Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The New George Fox Writings Website

I've been looking at the new website created by Hall and Joan Worthington and devoted to the life and writings of George Fox.

Here are my observations:

First: I was wary when I read that they had "modernized" the language, since this is often a rationale for watering down the content of early Quake writings, but I put my mind at ease after reading a fair number of epistles and comparing them to the "original" text at other sites. The modernizing seems to consist mainly of changing "thee" and "thou" to you, changing obsolete verb endings such as -eth to modern equivalents, and occasionally inserting a clarifying word. For example, in epistle number 2 they have changed from

Rejoice not in the flesh, but in the spirit, which crucifieth all fleshly boasting: if the fleshly will be fed, then carelessness cometh up, and they fall into flatness, (from the spirit,) and are mindless of the Lord God; such are soon up and down.

Rejoice not in the flesh, but rather in the spirit,
which crucifies all fleshly boastings:
if the fleshly will be fed, then carelessness cometh up,
and they fall into flatness, (from the spirit),
and are mindless of the Lord God;
such are soon up and down.

Second: As the above example shows, their breaking down of the text into separate lines greatly improves readability.

Third: They have an article under "Editors' comments" called "Government Protests". It points out that the early Friends' testimony against wars didn't generally involve actually protesting wars or trying to end them. It also makes the argument that mass anti-war protests are not really in the spirit of the peace testimony. I would draw different conclusions in the end, but their argument deserves to be listened to.

Fourth: In another article under "Editors comments" called "Imitation of Early Quakers" they protest against the use of "plain speech" and "plain dress" that imitates early Quaker patterns but in their opinion is untrue to the spirit of the real early Quaker testimony about plainness. Here I feel much closer to what they are saying than I do to their point about anti-war marches, though I don't feel, as perhaps they do, that the quaint forms of plainness are actually a bad thing.

Fifth: While I too am a great admirer of George Fox, I feel a tad put off by their statement that "We believe George Fox to be the greatest man the world has known since Jesus Christ left the earth."

Finally: I notice that they say they are not members of any church or religious society since they have not found anyone who agrees with their beliefs. Yet it seems likely that somewhere along the way they have had contact with Friends, since few other groups would have pointed them to the writings of George Fox. One wonders what they think of Friends.

I think this website is fascinating. I'd love to hear what other Friends make of it.

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Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I think their comments about plainness in clothing deserve discussion, but I don't agree with them. They are right to raise the question of whether plain people have reversed the original purposes of plainness (such as avoiding expensive ostentation and being low in the Spirit) and are now proclaiming their specialness through plain dress.

However, I could certainly imagine someone considering that caution and still going ahead and adopting plainness in their clothing and self-presentation generally. First of all, there may be some kind of inner cross that is being borne, some step in discipleship that relates to the individual's journey. Secondly, they may feel led by God. Thirdly, they may have the gift of evangelism and, as with William Bacon Evans, be using their unusual (to the secular eye) appearance to open conversations about faith. I'm sure I've not thought of all the valid reasons.

A few of the plain Quakers I've met seem to have an arrogant attitude about the rest of us--we're apostates, apparently. I've certainly never run into this attitude among the thoughtful contributors to discussions in this blogging community about plainness. Given the quality of their writings, I have no right to assume anything other than that their plainness is a thoughtful and inwardly liberating practice.

However, I would resist any hint that to be a genuine Quaker one has to be plain. We're already too preoccupied by our specialness and our antiquarian subtleties, while many in the larger Christian world adopt most of our valid insights and pass us by.

7:23 PM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger QuakerDave said...

Thanks so much for this post. I would not have found this resource otherwise.

7:31 PM, March 11, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I think that there is a danger of plain dress becoming a costume. Do you have to go out of your way to find something that looks really plain? Are you specifically dressing to look like early Quakers, or just trying to live as simply as possible? Hats, to me, are one sign of approaching the costume stage. Do people really need to wear hats indoors and in their cars?

While I like the notion of plain speech, and wish I was better at it, I object to the use of "thee" and "thou" because that seems more like showiness than plainness. Those terms have gone out of regular use. In fact, many people misunderstand their usage and think that "thee" and "thou" are honorific terms, which is the opposite of their original use.

I think it is especially telling whether you dress and speak plainly all the time or just when you are at meeting. If it isn't all the time, I think there is a problem.

On another subject, I'm sure my view is skewed by my association with Quakers, but in the section of the web site that talks about the purification process, I feel like it is too individualistic. I think it is a mistake to ignore the community aspect. In their description, they suggest meditating together with like-minded people, but there is no notion of coming together as a community and ministering to each other. Sometimes we don't pick up on the messages and God uses someone else to get through to us.

