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April 19, 2007

Early concerns about pacifism

I just came back from a conference in San Francisco, and in the Philadelphia airport I noticed The Christians and the Fall of Rome, an excerpt from Edward Gibbons' classic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon is a master at tearing apart ideas he doesn't like while politely saying that, for instance, he hopes the Pagan accusations of Christians editing their gospels aren't true, and it seems strange for the Romans not to have noticed an eclipse, and so on.

He reports on how Christian principles made them suspect to Romans, referencing the Quakers in a footnote:

The Christians were not less averse to the business than to the pleasures of this world. The defense of our persons and property they knew not how to reconcile with the patient doctrine which enjoined an unlimited forgiveness of past injuries, and commanded them to invite the repetition of fresh insults.

Their simplicity was offended by the use of oaths, by the pomp of magistracy, and by the active contention of public life, nor could their humane governance be convinced, that it was lawful on any occasion to shed the blood of our fellow-creatures, either by the sword of justice, or by that of war; even though their criminal or hostile attempts should threaten the peace and safety of the whole community.

[Footnote: The same patient principles have been revived since the Reformation by the Socinians, the modern Anabaptists, and the Quakers. Barclay, the apologist of the Quakers, has protected his brethren, by the authority of the primitive Christians.]

It was acknowledged, that, under a less perfect law, the powers of the Jewish constitution had been exercised, with the approbation of Heaven, by inspired prophets and by annointed kings. The Christians felt and confessed that such institutions might be necessary for the present system of the world, and they cheerfully submitted to the authority of their Pagan governors. But while they inculcated the maxims of passive obedience, they refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire. Some indulgence might perhaps be allowed to those persons who, before their conversion, were already engaged in such violent and sanguinary occupations; but it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.

This indolent, or even criminal disregard to the public welfare, exposed them to the contempt and reproaches of the Pagans, who very frequently asked, what must be the fate of the empire, attacked on every side by the barbarians, if all mankind should adopt the pusillanimous sentiments of the new sect?

To this insulting question the Christian apologists returned obscure and ambiguous answers, as they were unwilling to reveal the secret cause of their security; the expectation that, before the conversion of mankind was accomplished, war, government, the Roman Empire, and the world itself, would be no more.

It may be observed, that, in this instance likewise, the situation of the first Christians coincided very happily with their religious scruples, and that their aversion to an active life contributed rather to excuse them from the service, than to exclude them from the honours, of the state and army. (49-50, paragraph breaks added)

Gibbon, in giving his readers a glimpse of the Romans' perception of the Christians, seems to present his own disapproval as well. Nonetheless, it's interesting to see both common objections to pacifism voiced here in combination with a claim that beliefs in the end of the world coming soon can lead to pacifism. It's interesting to see eschatology raised explicity as a reason for practice.

I also wonder what his more warlike Christian readers would have thought of it - do they share the Roman scorn for these early Christians, or do they question their own beliefs? There's a lot going on here.

There's also one slip:

what must be the fate of the empire, attacked on every side by the barbarians, if all mankind should adopt the pusillanimous sentiments of the new sect?

Of course, if everyone adopted these sentiments, the barbarians would also be beating their swords into plowshares. Unless, of course - and the Romans could well have done this - the "mankind" referred to here is only about "Roman mankind."

The problem isn't what happens when everyone adopts these sentiments. Rather, it's what happens when some adopt these sentiments and others don't, choosing to take advantage of the those who choose peace.

Quaker Ranters and QuakerQuaker

When I first extended my exploration of Quakerism from attending Meeting to looking around online, I started with discussion sites - BeliefNet and the QuakerInfo.com forums. They were good sources of information and community, but the format itself - usually questions with a lot of answers - felt great for some topics and not as good for others.

I found Quaker blogs mostly through Google - I'd be looking for a particular topic, stumble on a blog, sit there mesmerized for a while, and move on. Eventually I set up my own blog - I have lots of blogs, it seems - but much of the power of blogging is reading what other people have created, and connecting with those conversations.

One of those blogs was Martin Kelley's Quaker Ranter, which is a good place to challenge myself. The more I've learned about Ranter beliefs, the less I agree with him that We're all Ranters now, but I don't expect he'll change the name of his site to QuakerSeeker anytime soon. (That would sound kind of like a personals forum for Quakers, too, so maybe it's better not to.)

