Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Quaker Vision

“The Quaker Vision”
By Lewis Benson
(New Foundation publications, No. 4, Winter 1979)

The central thrust of Fox’s critical attach on organized Christianity is aimed at its failure to bring men to a knowledge and experience of the power of God. If the gospel is the power of God, how can we preach it, or receive it, or be gathered into a gospel fellowship, if we are strangers to the power of it? Fox sees the evidence of power everywhere in the New Testament, and in so far as he is calling for a revival of primitive Christianity, it is the power of primitive Christianity that he is trying to revive…For Fox, a gospel that does not bring men to the experience of the power of God is not gospel.
The power that Fox knew experientially was a power with a name, and a voice, and a redemptive purpose for mankind. (p32)

The church of the cross is a community that obeys together and suffers together. It does not divide and scatter under persecution. The church under persecution, says Fox, should be like a flock of sheep on a high hill in a winter storm, standing together with their backs and tails against the weather. He says, “No longer do you keep in the fellowship, but as you keep in the cross of Christ…therefore it is called the mystery of the fellowship of the cross of Christ which is the power of God.” (p35)

The Christian conception of redemption is incompatible with all schemes of spiritual self-culture. Man cannot solve his basic human problem by controlling and exploiting the forces of nature. Redemption is in God’s hands. In love and mercy and grace he comes to all men with the free gift of redemption which is Jesus Christ. (p45)

The universal message of George Fox is a proclamation concerning Jesus Christ. Fox is telling us that Christ is alive and that he is present in the midst of all who gather together in his name. Christ is not only present in the midst of his people: he is actively present. He actively leads and guides his people. He teaches them what is right and gives them the power to do what is right. He is the living Head, and King and Ruler of God’s people. He is the living Priest who intercedes for them and has the power to forgive. He is their living Prophet, like Moses, who reveals the righteousness of God, not by giving a new legal code of morals, but by giving himself as their living moral teacher. He is a living Orderer who guides his people into a disciplined, ordered gospel fellowship. (p53)

The proclamation of this revolutionary gospel message in the 17th century produced explosive consequences. But the preaching of this gospel soon ceased to be the first concern of the Quakers. Gradually, the concern to lay again the gospel foundation in all the world drifted into the background of Quaker life. The gospel message that Fox preached became a fading memory. His vision of the recovered apostolic gospel that was to go to all nations ceased to kindle apostolic fervor in Quaker hearts. After three centuries the Quakers have come to accept the self-image of a small sect in a big world. (p54)