MacDonald (selections from Lewis)

True. And not to be underestimated as a danger. I think MacDonald’s focus here is on the more seductive danger - who among us doesn’t feel our heart tugged by things that we then start to pine after or cling to? As MacDonald observes, the pleasures are real. God-created and given even! Along with all their proper diseases and morbid mortalities that remind us they are not the ultimate source of our happiness


Right on. And wasn’t it Calvin (gasp ; - ) that said something to the effect that our hearts are idol making factories?

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Would that we could watch MacDonald and Calvin enjoy a beer together and eavesdrop on their conversation! I suppose all their literary benefactors now carry on that conversation on their behalf.


Yeah, that would be fun. I remember Sheldon Vanauken in his A Severe Mercy imagining heaven – he was on his way to meet Davy but on the way he ran into C.S. Lewis and they went to the pub first and spent a good while chatting. In heaven’s spacetime chronology, when he left he met Davy just as they had agreed and she hadn’t been kept waiting.

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Which of course also reminds me of

Time is…

Time is…
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not.

– Henry van Dyke

Alternate last line:
Time is eternity.

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(25) Holy Scriptures

So this story may not be just as the Lord told it, and yet may contain in its mirror as much of the truth as we are able to receive, and as will afford us sufficient scope for a life’s discovery. The modifying influences of the human channels may be essential to God’s revealing mode. It is only by seeing them first from afar that we learn the laws of the heavens.

And now arises the question upon the right answer to which depends the whole elucidation of the story: How could the Son of God be tempted ?

As found in the sermon “The Temptation in the Wilderness” at Project Gutenberg

[It appears the other server I have been referencing is down this morning.]

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I feel like the above installment needs some explanation, beginning as it does with the pre-connector “So…”, and following then with the here-abrupt and startling conclusion that “this story may not be just as the Lord told it, …”

One should best just use the given link and read the sermon itself up to the given excerpt. But short of that, I’ll only summarize here with this. MacDonald writes that there will surely be so much truth beyond us and even still beyond our reach should we be informed of it directly, that the best we can receive about it will necessarily be in parable form. And he sees the temptations in the wilderness as being in just such a parable form since he thinks it obviously impossible for God’s son to actually and knowingly consider an offer from the father of lies. Yes - the son may hunger for bread, and experience the essence of temptations in all such needful ways as to intimately know our struggle with us. Or so I think MacDonald would agree. But if you have further question, you should just take in his sermon for yourself.

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Mark, I’ve been wanting to get back to this for almost a week. Sorry. And if you’re done with the topic, that’s fine. There are a few things I wanted to try to wrap up from my side, though.

I think this question is really important to you. When I printed off this discussion and highlighted questions you asked, some variation of this one showed up a few different times.
I don’t really know that I can give you a reason that will make much sense from outside my inside. Of course everything I might list that I find to be experiences that affirm my faith in an external, personal God, could be interpreted as my subjective understanding of it all. I think that’s true of any sacred experience, though, with or independent from a god.

But it seems like God does sometimes answer my prayers, like He helps me understand how to make use of what I read in the Bible, that he loves me and others, and the like. But I understand there are objections to all of that.

I agree with you. We don’t differ much over this.
I think your description is particularly effective as well.

I’m really sorry about how I worded my comment. Reading it now, it sounds like I was baiting you.
I had two unrelated things in mind, when I wrote this-- One: (actually, I think, irrelevant to you but that comes up constantly in the Forum as well as church history) very different theological views on the intersection of God’s sovereignty and the freedom of our wills; Two: that the idea of God being present in any way in a person would seem like a complete resignation of freedom or autonomy.

Once again, I’m sorry about the tone of my uninflectable written voice.

And right out there in front of God and everybody. It’s horrifying to be a church member and be watching this. While these (Westboro type, etc) monsters are out doing their damage, a lot of us are begging God for mercy and patience, while we are trying to live and be what we’re supposed to live and be. There’s so much horribleness we know about that’s going on in christianity in the U.S. right now, I can only imagine how it looks from the outside. And I can imagine most people wonder why anyone not interested in crazy politics and conspiracies would stay.

Even in the church I left, though, it’s not what you see on the news. There are plenty of people I disagree with–really strongly disagree with. But they are not like the people you see on tv. The pastors and elders are honestly decent, good men. I strongly disagree with their politics, their willingness to allow politics in to the church (particularly on Sunday) and their YEC. But they are not like the people on tv. I’ve never been a part of such a church.
But from the amount that makes it to the news, it seems like it’s everywhere.

[I’m not blaming the media, either for reporting on what is news. It’s their job, we need them to do it, and these churches and church leaders must be held accountable.]

You mentioned christian views of afterlife a few times in this thread as well. Thinking about all that’s wrong, as in the paragraphs above, what is most pleasing to me in a christian view of afterlife is that in the presense of God, all things will be made right. How that will happen, I have no idea. The thought of rewards, at least as I can conceive of them, is nothing compared to restoration and reconcilliation of all things in all ways. Unfettered goodness.
This is one of the ways belief in Jesus, specifically, ruins us for other things.


