What was once slander is now Quaker practice - BBQB II


Quakers today who eagerly affirm the Biblical truth of the Spirit of Christ  now being  present, available and personally leading all who practice the Christian faith in Spirit and truth are just as eager to minimize the use of Scripture by the early Quakers.  The extremely important use of Scripture is revealed in a few passages found by a  review of some of Fox's writings.  Fox admitted he built his beliefs and practices on the history and world view as presented in Scripture, the New Covenant in Christ bringing the Spirit into each heart so that it may be transformed into eternal life or hardened into an enslaved, selfish and evil heart.  The following quotes from Fox's writings show how he depended on Scripture to convince his audience to become Quakers.
 
Fox Journal Vol 1 page 335 "What I spoke, reached to the witness of God in the man; who was so affected therewith, that he had us to his house, and entertained us very civilly. He and his wife desired us to give them some scriptures, both for proof of our principles, and against the priests. We were glad of the service, and furnished him with scriptures enough; and he wrote them down, and was convinced of the truth, both by the spirit of God in his own heart, and by the scriptures, which  were a confirmation to him."

Fox Journal Vol 2 page 342 "From this place we went to a great meeting in a steeple-house yard; where was a priest, and Walter Jenkin, who had been a justice, and another justice. A blessed glorious meeting we had. There being many professors, I was moved of the Lord to open the scriptures to them, and to answer the objections which they stuck at in their profession, (for I knew them very well,) and to turn them to Christ, who had enlightened them; with which light they might see the sins and trespasses they had been dead in, and their saviour who came to redeem them out of them, who was to be their way to God, the truth, and the life to them, and their priest made higher than the heavens; so that they might come to sit under his teaching.' A peaceable meeting we had; many were convinced, and settled in the truth that day."

In "Concerning such as have forbidden preaching, or teaching in the name of Jesus", Fox used scripture to show how to be saved.  " The Jews and their priests said unto the apostles, and threatened  them, ‘that you speak henceforth to no man in this name' Jesus. Acts  iv. 17. And they said again (in verse 18,) to the apostles,'that they  should not teach in the name of Jesus.' And in Acts v. 28. they again  said, ‘that they should not teach in the name of Jesus,' mark, not to  teach in the name of Jesus. And in verse 40, they said again to the  apostles, that they should not speak in the name of Jesus;  mark, not so much as to speak in the name of Jesus. And yet the apostle said,  'With the heart man believeth, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. And if you confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus  Christ, and that God has raised him up from the dead, you shalt be saved.' Rom. x. 9, 10."

Then there is a quote from Nigel Smith's  edition of Fox's Journal, 1998 page 465.  "And on the third day of the eighth month we came to the general meeting of all the Maryland Friends. .... a great convincement there is, and a great enquiring after the truth, among all sorts of people and the truth is of a good report and friends are much established, and the world convinced, and they said, they had never heard the scriptures so clearly opened before, for said they,'he has them at his fingers' ends, and as a man should read them in a book, and hold it open before him' and the people were satisfied beyond words ...."

The 1831 edition of the Journal page 132 about this same incident omits the note about opening scripture and says instead, "It was a very heavenly meeting, wherein the presence of the Lord was gloriously manifested, Friends were sweetly refreshed, the people generally satisfied, and many convinced; for the blessed power of the Lord was over all: everlasting praises to his holy name for ever!"  

George Fox does uses "bend" in his writings in three different ways.  In the this paragraph the first way is that we are to be bent by the teaching of Christ.  Fox Letters Works Vol 7and 8 Page 227 CCXXII.  You must bow at the cross of Christ, which is the power of God, which since the apostles' days the apostate christians have lost; and therefore they bow to a cross, a stick, a stone, a piece of iron, a piece of wood. Now bowing to the cross of Christ, which is the power of God, that strikes over the nature of fallen man; for who bends , and submits, and yields, and bows to the power of God within, feels it to rise over and strike over, and work over the carnal part, and that part that turns into ungodliness, and all that is bad, and is a cross to it.

The second way is if we do not bend to Christ, we end up bending the scriptures to fit our selfish, malevolent desires. Vol 3 Works p 297 "This is your own condition, and the Papists', who cannot own the scriptures as they speak; but you will make the scriptures bend to your own wills, and wrest them as the Pharisees did, and as you and the Papists do Christ's words."
 
And lastly it is true that Fox writes he will use scripture to bend people to the truth of Christ.   Fox's Journal Nigel Smith ed.  1998   page 223 and 224  "The priest Tombs cries out: ‘That is a natural light and a made light!"  And I desired all the people to take out their Bibles: and then I asked him whether he did affirm that was a created, natural made light that John (a man that was sent from God to bear witness to) did speak of, who said in him was life (to wit) the word: and this life was the light of men.  And so I asked him whether this light was that created, natural made light he meant on and affirmed and he said,"Yes."  Then said I: ‘Before I have done with you I will make you bend to the Scriptures."

