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May 31, 2006

New Light on George Fox

Some discussion on the QuakerInfo forums led me to this book, which is now fifteen years old. It's a collection of essays presented at a 1991 University of Lancaster conference marking 300 years since the death of George Fox, and its various essays look at early Quakerism from a variety of perspectives rather different from the canonical view of Quakerism created by Fox's Journal and the writings of Friends like Robert Barclay and William Penn.

Perhaps the most startling theme of these essays is the early development of Quakerism, especially during the swirling chaos and explosive expectations of the later years of the Commonwealth. Millenarianism, the slow development of the Peace Testimony, and a sense of Christ's physical presence go well outside my usual expectations of Quaker doctrine. They do, however, help to explain a lot of seemingly strange situations in the 1650s, especially James Naylor's Christ-like entry into Bristol and his ensuing blasphemy trial. Splits like that of John Perrot, the Wilkinson-Story separation, and the Keithians make more sense when the early Quaker enthusiasm is looked at more for what it was than what it became.

The early radicalism and later (relative) conservatism also help explain how Quakers of varying kinds can go back to the writings of George Fox and find a variety of messages to support their current causes. One essay looks at how Robert Barclay (the 19th century descendant of the theologian) could argue that Quakers were predecessors of 19th century evangelicals, while another essay looks at how a cautiously anti-slavery tract by Fox was published in Philadelphia by Friends eager to slow abolitionist tendencies. Many early Quaker pieces were later edited heavily, notably Fox's correspondence and Journal, and it seems that later printings of early tracts were often more cautious than the original.

I suspect I'll be citing this book a lot in the future, but for now this summary, from David Boulton's essay, seems a good place to stop:

Quakerism was born in a critical overlap between a time when faith in regeneration by political means, strongest in the civil war period, was dying but not yet dead, and a time when faith in a 'kingdom not of this world' was making waves but had yet to reach high tide. Fox and his fellow Quaker pioneers of the early 1650s had to face the confusions and uncertainties of this transition (which they did not know was a transition), and their early utterances on public policy illustrate the tension between the old vision, not yet wholly discarded, and the new, not yet fully embraced. Paradoxically, not until after the restoration to power of Quakerism's bitterest enemies did the movement fully develop its unique and most radical approach to politics and public policy, when the perceived demands of the 'kingdom not of this world' led them into direct action and civil disobedience as means of furthering social justice in this world.

(Unfortunately, the book is now listed at $119 on Amazon, though it was $31.25 at Quaker Hill Bookstore in an earlier edition. It's definitely a book worth finding through a library, excellent though it is. For a much cheaper, shorter piece that still conveys much of the chaos of the 1650s and its impact on Quakerism, try the Pendle Hill pamphlet The Atonement of George Fox, which looks at Fox and James Nayler.)

(Correction: The $119 book referenced above has a similar title and publication date, but it's for a book that expands on one of the essays in the conference papers collection. Amazon lists New Light on George Fox: 1624 to 1691 (ISBN: 1850721424) as unavailable, so it doesn't come up in searches.)

May 29, 2006


After the Marks of a True Christian, the Speller continues with three lists of names:

One part of the section on Devils, describing "them that rage so against the Light within", includes a reference worth following for more about the Light:

Turners of the World upside down, a people that are cursed and unlearned, ignorant, Schismaticks, Hereticks, Phanaticks; and these are them that rage so against the Light within, which doth give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ Jesus, and are so mad against the heavenly Treasure in the earthen Vessels, 2 Cor. 4.

The "earthen Vessels" reference appears to be to 2 Corinthians 4:5-7, which in the King James Version reads:

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us.

I've posted the full excerpt from the speller in the extended entry.

The Names which the Devil in Scripture
is called by.

The Serpent, and Adversary: An Enemy to Man: The Devil, who is a Destroyer: The old Dragon: Belial: The God of the World, who rules the World in wickedness: The Prince of this World, who gives forth his Law of death and Sin, and rules in wickedness and unrighteousness, which got into Adam and Eve by his lies and subtilty, and their disobedience, and now rules in the hearts of the disobedient: the Spirit and Prince of Darkness which fills People with Darkness, and makes them hate the Light of Christ, and blinds all his Subjects, that they call the Light of Christ natural, and Created, and Conscience: And the Devil is called Beelzebub Prince of Devils: the Accuser of the Bretheren : And this Devil, Satan, and Serpent made all his subjects all the People of God Bablers, pestilent Fellows, Movers of Sedition, Ring-leaders of Sects, Acts 24. Turners of the World upside down, a people that are cursed and unlearned, ignorant, Schismaticks, Hereticks, Phanaticks; and these are them that rage so against the Light within, which doth give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ Jesus, and are so mad against the heavenly Treasure in the earthen Vessels, 2 Cor. 4. And these be of the same Spirit that the Jews were in that said Christ (the Light) had a Devil, and by the Prince of Devils, cast out Devils.

