Quakers have beliefs, but not creeds or dogma. To Quakers (or Friends) the primary source of spiritual inspiration, and the central belief, is that each individual is endowed with a measure of the divine, called the ‘Inner Light’, or ‘that of God’. Quakers hold that each person can experience the Inner Light in their daily lives without the need for formal creeds, theologies, or doctrines. Seeking this measure of the divine is at the heart of Quaker worship and life.
The concept of the Inner Light, or ‘that of God’, is central to Quaker beliefs. This measure of the divine is part of an individual’s soul or inner being, and was inspired in part by the Biblical passage (John 1:9) referring to the “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”. What individuals do with this Inner Light is in large part left to their free will and choice. Quakers recognize that there is the potential for good and evil in all of us, but believe that we can turn to this light, choosing to become ‘children of God’ or ‘children of the Light’.
Believing in the possibility of a direct experience with the divine is not unique to Quakers, but Quakers are unique among Christian religions in the importance they place on the importance and availability of this experience. Quakers hold this direct experience as the primary source of religion. Although Friends believe in the value of the Christian bible as a source of inspiration and a guide, they do not believe it should have the final say, or that it is infallible.
Queries are what Quakers call the questions we ask ourselves about our faith and practice. They are simply a device for prompting reflection and self-examination. They are not used to harangue or harass, but rather to gently direct our attention to the harmony between what we believe and how we act.
Queries are broken into general categories for classification. Listed below are some of the categories and some sample queries from that category. (For more information, consult the Faith and Practice manual published by Baltimore Yearly Meeting)
Meetings for Worship
Are meetings for worship held in expectant waiting for Divine guidance?
Do you come to the meeting with heart and mind prepared?
Meetings for Business
Are meetings for business held in a spirit of worship, understanding, and forbearance?
Do we humbly set aside our own preconceived notions as to proper action, seeking instead Divine guidance as to the right course?
The Meeting Community
Are love and harmony within the Meeting community fostered by a spirit of open sharing?
Does the Meeting provide for the spiritual refreshment of all members and attenders?
Personal Way of Life
Do you live your life in accordance with your spiritual convictions?
Do you practice simplicity in speech, dress, and manner of living, avoiding wasteful consumption?
Do you strive to develop your physical, emotional, and mental capacities toward reaching your Divinely given potential?
Home and Family
Do you make your home a place of affection where God’s presence is felt?
Do you grow together through sharing prosperity and adversity?
Can you keep a sense of humor and avoid taking yourself too seriously?
The major testimonies are well-known. These include the:
Abhors participation and support of war in any form.
Holds that all persons are equal before God, regardless of their sex, race, class, or other condition. This testimony began with the testimony of equality of men and women.
Values simplicity and moderation in speech, living, and clothing. In modern times, this is visible by the informality with which we dress for Meeting for Worship.
Inspires Quakers to speak the truth on all occasions, and to avoid oath-taking, which implies that when not under oath, a person might not be telling the truth. Instead of swearing (as in swearing in before a court), most jurisdictions today acknowledge a person’s right to affirm.