MacDonald (as selected by Lewis)

The supernatural zone is very, very near (the word is immanent). And we have objective evidence that the lottery is rigged (it’s not your traditional lottery – it is very, very personal).

This reminds me of a question I once heard posed: If you are a master pianist sitting with a novice learning to play, does humility mean you see their playing the piano as better than your own? No, but it means you still see their playing as important.


Mark, sorry about the judgy freudian slip. Different is a better word choice, at least for public view. However, we are both dissatified with the other’s ideal sacred-other. Clearly, we both have evaluative views, but I don’t want to offend in any way, including by my poor choice of words.

To some degree God does do that, but in ways different and for different purposes from what I think you have in mind. I imagine that the idea of being “indwelt by the Spirit of God” is entirely at odds with your understanding of freedom and autonomy. But it’s essential to my (I think most Christians’) understanding of my relationship with God and how God communicates His love and encouragement to me day to day.

Going back to Merv’s quote from “The White Stone” that prompted your question: “Is this guy a real Christian?”:

By his creation, then, each man is isolated with God; each, in respect of his pecurliar making, can say, “my God”…

MacDonald’s language sounds very much like things you have expressed. But I think that MacDonald means something quite different from what you mean by “the sacred” or “what gives rise to god belief.” MacDonald, if I understand him rightly, Is talking about the Christian God being “big enough” that each of us can commune with him individually. There is no competition for God’s attention, although we can all have the attention of the same God at the same time.
Additionally, this section in contrasting “mass” and “body” is related to the section Merv shared the day before, specifically this part:

Even though Christians can meet individually with God, we are also bound by God, not into a roiling crowd, but (potentially) as a functioning, active body, of which we are all parts with particular roles. And when we fulfill those roles, we “bring revelation and strength to [our] bretheren.”
So we have both individual relationships with God as well as a communal relationship with God and each other.
As far as I understand, the sacred you have in mind does not bind people to each other in a particular way.

I want to come back to what you said about “From my inside, there is the sense for an ever present Other who knows much more than I can.” I don’t know how to reconcile our different experiences, but I certainly won’t deny yours. I recognize that this Other is essential to you and maybe even wonderful, although I still haven’t figured out how to understand it.


I wonder what you think is my understanding is of freedom and autonomy? I believe we have the freedom to act authentically to align with what is greater within or we can betray it and ourselves at once by failing to perceive it’s true significance and in our resulting alienation pursuing shallow things instead. Freedom lies in faithfully serving what is greater. I don’t think we differ so much over this.

Where I think we part ways is how we approach that service. You expect authoritative sources to convey how you should precede in a fairly general way that applies to everyone the same regardless of circumstance while I think what is greater is something within and entirely natural. The natural order of things is that our narrow conscious minds should act in accord with what is greater but the expansion of our powers of abstraction makes it easy to become disconnected, leaving us to make sense of our lives in utilitarian, hedonistic ways except where we catch a glimpse of a better way some of which are provided by human relations, education and the culture we are immersed in. I don’t believe what is greatest, which I think gives rise to God belief, is a being apart that is anything like a person. So I don’t think it has an agenda or a plan for us and I don’t think it judges us for the sake of some later life. Rather, It is our better nature which is largely similar in us all; it is only the manner and degree to which we fail to serve our better nature which differentiates us one from the other.

I’m sure he does have something very different in mind. He, like you and as you say most Christians, have in mind something received from without. Where you note alignment between circumstances in your life and that received guidance you feel encouraged or guilty, depending. But you also internalize that guidance as we all do and from many sources. Even the orientation of cultural Christians is affected by the Christian message just as Christians too are affected by other cultural influences both for good and bad.

Well it is a shared appreciation of the sacred which does the binding and since Christians make such great efforts to homogenize their beliefs and values the binding has traditionally been strong. At the same time you don’t have to look too far to find Christian’s behaving badly whether it be the Westboro denomination, televangelists, pronouncements by church leaders that natural disasters were sent to punish people whose life styles they don’t accept or just welcoming destruction in the hope that it will hasten end times and a better world. Neither religion nor secularism has been any panacea. But Christianity has historically been concerned with the well being of the poor and unfortunate, a needed note for the wider culture though Christianity’s historic concern with freeloaders has prevented it from endorsing progressive political attempts to protect the general welfare on more than charity.

