The Quakers, commonly known as the Religious Society of Friends was founded during the 17th century. It was established primarily because a group of selected Christians in England held the opinion that the existing denominations were unfulfilling (Peters 56). Hence, they branched off and established their own denomination that would cater to their religious needs under the leadership of their founding father, George Fox. Since its establishment in England, the beliefs of Quakerism have spread through out other states such as United States, Kenya, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cuba[i] (Yount 34). Nations with increasing numbers of followers of Quakerism include Birmingham, Oregon, Newberg, North Carolina, Greensboro, and Greenleaf. One primary difference that stands out when exploring the structuring of the Quaker religion is that it lacks the hierarchical framework observed in other groups that branched from Christianity. This means that they have no creeds. The key concept of belief that is central in Quakerism is the existence of God within each person (Peters 67). They term this as the inner light. Thus, this implies that each follower is at liberty to live out their lives based on their individual beliefs about God, which stems from their revelation of God who is within them. Quakerism originates from the opinion held by a select group of people who believed that there is another way of experiencing God, which the Orthodox, Catholic, and Christian categories have yet to explore.
Practices and Beliefs
The idea of the Bible sets Quakers from Protestants. This is because they refute the reality that the writing of the Bible was inspired by God hence is authoritative. They believe that people should believe in Christ more as opposed to the gospel written in the scriptures (Yount 50). This is exemplified by the Apology written by Robert Barclay. He reiterated that the fountain is different from a declaration of its existence (Peters 56). It is important to understand that despite the fact that Quakers refute the self-authentication of the Bible, they still obey the scriptures (Hamm 30). According to them, God cannot guide a Christian to act in a manner that contradicts the teachings of the Bible. This has been a way Quakers have been able to prevent conflict amongst followers and improve their understanding of the Bible.
The mystical aspect about Quakerism is the doctrine they teach on experiencing God, which goes against logical theology[ii]. This can also be viewed as one of the major difference between Quakers and Christians. The difference is in two ways, which are compounded within the context of the doctrines taught in Quakerism. Firstly, Quakers worship as a group in that they set up traditional meetings where they listen to the spirit of God as it speaks to them (Peters 45). Being a group-oriented sect of Christianity, they are more focused on worshipping and experiencing God together, which is different from Christian worship. Christians are permitted to worship in unison and as individuals as well. The second mystic observation about Quakerism that sets this sect apart is that they emphasize on witnesses the word of God outwardly and directly (Peters 56). This means that they do not withdraw from the world but drawn to it through their actions. According to Quakerism teachings, this practice allows one to develop deeper comprehension about spirituality as a group and individually.
Experience of God
The belief that God should be experienced in a person’s life is greatly emphasized in Quakerism. Followers belief that this experience is availed to those who desire it without necessarily having to partake in sacraments or intervention of clergymen (Hamm 18). They believe that God as a supreme being belongs to all humanity and the inner light within each person allows them to listen to God’s spirit they have Christ within them. Lastly, another fundamental aspect that is elaborated is the ease with which friends should solve differences amongst themselves, forgive each other, and forge on into improving their spirituality (Yount 60). The movement of the spirit is free amongst followers of Quakerism as they believe is indicated by Isaac Penington who reiterated the feeling the foundation, life and root of Christ is the most important aspect of spirituality.
Quakers believe that all life and its activities are scared and not embodied in the sacrament. They critique the outward reliance of Christians on practices such as eating of the sacraments and baptism[iii] (Hamm 20). According to them, one is baptized when in union with the group and by the Holy Spirit. This inward process is facilitated by worshiping and expectant silence. Human rituals such as sacraments are not focused on because any food eaten when a group of friends is gathered can be considered as communion. This reality, which forms basis of their beliefs, clearly sets them apart from Christians.
Quakerism admonishes that its followers should maintain plainness in their code of dressing and their mannerisms when speaking and interacting with each other. They attest that simplicity is assures equality amongst the members and lack of vain ambitions of material wealth (Hamm 23). The human nature is flawed, as it is self-seeking and wasteful. Quakers are driven by the spiritual need to transcend this nature by maintaining simplicity and plainness in everything they undertake in.
The spread of Quakerism is facilitated by the different ways in which they experience God. This is seen in their worship, belief of the bible, interactions with others, appearance, and their lives. They promote peace and equality as well as love to ensure that humans lead a spiritually grounded and peaceful life. it is important to understand the unique features prior to making any judgment on the validity of this group as described in the scriptures.
Hamm, Thomas D. The Quakers In America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Print.
Peters, Kate. Print Culture And The Early Quakers. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.
Yount, David. How The Quakers Invented America. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. Print.
[i] See The Quakers In America to discuss on the origins on the Quakers and their global demographics
[ii] On the logic of theology, see Peters 143-156, for an detailed description on the theological differences of Quakerism and Christianity
[iii] On the Christian Practices, see Yount 234 for clearer explanation on the main reasons why Quakers critique Christina practices.
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