes disorder, and this necessitates human beings working with God in the process of creation. In order for human efforts to be effective, they must align themselves with God through understanding the way reality is ordered and orienting themselves to their highest ideals.
Mindfulness – cultivating awareness of our lives and striving to live fully, rooted in the present moment.
Prayer/Meditation – expressing our deepest longings and hopes in sacred language and in silence – prayer is the language of the heart sanctified.
Sabbath – appreciating the need for rest and renewal. Honoring a sabbath is a chance to slow down and spend time with loved ones. We value the sacred rhythm that such a practice brings to our lives.
Loving Kindness – We strive to love our neighbor as ourselves, welcome the stranger, and promote justice in the world.
Self-Reflection/Turning – making sure we’re going in the right direction, walking the right path – when we wander, we must always turn back onto the path of life.
Restoration – working to restore wholeness, interconnectedness, and harmony – establishing right relationships between people and between people and nature.
Peace/Non Violence – seeking the peace that comes with wholeness – a thriving of of the entire person – body and soul. This peace can only come in it’s fullest sense when we reject violence as part of our solutions to conflict.
Justice – maintaining proper relationships by giving to others their due and respecting and promoting fundamental human rights.
Sustainability – efforts to live lightly on the earth, protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.
Simplicity – recognizing what is vital and what is extraneous and ordering our efforts and priorities accordingly.
Celebration & Cycles – following the rhythm of nature through the seasons offers a way of understanding what it means to be human and recognizing our inherent place in the ecosystem and the world.