Apart from the great stuff he's written himself, though, Martin assembled a site that deserves celebration: QuakerQuaker. I still frequently visit the simple aggregators, like Planet Quaker and Quaker Blogs, but those operate on a site-by-site selection, while QuakerQuaker highlights individual posts.

QuakerQuaker's approach of multiple contributing reviewers highlighting individual pieces is, so far as I've seen, unique in this space. Those reviewers often have very different perspectives to start with, and they do an excellent job of finding pieces that provoke deep reflection. It works on a couple of different levels for me, both offering highlights of Quaker writings and knitting together a community. Visiting a more varied array of sites brings me to think about things I might not have considered otherwise, and even to join in the conversation.

In a strange way, it even lets me feel more comfortable publishing the kinds of things I do here. By giving people a central but diverse point where they can find all kinds of writings, QuakerQuaker both inspires us to write and lets us know that not everyone writes in the same kind of way.

So thanks - to Martin for building and contributing to QuakerQuaker, and to the contributors who find new and interesting pieces nearly every day!

April 15, 2007

It's the end of the world as we know it

After the introduction, the first 'real' chapter in Apocalypse of the Word is a 20-page introduction to the strange world of England in the 1640s and 1650s. It relies fairly heavily on historian Christopher Hill's many works, which I enjoy tremendously, but it's hard to capture just how wrenching those decades were.


  • Years of bad harvests, with famine throughout the land.

  • Eleven years when the king refused to call Parliament into session, bottling up frustrations ever more powerful.

  • Continuous religious conflict and persecution between the state church and its many opponents.

  • A constant trickle of radical (often Anabaptist) religious ideas coming in from the continent.

  • An emerging but hardly stable middle(ish) class that didn't fit well into a world of nobles and not-nobles.

  • Troubles in Ireland and Scotland, with their own religious and social issues.

  • Enclosures and drainage programs that threw poor people off the land, leaving them to survive as well as they could.

That's just the buildup - the explosions of the 1640s were devastating:

  • Open warfare between Parliament (finally called into session) and the King's forces, with armies moving across the country.

  • The sudden development of a new kind of army (the New Model Army), with ranks assigned by performance rather than social status.

  • Freedom of the press that let radical ideas accumulated for years reach much larger audiences.

  • An agreement with the Scots that might have turned all of England Presbyterian - except that there was enough resistance to halt it.

  • Ministers travelling with and generally radicalizing the Army.

  • A Parliament that doesn't really want to pay the Army, leading to all kinds of standoffs and uncertainty.

  • The creation of "agitators" representing the military ranks promoting a "Leveller" agenda.

  • Ever-shifting alliances between Parliamentary factions, the generals, the lower ranks of the Army, and sometimes the King.

  • The execution of the King.

The regicide, the execution of Charles I on authority given by the House of Commons, was a moment in history whose importance is hard to explain many revolutions later. The social, military, and religious powers that had held England together were destroyed or in flight; anything could happen next.

In this swirling chaos, people lost their familiar moorings. Reading Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down or Gwyn's Seekers Found, it's clear that people had good reason for thinking the world was coming to an end: the recognizable world was indeed coming to an end.

While the King's Cavaliers despaired, much of England hoped for a Parliament of Saints, a hope that took a long time to go away. The late 1640s saw a huge buildup of milennial hopes - that King Charles would be replaced by King Jesus - that weren't fulfilled. Instead, Protestants spent years tearing each other apart, while some Protestants moved ever further into doubt. Anglicans became Presbyterians, then joined Independent churches, then became Baptists, and some of those churches 'shattered' to leave their members looking, searching, waiting:

The state of radical Puritanism by 1652 is best defined by a group known as the Seekers. The Seeker phenomenon was not a sect - in fact, it defined itself in opposition to sects by stressing more what it had not found than what it had found. It was made up of thousands who had fitfully passed from one movement to another, finding a fleeting satisfaction, but no lasting peace or unity.

Unlike the Ranters, the Seekers still diligently searched for the path of true righteousness. They denied not only the state church in its episcopal and Presybterian orders, but also the hireling ministry and its sacraments. They began to meet in silence, praying aloud or witnessing as moved by the Spirit.

