Quaker Studies

Rufus Jones Never Did Establish that Quakerism is a Mystical Religion

Quaker Studies (2016), 21, (1), 49–66.

Abstract

Rufus Jones holds a place in history as the thinker who established the idea of the mystical origins of Quakerism and thereby invigorated the theological basis of Liberal Quakerism at a critical juncture. Yet Jones rejected the mystical tradition. This article investigates this paradox using mainly the evidence available in the two seminal works that presented Jones’ interpretation and an early statement of his theology from 1904. The proposed resolution is that Jones effected something of a theological conjuring trick: the heart of his religion was essentially a religious humanism comprising a rational ethics allied to a powerful social gospel. To this he appended a redirected definition of mysticism that he named ‘affirmation mysticism’. The result of this conclusion is a suggested caution in referring to Quakerism as a mystical religion, together with a question mark over what then does constitute the theological basis of Liberal Quakerism.

Rufus Jones Never Did Establish that Quakerism is a Mystical Religion

Abstract

Rufus Jones holds a place in history as the thinker who established the idea of the mystical origins of Quakerism and thereby invigorated the theological basis of Liberal Quakerism at a critical juncture. Yet Jones rejected the mystical tradition. This article investigates this paradox using mainly the evidence available in the two seminal works that presented Jones’ interpretation and an early statement of his theology from 1904. The proposed resolution is that Jones effected something of a theological conjuring trick: the heart of his religion was essentially a religious humanism comprising a rational ethics allied to a powerful social gospel. To this he appended a redirected definition of mysticism that he named ‘affirmation mysticism’. The result of this conclusion is a suggested caution in referring to Quakerism as a mystical religion, together with a question mark over what then does constitute the theological basis of Liberal Quakerism.


Details

Author details

Rock, Hugh