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Are Quakers Protestant?
by Bill Samuel
Originally published February 1, 2001 at Suite101.com
This article was prompted by the invitation of Minnie Yamashita, Contributing Editor for Christianity - Protestant at Suite101.com, to contribute a paragraph on what Protestant means to me for an article of hers. I noted that there was dispute about whether Quakers were Protestants.
Now of course, as Minnie will testify, there are a great many ideas as to what Protestantism is. In discussing areas of difference between Quakers and Protestants, this article will focus on some of the classic concepts associated with Protestantism. Clearly, many today who consider themselves Protestants will disagree with one or more of the concepts ascribed to Protestantism in this article.
Early Quakers Didn't See Themselves as ProtestantsIt is quite clear from reading the works of early Friends that they did not identify with the Protestant movement. They considered the Protestant churches of their day, as well as the Roman Catholics, to be apostate. They felt that Protestants had lopped off some of the false branches of Catholicism, but did not challenge the root of apostasy. Insofar as Catholicism and Protestantism were different, early Friends would often in discourse on a topic point out what they felt were the incorrect views of Catholics and the separate incorrect views of the Protestants on the issue.
The early Friends considered themselves "primitive Christianity revived" - restoring true Christianity from the apostasy which started very early. They were not interested in reforming an existing church, but rather freshly expressing the truth of a Christianity before any institutional church took strong hold.
Some Differences Friends Had with ProtestantsThere were a number of differences early Friends had with Protestants of their day. Some of the key differences were:
Picture Today More MixedBoth Friends and the Protestant movement have evolved considerably since the middle of the seventeenth century. Beginning in the nineteenth century, much of Society of Friends has become more mainstream and tends to identify with some of the movements among Protestants. At the same time, some of the key Quaker understandings have become increasingly accepted among many Protestants in the last century. The pentecostal and charismatic movements, which have become a very large part of the Protestantism and have also impacted Catholicism, have some similarities with the early Quaker movement. A diverse Quakerism and a diverse Protestantism can no longer be so easily distinguished as they could be 350 years ago.
Another ViewIn his Can you believe? blog, Johan Maurer gives a different take on the same question.
© by Bill Samuel. Do not reprint in whole or in part without prior permission of the author, except for limited quoting in accordance with "fair use" principles. You are welcome to link to this page.
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