Though the spiritual life of the Seekers was rich, and many of their leaders were extremely gifted, they felt that they had come to the end of a long and painful road of false gatherings. Together they would wait in patience, "Expecting a further Manifestation." (19-20, paragraph breaks added)

Those Seekers, were, of course, the audience readiest to receive George Fox's message.

Before looking at how Gwyn sees Fox himself catalyzing those Seekers to create Quakers, I'd like to pause for a moment to consider the phenomenon of "Seeking" today. I visited San Francisco Friends' Meeting this morning, which has explicit "Seeker's Packets" in its library for prospective Quakers. I think it's a good idea, but it left me thinking about a fundamental change in our religious outlook.

It's hard to imagine groups of Seekers gathering in America today, to "wait in patience" while supporting each other. Instead, we seem to have shifted to an approach where those not bonded to a particular church either worship (or don't) privately, or attend a church but stay on its edges without diving into religious commitments. I wonder if this is different because current Seekers seem produced by slow erosion rather than radical shifts across the entire culture.

The more I think about it, the more I am impressed by (if not personally interested in) Zach's call to create a place where spiritual practice is taken seriously but without boundaries. I feel that my own seeking is becoming arriving, but looking back I wonder how different it could have been working in community.

April 12, 2007

Present parousia

While Apocalypse of the Word is a rare non-fiction book, one with suspense built into it, it's not because Douglas Gwyn keeps the ending a surprise. After talking a bit about the problem of the parousia, Christ's return, that is always to come soon in the New Testament but for which we still wait, Gwyn argues that Fox's preaching changes the entire shape of such discussion:

In preaching Christ's return as a presently unfolding reality, Fox recovers the consistent eschatology of the New Testament faith, shattering the perceived problem of a "delay" or "non-occurrence" of the parousia. He does this as he witnesses to the second advent of Christ in the same terms that the gospels use to witness to the first advent. The problem in both cases is with the expectation and perception of the people, together with the vested interests of human authority. The "messianic secret", the scandal that Jesus was not recognized as Messiah by the Jews, is relived in the drama of Christian disbelief in his return and his present power to save from sin, rather than in sin. In his first advent, Christ was revealed in a carpenter's son from Nazareth; in his second advent, he is revealed in a universally bestowed light. In both cases, his commonness is a stumbling block to the pious. (xxii)

This casts the Puritans more or less in the position of the Jews of the New Testament, whose beliefs about the coming Messiah didn't mesh with what they saw. (For more on those Jews' point of view, I strongly recommend Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. In this context, it might lead to more sympathy for Fox's Puritan opponents.) This telling makes me think I need to reread a lot of Fox's challenges to the Puritans; while I saw the parallel Fox draws, this adds layers of meaning to it.

Meanwhile, this return to "the consistent eschatology of the New Testament faith" combines the "Primitive Christianity Revived" story with the Second Coming story, making it easier to see how this approach includes much more of the New Testament than Revelation. As later generations took a less eschatological approach, they might well find different messages in the same statements. This combination makes it easier to read a lot of Fox's statements in a de-eschatologized way.

Fox's use of revelation also changes the way we look at that word, bringing it back to its original meaning in Greek:

Fox's preaching that "Christ is come to teach his people himself" therefore connects the hope of the parousia with the question of Christian knowledge. In other words, apocalypse and revelation are reunited in the basic sense of the Greek word apokalupsis as it is used in the New Testament. For example, the Apocalypse of John is the revelation of the end given him by Christ. Apocalypse as revelation itself leads us to conclude that Christian apocalyptic is most basically a matter of present experience, rather than speculation upon the future, as scholars have often assumed. (xxii)

This is a theme Gwyn will repeat throughout the book, structuring chapters around particular 'apocalypses', revelations Fox reported and preached. At the same time, he ties that preaching to Fox's distinctive eschatology and specifically (at times) to Revelation.

