Letters - 14 August 2020

From Article and picture to ‘That of God’

Article and picture

Were you teasing your readers when you used a plate from a version of Linnaeus’ sexual system of plants to illustrate an article which urged us to move beyond Linnaean systems of thought (31 July)? 

I liked both the article and the picture, and it reminded me that it was a Quaker, John Fothergill, who corresponded with Linnaeus and paid for the illustrations for his book. 

John Lampen

Inward inspiration

I read ‘The historical Jesus’ in the 31 July issue with interest. As a child I was enthralled by the radio broadcast of The Man Born to be King. As a radio drama, it was a first-class production, full of dramatic realism. Dorothy L Sayers wrote further works of fiction, including The Nine Tailors which shows considerable knowledge of church bells and bell-ringing.

Apart from the immediacy of the drama, I hope the suggestion is not that Meetings should learn about Christianity from this text. If that is the case, we need to consider carefully what Christianity as a religion is. To achieve this we need to explore further than the dramatisation of the life of a martyr, and advice on how to live a righteous life. We need to explore the significance of the life and death of Jesus and credal statements such as the words of the eucharist, verbatim from Paul’s letters, copied by Mark then Matthew and Luke.

The resurrection of Jesus, which the gospels portray as the revival of a dead body, Paul claims, by direct revelation, is spiritual. For the first Quakers, the spiritual Jesus Christ is the immediacy of the Inward Light, alternatively referred to as God and the Holy Spirit, so constructing a sort of Holy Trinity. Primitive Quakerism accepts these statements but reinterprets them. So, baptism is not by water but is spiritual.

Paul’s Lletters are the result of first-hand inward inspiration. The gospels are redactions based partly on Paul’s letters but mainly on hearsay. This is attested fully by numerous books written by biblical scholars which Friends should read before drawing conclusions. No Quaker should doubt the authenticity of the genuine letters of Paul. That would rock the very foundation of Quakerism.

Drifting away from the early Quakers and the basics of Christianity caused erstwhile Friend Joseph Pickvance and Lewis Benson to set up the New Foundation movement, now surviving only in the US. I met Joseph and joined his movement, maybe forty years ago.

Peter Boyce

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.