George Fox

For man and woman were helpsmeet in the image of God … in the dominion before they fell; but after the Fall … the man was to rule over his wife; but in the restoration by Christ, into the image of God … in that they are helpsmeet, man and woman, as they were in before the Fall. You could read this as a statement for Equality of men and women, but it is not: as “helpsmeet”, men and women have different and complementary roles. Fox was a man of his time. Yet this is revolutionary: we are restored by Christ into the image of God. The Church of England required belief in Original Sin, saying that man is inclined to evil, and the infection of nature remains even in those regenerated by faith in Christ. The Westminster confession said that man could be sanctified, yet remain in part corrupt.

But we, Quakers, are restored to our glory, in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. I don’t think that is unBiblical, particularly, though probably some Evangelicals would, and I am not Marcus J Borg to bandy proof-texts with them. Fox knew and used the Bible as he preached.

I wondered, what are we to make of the Letter to the Governor of Barbadoes, which was in our book of discipline in the 19th century and is still regarded in Evangelical Quaker circles. Much of it is a statement of belief about God, Jesus and scripture. As a liberal-liberal 21st century Quaker, I can say simply, he was a man of his time, and when he calls the Bible the Word of God, whose writers spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit, he spoke the ideas of his time. In following him, I am not to accept his 17th century ideas as a whole, but his way of being with them. So he writes that masters should “pray with and for, teach, instruct and admonish” their slaves about Christian truth: not release them, but treat them as human beings, fellow-servants of Christ. That might mitigate the masters’ bestial treatment.

I love this quote too, the way the words build and dance round the idea, the strength of it.

I must read the Journal again. I want to know this man. And now, an Iris Murdoch quote:

I live in long times, not in sudden present moments. I’ve got to go back to where I am… You don’t understand people like me, like us, the other ones. You’re like a bird that flies in the air, a fish that swims in the sea. You move, you look about you, you want things. There are others who live on Earth and move just a little and don’t look-

Monet, en bateau

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