The Names of the Children of God
are called by

The Children of God are called the Children of the Light, and Seed of Abraham: and the Lot of God's Inheritance, and his Servants, and Hand-maids, Sons, and Daughters, and the Elect of God before the Foundation of the World, and the Children of God, then Heirs of God, 1 Peter. And they are called the Saints of God, the Church of God, Temple of God, Sheep and Lambs of Christ, Brethren of Christ, Spouse and Wife of Christ, a chosen Generation, a royal Priest-hood, offering up spiritual Sacrifices to God, who is a Spirit, a holy Nation, a peculiar People, the Children of the Light, and of the Day; which makes all the Children of the Night and of Darkness to rage against them: They are called the Light of the World, and the Salt of the Earth, and a City set on a Hill, that cannot be hid, and against this City doth Mystery Babylon the great City fight, with her Children; but they cannot prevail, for the Lamb and the Saints shall have the Victory.

What Christ is called.

Christ, our Lord and Master, crucified in spiritual Sodom and Ægypt, is called The Wonderful Consellor, who doth counsel People of the possession of their Salvation, and of a Kingdom, and of a Life, and of a World that hath no end; and how to walk, that they may honour God through him: He is called, The mighty God, and the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, who rules in Righteousness and Peace amongst his Children, Christ Jesus the Saviour, and Christ the Light of the World, the Anointed of God: The Emanuel, that is, God within, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, Justification and Sanctification, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Word of God that hammers down and cuts down Sin, and burns it up, who is the Elect and precious laid in Sion, to all the Sons and Daughters of Sion, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who rends to pieces the old Dragon, and bruises the Serpent's Head, and Jesus Christ our Lord; a Lord is a a Ruler, so Christ is a Lord to rule and order and govern, and dispose his People, and so he hath the reverence and honour: for he rules, and orders, and governs, in Righteousness, Holiness, Virtue, Purity, Equity, Godliness and Truth, and in Wisdom, Power, Light and Life. (36-40)

Marks of a True Christian

This is another piece from the speller I mentioned a few weeks ago, Instructions for Right Spelling and Plain Directions for Reading and Writing True English, by George Fox and Elias Hooke. I still haven't found this speller anywhere else, so I'll post pieces of it as I find time to type them in. (I'm focusing first on pieces about religion rather than on the actual spelling parts.)

The Marks of a True Christian.

To love one another, and to add to your Faith Vertue, to your Vertue Knowledge, which Knowledge is to know God, and Jesus Christ who he hath sent, which is Life Eternal; and to your knowledge at Temperance, and to your Temperance add Patience, for that runs the Race and obtains the Crown of Life; and unto Patience, Godliness, in that Brotherly kindness is known. (36)

Love against fear

Meeting yesterday closed with a series of messages about love, concluding with one which looked at love in the scriptures, examining how "love's opposite is not hate, but fear," with some discussion of how this means we need to live as if peace is possible, and the kingdom of God is not just coming, but here. This reminded Angelika of 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

I wrote about that passage before, but more in the general sense that God is love, not focusing on love's impact on fear, and love's (and God's) transformative power.

May 28, 2006

Possession above Profession

Reading the Doctrinal Works section of Fox's Works often makes me marvel that Fox survived the periods of Puritan and Restoration persecution at all. Pieces that I find fascinating expositions of his belief in the Light are often prefaced by blasts at other sects, reinforced by the persecutions those sects have already led. The extended title of Possession above Profession includes both aspects:

Possession Above Profession;

Being a Discourse, in which it may be clearly seen that many that make a Profession of Christ in the Flesh, and deny him in his Light, which he enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world withal, (which Light is the Life in the Word,) and speak evil against it, are such as possess him not, but persecute his Light and Life as the Jews, that persecuted him in the days of his Flesh.

And how that many Turks and Heathens will own his Divine Light more than many of them that make a Profession of Christ in the Flesh.