When we have trouble discerning messages, I think the notion of validating it with the scripture is a little off. We must read the scriptures in the same spirit in which they were given, and it seems to me that if we have trouble discerning messages, we will have the same problem discerning the scriptures. A spirit-led faith community seems like a better place to turn to in that case.

Finally, thanks for posting the link, Rich!

9:51 PM, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

I agree both with Johan's defense of traditional "plainness" and Mark's critque.

The "danger" of plain dress becoming a costume is real, particularly in view of our history as a people, but that doesn't mean it can't be a legitimate witness for some Friends at some points in their spiritual journeys. A bigger danger might be an over-reaction against traditional plain dress because it seems so quaint and embarassing and we want to be acceptable and respectable. Bearing this "inner cross", as Johan calls it, may be a necessary step on some folks journey to faithfulness.

I myself try to eschew suits,ties, jewelry, etc. as much as possible and to dress without regard to styles and fashions, but I do not wear a broadbrim hat, or suspenders, or uniformly dark colors. I also try to speak plainly (I find it a challenge) but do not use "thee" and "thou".

My thought about the new George Fox website, however, is that I still think we should be trying to encourage a dialog with its creators.

1:28 PM, March 18, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I went to a meeting on Saturday that was a discussion with Lloyd Lee Wilson from N.C. Yearly Meeting (Conservative). He often does traveling ministry, and he DOES wear suspenders and broadbrim hat. That is not a requirement of NCYM(C), just something he does. Anyway, one of the insights he gave that really struck me is that his manner of dress doesn't just set him apart, but it causes people to recognize him as someone of deep faith. He says that complete strangers will come up to him and start telling him all about their spiritual life. I had really only considered the plain dress from a personal standpoint, and not what it may be to the community.

10:45 AM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

If the plain dress costs more than ordinary dress, that makes it questionable to me.

The kind of car a Quaker drives, the kind of house, etc. may evidence Quakerism more authentically than plain dress. On Jesse Mock's old car (Brevard (NC) Meeting) is a sign: live simply that others may simply live.

2:06 PM, March 21, 2006  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

I like Johan's remark that plain dress can be an form of evangelism. I certainly consider this a motivation in my own (somewhat laid-back) plain attire but I've never thought of it in quite those words.

I looked at the George Fox writings site a few weeks ago (and put it up on QuakerQuaker) but didn't look deeply enough to see that they weren't part of a community. There does seem to be a tendency among some to idolize the early Friends to such a degree that one cuts themselves off from body of Friends. It's a funny irony, that's for sure. I'll check the site out again. Thanks Rich!

5:05 PM, April 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked the new George Fox Writings website. A straightforward witness such as this can be sharp in todays culture. As we all rub together the sharp edges are smoothed out and in time we can interact without being poked. Hopefully they can be led to a local community that witnesses the love of Jesus.

1:42 PM, May 23, 2006  
Blogger Grace Fire said...

This all sounds like false humility to me and trying to keep some outward appearance and traditions. So if i dressed up correctly in not much and live with not much and drive nothing much would you call that christianity. If that be the case then the whole of Africa is automatically saved due to there lack. Or maybe its the good deeds that sets a person apart like Paul said he counted as dung. No sirs its not from the outside trying to convince the inside you are all good but from the inside out knowing Christ dwells in you who made us righteous at the Cross. There is nothing that i can do to earn His favor be it dress, poverty,richess,language, tradtions, principles or Laws. But rather the Christ living through me for I DIED

9:07 AM, August 28, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I discovered the Hall Worthington site in November 2011 and my life has never been the same. I am not a Quaker and have never attended a Quaker meeting. I have been introduced to the writings of George Fox and early Quakers and realized how far away of Christ I had been with all my church going and systematic theology for so many years. The simple truth that Jesus wants to teach us Himself in the silent stillness within has been transforming. Day by day, standing still in the light, letting go of the old and allowing the power of God to reveal and destroy evertything that is in the way of His pure and perfect love - that is the way. I hope that more people will find this site as helpful as I have.

2:32 PM, May 05, 2012  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was introduced to the writings of George Fox and the early Quakers when I found the Hall V Worthington site in November 2011 and my life has never been the same. I am not a Quaker and have never attended a Friends meeting, but I have found this website a rich source of spiritual encouragement. I have personally met Hall and Joan Worthington and found them to be kind, patient, wise and selfless people doing God's work. I highly encourage people to look at the site for themselves and keep an open mind.

8:22 PM, May 06, 2012  

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