Before I move into the main body of the book, there's one more paragraph in the preface I'd like to highlight, as it suggests something of where this approach leads, and how it differs from Puritan and other traditionally Protestant perspectives:

Justification and sanctification become one continuous work of God in Fox's preaching that "Jesus Christ is come to teach his people himself." There is neither a retreat to metaphysics nor a resort to the interim ethic and government of the institutional church. Christ is come by his Spirit to judge, to empower, to war against Satan, and to rule among his people. The kingdom of God is revealed concretely on earth now. Fox comes to these conclusions without falling into the trap of spiritual enthusiasm or privatism. Unlike Paul's opponents at Corinth and Philippi, Fox by no means underestimates the problem of sin, but witnesses to the greater power of the risen Lord to save and gather his people. The cross relentlessly maintains its central position in Fox's writings. (xxi-xxii)

I've written a bit about the earlier Quaker position on justification (and later rejection of that position by the Gurneyite Orthodox), but hadn't thought deeply about where it came from, though I did test it against Romans 8. This piece (which I had read before I wrote all that, but apparently forgotten) fits that space of the Quaker puzzle neatly. It explains a divergence from other Protestants well.

As I noted before, there's still a dramatic tension in Gwyn's book. How much explanatory power does this perspective have? The preface is promising, the thesis interesting, but the bulk of the book will fill it out.

April 11, 2007

Two key texts from the Journal

I'd like to present two key moments in George Fox's Journal for readers to digest before moving into the explanations of Apocalypse of the Word. Think about these, ponder them, look them up, and come up with your own explanations.

First, Fox's discussion in the Journal about a 1648 experience:

Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, so that I say I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell.

The creation was opened to me, and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue. And I was at a stand in my mind whether I should practice physic for the good of mankind, seeing the nature and virtues of the creatures were so opened to me by the Lord.

But I was immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam's in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus, that should never fall. And the Lord showed me that such as were faithful to him in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell, in which the admirable works of the creation, and the virtues thereof, may be known, through the openings of that divine Word of wisdom and power by which they were made.

Great things did the Lord lead me into, and wonderful depths were opened in me, beyond what by words can be declared; but as people come into subjection to the spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the Word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being. (Nickalls 27-8; Works I, 84-5, paragraph breaks added)

And then a 1656 letter to the parishes of Land's End, in Fox's somewhat repetitious style, better meant for speaking than writing:

The mighty day of the Lord is come, and coming, wherein all hearts shall be made manifest, and the secrets of every one's heart shall be revealed by the light of Jesus, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world, that all men through him might believe, and that the world might have life through him, who saith "Learn of me;" and of whom God saith, "This is my beloved son, hear ye him."

Christ is come to teach his people himself; and every one that will not hear this prophet which God hath raised up, and which Moses spake of, when he said, "Like unto me will God raise you up a prophet, his you shall hear:" every one, I say, that will not hear this prophet, is to be cut off. They that despised Moses's law, died under the hand of two or three witnesses; but how much greater punishment wil come upon them that neglect this great salvation, Christ Jesus, who saith, "Learn of me, I am the way, the truth, and the life;" who lighteth every man that cometh into the world; which light lets him see his evil ways and evil deeds.

But if you hate that light, and go on in evil, this light will be your condemner. Therefore, now ye have time, prize it: for this is the day of your visitation, and salvation offered to you.

Every one of you hath a light from Christ; which lets you see you should not lie, nor do wrong to any, nor swear, nor curse, nor take God's name in vain, nor steal. It is the light that shows you these evil deeds: which if you love, and come unto it, and follow it, will lead you to Christ, who is the way to the Father, from whom it comes; where no unrighteousness enters, nor ungodliness.

If you hate this light, it will be your condemnation; but if you love it, and come to it, you will come to Christ; and it will bring you off from all the world's teachers and ways, to learn of Christ, and will preserve you from all the evils of the world, and all the deceivers in it. (Nickalls 236-7 [edited]; Works I, 249, paragraph breaks added)

(In the Nickalls edition, Edward Pyott and William Salt are listed as signers of the letter along with Fox.)

April 9, 2007

Negativity around the Apocalypse

Yes, that's a strange title. However, there a couple of questions I'd like to clear away before getting deeper into the core of Douglas Gwyn's Apocalypse of the Word. One involves a set of historical views Gwyn is trying to move past, while the other is a criticism of Gwyn's book from a fellow historian of Quakerism.

