Quakerism has generally had no creed. George Fox dismissed theologians as “notionists”, and modern Quakers are generally less concerned with theology, and more concerned with acting in accord with the leading of the Spirit than are many other faiths. Quakers have historically expressed a preference for understanding coming from God’s Spirit over the knowledge derived from objective logic or systematic theology. This lack of a single set of authoritative doctrines has resulted in the development of a broad range of doctrines and beliefs among Friends, ranging from fundamentalist Christian to universalist. This in my mind is one of the few weaknesses of Quaker beliefs.
Most Friends believe a formal creed would be an obstacle — both to authentic listening and to the recognition of new insight. On the other hand, many if not most, Friends have enumerated and subscribed to a set of beliefs, such as the “Richmond Declaration” (a document composed by a conference of 95 mainly Orthodox Friends meetings in 1887 in Richmond Indiana) or the “Beliefs of Friends” stated by Evangelical Friends International.
Even though it was written over 100 years ago it is a very important document to understand what many Quakers think and believe even today. The document covers a wide variety of topic and beliefs including:
- Of God
- Jesus Christ
- The Holy Spirit
- Holy Scriptures
- Man’s Creation and Fall
- Justification and Sanctification
- The Resurrection and Final Judgment
- Supper of the Lord
- Public Worship
- Prayer and Praise
- Liberty of Conscience in its relation to Civil Government
First Day of the Week
Even though the Richmond Declaration does not represent the view of all Quaker Meetings I think it does a good job of telling us about many of them. The Richmond Declarations, among other things, seems to endorse the content of the Apostle’s Creed without endorsing the creed itself. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in more detail to read a copy of the Richmond Declaration.