Is it best to begin with the Journal of George Fox for an introduction?

Views: 30

Comment by Joanna Hoyt on 4th mo. 12, 2009 at 12:40pm
I doubt that any one text would be the best introduction for everyone. I discovered Quakers by reading John Woolman's Journal and major essays. His mixture of humility and confidence, courage in living by his unpopular convictions and gentleness in speaking with those who disagreed with him, helped me considerably in my own life and also in getting a sense of what Friends could be. After finding a Quaker Meeting I read New England Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice. Its exerpts from George Fox and many other formative Friends gave me a good idea of what else I should read, and the Advices and Queries gave me a clear and concise sense of NEYM's current understanding of various things that mattered to me. Eleven years later I still haven;t read all of Fox's journal--I tend to get cross with him and not learn much, probably because he seems to have some of the bombastic tendency I struggle against in myself. But I know others who have found Fox's writing very enriching.
Comment by Amybee on 4th mo. 12, 2009 at 7:56pm
Thank you, Joanna. I appreciate the time you have taken to consider and answer my question. I will take your advice to heart. In addition, I will try to do some more basic learning on my own as I am learning that I may have joined this site a bit early in my education. I appreciate your warm thoughts.
Best Regards,
Comment by Amybee on 4th mo. 13, 2009 at 9:28pm
I appreciate your kind thoughts and openness to sharing. This attitude is one of the things that I think helps people come to the Spirit and to each other. I know only little of Friends' traditions but have been given a truly warm feeling by everyone's responses and thoughts. I thank you for that and the sincere sense of humility with which people have communicated.
Comment by David Carl on 4th mo. 14, 2009 at 3:48pm

I think reading Fox's journal is a fine thing to do. Don't know that its "best" but would recommend that you get around to it at some point. Another suggestion would be "Truth of the Heart" by Rex Ambler, which is a synopsis of Fox's spiritual teachings, with "translations" into modern English. I do feel that its a very good thing for Friends to be acquainted with Fox and other early Friends' writings. I'm somewhat partial to William Penn as well; particularly accessible is "21st Century Penn" edited and also translated into modern Engligh by Paul Buckley. You can find a lot more reading selections recommended elsewhere on QQ.

Peace & Grace,

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 14, 2009 at 3:48pm
Fox might very likely come close to being thrown out of a modern Quaker meeting; the theological debates of his time were intellectually boisterous & often downright belligerent.

As I suggested elsewhere, Robert Griswold's take on Fox in 'Creeds & Quakers: What's Belief Got To Do With It?" (Pendle Hill pamphlet # 377) points us toward the fundamental... foundation of the Quaker way.

A yoga book by a nonQuaker: Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann is one of the most Quakerish books I know, in that sense. "When you experience yourself in stillness, you will intuit a new way of using your mind. You will be taught--from within the stillness--how to receive moment-to-moment guidance during the day from the Infinite Mind, and you will be given individually pertinent spiritual teachings." Long before I started regularly attending the local Meeting, I'd found that what I needed to read--or to figure out--would naturally become available when I was ripe for it. Fox's understood 'The Second Coming' to mean, as he frequently said, that : "Christ [sometimes he used the word "God" here] is come to teach his people himself." I don't think this is the common view you'll find among most modern Friends, but it's basic to all the institutions we've built on it!

What aspect of us most interests you? The Quiet Rebels is a good intro to our historical side.
Comment by Amybee on 4th mo. 14, 2009 at 5:31pm
Thank you both for the insight about educational sources. In answer to Forrest's question about what interests me most, I would say that I don't find this simple to articulate. I was raised by a family with Protestant Christian upbringings, who valued education and tolerance. I attended a Lutheran Church as a child but was allowed to explore other faiths quite openly. I studied Cultural Anthropology in college, continuing this interest and seeking. I suppose I never stopped exploring. I recently realized that I had a huge gap in my knowledge regarding the RSOF and its history. In addition, I have (with as much humility as possible) found my recent visits to various churches, Lutheran, Baptist, Non-Denominational, etc. to be slightly off-putting in terms of overly simplistic interpretation of the messages in the Bible, tendency to see humankind as a qualified judge of the "right" path, tendencies to see humankind as a qualified judge of the Spirit/God and in general, I have never really felt the sense of love and acceptance of which I would hope to be a part. Friends seem to have a focus on the essential, and less on the superfluousness of humanity. I hope I am correct in this impression. So far I feel like I have been given a warm welcome in spite of my ignorance. I appreciate that. Thanks again.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 15, 2009 at 7:13pm
Your comment on the scripture blog seemed, to you, to be a routine interpretation, something you immediately dismissed as "too simple." To me, it was an unexpected new consideration. This is where that Lutheran background makes things interesting!

To understand Fox's use of the Bible, you might want to take a long look at the Book of James--which Luther detested! Fox loved it!

Fox was reading the Bible intensively, one of many 17th Century Englishmen caught up in the great Puritan project of re-establishing the primitive Christian church, "before the apostasy." He too was reading Paul, but through a different lens than Luther's. So far as Fox influenced the organization of the Quaker meeting structures, it was based on his reading of Paul. But he did not put the emphasis of his understanding on "faith"!

Early Friends were in continual conflict with people accusing them of not believing the right things! Later on, Friends turned this sort of accusation against one another; but initially, the way Friends thought of the Bible was not "You'd better believe this," but "You need to be in the same Spirit that produced this."

From Margaret Fell's account of the first sermon she heard from Fox: "The Scriptures were the prophets' words and Christ's words and the apostle's words, and what as they spoke they enjoyed and possessed and had it from the Lord." And [he] said, "Then what had any to do with the Scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth. You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?"

To be really explicit, I think Lutherans and Quakers might be able to shed considerable light for one another. I don't agree with the Lutheran idea of faith as I understand it--but when we threw out the ideal of "Faith" as meaning only "blind faith," we forgot an essential ingredient of our religion. Many of us have shown great faith; but we have also been highly vulnerable to the modern idol of skepticism.

My experience of Torah Study at the P'nai Or Synagogue in Philadelphia: more reverence for the text than I could share (sometimes combined with humorous interpretations), but also a sense that any meaning a person could honestly find in it was valid! It was a really good way to use the Bible (or any religious book.)

I hope we keep on with this!
Comment by Amybee on 4th mo. 15, 2009 at 10:31pm
You bet! --As best as I can given time issues. I am tickled at how refreshing this is. I replied on your other blog site. Thank you very much for your insight and questions. By the way, I am more Amy than Lutheran. Hope that's ok.
Comment by Alice M Yaxley on 4th mo. 17, 2009 at 5:18am
You can read the Faith and Practice books of the Meetings - the self-descriptions of various Quaker organizations? Some are online if it interests you. A lot of people find the "Advices and Queries" a useful starting place. In Britain our Quaker Faith and Practice is online, here: Most Faith and Practices include some kind of introduction I think, at least ours does.
Comment by Amybee on 4th mo. 17, 2009 at 10:28pm
Thank you, Alice. I appreciate the time and help.


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