First, Gwyn's concerns. While it is clear throughout that he values the work others have done in researching and interpreting Quakerism, there are two primary streams of Quaker history he would like to escape: the mystical interpretation of Rufus Jones, and the Protestant interpretation of Geoffrey Nuttall, Hugh Barbour, and others. In my other Quaker history readings, it seems that Jones is out of favor anyway, while the Protestant interpretation is more or less dominant, but Gwyn seeks a different path:

Jones' sense of the universal is tied to an understanding of human reason as a divine, saving faculty. But we shall see repeatedly in this study that Fox understands the light as inward but fundamentally alien to human nature. Far from being optimistic about human capacity, Fox sees our nature as utterly dark; human reason may be creative, but it is ultimately unable to save. When we understand this, we see that the early Quaker conflict with Puritanism was hardly the chance collision of two different thought-worlds Jones imagined, but a struggle within the same world....

The philosophical liberalism of Rufus Jones' mystical interpretation of Quakerism therefore contains the same problem that the liberal theological interpretation of the New Testament created. It ignores the structural integrity of the message itself, finding a "buried treasure" at the core which, in fact, has been projected there by the investigator. There is too much in Fox's writings that Jones had to ignore in order to reach his conclusions. Fox's approach may perhaps be accurately called mystical, but not by the definition Jones gave to that word.... (xv-xvi)

The contributions of Nuttall and Barbour have provided a much-needed corrective to the liberal assumptions of Rufus Jones' mystical reading of Fox. Far from being incidental to Quakerism, the language early Friends used can be seen as partaking in an evolving theological debate, as research into the Puritanism of the day has shown....

Nevertheless, historical analysis can easily fall prey to the problem of reductionism; themes shared by different movements may be emphasized at the expense of their originality.... as we have already suggested with regard to Nuttall's work, the Protestant interpretation views early Quakerism too much through a Reformation theological framework; the Christian experience unfolds within the context of Christ's return, instead of scripture's record...

The Protestant interpretation of early Quakerism has dominated Church historical scholarship in recent decades. Yet while it corrected Jones' view of Quakerism operating in an alien thought world, it has overdrawn its image of the Quaker-Puritan debate as a filial squabble within Protestantism. (xviii-xix)

Gwyn doesn't say it explicitly, but it seems that both of these readings reflect efforts to make 1650s Quakerism more palatable to particular kinds of audiences at the times these writers were working. The mystical approach was aimed both at Quakers and at a particular group of religious scholars at the time Jones was writing, and the Protestant approach made Quakerism seem more reasonable to scholars of the Reformation and the English Reformation in particular. I don't think that's a particularly surprising problem, as it affects all retellings of the past, but it tends to leave tales of the past eroded by the needs of the present.

In my next installment, I'll look at the alternative vision Gwyn presents in his efforts to go beyond these two approaches.

Finally, one last caution before I go further. H. Larry Ingle complains in George Fox's Legacy of the dangers of looking at early Quaker work without careful attention to when things were written:

Moreover, as in the other traditions, there are different emphases at different times, meaning that over time there is a lack of consistency. I might add that this evolution in the Quaker message demands that those seeking to understand it can hardly avoid a historical approach, lest they distort their findings. (68)

[footnote] The most recent example of this tendency was Douglas Gwyn in his revised doctoral dissertation, Apocalypse of the Word: The Life and Message of George Fox (Richmond, Ind: Friends United Press, 1986.) See my earlier criticism of Gwyn's method in "On the Folly of Seeking the Quaker Holy Grail," Quaker Religious Thought 25 (May 1991), 17-29. Let it be noted that in his later works Gwyn has successfully moved away from what was an ahistorical approach. (78)

Curious, I ordered the QRT back issue - $4 seems like a wise investment before I proceed into explaining a book that supposedly has major flaws - and I don't think Ingle's case is particularly damaging. If Apocalypse of the Word had been written as a historical work, then yes, it might be devastating - but it's much more a theological work written about someone who thought long ago. Yes, Gwyn mixes 1650s Fox with 1680s Fox, and there's a case that can be made that they're different perspectives - but not so different that they aren't worth considering together.