And likewise, how that all such as profess Christ Jesus has bought them, are to be governed and ordered by him, their owner; for the worldling's reason will say, ‘that which he hath bought and paid for, is his own to order and govern,’ &c.

The opening of the piece is a challenge to other believers, warning them that they may in fact be more closed to Christ's light than those with less claim to be Christian, including the Jew, the Turk, the Indian, and the heathen. As the piece develops, Fox comes to a large paragraph (which I've broken up as best I can) which explores how people know the 'light of Christ':

And Christ Jesus is not known as he is God in his divinity, nor in his flesh, as was manifest, but by this 'divine heavenly light, which we own, and believe in as he commands, who are children of the light; which name or title Christ bestowed upon us before you professors nicknamed us with the name of Quakers, in the year 1650, which name one Bennet, at Darby, gave us when he cast us into prison:

and as it is said, 'young men, you are strong, you have overcome the wicked one; fathers,you have known him from the beginning;' that is, you have known him in his divinity, you have known him in the promise, and in the prophets, you have known him in his birth and 'conception by the Holy Ghost,' ye have known him in his 'life, preaching, and miracles,' and the 'contradiction and blasphemies of sinners against him;' so you have known him in his sufferings, and have fellowship with him;

you have known him in his death and passion, as he was crucified without the gates at Jerusalem, and buried, ('who saw the travail of his soul, and was satisfied;') you have known him in his death, burial, and suffering, who lay three days and nights in the sepulchre, (or heart of the earth. Matt. xii. 40.) you have known him again in his resurrection, who is ascended above all principalities, powers, thrones, and dominions, and remains in the heavens till all things be restored; and restoring, by his light, power, spirit, grace, and faith, who is before all, and above all, first and last, and has made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, where our bread is sure, and our water is sure, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed.

And we that do believe in the light of Christ, which is the life in him, cannot deny the flesh of Christ, our heavenly bread, who remains in the heavens. I say, that Jesus Christ that died without the gates of Jerusalem above sixteen hundred years since, who hath enlightened us with his heavenly divine light, which is the life in himself, through which light we are grafted into Christ, the heavenly spiritual man, who hath saved, redeemed, and purchased and bought us with his precious blood, the blood of the heavenly man, the second Adam, who does cleanse and sanctify us with his blood, the blood of the new covenant, Christ Jesus: so I say, he that bought us, and purchased us, and hath given a price for us, to wit, his heavenly and precious blood,

we believing in the light, as he has commanded, which is the life in him, and he hath sealed us, Christ, the heavenly man hath set his heavenly seal upon us: so here is his heavenly mark upon us, his sheep, and we are his that has purchased us, and given a price for us, to wit, his heavenly blood; we are not our own, and are not to live to ourselves, nor to order ourselves, but to live unto him, and be ordered, ruled, and governed by him, of the increase of whose government there is no end; and so to be counselled by him, and led by him, and taught by him, as he is our heavenly prophet, and to be fed by him, our 'heavenly shepherd,' in his heavenly pasture and fold; and to be overseen by him, as he is our 'heavenly bishop,' that we his sheep do not go astray out of his heavenly pasture, that are come in by him, the 'heavenly door;' who is our 'heavenly priest,' that offered up himself for us, and ends all the outward typical offerings, that were offered up for sin, as well as the other;

and 'he offered himself up to God once for all, for our sins, a sweet-smelling sacrifice;' wherefore 'the offerings of bulls and goats thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me to do thy will, O God;' so God prepared him a body to do his will, and with his body he did fulfil his will, according to all his prophets and promises, whose flesh saw no corruption, which is the heavenly bread, and his blood, which purchases, which is not corruptible; for the blood of bulls and goats was corruptible, but this precious blood of Christ is incorruptible, that cleanseth from corruption: so, by his precious blood are we cleansed from all sin; he is a priest, made higher than the heavens, a 'heavenly priest,' and a 'heavenly spiritual man,' offered up himself first for us, and offers us, and cleanses, and washes, and sanctifies us with his blood, he who is without spot or wrinkle, to make us without spot or wrinkle, that he may present us pure and clean, without spot or wrinkle, up to the eternal, pure, holy, uncorruptible, infinite God, who is a consuming fire to the wicked, who dwells in glory, and inhabits eternity.

