Faith and Culture

But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those called the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do; then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’ When I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory. For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have preeminence, who enlightens, and gives grace, faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let it? This I knew experimentally. (Works of Fox, Vol. I, p. 74)

Faith does not grow in the comfortable situations where we are in control. Fox’s experience of the priests, separate preachers, and most experienced people was that they were all miserable comforters. Many people prefer to hold onto miserable comfort rather than to admit that such comfort is worthless. But in so doing they are never brought to that impasse of “I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do.” It is this impasse, where we have reached the end of all our resources, that is the seedbed of faith. From Fox’s “then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’” to “This I knew experimentally.” is the process of faith growing within.

The world was, and yet is, immersed in a culture of looking upon “priests, separate preachers, and most experienced people” as the avenue through which God will send help if ever we are to receive any help. The effect of this culture is that we have many voices to listen to. Fox’s opening was that it was not the many voices that could speak to his condition, and in that realization he was cut off from all contemporary Christianity. From their point of view, he was now beyond help, beyond redemption. Today, we are again assailed by a barrage of voices; even among those called Christian. The common refrain is, “God speaks to me through the preacher, through Bible readings, through the songs, through circumstances,” etc. If you follow these voices you always end up in the ditch. You can say, “I have faith that God will someday pull me up out of this ditch.” But that is not the good news. That is not faith. The good news is that there is one voice that is to be heard while it is called “today” that does not lead into the ditch. That voice does not speak “through…” but speaks to your inward ear. Faith grows as we hear and follow that voice. This faith causes our hearts to leap for joy. We know by experience that by following this voice we are brought to life and made conformable to the image of the Father.

This experience was the center piece of Fox’s preparation for his life of ministry. Thus in his summary of his message at Firbank Fell he said:

It was judged there were above a thousand people; to whom I declared God’s everlasting truth and word of life freely and largely for about the space of three hours; directing all to the spirit of God in themselves; that they might be turned from the darkness to the light, and believe in it, that they might become the children of it, and might be turned from the power of satan unto God; and by the spirit of truth might be led into all truth, and sensibly understand the words of the prophets, of Christ, and of the apostles; and might all come to know Christ to be their teacher to instruct them, their counsellor to direct them, their shepherd to feed them, their bishop to oversee them, and their prophet to open divine mysteries to them; and might know their bodies to be prepared, sanctified, and made fit temples for God and Christ to dwell in. In the openings of the heavenly life, I opened unto them the prophets, and the figures and shadows, and directed them to Christ, the substance…I showed also the state of the apostacy that hath been since the apostles’ days; that the priests have got the scriptures, but are not in the spirit which gave them forth; and have put them into chapter and verse, to make a trade of the holy men’s words; that the teachers and priests now are found in the steps of the false prophets, chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees of old, and are such as the true prophets, Christ and the apostles cried against, and so are judged and condemned by the spirit of the true prophets, of Christ, and of his apostles: and that none in that spirit and guided by it now could own them. (Works of Fox, Vol. 1, pp. 142-143)

Not only was turning from the many voices to the one voice, even Christ Jesus, central to Fox’s preparation, it was central to what he called all people to experience for themselves. This shared experience is the basis of the community of faith, or else we have no faith; only wishful thinking. Without this faith, we are blown about by every wind of cultural doctrine. This faith is either the center of our culture or else culture becomes our “faith.”

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About Ellis Hein

I am a woodturner and the author of The Woodturner's Project Book. I have a life-long interest in the gospel preached by George Fox and the early Quakers. You can see some of my material on that subject at http://nffquaker.org/profiles/blog/list?user=1zw2th7nj9p89.
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