*Note: this series begins with Quakers and Jesus: First Things
As Quakers became bifurcated over time theologically, it is difficult to speak of “a” Quaker Christology that captures the full spectrum of the modern Friends movement. Over time Quakers have split off in various ways, on a continuum in which the extreme ends represent those who hold closest to the theology of early Friends but have drifted apart from traditional modes of worship and social justice praxis, and those who have preserved the traditional worship and social justice practices of early Friends and yet have drifted far from the theology from which those practices arose. Indeed some Friends today might not even see a need for a Quaker Christology. Of those “Christocentric” Quakers old and new, however, there has always been a universal scope to the person and work of Jesus in religious experience. Jesus reveals something about God that must be valued, namely that God is like Jesus. Various lists exists about what an essential Quaker teaching about the characteristics of Christ would encompass. Perhaps the most exhaustive and well researched is Maurice Creasey’s in his seminal work Early Quaker Christology, in which he concludes with three essentials: 1) Quakerism’s attempt to bring within the compass of a doctrine of Christ’s person and work the whole range of divine dealings in creation and its redemption; 2) Quakerism’s concern to interpret the moral and spiritual experience of all humans, non-Christian and pre-Christian as well as Christian, in terms of response to the judging and saving activity of God in Christ; and 3) Quakerism’s intent to derive a full doctrine of the church, or worship, and of ministry from the conception of Christ as exercising his offices in the midst of a gathered people. Others have made a point to emphasize Christ’s transforming power in history and personal and universal scope, immediate power and availability, and role of ongoing Guide and inward Teacher.
Though people tend to think of Quakers as reserved and stuffy, one unexpected Christological direction taken in the 20th century is D. Elton Trueblood’s theological development of a Christology of humor. Much more could be written about the nuances of Quaker Christology than I have space for here. My purposes here are to follow the flow of understanding from the immediacy of Christ’s presence, to examine Quaker Christology and its orthodoxy, and ultimately to highlight the uniquely Quaker Christological understandings of Jesus as Present Teacher and Lord, Seed, Inner Light, and Center, which will make up the rest of this series.
Orthodoxy and Trinity
While early Quakers tended to push back against “dead doctrines” that distracted from immediate and mystical knowledge of God, this is not to say that they did not believe in the value of study nor did they disagree per se with the tenants of historic orthodox Christianity. It is true that early Friends did not make use of creeds and did not prefer to use nonbiblical terminology such as the word Trinity; this did not however necessitate beliefs about these spiritual realities like that of the Unitarian Universalists. Once after an entirely orthodox exposition on the hypostatic union, George Keith responded “and thus it may appear, that we differ not in the matter, or the thing itself, but only as the manner of expression.” At times their critics forced Quakers to articulate exactly what they believed about these things, and as they did so, Quakers tended more toward a looser “biblical,” rather than highly specific theological, word choice. They did however also coin some new biblical terminology about Jesus, such as referring to him as the “Inner Light,” much to the irk and ire of their many critics, many of which thought they were inherently claiming equality with God.
Fox’s view of the Inner light, as I intend to show later, was actually a new articulation of the mysteries of a Logos Christology (or understanding of Jesus as the Word) modeled after that of the gospel of John and at its heart was deeply orthodox. Modern critics have likewise conceived of Fox and others as unhealthily dualistic and practicing a kind of ignorant pre-modern Gnosticism (a belief that material things are corrupt and evil and opposed to “spiritual” or nonmaterial things, as well as that true freedom comes only from secret knowledge). While it is true that Fox himself was more radical than his contemporaries like William Penn, Robert Barclay, Samuel Fisher, or George Whitehead, it is also true that Fox often spoke in very trinitarian ways such as saying “the Father drew me to his Son by his Spirit.” His critics pushed him to speak clearly and at length about perceived heresy and unorthodox Christian beliefs, and there is ample evidence from his writings that he fell in line with the historic creeds and formulations of orthodoxy, many of which are too long to examine here. Likewise other Quaker leaders, in their attempts to answer critics, vindicated their orthodox beliefs in various letters and works of Quaker apologetics too numerous to count. I would however like to quote George Fox at length to dig a bit deeper for this series than the paper had space for. This is from a writing of Fox entitled “Something in answer to all such as falsely say the Quakers are no Christians” (1682):
We believe concerning God the Father, Son, and Spirit, according to the testimony of the holy scripture, which we receive and embrace as the most authentic and perfect Declaration of Christian Faith, being indicted by the Holy Spirit of God that never errs. 1st, That there is one God and Father, of whom are all things. 2ndly, That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all things were made….Who was glorified with the Father before the world began, who as God is over all, blessed forever…. That there is one Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father and the Son, the Leader and Sanctifier and Comforter of His people….And we further believe, as the holy scriptures soundly and sufficiently express, that these three are one, even the Father, the Word, and Spirit, and in the fullness of time, according to the promise of the Father, Christ was manifested in the flesh and by the grace of God tasted death for every man,…. Is risen and ascended, and sits on the right hand of God in heaven, and is the only Mediator between God and man; and that he exercises his Prophetical, Kingly and Priestly office now in his church, and also his offices in his household of faith, whose house we are, that are of the Word,…. Being elected in him before the world began.”
Aside from this there are many theological reflections among early Friends about the preexistence of Christ, the incarnation, his body and blood, and his role as the “heavenly man.” Later the Richmond Declaration of Faith of 1887—a very orthodox statement of Christian faith and belief— came into being and is still used today by Evangelical Friends and Friends United Meeting. Though some notable Yearly Meetings never adopted it, the two largest Quaker denominational bodies representing the better part of Quaker global presence have. This statement of faith was even reaffirmed by FUM in 2007. The Richmond Declaration, along with Fox’s Letter to the Governor of Barbados and Essential Truths form the three major doctrinal statements of orthodox Friends. These are all sound expressions of orthodox Christian faith and Christological orthodoxy—yet rather than a great deal of arguing for the orthodoxy of beliefs of most Quakers, old and new, worldwide—for the remainder of this series, I intend to sketch out and examine the uniquely Quaker Christological contributions which are of far greater interest.
Continue on to part III
Other Posts in this series:
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 361.
 Ibid, 352-353.
 Ibid, 346.
 Ibid, 136-139.
 Canby T. Jones, Quaker Understanding of Christ and of Authority, 18.
See Elton Trueblood, Harper Jubilee Books. Vol. HJ8, The Humor of Christ. New York: Harper & Row, 1975, ©1964; also Howard R. Macy, Let’s Be Friends, Vol. bk. 1, Stepping in the Light: Life in Joy and Power. Richmond, Ind.: Friends United Press, 2007.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 79.
 Pink Dandelion, ed., The Creation of Quaker Theory: Insider Perspectives (Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, ©2004), 67.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 19.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 14.
 Pink Dandelion, The Creation of Quaker Theory, 71.
 Ibid, 65.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 68.
 Ibid, 217-218.
 Ibid, 79, 219-231; William Penn, No Cross, No Crown: A Discourse Showing the Nature and Discipline of the Holy Cross of Christ and That the Denial of Self and Daily Bearing of Christ’s Cross in the Alone Way to the Rest and Kingdom of God (York, England: Ebor Press, 1981), 379.
 Ibid, 82.
 Ibid, 90, 94, 99-100.
 Ibid, 86, 131, 321.
 Ibid, 88.