(202-3; paragraph breaks and emphasis added)

Much of this large paragraph would feel familiar to Puritans and other Christians, including doctrines of the crucifixion, Christ's saving power, and Christ as a leader, but there is a particularly Quaker moment in the section I highlighted:

we believing in the light, as he has commanded, which is the life in him, and he hath sealed us, Christ, the heavenly man hath set his heavenly seal upon us: so here is his heavenly mark upon us, his sheep, and we are his that has purchased us, and given a price for us, to wit, his heavenly blood; we are not our own, and are not to live to ourselves, nor to order ourselves, but to live unto him, and be ordered, ruled, and governed by him, of the increase of whose government there is no end; and so to be counselled by him, and led by him, and taught by him, as he is our heavenly prophet

The light here is described as "the life in him", the mark that we are his. The light is not of us, or of our desires, which Fox condemns frequently, but rather those believing in the light are "to live unto him, and be ordered, ruled, and governed by him". This direct connection places a tremendous burden on us, one Christ can help us carry through the light.

We may own the light, but the light owns us.

May 21, 2006

Missions of power and peace

I frequently start First Day mornings with the soundtrack to The Mission playing. Movie soundtracks aren't usually inspiring, and this one has seen unfortunate use in coffee commercials and elsewhere, but somehow this soundtrack rises to convey hope, struggle, and even failure.

The movie itself is one piece of my path to Quakerism, raising difficult questions about issues like:

  • the relationship of worldly power and church

  • the difficulty of the choices between war and peace

  • the possibilities lost through racism and dehumanization

  • the question of obedience: who to obey, how to choose, and what obedience mean.

  • questions of redemption

I don't think the movie answers any of these questions, which may be why it's rarely pronounced a classic. Rather, it poses them, in a context most Americans have never heard of, the suppression of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay in the 1750s. (At about the same time, Quaker legislators were deciding whether to stay in the legislature or leave as it became clear that Pennsylvania's historically good relations with Native Americans were about to be shredded in the French and Indian war.)

Robert De Niro's portrayal of a slave-trader turned murderer turned penitent turned missionary turned military leader is, despite the mere two hours in which it takes place, both plausible and compelling. Jeremy Irons' character is much more consistent, as a man devoted to God and his order, and the conflicts between the two of them fuel the movie as much as the horrifying takeover of the missions by the Spanish and Portuguese. The Guarani people aren't merely adherents, but play a more active role than the Spanish or Portuguese wanted to admit.

The movie may well have idealized the missions and the Guarani - not everyone is so fond of the Jesuit missions. Though it doesn't mention it explicitly, the movie also foreshadows the very real future devastation of Paraguay a century or so later in the War of the Triple Alliance.

May 19, 2006

Private vices, public goods?

I've always wondered how it was that Christians take capitalist economics so calmly or even eagerly embrace it. It's not just conflict with the Sermon on the Mount, but more a general worldliness. Consumerism in particular seems to distribute avarice to everyone while claiming it serves a public good.

Tillich had some comment on this in A History of Christian Thought, which I noticed a while ago and had to hunt down again this morning:

If we have a society of economic exchange that is dependent on selling and buying, it happens that human desires must be aroused to make such selling and buying possible. Thus an antipuritan principle developed in the midst of the Enlightenment and bourgeois discipline. If everyone should work and no one should buy and use the products of industry, there would soon be no work to do and the whole system would collapse.

Therefore it is not only good but essential to arouse in people the desire for goods. This resulted in the introduction of the pleasure principle as a dynamic into bourgeois society in opposition to the original Calvinistic and early bourgeois principle of work with its ascetic character. To put it in a formula, one can say that private vices are public goods. (353)

This echoed in my head when I stumbled onto "The Serious People's Reasoning and Speech with the World's Teachers and Professors", one of the works collected in Volume I of the Doctrinal Books in Fox's Works. (It's available online from Earlham.) Fox seems in part to be addressing 17th century proponents of trickle-down economics, who would suggest that their vices in fact support people who would otherwise be poor:

The priests and professors, and the world's table talk, is "...the Quakers, like a company of fools and novices, cry against us, and say we are all daubed about and dressed with pride: how must the poor live if we must not wear their lace? and gold and silver, and ribands on our backs?"

"Ay, but," saith the serious people, "are not thou burthened with all this garb upon thy back, and this vanity?... and if you say how should the poor live if you do not wear that; give them all that money which you bestow upon all that gorgeous attire, and needless things, to nourish them, that they may live without making vanities, and needless things, and costly attire for you, and through that you will live, and they will live both..."

The priests and professors of the world say, "These fools, these Quakers, cannot endure to see us with two or three rings upon our fingers, nor jewels in our ears, nor bracelets about our necks... how should poor people live if we should not wear them?"

