Quakers Have No Formal Creed
There is a well-known story about an exchange between George Fox, the founding father of the Quaker faith, and William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Penn, like many of the men of his day, came equipped with a sword which he habitually wore at his side. Knowing Fox’s stance on nonviolence, Penn was concerned about how to reconcile his Quaker faith with the weapon he carried, so he asked George Fox for his opinion about it.
“Wear it,” Fox replied, “for as long as thou canst.”
This story sums up what is for many people the essence and the appeal of the Quaker faith: the insistence that its followers think for themselves, weigh their decisions in the scale of their own consciences, and ultimately choose what action they know to be right. Rather than rules and dogma, Friends offer advice and queries: advice that allows itself to be weighed and taken…or not; queries that require people to consider, reflect, and think independently.
While Quakers have no formal creed, they have distinct beliefs that make them distinct among Western religions.
God Is Within You
The Kingdom of God is within you and all about you:
Not in buildings
or mansions of wood and stone.
Split a piece of wood and I am there.
Lift a stone
and you will find me.
–The Gospel of Thomas
One of the most fundamental beliefs of the Quaker faith is the idea that within each of us is a measure of the Divine, what Quakers call “that of God” in all beings and what the Gospel of John referred to as “the true Light” (John 1:9-10). As the ancient Gospel of Thomas expresses, it is “within you and all about you,” and cannot be confined by buildings or creeds. That fundamental belief, that we each have that of God within us, gave rise to the Quaker belief in equality — equality between men and women, black people and white, those of one faith and those of another. It logically follows that in the original expressions of the Quaker faith, there were no priests, no ministers, no pastors — just people, equal to one another, holding each other in the Light and listening in silence for the “still, small voice” of God.
You will say, “Christ saith this,”
and “The apostles say this,”
but what canst thou say?
Are thou a child of Light
and hast thou walked in the Light,
and what thou speakest,
is it inwardly from God?
–George Fox, Founder of Quakerism