Monday, May 04, 2009

George MacDonald

Have you ever read George MacDonald's article, Justice, in his series of Unspoken Sermons? If you have not, may I encourage you to do so.

MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish author, poet and minister. He is not as well known as CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein or Madeline L'Engle, but his fairy tales and fantasy novels were inspirational to those later writers. In fact, CS Lewis published a book of extracts from MacDonald's writings - George MacDonald: An Anthology.

In the introduction to that book, Lewis wrote,
"This collection, as I have said, was designed not to revive MacDonald's literary reputation but to spread his religious teaching. Hence most of my extracts are taken from the three volumes of Unspoken Sermons. My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another, and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help - sometimes indispensable help toward the very acceptance of the Christian faith. . . . I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself . . . . I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him my master, indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him."

MacDonald approaches the issue of God's justice from a completely different perspective than most other writers. He was convinced that God's intent is to bring about a complete victory over sin and death - not simply to punish sin, but destroy it. He wrote:
"Primarily, God is not bound to punish sin, he is bound to destroy sin. . . . For evil in the abstract, nothing can be done. It is eternally evil. But I may be saved from it by learning to loathe it, to hate it, to shrink from it with an eternal avoidance. The only vengeance worth having on sin is to make the sinner himself its executioner.

. . . Sin and suffering are not natural opposites, the opposite of evil is good, not suffering; the opposite of sin is not suffering, but righteousness. The path across the gulf that divides right from wrong is not the fire, but repentance. . . . The notion that the salvation of Jesus is a salvation from the consequences of our sins, is a false, mean, low notion. The salvation of Christ is salvation from the smallest tendency or leaning to sin. It is a deliverance into the pure air of God's ways of thinking and feeling. It is a salvation that makes the heart pure, with the will and choice of the heart pure. To such a heart, sin is disgusting. It sees a thing as it is, -- that is, as God sees it, for God sees everything as it is."

His thoughts are definitely thought provoking.

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