Say the serious people, "All your gold rings, your cuffs, your great band-strings, your lace, your jewels, your bracelets, your gorgeous apparel, and attire, turn it all into money, and give it to the poor to buy them bread, and I will warrant you, that they and you will have all enough, and there will be no want amongst you, for you are always wanting..."

The teachers and professors of the world say, "The Quakers are offended at us, because our women have a dressing come down to the middle of their backs, and a great pair of cuffs upon their hands, and how must the poor people live if they should not do so?"

"The makers of these things," say the serious people, "let them make plain things, and do you wear plain things, and that money which you lay out on these costly things, give you to them; for who are you like in the scriptures? you are not like the christians, for what service is there is your wearing a bunch of ribands at your women's back?..." (194-197)

The main target of this piece is vanity, but Fox repeatedly destroys the claim that such vanities help the poor, arguing that while there is a place for the making and exchange of plain goods, the notion that luxury goods support the poor is repugnant.

(This also fits well with Fox's 1659 call for the houses of power to be given over to the poor.)

Quakers have a long history of profitable interactions with capitalism, even as captains of industry, but it's hard to reconcile the notion that private vices are public goods with "answering that of God in every man". And should be.

May 16, 2006

Fox's speller?

While hunting for A New-England Fire-Brand Quenched, a book of George Fox's that doesn't seem to be available online or in the Works, I stumbled upon Instructions for Right Spelling and Plain Directions for Reading and Writing True English, apparently a speller with religious instruction. I hadn't seen it referenced before, and it also appears to be largely unavailable except in libraries. (You can see card catalog entries for this book at Cornell.)

The title page identifies it as "By G.F. and E.H. Enlarged by A.S.", and it's listed under Fox regularly. "E. H." is probably Ellis Hookes, with whom Fox wrote The Arraignment of Popery in 1669. Cornell dates the original speller at 1673, though the edition I have is 1691. (Update: I found a bit more on it, focusing on the catechism, and confirming Fox's participation.)

The piece that intrigues me most is "The Child's Lesson", pages 8 to 12 of the speller. It reads like it could be Fox, or might not be. It could be Ellis Hookes, or the mysterious "A.S." (If anyone has ideas, I'd love to hear them.) Most of it is in blackletter script, but once transcribed, it looks like:

The Child's Lesson

Christ is the Truth. Christ is the Light. Christ is My Way. Christ is my Life. Christ is my saviour. Christ is my hope of Glory.

Christ is my Redeemer. Christ is my Rock. Christ is the Door. Christ is my king, and Lord of Lords. Christ is the Corner-stone. Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away my sin.

Christ is the Power of God. Christ is my wisdom. Christ is my Righteousness. Christ is my Sanctification. Christ is my Justification. Christ is the Seed, Christ is the Resurrection.

Christ destroyeth the Devil and his Works, which leadeth Man and Woman from God; and so Christ is the Way to God again.

Sarah was a good Woman.

Jezebel was a bad Woman, who killed the Just, and turned against the Lord's Prophets, with her attired head and painted face, peeping out of the Window.

Christ I must feel within me, who is my Life and my Light, and the Truth; and that is God that sheweth me my Thoughts and Imaginations of my heart; and that is the Lord God that doth search my heart.

It is the Spirit of Truth that doth lead into all Truth.

It is the Spirit of Truth that reproves the World of Sin.

And that is the good Spirit which reproves the bad and his Works.

And the Light manifesteth and reproveth; and that which doth make manifest and reprove, is the Light.

And that which giveth the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, is the Light which shineth in the heart.

And that which may be known of God is manifest within, which God hath shewn unto you; that is that which shews you Sin and Evil.

The Gospel is the Power of God.

The Cross of Christ is the Power of God, which crucifieth from the State of Adam and Eve in the Fall; in that Power is the Glorying, an Everlasting Glorying: And this is above the fleshly Glorying of Adam and Eve in the fall, with his Sons and Daughters.

The Church is in God the Father of Christ, and not a Steeple-house, and that is the Spirit that mortifies from my Sin.

And they that are led by the Spirit of God are the Suns [sic] of God; and that is the Spirit of God, which doth instruct me in God's ways, which are good, and that is the bad Spirit which leadeth into bad ways.

And if I be a Child of God, I must not grieve him, but must be meek, and sober, and gentle, and loving and quiet, righteous and humble, and live in the fear of God, and live godly, and not Lye, nor do any wrong to any one.

