OK, so let's get started. I remember the day in 1986 when I stood up before a fresh class of Friends Academy (Locust Valley, NY) 7th graders and started to teach Quakerism for the first time. And since the early Friends writings that had been so critical to me in returning to Christ were so inaccessible to young readers, I decided to just use the biblical narrative to introduce them to Quakerism. We started talking about the Bible as if it were just another book you would take off the shelf, and I surprised even me when I realized that it is a narrative that starts at the beginning of the creation and ends at the end of that same creation. It presents itself as if it were the complete story. 

Early Friends did not use this kind of language in discussing the Bible. Like others of their time they did not use that kind of language - describing the Bible as a "narrative" - that language is comfortable to me because of the reading I've done in "narrrative theology" and in particular in reading Stanley Hauerwas. But early Friends did seem to see the book as containing truths that needed to be "interiorized." But we'll get to that as we go.

I think the most important books of the Bible to Fox and early Friends were Genesis and the Gospel of John, so going over Genesis will take a while - especially the first several chapters. The Bible I use is the Jerusalem Bible, but I often check multiple translations when the translation is particularly important.

Genesis 1  - There are two accounts of the creation in the first two chapters of Genesis. There is so much in the first chapter, that I will just deal with it today. In the first God creates the universe and the earth through the power of his Word, and the first "thing" created is Light - not the light of the sun or the moon - those lights come later, on day four.  The separation of the waters below the dome of heaven and above it comes on day two, the gathering of the waters beneath the dome and the proliferation of the earth's vegetation comes on day three, the sun and moon and stars - necessary for calculating time and seasons - comes on day four, the teeming forth of life comes on day five, and then on day six, God creates the human species - both male and female - "in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them" (27). They are given the power to "conquer" the creation or "subdue" it, an authority early Friends saw as a power to both use and to care for, be responsible for. God rests after man is created.

For me the most interesting insights I've had on the first creation story are the following:

1. The creator in this story is fundamentally "other" that everything we can see. God is not created, not contingent in any way. But we are created and contingent, and there is no other way of our understanding any part of God's nature without accepting the lines that we are somehow "like" Him - male and female, we share qualities with God. Ludwig Feuerbach and later Karl Marx wrote that God was merely our "projection" of our human nature out onto the universe. The Bible supports this, and it will be for us one of the critical ways we come to understand anything about God or ourselves.

2. When you consider how ancient this literature is, it is amazing to me how profoundly "modern" it is - modern in the simultaneity of the creation of male and female, modern in the closeness to what evolutionary theory says about the order of things in the creation of the universe - not exact but close.

3. It gives us a view of "man" that is not easily charicatured. It claims for man a dignity and goodness that defies all that we know of man in the history that will unfold for him, but it shows us God's divine intention, the impetus and engine of the divine determination to redeem what he has created when it disappoints Him, a determination that we will see played out in the biblical narrative

So that is some of what I see in this chapter. I would love to know what others see that is important to them personally.

What does it mean to you that we are "created in God's image"?

Views: 871

Comment by Irene Lape on 9th mo. 15, 2011 at 3:49pm

It's hard to know exactly what was going on in Fox's head about it all. I think that the second Reformation wave that Fox and Quakers were part of - and the civil conflict that was going on in England in the 17th century - led some at the time to believe that the end times were coming. Larry Ingle's great book First Among Friends talks about Fox's early sense that his revolutionary insight might have been part of this end-time scenario. I don't think Fox saw the world as being post-fallen with Christ's coming alone. Part of what interests me about him is how he seems to see the narrative of scripture: our fallen state, our struggle with spiritual blindness and unfaithfulness, the confusion and temptations presented by the "world" and "worldly" ways of seeing the gospel message - these are not just historical realities, things "others" have done and continue to do. They are things we all go through. The narrative recapitulates itself in us all. But if we see it correctly and we see that our savior has shown us the way and come through the darkness to resurrection and life, then we too can emulate that. So the victory of Christ acknowledged by John when he has Jesus say, "It is accomplished." [The promise made by God to "man" (or the "woman") in Gen. 3:15] is something we too can participate in but it doesn't happen like magic. It's something we arrive at after struggling our way through to it. Fox struggled for at least a year AFTER he had his key insights in 1647, and I think that's because it isn't just a matter of insight or what you know. It's how faithfully you permit God to lead you through. After he has seen that there is one even Christ Jesus that can speak to his condition, he continues to struggle.  “And when I myself was in the deep, under all shut up, I could not believe that I should ever overcome; my troubles, my sorrows, and my temptations were so great, that I thought many times I should have despaired, I was so tempted. But when Christ opened to me how he was tempted by the same Devil, and had overcome him and bruised his head, and that through him and his power, light, grace and spirit, I should overcome also, I had confidence in him” (Journal 12).

Finally, he does find a more enduring consolation, the reentry "through the flaming sword into the paradise of God." 

