quakerStar Inner Light, Inward Light, That of God, Christ Within quakerStar

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The concept of "That of God Within", the "Inner Light" or the "Inward Christ" is the most central issue of Quakerism. Warren Sylvester Smith in "One Explorer's Glossary of Quaker Terms" (1962, Friends' General Conference) describes it thusly:

"This is the central concept of Quakerism. Friends may differ on almost any other issue, but they are united in their belief in the presence of an inward source of inspiration and strength. The Inner Light is more than conscience. The surrounding culture influences conscience. The Inner Light is that of God within. But is it to be received as a gift from God, or is it a part of human nature? This fundamental question still separates the more spiritually minded Friends from their more humanistic counterparts. Some would say that this Inward Light resides in all living things. Some would say, with Teilhard de Chardin, that it is in every particle of matter or energy in the universe! By whatever name Friends refer to it, they know by experience that it is a potential force for good in every human being, and Fox has enjoined us to walk cheerfully through the world answering it. The constant presence of the Inner Light assures us of a continuing revelation and a contemporary religion that cannot become obsolete with changing times and the advance of secular knowledge."

What is important here in all the possible understandings, is that this is an innate trait, characteristic, or gift. It is not potential, nor is it something to strive for. It exists. We may choose to listen to this presence of God within us, or we may choose to ignore it. It is, nonetheless, there.

For a more detailed exploration of this topic, I strongly recommend Wilmer Cooper's "A Living Faith" (1990, Friends'United Press), the second chapter of which explores this in depth. He states, in part:

"Regardless of how we may view this central Quaker principle of the Light of Christ Within - and certainly Friends are not united on this, we must "hold that Christ is present, that he guides and directs, and that his will can be known and obeyed." This is a religious truth we know experientially, not by handed-down authority nor by a forensic act of God that takes place apart from human responsibility and accountability. When we follow the Light of Christ Within there is a conscious obedience to the will of God; and when we disregard the Light of Christ we consciously disobey the will of God. But if we respond affirmatively to the Light of Christ Within it will free us from the bondage of sin and evil and will set us at liberty to be joined together in fulfilling God's will in the world."
Last Updated 7 July 2003. Quaker Star

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