So if I be wild, froward, wicked, heady, high-minded, wilful, stubborn, proud, envious, disdainful, scornful, unrighteous, ungodly, and Lye, and do not the Truth, and forget God, such God turneth into hell, that Grieveth him.

In the beginning was the Word.

Since the beginning were the Words; and since the beginning was Babel; which is the beginning of Tongues, which is the Priests Original, but the Saints Original is the Word before Babel was, and that is the Originel [sic], makes Divine, and not the Tongues that began at Babel.

And it cost second Adam his Blood, to purchase me out of the state of Adam and Eve in the Fall, to set me in the state that he was in before he fell, to that which is a blessed state, out of the cursed state, and not only to the blessed state that Adam and Eve were in before they fell; but to Christ that never fell, to his Stature.

A Child being fallen from the Image of God, he hath not Peace.

A Child being in the Image of God, he hath Peace.

A Child being fallen from the holiness, he doth not see God, but being in the holinese he doth see God.

And the image of God is Righteousness and true holiness.

In six Days the Lord made the heavens and the Earth, and all things therein; and the sixth Day made Man and Woman, and had him have Dominion over the Works of his hands.

Christ is my foundation.

And Christ is the first and the last.

And Christ is a quickening Spirit.

Abel was a good Man.

Cain was a bad man, full of Envy and Wrath, and killed his Brother about Religion.

Isaac was a good man.

Ishmael was a wild Mocker and a scorning Archer, and turned into the Wilderness.

Jacob was a good man; Esau was a prophane man (who turned against Jacob) who bore the Sword.

The Spirit of Truth is my Leader into all Truth, and sheweth me things to come.

And the Power of God is my Keeper from Sin and Evil. And the Worship of God is in the Spirit and in the Truth.

The next section is titled "Proper Names in Scripture divided into Syllables, and the Significations of them in English; together with other memorable Passages mentioned in the Scripture, necessary and delightful for Children to Read and Learn." There's also a catechism.

If anyone knows anything about this book, please leave information in the comments.

May 15, 2006

So why would people persecute Quakers, anyway?

I'm almost done with Paul Tillich's A History of Christian Thought, and had an unexpected encounter with Quakerism in a discussion of Friedrich Schleiermacher, an 18th- and 19th-century theologian:

The first radical and fundamental apologetic statement made by Schleiermacher is the following. The unity with God, participation in him, is not a matter of immortal life after death; it is not a matter of accepting a heavenly lawgiver; instead it is a matter of present participation in eternal life.

This is decisive. Here he follows the fourth Gospel. The classical German philosophers called this the true Gospel, not because they thought this Gospel contained, historically speaking, reliable reports about Jesus—very soon they learned this was not the case at all—but because the Gospel of John came closest to expressing principles which could overcome the conflict between rationalist and supernaturalism. This idea that eternal life is here and now, and not a continuation of life after death, is one of the main points they stressed. It is participation before time, in time, and after time, and that also means beyond time.

The same criticism turned against all mediators between God and man. The principle of identity and all mysticism were always very dangerous for the hierarchical systems, for priestly mediation between God and man. This was the case both in Catholicism and Protestantism. The Protestant Churches were just as hostile as the Roman Church was to the mystical groups, to the Quakers, for example, in whom the principle of identity was affirmed in some way. They were suspicious of mysticism because it offered men the possibility of immediate unity with the divine apart from the mediation of the church.

So Schleiermacher reacted against priests and authorities; they were not necessary, because everybody is called to become a priest and to be filled with the divine Spirit. From this point of view, you can understand the resistance of the church against all spirit-movements, against the movements in which the individual is immediate to God, and driven by the Spirit himself. You can also understand the reason for the subjection of the Spirit, wherever it appears, to the letter of the Bible. The Reformers who originally fought against the Roman Church in the power of the Spirit soon had great difficulties of their own in the struggle against the spirit-movements of the Reformation period. It is a good thing that there were countries like Great Britain, the Netherlands, and America to which these representatives could flee from the severe persecutions of both the Roman and Reformation Churches. (396)

Of course, Great Britain and Massachusetts both persecuted Quakers for much of the 17th century, and Quakers were viewed with suspicion for a long while by many more traditional Protestants and Catholics. In general, though, I think Tillich (or perhaps Schleiermacher) makes some clear points here which echo the early Quaker experience directly. This is why George Fox wanted to call people out of steeplehouses, and why he was (along with many others) beaten and imprisoned for it.

