This is one statement which is frequently quoted by many who, mindful of our worry about credal statements, still want to find some form of tagline as being what differentiates Quaker belief from any other belief. Its accepted meaning has changed over time, from its first use by our founder George Fox as being an allusion to the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans 1:18-20 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (New Revised Standard Version). The early Quakers were fiery preachers against the sin and corruption of their times, and what was originally meant by this phrase was that people had no excuse for their ‘bad behaviour’ because God works as a witness in everybody’s conscience, telling them how they should be – and Quakers wanted to speak to ‘that of God’ within them.
In more modern times when Quakers use this statement, chances are they are meaning something subtly but perhaps fundamentally different; that there is literally a little bit of God dwelling inside everybody, and for many Quakers this underpins our conviction of pacifism, because to kill a person is to kill a piece of God. Increasingly, Quakers who have a particular environmental concern extend talk of ‘That of God in Everyone’ to being ‘That of God in All Creation’, considering it equally important to take care of the planet upon which we live and the natural world as it is to take care of ourselves.