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The Workings of the Spirit of God Within: The Offices of Christ

By David Johnson. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 459), 2019. 30 pages. $7/pamphlet or eBook.

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What are the roles that Christ plays in the lives of Quakers? Australian David Johnson uses the written experiences of George Fox and others to distill the essence of their spiritual teachings, and how we today can better understand that concept of the “Spirit of God within.” He quotes short selections of early Quakers’ writings and specific Bible verses to make the connection between the concept of the Spirit of God and the role Jesus plays in our search for true religion.

Johnson explains that George Fox used the term “offices of Christ” to explain the working of the Spirit of God, of Christ within. Today, we would use the term “roles.” Johnson discusses five distinct roles and their characteristics.

The terms “Bishop” and “Shepherd” are more familiar to Quakers when talking about Jesus’s roles. The Bishop is a protective spiritual presence, and in the role of Shepherd, we see Christ as the guide or leader. However, the traits of Prophet, Ruler, and Priest challenge us more when we encounter them on our spiritual journey. A Prophet does not foretell the future but opens the divine mysteries; a Ruler calls us to inward holy obedience (Margaret Fell); and the role of the priestly office of Christ is to call the believer toward an inward, holy obedience. Here is where Johnson gives the reader Bible verses, personal reflections, and references to Fox’s writings.

A selected bibliography at the end helps the reader tie current Quaker writers to those earlier Quakers. For those serious thinkers who want to verify the sources Johnson says influenced him, the endnotes are an asset. This reviewer found the discussion questions at the end valuable for both the individual reader and for a group discussion leader.

This pamphlet is written by an Australian Friend who uses unprogrammed Friends terminology, such as “offices of Christ,” “Spirit of God within each person,” and “Inward Light. However, he is sensitive to those Friends and friends who, like him, come from a pastoral and programmed background (Johnson grew up guided by Anglican creeds). The pamphlet can serve as a guide for using God‐given talents that pertain to the offices of Christ. The talent may be that of bishop, shepherd, prophet, ruler, or priest. Johnson’s message can help individuals and groups build bridges between the gifts others see in us and their use going forward, as did Margaret Fell and Emilia Fogelklou.

Rausie Hobson is a member of Rocky River Meeting in Siler City, N.C., Friends Church of North Carolina. She is a retired ESL teacher and public librarian, a member of Quakers Uniting in Publications, and was publications board clerk of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) for many years.

Posted in: April 2020 Book Reviews, Quaker Book Reviews, The State of Quaker Institutions

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