Mondays are for Church History - 1/23/17
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 2. New York: HarperCollins, 2010b. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 23, “The Spiritualist Option” Loc. 3862-4024.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, constant doctrinal debate may have led many, especially outside of the educated elite, to consider more purely spiritual religious views (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3868). Gonzalez considers three major leaders of this movement, rather than trying to trace a history of beliefs.
Jakob Boehme, 1575-1624, from a Lutheran family, a cobbler, had a series of visions which he recorded (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3883). The content of his visions caused him to be accused of heresy, though when on trial the magistrates did not understand the content of his visions (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3890). Though the content is not clear, the thrust is a move from cold dogma and empty liturgy to something more spiritually vivid (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3905).
George Fox, 1624-1691, at age 19 quit his occupation as a cobbler to dedicate himself to study Scripture and attend religious meetings (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3914). He concluded that much about Christianity was wrong. He exalted the “inner light” above all the guidance found in Christian observances (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3922). He denied depravity and sought illumination from within rather than any external means. Fox was so adamant in this view he would interrupt church services to proclaim it. Though he was regularly rejected, he gained many followers (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3930). The group became known as “Quakers” or “Friends” (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3937). They did not allow structure in worship, preferring silence. People would speak, unprepared, as they felt led. Baptism and communion were rejected, as an interference with the spiritual (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3944). The sect spread through travel of its leaders, despite frequent imprisonment. Fox’s famous follower, William Penn, argued for religious toleration and obtained a land grant in North America (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3983). Settlers of various faiths, but mostly Quakers, went to Pennsylvania.
Emanuel Swedenborg, 1688-1772, was a well educated aristocrat from Sweden (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 4006). After years as a scientist, he reported a vision. This was followed by his entering into extensive writing about how the reality we perceive is merely a reflection of divine truth, known only to the initiated few (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 4006). In 1784, his followers created the Church of the New Jerusalem, which still survives (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 4014).
Gonzalez observes that these movements were too abstract and otherworldly to catch on. The Quakers became strong primarily due to their social activism (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 4021).
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