‘As the Light appeared, all appeared’: the Quaker culture of convincement

Hilary Hinds

in George Fox and Early Quaker Culture

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780719081576
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702383 | DOI:
‘As the Light appeared, all appeared’: the Quaker culture of convincement

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This chapter asks how it was that the concept of the indwelling Christ, or light within – in many ways a conventional, familiar and uncontentious Christian trope – set the terms and established the structure both for the scathing Quaker condemnations of their opponents and for the discourse of inclusivity and consensus among Friends. It finds an answer to this question in the ways in which the Quaker model of that inward light provided conceptual underpinning for both the ‘spirit of discernment’ and the ‘spirit of unity’ by which Friends judged those whom they encountered. The chapter analyses two defining qualities of the light, as perceived by Friends: its universality and its immanence. The universality of the light introduced a renewed and transformed sense of individual agency into the soteriological equation, as the human subject turned, was turned, or refused to turn, to that light. This agency was intensified by the insistence on its immanence, an indwelling divine presence which transformed the fallen human subject by emphasising his or her access to ‘that of God within’, thereby erasing any absolute boundary between human subject and divine presence. This erasure served to unsettle the Calvinist binary of the elect and the reprobate, producing a third constituency of human subject: those open to being turned to the light through a process of convincement.

Keywords: Quakers; Society of Friends; Christ; light within; spirit of discernment; spirit of unity

Chapter.  10175 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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