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Vol. VIII • 1985

Creation in the Writings of George MacDonald
Ellen Myers

It is as the spiritual teacher of C.S. Lewis that George MacDonald (1824-1905) has come to be known and loved among Christian people today. The anthology of MacDonald's writings compiled by C.S. Lewis was first published in America in 1947; subsequent editions appeared in 1962 and 1974. Other works by MacDonald in print today include Phantastes (Ballantine Books, 1970), which a Christian creationist friend called "one of the most wholesome pieces of fantasy that I have ever read" in a letter to this writer. C.S. Lewis writes about this book in his preface to the MacDonald anthology:

Besides this story, so mightily used of our Lord, there are modern editions of Lilith (Ballantine, 1969), Diary of an Old Soul - poetry devotions for each day of the year (Augsburg, 1965 and paperback edition 1975), The Golden Key. a fairy tale for children with beautiful illustrations by Maurice Sendak (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1967), The Gifts of the Child Christ. in two volumes, consisting of "fairy tales and stories for the childlike" (Eerdmans, 1973), Life Essential, the Hope of the Gospel, edited by Rolland Hem (Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1974), Creation in Christ, edited by Rolland Hem and taken from MacDonald's three volumes of Unspoken Sermons (Harold Shaw Publishers, 19761; The World of George MacDonald, edited by Rolland Hem and consisting of selections from MacDonald's works of fiction (Harold Shaw, 1978), and The Princess and the Goblin, a fairy story for children (Scripture Union Chariot Books, Elgin IL 1978, second printing 1979). The C.S. Lewis anthology probably remains the most popular and influential among all these. It is composed chiefly of extracts from MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons, of which C.S. Lewis testifies:

C.S. Lewis gives a brief biography of MacDonald in the preface to this anthology. as well as a brief and poignant summary of MacDonald's thought. From it we learn that after a brief and troubled Stint in England's nonconformist ministry MacDonald had to earn his living by lecturing, tutoring, writing and "odd jobs." Rolland Hem tells us his family when completed numbered eleven children.3

A little later C.S. Lewis pens the following often-quoted praise of MacDonald's work:

To the Biblical Creationist believer of our time it comes as a great joy, perhaps as a surprise. that George MacDonald, after all a contemporary of Darwin and Huxley and also a well educated man whose academic background included degrees in chemistry and natural philosophy (that is, the natural sciences) from Aberdeen University, does not show any trace whatsoever of evolutionism in his writings. Darwin and his teachings might as well never have existed as far as MacDonald is concerned; not only this, but he seems to have seen deeply enough by God's grace to understand the inability of science to give ultimate answers, or even to help formulate the proper questions leading to such answers. To MacDonald, rooted and grounded in the Living God and His creative purpose, "human science is but the backward undoing of the tapestry web of God's science, works with its back to Him, and is always leaving Him His intent, that is, His perfected work behind it, always going farther and farther away from the point where His work culminates in revelation."7

Throughout MacDonald's work burns the fire of zealous love for God as Creator Whose glorious creative design must not be thwarted, and for each and every man and woman (and child, for MacDonald greatly loved children) to work Out their own glory and bliss by fulfilling the Creator's design and so to become perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Typical of his yearning that the Father might see the reward of His work, and of his grief together with the Father and the Son over the creatures' resistance to the Father's perfect will is the following prayerful cry:

MacDonald is concerned with arousing and strengthening the life of Christ in us. What man lost in the Fall was life, life essential, the life breathed into him by God at his creation. Christ came to restore that life (John 10:101. MacDonald wrote, Religion (in his time this meant Christianity) is no way of life, no show of life, no observance of any Sort. . . It is life essential. . . The man to whom virtue is but the ornament of character. something over and above, not essential to it, is not yet a man."9 He was not concerned with knowledge about God but with person-to-person knowledge of God, in heartfelt oneness with Christ's own words, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). This knowledge transforms man as the Christ-life is nurtured and enlarged in him or rather, Christ Himself transforms man as man rejects his pseudo-self made up of ephemeral notions and influences of his own devising and turns to his true root and origin, his Creator the Triune God. Man has no identity except his created identity in God's eternal purpose for him,

This is why "salvation" apart from God is impossible. Although MacDonald has been called a "universalist" (a charge to which some of his statements lend support), C.S. Lewis rightly comments:

His fantasy Lilith is an outworking of how even the most obdurate rebel against God, the most perverse, proud and evil soul clinging to shadow rather than truth may yet be brought to see her own loathsome pseudo-self as God sees it as utter corruption from the creative purpose and glory intended by her Creator and to desire redemption even though it will cost her the cutting-off of her right hand paralyzed in a grip upon nothingness. While not as instantly recognizable as Christian-biblical parables as are, for example, C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories or his science fiction trilogy for adults, once so recognized the MacDonald stories and fantasies speak perhaps even more deeply to the reader who then agrees with Lewis that MacDonald was Lewis's master. A final thread running through all MacDonald's work is his deep and abiding joy in our Lord, our "glad Creator."11 It is the joy of the Creator spoken of in the very first chapter of Genesis when our holy, righteous and perfect God saw all his works and saw that they were good. Even thus MacDonald sees the end of man. When speaking of the giving of the white stone with the new name to the redeemed (Revelation 2t he writes,

Hand in hand with God's joy in us upon our restoration to the perfection of His created identity and intent for us goes our own joy in His design. MacDonald writes, "I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about born in God's thoughts and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, most precious thing in all thinking."13

Our God Creator is an all-encompassing God Whose treasures of creativity are inexhaustible:

Our God is not the absentee landlord of deism (which was flourishing in MacDonald's youth), nor the modern existentialist god working by fits and starts to help chaos and chance evolve into order. No, "life is no series of chances with a few providences sprinkled between to keep up a justly failing belief, but one providence of God" and "the devotion of God to His creations is perfect; He does not think about Himself but about them; He wants nothing for Himself, but finds His blessedness in the outgoing of blessedness."15

While God's image formed in us at creation has been defaced and perverted, we still bear its imprint and cannot help but obey the law of our created identity as His image-bearers: "Is not all the good in us His image? Imperfect and sinful as we are, is not all the foundation of our being His image? Is not the sin all ours, and the life in us all God's? We cannot be the creatures of God without partaking of His nature,"16

Many more excerpts from MacDonald's writings could be added here to show his commitment to biblical creation, the Personal, Almighty, Omniscient, Perfect and glorious Living God revealed in the Bible, and his yearning for the redemption and restoration of all men in God's perfect image in and by Christ. This, to him, was life. Let us sum up with one final statement by this saint in glory:

1 C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, An Anthology (Garden City. NY: Dolphin Books. Doubleday & Company, Inc,, 1962), 26-27.
2 Ibid, 22,
3 George MacDonald, Creation in Christ edited by Rolland Hem (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1976), 8.
4 Lewis, op. ciL, 17.
5 Ibid, 23.
6 George MacDonald, Phantastes (New York: Ballantine Books, 1970), vi.
7 Lewis. op. cit. 98.
8 George MacDonald, Selections from the Writings of George MacDonald (typewritten copy made by this writer from a book published in the nineteenth century in the United States, publisher and exact publication date not known), 4.
9 George MacDonald, Life Essential. the Hope of the Gospel. edited by Roland Hem (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1974), 7.
10 Lewis. op. cit.. 24
11 Ibid. 108.
12 Ibid. 37.
13 MacDonald, Selections. 7
14 Ibid. 10
15 Ibid. 11
16 Ibid. 15
17 Ibid. 17

"Creation in the Writings of George MacDonald"
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