May 14, 2006

Fifty Nine

While re-reading Douglas Gwyn's excellent Apocalypse of the Word (more on that soon), I found a reference to a piece by George Fox I don't think I'd seen before: Fifty Nine Particulars laid down for the Regulating things, and the taking away of Oppressing Laws, and Oppressors, and to ease the Oppressed.

Written in 1659, as the Puritan government was crumbling and the Restoration was coming, Fox's list is a mixture of Quaker concerns past and present. Some of them (especially around tithing, oaths, theeing and thouing, and churches) are specific to the persecutions Quakers faced at the time. Others likely felt puritanical in their time, but would have seemed too loose to many 19th-century Quakers, like:

46. And let none keep Ale-houses or Taverns, but those who fear God, that are come into the Wisdom of God, that will not let the Creatures of God be destroyed by Drunkards.

Images in churches, the use of the cross on flags and seals, bells, music, gold lace, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, weapons, sports, plays, and ballads all come in for reproach.

One item that still feels contemporary is this:

29. Let all those Abbie-lands, Glebe-lands, that are given to the Priests, be given to the poor of the Nation, and let all the great houses, Abbies, Steeple-houses, and White-Hall be for Alms-houses (or some other use than what they are) for all the blind and lame to be there, and not to go begging up and down the streets....

33. Let all the poor people, blinde and lame, and creeples be provided for in the Nation, that there may not be a beggar in England nor England's Dominions, that you may say you come to be equal with the Jewes, that had the law that made provision for widows, strangers and fatherless. He that turns his ears from hearing the poor, turns his ears from the Law, which says to provide for them, for ye have read the practice of the Church, the Saints which were in the Gospel, which doth condemn this Nation's practice. Where is so many Beggars among them, both the Jews in the Law, and the Church in the Gospel? And so let all great gifts given to great men, be given to the poor. Let the receiver deny it, and the giver return it to the poor; for the rich may give to the rich, but the poor cannot give it him again, so minde Christ's Doctrine.

Fox calls for the centers of power, religious and secular, to be given over to the poor of the nation. Then he calls for the "great men," again the people with power, to reject the gifts given them, again for the benefit of the poor.

I read this earlier this week, but wasn't quite sure how to talk about it. I knew that I should post, though, when I read this at the end of a book review this morning:

history has put America in a position where its national security depends on its further moral growth. This is scary but also kind of inspiring.

I don't think it's 1659 again, but it does feel like it's a good time to reread Fox's exhortations and consider what they might mean today.

May 7, 2006

Dwell in stillness and silence

Another letter from George Fox, this time CCI, from page 198 of Volume VII of the Works:

Dear Friends,—

In the stillness and silence of the power of the Almighty dwell, which never varies, alters, nor changes, but preserveth over and out of, and above all the changeable worships, religions, ministers, churches, teachings, principalities, and powers, with the power of God, which keepeth over all this, to the kingdom of Christ, that is everlasting, in which there is no changing, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords. All power in heaven and earth is given unto him, of whose light, life, power, and wisdom, grace, and riches have ye received, which comes from him that doth not change.

So in that live, that doth not change, the unchangeable life, the unchangeable mind, the unchangeable spirit and wisdom, and the unchangeable worship and church, of which Christ is the unchangeable head, who remains the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; in that ye will feel the blessing and presence of the Lord God of life amongst you, as ye all abide in the unchangeable kingdom, dominion, power, and life, who are heirs of it according to your measures, who have received the light, and received the life and grace, and the power of a kingdom and world that hath no end.

So wait all in it, that ye may be the possessors and inheritors of the kingdon, and of the life and power which hath no end, and of the promises, that are yea and amen; and let nothing, that is of the world, alter you, but keep ye that which keepeth you in the everlasting kingdom of God.

G.F. The 3d of the 3d month, 1661.

Fox's style, here as elsewhere, is repetitive, even swirling. When I first started reading Fox, this was difficult, as I'm used to writing that gets more directly to the point, but I think Fox's purpose is more complex. It's an exhortatory letter, perhaps to be read aloud, and in that swirling is room for the contemplation Fox proposes.

(I've added additional paragraph breaks to the letter.)

May 6, 2006

Rational, mystical, or both?

