I am proud to have been brought up in the born again, separatist fundamentalist, Wesleyan Holiness tradition, in the only Quaker Yearly Meeting which (to my knowledge) has ever condemned George Fox’s “Inner Light” teaching. Namely, Ohio Yearly Meeting (OYM) (Gurneyite), in 1877-1879.
Yet, today, many in the OYM (now called the Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region aka EFC-ER) and apparently consider this a non-issue. Plus, more and more churches in the EFC-ER are drifting away from Wesleyan Holiness teachings and entertaining Postmodern aka Emerging/Emergent views. But I digress – in this blog I am focusing on the issue of George Fox’s “Inner Light”.
For all intents and purposes, all non-evangelical Quaker denominations today have one teaching in common: George Fox’s mystic, heretical teaching of “the Inner Light.” (Forms of this teaching actually existed before George Fox – more on this in another blog).
The “Inner Light” means different things to different Quaker denominations. Some individuals in the Evangelical Friends Church International aka EFCI (of which the EFC-ER is a part) seem to be “pulling one over” on the remaining born again, biblically sound Evangelical Friends by saying “the Inner Light is the indwelling Holy Spirit.” But taken to its logical conclusion, this is like comparing apples with oranges. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in every human being. The Holy Spirit does not reside in unregenerate individuals. Therefore the Holy Spirit cannot be “the Inner Light”, “the light of Christ in every man” that George Fox taught.
There are many aspects of the “Inner Light” teaching I could discuss, but I will only cover one aspect here. Non-evangelical Quakers who strongly hold to the “Inner Light” teaching reject the teaching of Jesus as our Saviour, redeeming us through “The Blood and The Cross” (as per John Chapter 3).
For example, I stumbled across a pertinent YouTube video while Googling for videos on Quakers. The congregation seems to be entertained by the singer, yet I found the following excerpt from the lyrics to be almost blasphemous (click here to view all the lyrics):
I’m not a Christian but I’m a Quaker
I’ve got Christ’s inner light but he’s not my savior…
Now I’m a liberal Friend
That means F-G-C… [Friends General Conference]
[emphasis mine][The above phrases are sung not once, but three times during the song – shocking.]
A member of the FGC maintaining he is not a Christian, but a Quaker? I guess this shouldn’t surprise me – there are also Universalist Quakers, nontheist (atheist) Quakers, and Quakers of many other heretical stripes.
And as mentioned previously, all non-evangelical Quakers today seem to believe in some form of “Inner Light” teaching. Question: do Convergent Friends hope to unite all these types of Quakers with evangelical (EFCI) Quakers? If so, we are truly headed towards a “Unitarian Universalist” Quakerism.
Having grown up in what is now the EFCI, I know that most Evangelical Friends/Quakers consider the “Inner Light” teaching a minor part of their heritage – if they know of the “Inner Light” teaching at all. This is not true of non-evangelical Quakers.
Check out the following excerpts, from an article on the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) at Religion Resources Online.org. I have emphasized certain points by bolding and [bracketing]:
The theological beliefs of different Yearly Meetings vary considerably, ranging from evangelical Christianity to universalist and new thought beliefs. Some Yearly Meetings (especially those in parts of the US and Africa affiliated to Friends United Meeting) consider Christ their teacher and Lord. Other yearly meetings (especially those in parts of the US, Asia and Central America which are affiliated to Evangelical Friends Church International) regard Christ as their Lord and savior. Other yearly meetings, especially those in parts of the US which are affiliated to the wider fellowship of conservative Friends, trust in the immediate guidance of an inward Christ [the Inner Light]. There is often a large variety of theological belief in some other yearly meetings (often termed liberal yearly meetings such as those in parts of the US affiliated to Friends General Conference, many yearly meetings in Europe and Australia/New Zealand and the Beanite yearly meetings in western United States), with meetings often having a large proportion of liberal Christians and universalist Christians some of whom trust in the guidance of an inward Christ or inner light, with some non-theists, agnostics, and, as well as some who are also members of other religions, although even amongst liberal yearly meetings this is controversial. Common ideas among members of these liberal Yearly Meetings include a belief of “that of God in everyone”, and shared values (such as to peace, equality and simplicity).
The predominant theological beliefs of different Yearly Meetings do not tally exactly with the style of service, but there is often some co-relation, with many Yearly Meetings that hold programmed worship having more evangelical theological beliefs, and those with unprogrammed worship tending to have more liberal theological beliefs.
Modern Friends, particularly those in the liberal Yearly Meetingss, often express their beliefs in many ways, including the attitude of trying to see or appeal to “[the light] of God in everyone”; finding and relating to “the Inner light”, “the inward Christ”, or “the spirit of Christ within.” Early Friends more often used terms such as “Truth”, “the Seed”, and “the Pure Principle”, from the idea that each person would be transformed as Christ formed and grew in them. The intention to “see the light” or see “that of God in everyone” is an effort in Quakers to cast aside more superficial differences and focus on the good that they believe all people have in common.
Unlike other Christian denominations, some branches of Quakerism completely reject all forms of religious symbolism and outward sacraments, such as baptism or celebrating the Eucharist. [Many groups of] Quakers also believe in continuing revelation, with the idea that God speaks directly to any person, without the need for any middle-man. For this reason, many deny the idea of priests or holy people, but believe in the priesthood of all believers, and reject the doctrine of sola scriptura. The idea of an inner light (or inward light) of Christ is important to many Quakers: the idea that there is that of God within everyone, guiding them through their lives.
I know, I know, the above is confusing. I hope to list each Quaker denomination, with a doctrinal statement from each denomination regarding the Inner Light and salvation.
Question: why does the EFCI, which claims to believe in salvation through Christ, insist on associating with non-evangelical, non-believing, “Inner Light”-based Quaker denominations under the umbrella of the FWCC?
The Bible warns us to not associate with unbelievers; the EFCI needs to heed this warning:
14) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (II Cor. 6:14-18, KJV)[emphasis mine]
I find it very interesting that EFCI’s Richard Foster and his mentor Dallas Willard, so knowledgable of Quaker theology and the heretical Inner Light teaching, pioneered the Spiritual Formation movement. As it turns out, there are many similarities between the Inner Light teaching and Spiritual Formation teachings. And it is no coincidence that Foster and Willard viewed George Fox as a great man with great teachings. What an abomination! I hope to discuss these similarities more in other blogs. For now, here are some links for further research:
7) Excerpts from a book by David Cloud. The first section deals with Richard Foster, the Inner Light, and Quakers:
8) The following article discusses heretical aspects of Quakerism, including the Inner Light teaching. I searched for the word “Quaker” in the article and came up with 134 hits:
I also found the article here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48067967/From-Mysticism-to-the-Gospel-Paul-Dan
10) The following article has various references to Quakers:
11) This is a expose of Willow Creek Church’s involvement in Spiritual Formation. It makes numerous references to Quakers:
12) Now this is scary – an excerpt from a FUM Quaker article (non-evangelical):
During the month of May , The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible appeared in bookstores… For Friends, it was a great month; for the first time a study Bible was released that reflected Quaker theology.“There is a great deal of Quaker thinking in this Bible,” stated Richard Foster, Editor. “One of the great gifts Quakerism has is that its greatest treasures are focal and very foundational Quaker insights are found in the pages of this Bible.” [The article goes on to discuss other Quaker involvement with this so-called bible.]