In The Beginning of Quakerism, Braithwaite page 390 mentions this occasion.  "Fox bid all the people take out their Bibles, for, he writes,'I would make the scriptures bend him though he did not matter of the Spirit.'" Braithwaite had a footnote at this point, "I quote from the so-called Short. Journ.  The Camb. Journ. also uses the word ‘bend' I. 275"  The word bend does not occur in the 1831 edition used by Earlham School of Religion DQC and The New Foundation Publication.

There are people, never appreciated, always described in negative terms, mentioned in Fox's writing who point out the appearance of discrepancies between the teaching of Quakers and the scriptures.   One of Fox's best know statements of belief,  In For the Governor of Barbadoes, Fox writes ‘Whereas many scandalous lies and slanders have been cast upon us, to render us odious; as that "We deny God, and Christ Jesus, and the scriptures of truth," ....  This same thought is stated in various places in early Quaker writings when the enemies of  Quakers accused them of denying and distorting scripture forcing Quakers to disprove this in print, in debates and in court proceeding even though these slanderers were saying nothing more then many modern Quakers say when describing their use of Scripture. 

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 12th mo. 28, 2012 at 1:26pm

There are many possible legitimate criticisms of modern liberal Friends -- and particularly legitimate criticism of Liberal Friendism as a belief system.

Denying that early Friends used the Bible in religious debates would be as silly as denying that they debated in English. At the time, this was the most universally-acknowledged source of confirmation available.

And their use was not critical, since (unlike modern Friends) they didn't know that archeological evidence of (for example) a group of Jews leaving Egypt and arriving in Palestine, along the routes described, in anything resembling the numbers given in Biblical accounts of the Exodus -- evidence which should have still been there -- simply doesn't exist.

But they didn't imagine that the text alone, without the aid of God in interpreting it, possessed authority. The need for that aid for proper interpretation was a commonplace theological insight of the time.

Comment by Clem Gerdelmann on 1st mo. 1, 2013 at 8:36am

Friend Nichols, the Braithwaite reference, and perhaps your concern, are put in perspective by Howard Brinton in his classic work, "Friends for 300 years", when he writes, "The public Friend, in addressing those of his hearers who were waiting on him and not on the Lord, could not appeal to an experience which they had not achieved. He could, however, appeal to the Scriptures which they for the most part accepted as supreme authority in matters of religion."

Let's not be too eager to evangelize what was merely, albeit primitive, Christianity.

Comment by Adria Gulizia on 1st mo. 1, 2013 at 9:23am

Clem Gerdelmann said: "Let's not be too eager to evangelize what was merely, albeit primitive, Christianity."

Why should we not be eager to evangelize Christianity? Early Friends were eager to do so. They shared their experience and beliefs, not merely as consistent with scripture (in the way that much of the Qur'an is consistent with the Bible), but as the embodiment and fulfillment of the Gospel message. There are at least two reasons they might have done so: (1) as a sophistic tool of marketing to get people to stop persecuting them and join their new movement or (2) because they actually believed it and were themselves strong Christians who wanted to follow Christ Jesus as king, priest and prophet in order to enact the Kingdom of God on earth.

Reading the writings of Friends of all persuasions through the early 20th century, option 2 seems more likely. So given that Friends were, especially at the beginning, eager to evangelize Christianity, why should we be any less eager to do so?

Comment by Lee Nichols on 1st mo. 1, 2013 at 12:13pm

Friend Forrest regarding your comment on archeological evidence, am I right in thinking that this argument from silence was first proposed in the 1800s along with similar arguments such as no evidence of a sophisticated law code, no evidence of an evolved concept of religion or writing at the time of Moses, no evidence of a Hittite Empire at the time of Abraham and that finding evidence that suggests the Exodus occurred would be welcomed by you.  

You mentioned the need for the aid of God in interpreting scripture.  Why do you limit that need to scripture?  Don’t we need the aid of God in interpreting our personal, social, culture and material world as well.  Saying that we need the aid of God in interpreting scripture is as silly as denying the early Friends used the Bible in religious debates.  

On authority of the Bible and early Quaker, if a person has the right to settle an argument and decide who is right and who is wrong, would you say that they are acting as a Judge or King with authority over the disputants and would you also say that early Quakers taught that the scriptures should be used to judge the true leading of the Spirit when difference between spiritual openings or leadings occur?  Was it not true that the early Quakers invited everyone to use the scripture to test their teaching?  If this is so then would you agree that the early Quakers placed the scripture in a place of authority?

