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George Fox:- “Founder of the Quakers”

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In my first paper about Quakerism, I said it was a cult and not Christian. Inevitably, it drew criticism from Quakers. It was interesting to me at the time, how savage and violent these supposedly peaceful people could be!

I then wrote a book on Quakerism. In both publications, I questioned the salvation of George Fox. You might ask how I could possibly do so? Surely, I have no right to question any man’s salvation? Yes, I have every right, as scripture itself suggests! We are to question those who teach scripture and claim to be of God.

Certain marks are found amongst those who are truly saved. The most important is that they are saved by grace alone. Frankly, when I read George Fox’s Journal I was disturbed by his allusion to the ‘inner light’, which claims that all men may be saved by their own acceptance of God. This is Arminianism. I offer you some historical data… come to your own conclusions:

“In the beginning of the year 1646, as I was going to Coventry… a consideration arose in me, how it was said that ‘All Christians are believers, both Protestants and Papists’; and the Lord opened to me that if all were believers, then they were all born of God, and passed from death to life…” That was written by Fox. He makes no distinction between Protestant and Papist and does not talk in that passage of the ground for salvation, which is, simply, God’s election. However, it seems that this was said before he claimed to be saved.

A little later, after shunning all kinds of formal church attendance and the priesthood, he began to think about Christ dwelling only in men’s hearts, which is true. It seems, though, that Fox took this beyond scripture. Whilst it is true that God Himself teaches a man’s spirit, He often does so through chosen teachers and preachers.

Fox claimed, in 1647 (?), to have had a revelation that only Jesus could save, and his description of it is Biblical. Fearing corruption of his soul, Fox kept apart, not just from the priests, but from all people. This intensity, (or could it be called paranoia?) which manifested itself fearfully at times, causing him to be very rude to some, stayed with him for life.

In my capacity as a health professional, I often met such folk. They tend to be loners, with a frame of mind that is not just intense, but incapable of true joy and happiness. They have, then, a problem with their own well-being and mental balance. They are not mentally ill, but their characters are flawed by an inability to rise above what is, really, an humourless existence. But, this is just my opinion of him.

Fox himself says: “the greatest sorrows, and temptations… beset me (many) times.” Paul had such experiences, as do I, but to dwell in such times for most of life is an imbalance and does not sit squarely with the whole of Christian existence.

Fox believed a saved man could become as untouched as Adam was before the Fall. Indeed, he claimed this state for himself. This was an error, for no man can re-enter a time of absolute freedom from sin and the guilt of it. The only people to know this complete freedom were pre-fall Adam and Eve, and Christ. Notably, Fox underwent a number of very deep psychological and physical changes (called ‘deep subliminal transformations’ by a sympathetic biographer). Were these similar to the changes experienced by charismatics? They appear to be so!

I must admit that if one reads Fox’s Journal, great spiritual works seem to have been enacted through him. However, these can be an hindrance, for we cannot tell whether the works were genuine or not, given our time-distance from the man. I am very much reminded of the way modern men judged the cursed Toronto Blessing and its offspring to be ‘of God’ and ‘mighty works’ of God. They are not.

Therefore, in spite of the descriptions of great works in the Journal, I must hold back, for Fox spoke in what can be termed a ‘charismatic’ way about his own experiences. He claimed words of wisdom, for example – but who verified it all? Fox had such a distrust of others that he seems to have made claims to spiritual gifts that were not verified by others as ‘of God’. I can only go by what I have read, as do pro-Foxites.

Fox spoke of the purity of God being in everyone, but that it was ‘transgressed’. In itself such a belief says that all men are pure unless they sin. This appears to tie-in with his claim that the Light of God (Christ) is in every man, meaning, that every man has the distinct possibility of being pure, if only he stopped sinning. God says that all men are born in sin, and their spirits are dead, unless He regenerates them. Only after this is a man ‘born again’. And this through election alone, meaning that not all men have the Light of Christ within, and then only after regeneration.

Fox referred to “that Light with which Christ hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world”, but his understanding of this is Arminian. That is, that Christ is in every man except when a man rejects Him. If this is the case, then Fox believed that men’s souls are inherently good, whereas scripture says they are inherently sinful and bad. That is how Fox says that men can be “clean and pure, without sin, as (Adam) was.” No man can attain to Adam’s pre-fall state, for all men are born in sin and their righteousness is only in Christ, not in any state they may be in as human beings. Fox suggests the apostles were in pre-fall Adamic states. Yet, scripture only refers to Christ as the ‘second Adam’. There are no others.

Without doubt, Fox said: “every man was enlightened by the divine Light of Christ”. His use of the capital ‘L’ means that Fox is referring to Christ. But, this is not what scripture tells us. We are told that God speaks to all men, but that only those who are elect will be saved, having the Light within them through regeneration. In each and every case, Fox claims to have been instructed privately by the Holy Spirit, but he does not say that others of like mind verified his claims. Nor do some of his claims agree with scripture, a few of which I note above.

Strangely, though, Fox did say that salvation was available to “as many as should receive Him in His Light”. Even if unintended, this is a direct acknowledgement of predestination and election. So, why do I still feel ill at ease with Fox? His supporters will, of course, accuse me of ‘misunderstanding’ him, but how can they claim this when I am reading the very same material they are reading? Why is it that I am wrong, and not they? Or, do they claim to have a similar Fox-like secret instruction from God that cannot be verified?

In many, many ways, I can understand and go along with Fox. But, still in my mind, is the idea that all was not well with Fox. There is that nagging doubt. His call to come away from false religion and Romish rites was admirable. He refused (if rudely and crudely) to bow and scrape to men of supposed eminence, and suffered for it. If only men were so minded today! I am often upbraided for being critical of this or that tradition or practice… but perhaps folk should see how many people and traditions Fox spoke against! Just about everything, it would seem!

In Fox there also appears to be a misunderstanding of some truths. For example, he says that preachers are given the Gospel freely, so they should preach freely – meaning they should not be paid. This is only partly true, for pastors/preachers may receive payment to keep them in life, as scripture teaches. Even Paul was given regular money gifts to keep him.

Fox declared that only Believers may constitute a local church, and he was right. Indeed, he was right about a large number of things. Even so, I have this quiet problem, that he taught an Arminian gospel by believing the Light was in every man. If this is true, then any claim he makes to salvation may indeed be false, as would be his preaching. That is the way I have read Fox. His supporters tell me I am wrong. Who is right?

Note: Those ‘evangelical’ Quakers who argue against me have all been Arminian. If anyone says they are saved by Arminian preaching, then they are deluded.

© November 2004

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