Our next stop in studying the foundations of Pentecestalism lands at a man named George Fox, who in 1647 is credited as the founder of the Quakers from which 19th century “Higher Life” apostates, Robert & Hannah Whitehall Smith. Fox’s views on “hearing from God” and the “inner voice” would set him apart as one of the earliest mystics to emerge from within Protestantism. In 1647 Fox experienced an extra-biblical revelation whereby he determined that all authority everywhere was corrupt and therefore we must all trust in the “inner light” of our personal inspiration to hear from God. This “internal light” source for revelation would defy the Scriptural principle of Proverbs which declares that “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death” and Psalm 119 – How can a man keep his way pure? By taking heed according to Your Word”. This “looking within” would later become the bedrock paradigm for all Holiness, Pentecostal, and Charismatic movements to follow in the 3 centuries that followed.
Fox had this renewal after isolation for several years in his teens (like the Apostle Paul he says) and “listening to God” within himself and then at 22 years of age became a minister that preached personal relation with God outside of “organized religious structure” and/or the Bible. This became a cautionary tale which defied the warning of the Apostle Paul who exhorted Christian leaders not to be hasty in the laying on of hands, do not allow a novice to lead lest he become puffed up (filled with pride) and fall into the error as satan. Fox’s declaration to rely on “personal relation” and declaring “religious structure” i.e. church authority as something evil, is one of the earliest forms of anti-Biblical mysticism in a similar manner to Francis of Assisi’s anti-establishment mysticism 400+ years earlier.
The name of Fox’s following was derived from an experience In 1648 when he preached and his house was “shaken” thereafter experiencing spiritual manifestations of healings and the miraculous. From that time until now, this error of placing manifestations of the miraculous as the highest authority of truth, even over Scripture, has plagued the church with heretical cultic movements left and right like the Charismatic movement with John Wimber and John Arnot, the false healings of Benny Hinn, the Ponzi scheme deception of Kenneth Copeland, and the false signs and wonders of Bill Johnson, Kris Vallaton, Bethel Church, and Jesus Culture, to name a few.
Just like the mindless followers of our modern day false prophets and teachers, Fox’s followers blindly followed his deception and then became known as “Friends of the Truth” then known to most as “Quakers” because they were said to ‘tremble in the fear of God’ by a political official whom Fox recommended to “tremble in the fear of God” thus “Quaker” was a bit of a derisive term which stuck.
By 1650 Fox started receiving numerous extra-Biblical “prophetic” directives and in 1661 he wrote the “Peace Testimony” which admonished his Quaker following to adhere to pacifism and nonviolence under all circumstances. Whereas this doctrine of pacifism wasn’t necessarily carried on by the Holiness and Pentecostalism movements he inspired, those movement would embrace another position that Fox introduced: namely that anyone, including women, could speak at Quaker meetings. This was not allowed according to Roman Catholic ecclesiology nor by Bible-believing Protestant Christians of the day as it violates the Biblical mandate which states that unbelievers or purveyors of heresy were not to be invited into your house (churches were in homes in that day) nor given a platform to speak (2 John 1:10).
Fox’s doctrine of permitting women to teach and have authority over men in church (or even to serve as pastors) is a clear departure from 1 Timothy 2:12 which forbids such a practice as dictated to the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit. This doctrine would eventually find its way into the Holiness Movement and is now a staple doctrine of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and denominations. Trail blazers for the George Fox heresy were 19th century Phoebe Palmer and Hannah Whitall Smith of the Holiness and Higher life movements and Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman of the 20th century Pentecostal/Charismatic movements.
Surprisingly (even sadly), a non-holiness, non-experientialist, Reformed tradition preacher named Charles Spurgeon would extol the virtues of George Fox at an address to The Society of Friends in September of 1866:
“His (George Fox) life well repays the earnest student . It is a rich mine. Every page of it is precious as solid gold…I do not think that George Fox spoke too strongly when he said, ‘I am clear.’…He adopted every mode which ingenuity could devise to arouse a slumbering nation, and better still, he also followed after the better wisdom which comes from the Spirit of God.”
It would be statements from orthodox Bible-believing Christian leaders like Spurgeon, that would lend credibility to those who emphasized the value of “experience” over Scripture and who placed greater emphasis on “signs and wonders” than on faith in God at His word, in His word. I don’t say this to cast aspersion on Spurgeon (say that 10 times fast) but rather to make the point that sometimes well-meaning Godly men like Spurgeon, must always be careful to know well those whom they choose to publically endorse as it can truly cause undue confusion. George Fox departed from Sola Scriptura and paved the way for a new position regarding the Bible which is more like “Somewhat Scriptura”. He leaned heavily on his own inner voice – which is tied to his fallen sin nature and a manifestation of signs and wonders – which Jesus said “A wicked and perverse generation seeks a sign”. Clearly, manifestation of the miraculous can deceive our five senses and shouldn’t be the ultimate authority in our lives or the church itself, rather that should be the time-tested, proven word of God: The BIBLE.
Join us next time as we explore the foundations of Pentecostalism further with Philip Spenner and Nikolas Von Zinzendorf of the Pietest Movement.