People who are into "narrative theology" like Stanley Hauerwas (and many others) do not see it exactly as Fox seemed to. They explain that as readers of Scripture and people whose culture (literature, art, music, codes of ethics, etc) has been shaped so much by the biblical narrative that we adopt it even sometimes without realizing it as OUR story [like Americans identify with the values and stories of our founders and leaders]. I think this is probably true, but I think what Fox saw was something much deeper - the characters and plots of the story replay in us in some way. Here are a few great Fox quotes that bear on this:

“I saw also how people read the scriptures without a right sense of them, and without duly applying them to their own states.  For when they read that death reigned from Adam to Moses, that the law and the prophets were until John, and that the least in the kingdom is greater than John, they read these things without them and applied them to others without them, and the things were true of others without them, but they did not turn in to find the truth of these things in themselves.”    George Fox, Journal, 31


And one of my favorites:

“And I saw the state of those, both priests and people, who in reading [scripture], cry out much against Cain, Esau, and Judas, and other wicked men of former times, mentioned in the Holy Scriptures; but do not see the nature of Cain, of Esau, of Judas, and those others, in themselves.  And these said it was they, they, they, that were the bad people; putting it off from themselves; but when some of these came, with the light and spirit

Comment by James Mahood on 9th mo. 6, 2013 at 6:03pm

It's been more than 2 years since the last Comment. Are new Comments welcome and read? 


Comment by Irene Lape on 9th mo. 6, 2013 at 6:41pm

It's true there aren't many comments. I do respond whenever there are, but I can't help it that there are few. I think the last was not so long ago. I've only been doing the blog for less than 2 years and it will end at the end of this year. I'm just going though a two year bible reading schedule - only one year for New Testament, which is why I've spun off into some of the early Christian writings.  If you have a substantive comment, I will definitely respond as best I can.

Comment by Irene Lape on 9th mo. 6, 2013 at 6:46pm

James, I realized after I responded to your question that the blog post you were responding to is an old one and not one on the Daily OT and Early Christian Writings posts I've been doing for nearly two years. I'd love to know your thoughts on what you read. Thank you.

Comment by James Mahood on 9th mo. 6, 2013 at 7:09pm

Hi Irene, Many thanks for your welcome post. I have been reading George Fox on my Kindle—all of his writings that I can find for Kindle, including his Journal and what Kindle calls his autobiography, although everything he wrote was his autobiography. Although he was writing in the middle of the 17th Century and I am writing several hundred years later or so I think as he thought and this congruence became a large part of my "convincement." I feel so fortunate to have found 21st Century Quakerism, where I can feel at home with my beliefs. I have looked pratically everywhere else, including Protestantism, Buddhism/Hinduism, and Roman Catholicism. Quakerism is the best "fit" for me and my version of religion.

Comment by Irene Lape on 9th mo. 9, 2013 at 11:12am

James, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your post. Busy, busy weekend. Anyway, Fox was very important to me too along with a number of other key early Quaker writers - Howgill, Penington and Woolman among others. I actually wrote a book that many Quakers have told me is a really good introduction to early Friends and their insights into the Christian vision. The title of the book will tell you that it wasn't the end of my journey, but I still admire these people very much. The title of my book is Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism. You can get it for almost nothing on amazon. I think while they had essential and powerful insights into the gospel narrative and message, there were things they failed to see as essential parts of passing the experience on to other generations. So I do Catholicism and Quakerism - I do think we are all part of the Body. I wish there were some institutional recognition of this denominational unity, but everyone likes their own thing.


You need to be a member of QuakerQuaker to add comments!

Join QuakerQuaker

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.

You can also make a one-time donation.

Latest Activity

Marcia P Roberts commented on Patricia Dallmann's blog post 'New essay at Abiding Quaker: On Redemption in John 11'
"Directions to the Panting Soul discuss the need to rest under the yoke, and listen only to the…"
3rd day (Tue)
Marcia P Roberts commented on Patricia Dallmann's blog post 'New essay at Abiding Quaker: On Redemption in John 11'
"This outline of your proposed essay on the final stage of the process of redemption intrigues me.…"
3rd day (Tue)
Marcia P Roberts left a comment for William F Rushby
"Hi William,  Thanks for the article on Wilburite Meetings for Worship, which read in snatches…"
3rd day (Tue)
Marcia P Roberts left a comment for Nancy ford
"Thanks Nancy. Are you interested in sewing? I have been making Quuaker bonnets for servers at…"
3rd day (Tue)
Jeremy Madlala-Routledge updated their profile
1st day (Sun)
Kirby Urner posted a discussion

Like a Bible Story

Per continuing revelation, God was pissed at humans to the point of aborting the whole experiment,…See More
11th month 17
William F Rushby posted a discussion
11th month 13
William F Rushby replied to William F Rushby's discussion 'Characteristics of a Growing/Declining Friends Meeting/Church'
"Actually, the first question I put to interested readers is indeed a sociology of religious…"
11th month 9

© 2020   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service