Pretty sure I’m well into TL;DR territory so I’ll stop there.


Mark, as I have been writing a reply, I see more clearly that my grasp on terms is sometimes pretty loose.

When you say “serving” do you mean:

And “what is greater” is what I would call “God?”

Sorry. I feel like a lawyer here. It’s just really easy for these discussions to go off the rails quickly for no good reason but imprecision. Usually mine.

Not hardly. No footnotes. No bibliography. No glossary.

Freedom only lies in being what we were meant to be, namely being loving children of their heavenly Father and enjoying him (and enjoying everything else properly too, as ingenuous little children do). That full enjoyment is only possible only through adoption, and that adoption is only enabled through Jesus, the Christ. Then you get to call him Brother and Friend and cool things can happen. Some of them can be hard or very hard* (as in Severe Mercy), but in retrospect they are marvelous.

*Prostrate pleading may be required to get through them.

Maybe but of course not as you think of God so no. Plus when it comes to a foxhole moment, there is no sense that the sky is the limit. Absolutely no miracles and no extra innings after the fat lady sings. So very different.

So it really just comes down to valuing a perspective enriched by intuition. For someone who can get stuck in their head it is pretty cool … but not a God.

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Q1: yes
Q2: no.

All of your qualifications are agreed on.

I won’t get back to this tonight, but maybe tomorrow after work.

That was a no but I only see one question. Did I miss one?

Okay I see it, and correct that was affirmative.

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I was trying to type while cleaning the kitchen. Sorry.

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(21) The End

I greatly expanded around what Lewis chose to include in his last installment from the “White Stone” sermon here. Including the very end of MacDonald’s sermon too where he (as in all his sermons) drops the verse that is the subject of his next sermon.

Each esteems the other better than himself. How shall the rose, the glowing heart of the summer heats, rejoice against the snowdrop risen with hanging head from the white bosom of the snow? Both are God’s thoughts; both are dear to him; both are needful to the completeness of his earth and the revelation of himself. “God has cared to make me for himself,” says the victor with the white stone, “and has called me that which I like best; for my own name must be what I would have it, seeing it is myself. What matter whether I be called a grass of the field, or an eagle of the air? a stone to build into his temple, or a Boanerges to wield his thunder? I am his; his idea, his making; perfect in my kind, yea, perfect in his sight; full of him, revealing him, alone with him. Let him call me what he will. The name shall be precious as my life. I seek no more.”

Gone then will be all anxiety as to what his neighbour may think about him. It is enough that God thinks about him. To be something to God–is not that praise enough? To be a thing that God cares for and would have complete for himself, because it is worth caring for–is not that life enough?

But, Lord, help them and us, and make our being grow into thy likeness. If through ages of strife and ages of growth, yet let us at last see thy face, and receive the white stone from thy hand. That thus we may grow, give us day by day our daily bread. Fill us with the words that proceed out of thy mouth. Help us to lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt .

As found in MacDonald’s unspoken sermon: “The White Stone

MacDonald sometimes seems hopelessly pious to me - and here is one of those times.


I was puzzled at first to see piety referred to as hopeless. To wish to parrot words attributed to God for no one’s ears but God’s to secure some personal reward seems at least smarmy if not morally questionable. Is that what you found to be hopelessly pious?

