Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
It would seem reasonable to suppose that, nearly three centuries after the death of George Fox, there would be some measure of consensus among church historians concerning the place he should be assigned in Christian history. But this is not the case. They all agree that he has an assured place in history, but there is an astonishing variety of theories purporting to tell us exactly what that place is.
...[M]ost writers about Fox begin by rejecting his own self understanding as incredible, not even plausible. They tell us that Fox was mistaken in his understanding of his role and function, and that this misunderstanding must be corrected by his modern interpreters. (Rediscovering the teaching of George Fox, p. 1)
This is the beginning of Lewis Benson's first of ten lectures given at Moorestown, New Jersey in 1982. (See the new entry in Lewis Benson Writings under the Resources tab. Note: this entry also includes the introductory material.) In The Place of George Fox in Christian History, Benson asserted that Fox's message was not a variant on Protestant or Catholic themes. In this first lecture, Benson looks at Fox's claim that the whole of Christendom was and had been in a state of apostasy since the days of the apostles. What did Fox mean by the accusation of apostasy? Did his accusation have any basis in fact? Has anything of substance changed in the intervening years or are we just as open to the charge as was Christianity in the 1600s?
Before we can decide what Fox's place in history is, we need to know what Fox and the other early Quakers saw as being their appointed task. We can then look as the historical record to see if they lived up to that task.
If Fox's place in Christian history is what he understood it to be, his message is no less important for us today than it was in the 1600s.
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