Ingle's other complaint about Gwyn's approach seems to be that Gwyn dove deeply into Fox's Works, which are an edited subset of his actual writings, and didn't spend much time with other primary or secondary sources. Again, in a strictly historical setting, this would be a huge problem; in a theological setting, completeness is rarely a virtue.

Ingle also complains that Fox was not a theologian, and attempts to make him into one run counter to his message:

But at least we can avoid turning a person into a theologian whose thinking and writing was erratic and inconsistent, so "off the top of his head", that his greatest legacy may well have been his considered refusal to follow the gleam of a nonexistent holy grail.

While I didn't find Ingle's objections convincing, I'll certainly consider Ingle's kinds of concerns as I encounter them. While I share Ingle's sense that Quakerism itself changed over time, Fox's own views and their motivations seem to me to have changed less than those of the people around him, and while he was certainly not perfectly consistent, his inconsistencies do seem to gravitate in particular directions.

When I finish with Apocalypse of the Word, I'll also look at Heaven on Earth: Quakers and the Second Coming, where Gwyn restates (and simplifies) much of his core thesis but does so in a way that's more precise about timeline.

April 5, 2007

Looking to the Alpha and the Omega

I first read Douglas Gwyn's Apocalypse of the Word a couple of years ago, and it dramatically deepened my interest in early Quakerism. I've been very cautious in writing about it, however. It's not an easy book to excerpt without losing critical context and meaning, and even the title can be read in multiple meanings, which resolve over the course of the book. (Is Apocalypse the end of the world, or revelation? Is the Word "In the beginning was the Word", or scripture, or something else?)

Gwyn's book was a surprise to me, because up until I found it I was much more accustomed to thinking of Quakerism as Primitive Christianity Revived, to use William Penn's classic title. Quakers (at least in my experience) often described themselves as going back to the beginnings of Christianity, when the message was clear but hadn't been codified into hierarchies and scriptures. George Fox was difficult to understand in this context, as he doesn't seem like, well, a church historian. Fox's classic message that "Christ is come to teach his people himself" sounds somewhat like a return to those early days when Christ taught in person, but also raises all the questions inherent in discussions of the second coming.

Gwyn focuses squarely on the eschatological aspects of Fox's writings, finding motivation there for Quaker beliefs and practices. At the same time, however, he differentiates them from other approaches to the same issues - approaches I think may have made Quakers less eager to acknowledge the importance of these angles on early Quakerism:

The key issue... which will dominate my investigation will be that of eschatology - the belief in end-times, the return of Christ, the coming of the kingdom of God. End-time language and expectation shaped and gave a particular energy to the socio-political struggles of both Puritans and Quakers.

In the case of Puritanism, this line of thought tended to be mainly a speculative, political ideology, based on apocalyptic books of the BIble, such as Daniel and Revelation. Texts were employed in order to identify certain political figures with the antichrist, to calculate the end of the world, or to make messianic claims for political agendas. Such speculation mobilized great political and military energies.

On the other hand, Quaker preaching, while sharing some of these characteristics, will be seen to lay primary emphasis on apocalypse in its literal sense of revelation. Geo-political speculation gave way to a knowledge of Christ's return in personal experience. This approach created much less political ideology... yet it generated a movement with dynamic social and economic reordering and a powerful political witness that far outdistanced the Puritan efforts. What we find in Fox's preaching are the same hopes shared by his Puritan contemporaries, yet a new basis for these hopes in a radically personal spirituality. It is an experience of apocalypse like that described in John 3:19 - "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world...." (3)

It seems that Fox captured the spiritual side of earlier eschatology without getting trapped in the challenges of setting dates for the end of the world. Fox's eschatology isn't speculation about the future - it's present eschatology, and Christ is here, with us, now.

I'll have a lot more to say about this book, though I don't plan to go through it page by page. I'm certainly not going to explain it any better than Gwyn already does. Still, I hope to bring forward some pieces that raise questions worth exploring, and see where they lead. This book already had a profound influence on my experience and views of Quakerism, and has been a quiet undercurrent in the writing of this weblog.

Next, I'll be looking at some criticisms of this book and its eschatological perspective. Was this Fox's view consistently? Which other early Quakers shared it? How necessary is it to an understanding of Quakerism then and today? (I don't promise answers on that last one.)