Earlier, I noted Paul Tillich's views on Quakerism losing its mystical edge. Later in A History of Christian Thought, Tillich looks at that issue again in a somewhat more positive light:

Rationalism and mysticism do not stand in contradiction to each other, as is so often thought. Both in Greek and modern culture rationalism is the daughter of mysticism. Rationalism developed out of the mystical experience of the "inner light" or "inner truth" in every human being. Reason emerged within us out of mystical experience, namely, the experience of the diving presence within us.

This can be seen most clearly in the Quaker movement. Quakerism in George Fox's time was an ecstatic, mystical movement, as were most of the radical movements of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods. Already in the second generation of Quakerism there developed a moral rationality from which have come the great moral principles of modern Quaker activities. There never was the feeling on the part of Quakers that their rational, pacifist, and in certain respects very bourgeois morality stood in conflict with their mystical experience of intuition. Therefore, it is useful to study the development of Quakerism in order to understand the relationship betwen mystical and rational inwardness. Both of them exist within our subjectivity.

The opposite of a theology of inwardness is the classical theology of the Reformers, namely, the theology of the Word of God which comes to us from the outside, stands over against us and judges us, so that we have to accept it on the authority of the revelatory experiences of the prophets and apostles. (315)

Earlier I worried that Tillich was suggesting that mysticism burns out and all that is left is rationality. Here he seems to be suggesting that the two can co-exist. For myself, I think they have to co-exist, and one without the other is too weak to stand against the claims of those who insist purely on authority.

May 5, 2006

Spirit and Scripture

I posted recently on early Quaker perspectives on Scripture. Here, for contrast, is Paul Tillich's description of the orthodox Protestant perspective:

What was the doctrine of the Bible in Orthodoxy? The Bible is attested in a threefold way:

  1. by external criteria, such as age, miracles, prophecy, martyrs, etc.;

  2. by internal criteria, such as style, sublime ideas, moral sanctity;

  3. by the testimony of the Holy Spirit

This testimony, however, gets another meaning. No longer does it have the Pauline meaning that we are the children of God ("The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Romans 8:16). Instead it became the testimony that the doctrines of the Holy Spirit are true and inspired by the Spirit. In place of the immediacy of the Spirit in the relationship of God and man, the Spirit witnesses to the authenticity of the Bible insofar as it is a document of the divine Spirit.

The difference is that if the Spirit tells you that you are children of God, this is an immediate experience, and there is no law involved in it at all. But if the Spirit testifies that the Bible contains true doctrines, the whole thing is brought out of the person-to-person relationship into an objective legal relationship. This is exactly what Orthodoxy did.

(A History of Christian Thought, 280, paragraph breaks added.)

I suspect that the largest distinctions between Quakerism and the surrounding Puritanism of its early days stem from that difference. Fox clearly saw the Spirit saying more about the Bible than just "YES". Even today, that difference continues, in my mind, to be a distinguishing feature of Quakerism as much as its practice of silent worship or its lack of formal sacraments.

May 1, 2006

The Inner Light, before Quakerism

As I continued through Paul Tillich's A History of Christian Thought, I ran into this passage during a discussion of thirteenth-century theology:

[The Franciscans said that] All knowledge is in some way rooted in the knowledge of the divine within us. There is a point of identity in our soul, and this point precedes every special act of knowledge. Or, we could say that every act of knowledge—about animals, plants, bodies, astronomy, mathematics—is implicitly religious. A mathematical proposition as well as a medical discovery is religious becuase it is possible only in the power of these ultimate principles which are the uncreated divine light in the human soul.

This is the famous doctrine of the inner light, which was also used by the sectarian movements and by all the mystics during the Middle Ages and the Reformation period, and which in the last analysis underlies even the rationalism of the Enlightenment. The rationalists were all philosophers of the inner light, even though this light later on became cut off from its divine ground. (185)

Tillich goes on to oppose this view to Thomas Aquinas, but it also echoes Tillich's earlier comments about the rationality that follows ecstatic movement. If the experience of that light as something explicitly divine is lost, it's relatively easy to move directly into a rationalist view.

For myself, I've always felt that rationalism was broken, missing key pieces to ground itself. The most I've been willing to let pure rationality do is establish probabilities, which are highly useful but deliberately limited. I've doubted for years that 'knowledge' is something we humans compose out of knowable facts. On reading this section of Tillich's history, I can see both why I've felt that way and why I find Quakerism so amenable. I'm drawn to that light and doubtful when I don't think the light is present. The 'divine ground' seems necessary to me, however hard hyper-rationalists try to keep it out.