Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
In response to this thread I looked up a bunch of stuff in "Elias Hicks: Quaker Liberal" about Hicks and reason/rationalism, his influences, and how that influenced his theology, because I mentioned his use of reason being criticized in his life and was asked for sources. Here are selected excerpts . I'm only posting one of them in that thread.
Some about Hicks' view on page 224, from the chapter "The Evangelical Invasion":
[Anna Braithwaite] declared Elias said the fullness of the Godhead rested in man and "in every blade of grass." Elias ended his interview with an assertion that the Discipline should extend to matters of moral conduct but never to matters of faith.
Elias declared to the English visitor that he could not see how the cruel persecution and crucifixion of Jesus Christ could expiate his sins. It was grace of God which gave power to live a sober, righteous, and godly life. Hicks told Anna Braithwaite, "So long as I feel that peace, there is nothing in the world that makes me afraid, as it respects my eternal condition. But if any of my friends have received any known benefit from any outward sacrifice I do not envy them their privilege." "But surely," he added, "they would not be willing that I should acknowledge as truth, that which I have no kind of knowledge of."
Then page 225:
In Sandy Spring, Maryland, Roger Brooke declared that Elizabeth Robson was sowing seeds of dissension and the Meeting refused permission for her to make family visits. New York followed the same procedure. She corresponded with many leaders while in America, and did not hesitate to write to Priscilla Hunt, "It appeared to me that thy present state is a dangerous one....I believe there is not anything more injurious to the cause of religion than exercising the reasoning faculties in order to comprehend divine truths."
I can't find the page, but later in the book there's also a quote that directly alludes to that "no kind of knowledge of" bit.
Another bit with Hicks & reason, from chapter "Christ in you, the hope of glory", page 196:
Although Elias Hicks laid great emphasis on the experience of the Indwelling Christ, he added a note not found among first-generation Quakers—the place of reason. He wrote that all matters of truth should be “first brought…to the test of the light in our own consciences”; second, judged by the test of “the reason of things”; third, checked by the test of “consistency with the precepts and example of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and fourth, “if relating to our duty to our fellow creatures,” examined in the light of the golden rule.
To my reading, what's really going on is a disagreement about theories of atonement. Hicks used reason to arrive at a different conclusion than the English ministers were teaching, and so his use of reason (versus orthodox Christian tradition) is what is attacked. From page 200 :
He shocked the Evangelicals when he wrote, "I have never been able to see how the sacrifice of the outward Body of Christ would do more for me than the prove...we ought to sacrifice everything related to the body even life itself."
Elias Hicks rejected what he considered to be some of the grosser concepts concerning the vicarious atonement. He taught that sin originated in man's self-will, not in inherited evil. He said that Adam made satisfaction for his sin of disobedience by showing penitence, and God's clothing his nakedness with skins was a symbol of the nakedness of the soul reclothed with the Holy Spirit. Hicks did not accept the commonly held doctrine that righteousness was ever "imputed." He believed that a man could only be made righteous by his own consent and knowledge, not by an act in the historic past. He went so far as to say "the perfectly just, all-wise, and merciful Jehovah [could not perform] so cruel an act as that of slaying his innocent and righteous Son, to atone for the sins and iniquities of the ungodly. Surely, it is impossible, that any rational being that has any right sense of justice and mercy, would be willing to accept forgiveness of sins on such terms! Would he not rather go forward and offer himself wholly up to suffer all the penalties due to his crimes, rather than the innocent should suffer?"
(It says Hicks goes on about how "merit" and "satisfaction" aren't even in the Bible, and he believes the saving flesh and blood are inward not outward and what God really wants is surrender of the human will in obedience)
A ecclesiastical history book Elias read is mentioned by Forbush. It's "An Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern" by John L Mosheim, which Forbush says occupies a middle position between German Pietists and German Rationalists (he's "orthodox in doctrine but moderate in feeling"), and goes over the many different interpretations of Christianity there have been.
Reading Mosheim gave Elias Hicks a broader understanding of Christianity, and strengthened his resolve that members of the Society of Friends should be tolerant of divergent points of view