Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"That of God" and the Peace Testimony

I must confess that I often roll my eyes when I hear "there is that of God in every person" used as an explanation for the various testimonies. I have written before about how I think "that of God" is misused, turning it into an outward philosophical outlook instead of an inward transformation. It is interesting, however, that Joseph Hoag gave a defense of the Peace Testimony using essentially the idea of "that of God" in others:

I shall state, that myself and wife are true Christians, and our children are in the minority - and thou knowest it is natural for children to believe what their parents teach them - and therefore we are all true Christians as far as our several capacities enable us to be; and now the question lies here; which is most like the precepts and example of our King - the author of the Christian religion - to lay down our lives, and all go to heaven together; or kill that wicked Indian, and send him to hell; for he must be in as wicked a state as he can be, to kill a family that would not hurt him. General, it is a serious thing to send wicked folks to hell; they have no chance to come back and mend their ways; and thou dost not know, but that if that wicked Indian was spared he might feel remorse enough to make him repent, so as to find forgiveness, and go to heaven. I really believe, I should feel much better to see him come there than to send him to hell;

I find that this speaks powerfully to me, and has come to mind frequently, especially when related to death penalty issues. While it speaks of how we treat others, it still maintains the inward workings of "that of God", and also speaks of our own personal transformation, since he is basically saying "I have been transformed by Christ already, I would die before denying another person that opportunity."


At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Raye said...


I chose a random place to read a sample of Joseph Hoag's journal, and ended up reading a section that includes just this explanation.

He was not vague, was he?

I have also been considering all that he and many others were willing to endure to promote the Kingdom and build up the body of Christ by traveling.

Having grown up in the South, I recall how hot summers can be - and there he was, traveling miles and miles to bear witness to the truth.

It raises the bar for me.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Hi Raye!

He definitely spoke his mind. I was particularly struck by all the difficulties and illness Hoag endured while traveling. There was a time when going through South Carolina that the water was pretty bad and he ended up getting really sick. I really admire his perseverance.

With love,

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hi Mark,

Actually, the passage quoted doesn't seem to me to have much to do with the "that of God" phrase in either of its meanings. It seems, rather, to focus on the idea that if you kill a "wicked" person you will be responsible for sending that person to hell. It makes sense in a way but it seems odd to me in that it doesn't give God credit for being as merciful as Hoag himself apparently was.

Incidentally, I'm glad you had the Hoag journal published. I've viewed it online and also ordered a hard copy. To me it offers some sobering glimpses of the state of the Society of Friends before and during the Hicksite/Orthodox separation.

To be sure, there is a lot of evidence of high-minded service and integrity, but it also appears that abusive behavior by elders was quite common; common enough to cause Joseph a lot of grief when he first appeared in the ministry. And that was even before the theological disputes with Hicks had arisen.

I'd like to write an essay on this topic, should I ever find the time.


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