More Pure

So why did Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and the Quakers make such strong stands against the establishment churches of their time and region? It was not solely a reaction against a restrictive religion, nor an attempt to water down the demands it was assumed Christ made on their souls. Indeed, just the opposite. They were increasingly strident against their local churches precisely because in their reading of Scripture, there was a more holistic, more demanding, more open work of God that required more devotion, not less, and such devotion that was especially cognizant of God’s own sovereignty above all in leading his people as he would through his Spirit. They sought to be more pure than those around them, letting go what they saw as anti-Christian accretions to the faith. Not more pure in regards to church doctrine or accepted standards of the age. More pure in regards to what they saw as the call of the Spirit in their lives.

At the heart of this separation was a spiritual drive which had become aware of a pressing need for a more substantive fellowship with God. This drive radically affected their understanding of fellowship with others, pushing them out of being comfortable with established forms of authority and church, leading them into, one might say, the wilderness of religious exploration. In their driving angst, they were pushed back into the Biblical text, and in their independent readings they discovered reasons for the source of their angst. There was more to the fellowship with God than the theology of their era allowed. This was not a new drive, to be sure, as history points to others whose zeal for fellowship with God pushed them along new paths, some in keeping with Scripture, many falling away from it. Throughout Christian history, this zeal was generally funneled down the direction of Christian mysticism, using highly spiritualized language and experiences to channel the overwhelming surge of God’s presence.

For the three subjects at hand, while there was a varying degree of mysticism, this was not channeled in the typical directions. Rather, this mysticism had a strong ecclesiastical response, radically connecting a resurgent understanding of fellowship with God into their developing understanding of fellowship with each other. Roger Williams saw where he could no longer stand and no longer go, but could not embrace a new direction, and essentially put himself on the sidelines until he became convinced God had opened new ways. Hutchinson fought a battle far too common in churches, combining politics and theology, yet she stands out because at her foundation was a sense that God was moving beyond static rules and was seeking to communicate his discernment directly to his people. She was crushed before she could sort out what this fully meant. George Fox, along with many who were followers of Hutchinson and had affinity with Williams, went through a period of seeking as well, but emerged from this with a new vision of a new way of life, one that resounded with an increasingly intimate interaction with God, through the Spirit. By incorporating a cogent understanding of the Holy Spirit into a holistic spirituality, Fox and the Quakers were able to take advantage of the paths others had forged and offer an example of radical Christian community which persists as a model even to this day.

That’s the conclusion to the paper I just turned in on Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and Quakers. There were about 34 pages that led up to these last few paragraphs.

This entry was posted in academia, history, religion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *