Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Lewis Benson began his lecture series Rediscovering the Teaching of George Fox at Moorestown Meeting in New Jersey in the fall of 1982. The first lecture in this series is titled "The Place of George Fox in Christian History." It is now available for reading on the New Foundation Fellowship website, and can be accessed through Ellis Hein's introduction: http://nffquaker.org/profiles/blogs/the-place-of-george-fox-in-chri... All are welcome to visit. Over time, we will sequentially post the nine remaining lectures in this series.
In this first lecture, "The Place of George Fox in Christian History," Benson states his intention for the series: "to focus on Fox's actual teachings as revealed in his writings," thereby addressing two problems: 1) scholars' mistaken interpretations of Fox's teaching, and 2) widespread lack of familiarity with our Quaker heritage. These lectures provide an excellent opportunity for Friends to familiarize themselves with significant portions of early Quaker understanding, as Benson's scholarship is thorough; his interpretation is sound; and his presentations are clear and coherent.
Benson's intention, though, is not solely to inform. Rather, through presenting the knowledge and wisdom that original Friends embodied, he seeks to provide a source "from which we can draw inspiration for a movement of Quaker renewal today."
"The everlasting gospel Fox preached is no longer a part of any living Quaker tradition," Benson asserts. Just as the gospel was lost soon after the initial apostolic work done in the early centuries of the Christian movement and later recovered in the seventeenth century, the gospel is once again lost in every branch of present-day Quakerism and likewise once again needs to be recovered. Friends of the seventeenth century model for us a recovering of this lost gospel power that was originally preached by the apostles and recorded in the New Testament.
Friends' rediscovery of this ancient gospel led them inevitably to proclaim it and thereby challenge their contemporaries to likewise find and enter into right relationship with their Creator. Quaker gospel ministry was a recovery of the original apostolic witness: the good news and manifestation that the living Christ is available to us yesterday, today, and forever. The recognition and experiential knowledge of Christ is the Quaker message and heritage. Through reviewing Fox's teaching, Benson informs us of the power that began the Quaker movement and, as a true prophet, urges us to claim it yet once more:
The Quaker world today is divided into adherents of three nineteenth-century traditions: conservative, evangelical, and liberal. And it is taken for granted by many that Quakerism must be defined as a pluralistic society in which these three traditions are maintained in balance. But none of these traditions, nor all three taken together, have the strength to support a vigorous witness for these times, or for the century that lies ahead. The men and women in each of these traditions are equally the rightful heirs of the rich legacy which Fox’s message and teaching has to offer. Our message to all the Quakers is: claim your inheritance.