Saturday, August 7, 2010

George Fox's Message Via His Scripture Quotations - Part 3

This is a continuation of part 2 of my School of the Spirit research paper.

Known Inwardly and Spiritually

The inward knowing of Christ, the light, the seed, is such an integral part of Fox’s epistles that it is rare to encounter one that does not recommend that Friends walk, dwell, keep in the light. The prophet Jeremiah writes about a new covenant in which God says "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts," (Jeremiah 31:33) and Paul also writes about it in Romans 2:15 ("which shew the work of the law written in their hearts"). For Fox, this new covenant describes his experience of inward revelation and direct experience of Christ, and he frequently makes reference to the new covenant in terms the inward experience of God. He also writes of the covenant as a covenant of light, which echoes Isaiah 42:6, "I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles."

Like Jesus and Paul, Fox frequently emphasizes the inward work of the Spirit by contrasting it with the teachings and opinions of people. One of Paul’s statements that Fox uses is from Romans 2:29, "he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." In other words, it isn’t the external things that make one a Jew, but what is in one’s heart. Fox makes heavy use of not only the idea of the circumcision of the heart, but also in admonishing Friends not to seek human praise -- it is God that Friends should seek to please. In fact, most of the places where Fox uses the phrase "of men" he is contrasting worldly matters with spiritual ones.
Fox’s use of the phrase "led by the spirit", echoes Paul’s writing in Romans 8:14 that "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Of course, the idea of being led by the spirit is central to Fox’s writing and is expressed in a wide variety of ways.

Fox also makes numerous references to the "carnal mind" or just plain "carnal", which refers to being concerned about worldly things as opposed to spiritual ones. This concept appears in Romans 8:6, which says "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." A typical example of this would be sentence in epistle 58: "The teachers without exalt the carnal mind, but the teacher within destroyeth it." He contrasts human teachers (often "without" means outward or external) with the inward teacher, Christ.

Fox frequently uses the term "letter" in referring to ministers and teaching that is not from the Spirit, and this likely comes from 2 Corinthians 3:6, which says "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." It has been a doctrine of Friends from the beginning that the Spirit is the primary authority and that the scriptures are secondary, and Fox’s references to "the letter" tend to take on a dualistic flavor, implying that those who teach "the letter" have no knowledge of the Spirit.

This paper continues in part 4.

No comments:

Post a Comment