In their preaching, George Fox and other first Friends sought to direct people, not to belief in or experience of an inner metaphysical essence, but to the dynamic activity of divine revelation in their minds and hearts. Their message remains important today.
“What canst thou say?” is sometimes taken to be a call to “speak your truth.” But that’s an idea that George Fox could not have endorsed; more likely, he would have taken issue with it in forceful terms. His challenge was, and is, much more radical.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, was in some ways close to the early Quakers in his views on morality and violence. Yet he accepted the need to lie and perhaps even to kill in resistance to Hitler and the Nazi government, not rationalizing those acts as intrinsically good but taking on the responsibility before God for committing them. I am moved by his sincerity and courage.
Christmastime reflections on fallibility and infallibility, discernment and non-judgmentalism, and Quaker spirituality.
The memoir concludes with an adaptation of a piece published twenty years ago in the inaugural issue of the journal Quaker Theology.
An escape hatch is opened. Can I, in good conscience, climb through it?
I notify the draft board of my conscientious objection to war; the board refuses to recognize it. I quit school, leave home, and wait for the government’s ax to fall.