My good friend Bob Maccini, who is a black-belt in karate Quaptist, who plays the coronet and the guitar with consummate skill, who has a doctorate in Johannine studies from Aberdeen, who with his wife Becky gave a home to three Russian children, who is an ordained Baptist pastor, a highly sought after copy editor of academic publishing, a cross country skier and a qualified football ( I mean football) referee - anyway, my friend Bob had his first pastorate in the Quaker meeting attended by Elton Trueblood.
Now I'm not sure how many people now recognise the name of Elton Trueblood (1900-1994), that deeply wise and intelligent philosopher-Quaker. Phiosopher, chaplain to Stanford and Harvard Universities, ecumenical pioneer and in at the founding of the World Council of Churches, leading thinker in the post World War 2 Quaker renaissance across the United States. But he is another of those Christian thinkers whose writing shaped my early thinking, and whose wisdom still lightly guides the way I think a community of Christians should live, treat each other and look with compassionate understanding on the world of people. Three of his books, even in their titles, suggest why the theology and spirituality of Elton Trueblood merges with Baptist theology into that attractive kind of Christian Bob refers to as a Quaptist. The Company of the Committed is a clear argument for human community, centred on Christ, and expressed in costly service in which the cost is the least important thing. The Incendiary Fellowship portrays a community of Jesus' followers who burn with hopefulness, love and a trustful openness to life in the Spirit. The Yoke of Christ is a volume of sermons in which following Jesus is spelled out as learning through living, and living in such a way that Jesus' words are both harness and freedom, that our faith is both a calling and a chosen obedience, the grateful yes with which we embrace the invitation to follow after Christ.
The books don't read so well now. They were so clearly attuned to their times from the 50's to the late 70's, that they have lost that counter-cultural edge because the culture they were countering is long past. And in its place a world infinitely more complex, less congenial to Christian thought or indeed any other over-arching view of the way the world is or should be, and thus a world in which human hopefulness has to survive in an ecology much more fragile, and in a cultural and moral ecology increasingly awash with newly developed toxins we are not sure how to control.
I read a couple of the sermons from the Yoke of Christ a week or two ago - it's the one volume I still have. And the sermons still work at the level of the classic - Trueblood touched on things that are always important, and each generation should at least consider. And in his day, he wrote with diagnostic skill, identifying the malaise of modern culture. His book The Predicament of Modern Man was summarised for the Reader's Digest, received sacks of reader response mail, and he answered every one of them personally. But the cost of contextual popular writing is its effectiveness wanes as the context changes. Still, I'm glad my Quaptist friend reminded me of this fine, modest but spiritually impressive Quaker leader, who embodied the name of this blog and who lived wittily in the tangle of his mind. You can read a bit more about him here.