*Note this series begins with “Quakers and Jesus: First Things
Quakers have developed upon some non-typical biblical imagery about Jesus that resonated with their experiences of Christ within, some that have really set them apart and received pushback from their critics. Two of these I want to delve into here are that of Christ as Seed and Christ as Inner Light. One especially unique image of the Christ within was the Friends’ understanding of Christ as a seed speaking within, essentially a seed of potential salvation or a seed of the kingdom of God present in all humans though perhaps as unnoticed as a mustard seed. Christ as Light and Seed were often images mixed together among early Friends, though Robert Barclay uses it perhaps the most extensively in his Apology for the True Christian Divinity, an apologetic work that is perhaps the closest work approaching a systematic theology among Friends. Of Barclays’ 15 propositions, 4, 5, and 6 (Condition of Humans after the Fall, Potential Universal Redemption, and The Saving and Spiritual Light) argue for a Quaker understanding of the universal scope of the work of Christ, one that attempts to work out a unique non-Calvinist soteriology. Early Friends made use of the biblical imagery of seed, connecting the “incorruptible seed of the word of God” in 1st Peter to both its universality implied by the parable of the Sower, as well as an immanent Word Christology (and understanding of Jesus as the incarnate Word of God). Isaac Pennington saw the Seed as “the vessel, the only vessel which containeth this life.” George Fox saw the Seed of God “thick on the ground” around him. Robert Barclay argued Christ resides and the “new man” takes shape where the Seed is received, yet the world feeds on the husk and neglects the kernel. According to Barclay, to experience salvation one must allow the Seed of righteousness to rise within you.
Christ as Inner Light
Perhaps best known, and least understood is the Quaker conception of Christ as the Inner Light, an aspect of Christology Friends found profound meaning in that arises from the text of 1 John 9, referring to Christ as: “The true light that gives light to everyone [who] was coming into the world.” Friends have understood that this implies a promised though largely forgotten accessibility and universality of Christ’s work and presence, one that resonated with their mystical experience with Christ. As Thomas Kelly would later put it so eloquently the Quaker discover was:
“not a doctrine, but a life, a life filled with God, a life listening, obedient, triumphant, holy—in that same way the Quaker discovery was only a rediscovery of the life and power and fellowship and joy and radiance that moved the early church.”
Christ was and is the Inner light who shines into every heart, a measure of God’s grace given to everyone, an inward Word.  Friends attempted to flesh out an immanent Logos Christology (an understanding of Jesus as the Word who is present and near), one informed by their mystical experience and their understanding of the New Testament Christ mysticism and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Barclay wrote of Christ as the Light and source of Light, the hope of glory. Fox spoke of the Light in many ways. The Light was to be “minded.” He spoke of answering “that of God in everyone,” yet he linked the Light unequivocally with Christ Jesus and the action of Christ in human conscience. The Light of Christ informs, yet was not, the conscience. He spoke of the soul as the candle of the Lord. Isaac Pennington understood the Light as an experience of knowing Christ inwardly as a new creature under a new covenant, being inwardly circumcised, and feeding on the bread of life within. Richard Foster, a modern Friend, echoed this view of Pennington in his reference to experiencing God as a perpetual communion. Most controversially perhaps to modern Quakers was Fox’s experience with the Inner Light that he believed brought him on a mystical journey “up through the flaming sword” a reference to the angel in Genesis 3:24 who guarded the gate of Eden. Fox felt so changed by his encounter with the Light of Christ that he felt he had regained the sort of innocence Adam possessed before the Fall.
Contemporary Liberal Friends often no longer connect their conception of “the Light” to its earliest understanding of the Light of Christ, while Evangelical Friends have largely dropped this terminology in a reaction against the Universalist meaning held by many who do use it today, preferring to use the less controversial terminology of the Holy Spirit. Yet while this doctrine did point to the potential for any person to be saved, that the Light is the implanted Word and the Seed of salvation in everyone, inevitably some would hate and reject the light and ultimately harden their hearts in unbelief. It was never an early teaching of Friends that this pointed to universalism (the belief that all will be saved at the final judgement), merely that all had equal access to the illumination of Christ within, and that if one was faithful to the measure of Light one received, (a formula influenced by 2 Cor. 10 and Eph. 4) Barclay argued, then a greater measure would be given by God. This belief Friends held was not a new doctrine, but an understanding of the immanence of God that had been lost; one that pointed to the threefold office of Christ (prophet, priest and king) and his priestly work in the world.
Query: Do we as modern Friends still interact with outsiders in ways that affirm God is already at work? How do we navigate letting go an unhealthy fear of people’s eternal destinies, while still reaching out in compassion and being attuned to what God wants to do in their lives?
 Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 78.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 108.
 Douglas V. Steere, Quaker Spirituality, 310.
 Rufus M. Jones, The Life and Message of George Fox, 13.
 Rufus M. Jones, The Faith and Practice of the Quakers, 41.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 260.
 Douglas V. Steere, Quaker Spirituality, 67.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 85.
 Ibid, 111.
 Ibid, 323.
 Thomas R. Kelly, The Eternal Promise, 72-73.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 25, 28- 29, 105-106; Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 100.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 288, 342-343, 357.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 82-83.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 234.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 89, 123.
 Abbott, To Be Broken and Tender, 41.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 92.
 Rufus M. Jones, The Life and Message of George Fox, 14.
 Abbott, To Be Broken and Tender, 43.
 Richard J. Foster, Freedom of Simplicity (San Francisco: Harper & Row, ©1981), 82.
 Douglas V. Steere, Quaker Spirituality, 68.
 Stephen W. Angell, Ben Pink Dandelion, and Stephen W. Angell. 2013. “God, Christ, and the Light“. Oxford Handbooks Online, 7, 9.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 101.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 349.
 Robert Barclay, Barclay’s Apology in Modern English, 98.
 Stephen W. Angell, “God, Christ, and the Light“, 3.
 Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 60.
 Ibid, 127, 320.
Other Posts in this series: