More on “that of God”

September 15, 2016 § 1 Comment

My post on the way we use the phrase “that of God” to explain our testimonies has generated such a lively discussion that I thought I would dig up some earlier posts on related topics. Lo and behold, I actually found the reference I thought I had lost to the place(s) in the writings of Rufus Jones in which he reinterprets the phrase to refer to a “divine spark”: Jones’s “Introduction” to his abridged edition of Fox’s Journal, first published in 1903 (George Fox, An Autobiography, 1919 edition, pp. 28 & 29), and reiterated specifically in Social Law in the Spiritual World (p. 5; 1904), thus:

What was the Inner Light? The simplest answer is: The Inner Light is the doctrine that there is something Divine, ‘Something of God’ in the human soul.

But I discovered more while mining my own posts. And since there seems to be so much interest in the subject, I thought I would offer links to the three previous posts that I think Friends might find most valuable. These are all from 2010.  (I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for six years!) To see all my posts on the topic, you can click on the category “that of God” in the sidebar to the right.

  • Lewis Benson on the phrase, part one. Lewis Benson wrote a piece for Quaker Religious Thought (QRT) entitled “’That of God in Every Man’ – What Did George Fox Mean By It?” (Volume XII, Number 2, Spring 1970). In this post, I review some of Benson’s discussion in that article, mostly about his analysis and critique of how the phrase has come to take over liberal Quaker culture.
  • Lewis Benson, part two. This post quotes Benson more extensively on what Fox actually meant by the phrase.
  • That of God—what next? This post poses some questions that I raised in my last post about how, in the light of the testimony of integrity, we should take responsibility, not only for the way we’ve handled our past tradition, but how we should move forward.


§ One Response to More on “that of God”

  • treegestalt says:

    While we’re digging up old blog posts…
    If I have this right, the Hebrew Scriptures are supposed to have several examples of writers who took something previous writers had produced, misunderstood it, and produced something different. Better, worse? — it was part of a developing tradition.

    Of course the customary ‘poetic’ use of those scriptures in the oral & written literature of Jesus & subsequent gospel writers was loose indeed. The old blog quote I’m referring to — just unearthed when I recently started backing up my pieces:
    We’ve got John, saying that John the Baptist has pointed Jesus out to a couple of disciples, one of whom tells his brother: ” ‘We have found the Messiah!’ (which is the Hebrew for ‘Christ’.) ”

    Well, no, it isn’t. ‘Messiah’ == ‘Christ’ was a profoundly goyish misunderstanding of the contemporary Jewish concept. Both meant someone who had had oil poured on him, but this was culturally just puzzling to contemporary Romans, while it was equivalent to being a crowned King (or perhaps a High Priest) to a Jewish audience. It certainly was not the same as being a Hellenistic demigod, or a pagan sacrifice for the people’s sins, or the avatar of Holy Wisdom.

    People didn’t understand each other. The result has been considerable confusion, and a rich development of sometimes-illuminating ways to misunderstand what’s going on.
    (or ways to understand, perhaps? Aren’t the same words sometimes sources of distortion and sometimes means of reaching/communicating at least partial understanding?)

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