Real vs. Image

So the Lord’s power being over all, Friends were refreshed therein (The Works of George Fox, I, 393).

On Sixth month, the 12th, three Friends met to continue our New Foundation Fellowship monthly study of George Fox’s journal, and in this session, we read from volume 1, pages 391-394. The time was 1659; Fox had returned to London from his travels to “many counties in the Lord’s service” where “many were convinced”(391). At the beginning of the passage, Fox speaks of a vision of London he’d had “long before,” of the city lying “in heaps,” and of then seeing that vision realized several years later when fire had ravaged the city.  

Fox’s work in London was to lay before the city’s influential a charge of “backsliding, hypocrisy, and treacherous dealing”(392), and the majority of this three-page journal passage is comprised of a scathing letter addressed to “the several powers.” Following his work in London, Fox’s spirit was drawn to Friends in western England, and he briefly describes meetings in those parts as “precious,” “blessed,” and “great”(393). Our reading concluded with a description of “a wicked man [who] put a bear’s skin on his back, and undertook with that to play pranks in the meeting,” and who shortly thereafter met with a gory but just end. Fox attributes the man’s demise to “divine vengeance,” and writes he would have such examples “teach others to beware”(394).

Our discussion begins at 9:38 with a look at Fox’s vision of destruction in London. Then follows one participant’s recounting of intimations of future events that he’d received over the years. From there, our discussion centers on the mystery of time, and inferences drawn from experiential insight into eternity (16:27). Issues of apostacy and idolatry occupy much of the discussion from 27:20 through 47:50: the conceptual image replacing the thing itself; doctrines supplanting experience; and the mind’s reflection usurping substance: all maneuvers that presage a soul given to idolatry. At 47:55, reference is made to Lewis Benson’s affirmation of “the outsider” as necessary to the gospel endeavor, this prompting a line of thought that leads to naming the primacy of the relationship with Christ, not the social group. Concluding our discussion is a personal story followed by a summary of the main gist of our discussion: the mutual exclusivity ever-present between idolatry and faith in Christ, the Substance: the latter being where true happiness is found.

Hence all their thinking has ended in futility, and their misguided minds are plunged in darkness. They boast of their wisdom, but they have made fools of themselves, exchanging the splendour of immortal God for an image (Rom. 1:22-23 NEB).

The recording has been edited to reduce periods of silence between speakers.

NFF discussion 6/12/21


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1 Response to Real vs. Image

  1. A few days ago, a reader of this post (Marilyn Vache) sent an email asking for clarification on a statement made in this discussion. The point she’d asked about occurs about a half hour into the conversation and concerns the distinction I’d made between an intellectual understanding of faith, which, though appearing true in all its particulars, is actually false in that it is but an image of the real and, as “it does not honor the spirit of truth,” is therefore kept out of the Kingdom.

    Marilyn asked for “an example that illustrates [this] point,” and the Cain and Abel story immediately came to mind, as it illustrates the difference between the outward appearance of faith and its inward reality. In the story, the two brothers’ sacrifices to God appear to be the same: each offers the fruit of his labor to the Lord (Gen. 4:3-4). Then immediately after, we’re told that the Lord received Abel’s offering “with favor” but did not receive Cain’s (4, 5). The outward appearance of the two sacrifices is the same: they’re described in like manner. God, however, accepts one and not the other. He sees something that we don’t: God sees what is within, in the heart of Man.

    It is truth in the heart that God accepts; He doesn’t accept an outward appearance that lacks inward reality, for that is a lie and not the truth. God accepts or rejects a person’s sacrifice (his ministry, his worship, his study, his work, his self) according to the content of the heart.

    The Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4 quickly follows the story of the Fall found in the chapter before. This tells us that the false-heartedness that Cain exhibits is a consequence of the Fall (Satan gaining ascendance over Man). The story also teaches us that false-heartedness destroys God’s creation. Cain murdered righteous Abel, who manifested God’s creation, His creation being righteous Man who is acceptable to God. So the spirit of Cain is that which destroys a person’s potential for Life that is known only through God’s acceptance, and that same false spirit goes on to attack the Life of those who know – those favored with – the grace and truth that comes by Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17).

    In whosoever harbors it, the spirit of Cain sends the soul off in endless wandering apart from God, “a vagabond in the earth” (Gen. 4:14).

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