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Many Paths Up the Mountain


The following letter from Paul Thompson, of Scone, Scotland, appeared in the August, 2000 issue of Friends Journal: Quaker Thought and Life Today. It illustrates the dynamic relationship which we feel exists between universalism and exclusivism:

I am frequently told, "There are many paths up the mountain." I'm a Quaker. I believe in the universality of saving grace. If I didn't believe that, I couldn't begin to call myself a Quaker!

So let's say that, yes, there is a mountain, and yes, there are many paths up it, from many starting places. And upon those paths there are many people.

Some of them are delighted with their path and are spending their time mapping every feature of its length. Others have decided that the view is nice from a particular point on the path and have settled down to enjoy it. Some have decided that they have no strength to climb any farther. Others are resolutely marching -- downwards! A few others stand in the way and refuse to let anyone climb any farther.

If that is not enough, there are others who set off at a tangent to their path, going round and round the mountain, or spiralling downwards. Others run from path to path, crying delightedly at what they find on each, but getting no farther upwards themselves. Others stick their noses in one or many maps, thinking that is where the mountain really is. Others are, understandably, sitting and weeping in utter bewilderment!

But some -- tragically few, as it happens -- have their eyes fixed upon the summit, and upon the One who sits there, below which there is no proper object of worship, nor true authority, nor power. Because their eyes are single, they walk steadily upwards, drawn by the One. They look neither to the left, nor to the right, and stop for nothing, except perhaps to offer a hand or a word of encouragement to someone who is struggling. They cannot be blocked by those who stand in the way, but step around them or move them with a plain word of rebuke.

And what is most remarkable is that the closer they come to the summit, where the One sits, the closer they draw to each other, the closer their paths come, and the fewer and fewer are the distinguishing features of the "many" paths, until they know -- at last -- unity in the One. Only in the One.

So do not make a creed or an idol out of "many paths"! Keep your eyes upon the One.

(See also Universalism, Pros and Cons)

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