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What I was referring to as “hopelessly pious” - which perhaps was a poor choice of words: let me try again with: “… piously idealistic” is MacDonald’s vision of everybody reveling in their specific identity in God and living just and only for the pleasure of bringing that forth for the blessing and edification of everybody around them. It all sounds so futuristically ‘eschatony’. Sort of like a lot of people see Jesus sermon on the mount and all his talk about turning the other cheek to your enemies and giving to others even more than what they are unfairly demanding of you. People often dismiss this as only applying to some future paradise too - after the last swords have already been beaten into plowshares. But (in Jesus’ case) the advice makes no sense if intended only for some future time when there are no enemies left. What MacDonald seems to paint for us though is pictures of society that is already brimming with Christ-minded individuals. It may be a pretty picture - and one to pine after and work toward being. I’m glad that in other writings of his he shows characters living life among society that includes small-minded, cruel, and greedy sorts as well so that we can see how his idealism plays or could be applied to the world as we presently find it.


I was, too.

This helps a lot.

And this, too.

Interestingly, I read this as through our discussions from last summer (Penner) as being the truth and a lived hermeneutic. Taking in truth, internalizing it so deeply that we are filled with it and interpreting it in living our lives.

But speaking scripture back to God is also a thing many Christians value and do. For example, I might rely on the words of a biblical prayer that already expresses well what I feel, the way people might use poetry with each other.
It’s not about brownie points or buttering God up, but talking to someone we love and trust about what’s on our hearts. When MacDonald uses a metaphor from the Bible:

it’s like when family members refer to experiences that are unique to that family. there’s some special or significant shared memory, rather than just parroting.

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Merv, sometime I’d like to hear more about this, and particularly your emphasis on “salvific.” Or feel free to point me to a rsource that explains it well enough for your satisfaction.

So much of traditional Christianity has dwelt almost exclusively on the individual nature of salvation. Do you as an individual believe what you need to so that you are saved? And there is much biblical precedent and reason to see that. There is also much biblical precedent to see salvation in a much larger sense applied to entire families or even communities. We read of somebody being saved (like the Philippian Jailor) and hear that their entire family was saved. Or we read of Paul’s assumptions that there may be a sort of imputed “holiness” that children can inherit from even just one of their parents (who of course also have the possibility of saving each other). That isn’t to say that there are alternatives to Christ being shown; it is only to show that Christ works through a wide variety of people, and especially people close to us. This isn’t some new creed or something that I’m putting forward (Lord forbid we pile on more of those!) It’s just to say that as important as individual identity and salvation is, the Bible does not ignore familial and communal salvation. So we ignore that larger communal piece of our spiritual belonging at our own spirtual peril. I’m not sure how well or accurately this represents “Anabaptism”, but that’s the tradition I’ve been steeped in and likely then shaped by.


Hi Marvin and @Kendel . For another Anabaptist’s perspective, I grew up in the tradition that one’s salvation always hinged on one’s individual commitment to following Christ. However, at baptism, it was made explicit through words of the elders that this process was also an “initiation” into the local community of believers, with mutual responsibilities. As a member of the community, you were spiritually responsible to see to the protection of the faith and the growth (sanctification) of others. Likewise, they were to “have your back” in open communication and accountability. I’d also say that with an emphasis on the book of James…demonstration of “living faith” requires actions done to one-another. In other words, living faith, by definition, requires a larger community to interact with.


(22) Moth and Rust

“Why not lay up for ourselves treasures upon earth?”

“Because there the moth and rust and the thief come.”

“And so we should lose those treasures!”

“Yes; by the moth and the rust and the thief.”

“Does the Lord then mean that the reason for not laying up such treasures is their transitory and corruptible nature?”

“No. He adds a For : ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’”

“Of course the heart will be where the treasure is; but what has that to do with the argument?”

This: that what is with the treasure must fare as the treasure; that the heart which haunts the treasure-house where the moth and rust corrupt, will be exposed to the same ravages as the treasure, will itself be rusted and moth-eaten.

Many a man, many a woman, fair and flourishing to see, is going about with a rusty moth-eaten heart within that form of strength or beauty.

“But this is only a figure.”

True. But is the reality intended, less or more than the figure?

As found in MacDonald’s unspoken sermon: The Heart With the Treasure


What we treasure is a big deal.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22

When I was accessing my database for that citation concerning wealth, this was also a hit – it’s not about winning extra innings or perks, it’s about love and reality:

…what we treasure and hold dear and what is supremely valuable:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:44-46

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