Friend Gerdelmann reminds us that we can be too eager to evangelize.  I hadn’t noticed the blog had yet gone beyond looking at what the early Quakers believed.  If the warning about evangelizing is really a warning about following the early Quakers too closely that should be separated from my position about evangelizing.  I still see a stronger concern from those who wish to evangelize by convincing us that their personal view on the activity of the spirit is correct than from any others evangelizing on this site.

 I do feel that Friend Gulizia’s comment is correct in that Quakers go beyond saying “You should believe us since you believe these scriptures” to saying “it is the truth we find in scripture that we use to shape our beliefs and to empower our holy living.”  It would be against the Quaker testimonies to subtly mislead their audience about this.   

There is a point Forrest introduced earlier about the spirit without an external reference point bringing the Quaker movement into existence and therefore leading us today into our truth.  How should this teaching lead us as we on this blog appear to have differences about truth?  Friend Forrest mentions archeological evidence and Friend Clem appeals to Howard Brinton.  Are these authorities?  Must we decide that some of us are just not open to the spirit since we all do not seem to end up at the same place?

Comment by Forrest Curo on 1st mo. 1, 2013 at 4:04pm

It's called an "argument from facts." When an honest archeologist takes a look at an area that preserves marks & debris for a very long time -- and the signs of passage aren't there -- he says "They didn't come this way."

There is Biblical evidence that this story was written down a long time after the alleged events, probably after the places mentioned in it had been built. There's other evidence in the Bible (names) that a leading Israelite (Levites) tribe did have Egyptian ancestry; and it seems likely to have been their story, adopted by the group called "Israel" that eventually solidified under their religious leadership. They believed that God had miraculously rescued them from slavery, and that part, I do agree, was true, an intentional act of God. But the final, elaborated story was written down later, by people with other axes to grind (and this illustrates another important feature of human religious writing that God can teach us to recognize via these writings.)

You don't need to "settle" an argument with me; you need to arrive at the best truth you can be led to recognize as you are.

So far as you let God continue to renew your mind, you may eventually see some things differently, even differently from what you (or I) think a certain book is saying. If past experience is any guide, the same is likely for me. The objective reality is not that book, but What/Whom that book is about.

Comment by Zaley Warkentin on 1st mo. 3, 2013 at 7:27pm

I've always felt the point of the scriptures was the underlying moral messages and lessons they contain. Not whether or not the stories are factual. In my own humble opinion; it is quite a mistake to take the Bible as a historical document, as arguing over whether or not something is fact, based on fact, or completely fabricated (in terms of historical accuracy), is missing the aim...

Comment by Forrest Curo on 1st mo. 3, 2013 at 11:23pm

Human beings have a sense of 'should'; "moral messages and lessons" are available in a great many flavors -- and indeed we don't need "a Bible" to know good from bad... The Bible even implies that there's something a little off about what people think we know about such matters.

So far as there is an ethical message in the Bible, it's subtle, ironic, "double-edged" like the sword of Jesus' word in the Book of Revelation. The Good Guys keep finding themselves mistaken about what they assume to be 'The Only Good, Right, Proper Way' for things to be; while God keeps throwing them unexpected perspectives -- The Messiah they've been praying for, their ideal King in accord with God's heart, refuses to rule as 'a real king' should, either according to The Way of The World or their own ideas of what God demands -- So they turn this King over to their enemies, believing it's the only pious and practical thing they can do -- and then his death turns out to violate everything people "know" about death...

This is saying something radical about the nature of God and the Creation... Any moral messages and lessons need to find their context and proper application from that!

Factuality does matter, in the sense that this stuff is about the way the world truly is!

It's not necessary that the authors get all the details right; but there's a significant difference between a world of accident and a world ruled by unlimited love & wisdom.

Comment by Adria Gulizia on 1st mo. 4, 2013 at 2:56pm

Forrest, I agree that facts matter, but I think that Zaley may be saying something slightly different: that being factually accurate isn't what makes something true.

For example, Jesus often spoke in parables. He used made-up stories to illustrate divine truths. We don't ask, "Was there really a stingy businessman who gave his three servants money and then was steamed when one of them didn't invest?" We know that the story was invented, but it still tells us something important about the nature of God.

Of course, the factual accuracy of a given story matters when the detail in question would significantly alter the meaning of the story and you are relying on that detail for something big- that is to say, the details matter when you are relying on the authority of the written words alone. But, as you point out, early Friends didn't do that; they read scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that they could properly interpret the words.

I don't think  know that Zaley or Lee would disagree with that.

Comment by Zaley Warkentin on 1st mo. 4, 2013 at 6:46pm

Yes Adria, that was exactly what I was trying to say, thanks! :)

Comment by Timothy on 1st mo. 4, 2013 at 7:02pm

I agree with friend Zaley, in her first response, she made a powerful point clear! She basically took the things I wished to contribute out of my own mouth! I reverberate her first comment and add: Amen! <3:):)

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