So do I think any experience of the sacred in whatever form it may take can be seen as having been strained through all our individual filters. Still whatever form it actually takes matters. It is after all the form it has chosen to present to you. The difference is that I don’t conceive of a biblical interpretation as representing the ultimate reality in itself which seeks to meaningfully connect through all those filters. Instead I think the reality is unfettered to any particular interpretation while simultaneously being present in them all. Forms are on our side; Inner truth appropriates whatever forms have currency for conveying meaning, meaning not reducible to a handful of facts. We aren’t only doers; we are also be’ers and what we are includes what is greater than our limited powers of conscious deliberation. We’re more than our personal failings by virtue of what is greater, but we can’t bend what is greater to our purposes. Nor should we when better outcomes are had by being receptive to and serving that latent greatness.

I didn’t take it that way. We just can’t help trying to understand new perspectives by way of our experience with others and our own self understanding.

Recognizing our own limitations and the many ways we are buoyed by insight not of our own manufacture at every turn it isn’t really abnegation to look to serve what that is. The truth is we’re no where near as clever on our own when it comes to the humanities. We rock it where science and technology is concerned but those are tools for doing things and the knowledge it gives rise to isn’t what matters most for living a human life.

Of course I think what we are as individuals arises right beside what we are that is timeless and wiser. But it is useful to differentiate what we are narrowly on our own from what we are in relation to what is greater.

Yeah but then you draw your ranks from the same human cloth the rest of us do. So much more can go wrong being human. Our participation is inescapable and yet our cultural heritage struggles to pass on what is needed to help us succeed. Christianity is working for those for whom it has but it isn’t a magic elixir in all cases. I see the successes very clearly here. I’d like to think you all had the wherewithal to pass it on for everyone but I don’t have that confidence. Frankly it feels like a bloody miracle anytime any human being finds her balance. But I don’t blame you all for failing to save humanity and I do appreciate that it matters to you.

Given what I think that is, I believe life as we live it can be made right in the presence of God right now and needs to be continually. There will always be failure but hopefully always also be intent, effort and progress toward reconciliation.


(26) Command that these stones be made bread

Regard that word changed . The whole matter lies in that. Changed from what? From what God had made it. Changed into what? Into what he did not make it. Why changed? Because the Son was hungry, and the Father would not feed him with food convenient for him! The Father did not give him a stone when he asked for bread. It was Satan that brought the stone and told him to provide for himself. The Father said, That is a stone. The Son would not say, That is a loaf. No one creative fiat shall contradict another. The Father and the Son are of one mind. The Lord could hunger, could starve, but would not change into another thing what his Father had made one thing.

[Footnote: There was no such change in the feeding of the multitudes. The fish and the bread were fish and bread before. I think this is significant as regards the true nature of a miracle, and its relation to the ordinary ways of God. There was in these miracles, and I think in all, only a hastening of appearances; the doing of that in a day, which may ordinarily take a thousand years, for with God time is not what it is with us. He makes it. And the hastening of a process does not interfere in the least with cause and effect in the process, nor does it render the process one whit more miraculous. In deed, the wonder of the growing corn is to me greater than the wonder of feeding the thousands. It is easier to understand the creative power going forth at once–immediately–than through the countless, the lovely, the seemingly forsaken wonders of the corn-field. To the merely scientific man all this is pure nonsense, or at best belongs to the region of the fancy. The time will come, I think, when he will see that there is more in it, namely, a higher reason, a loftier science, how incorrectly soever herein indicated.]

As found in “The Temptation in the Wilderness” sermon at the usual link again.


Intent towards a heart of truthfulness can be made right now, as can the recognition of one that isn’t.

Would you be surprised if I said I especially liked that? :slightly_smiling_face:

That too of course, and the rest!

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And maybe that deserves emphasis.

I wondered if that wouldn’t catch some attention from some science-minded folks here. Maybe you should say more about what you make of it.

My thought (or non-articulated impression, really) had to do with the artistry in all of created reality and not merely the physics. Lewis’ “the great dance” comes to mind (now that you want me specify something ; - ).

He mentions it in Perelandra,

…and also sans ‘great’ in The Problem of Pain (I found it when I was looking for the former),

A longer bit:

(27) Religious feeling

Our Lord says, “I can do without the life that comes of bread: without the life that comes of the word of my Father, I die indeed.” Therefore he does not think twice about the matter. That God’s will be done is all his care. That done, all will be right, and all right with him, whether he thinks about himself or not. For the Father does not forget the child who is so busy trusting in him, that he cares not even to pray for himself.

In the higher aspect of this first temptation, arising from the fact that a man cannot feel the things he believes except under certain conditions of physical well-being dependent upon food, the answer is the same: A man does not live by his feelings any more than by bread, but by the Truth, that is, the Word, the Will, the uttered Being of God.

As found in “The Temptation in the Wilderness” sermon.


(Have I ever mentioned the importance being childlike before God? ; - )

(28) Dryness

If, by any will of God–that is, any truth in him–we live, we live by it tenfold when that will has become a word to us. When we receive it, his will becomes our will, and so we live by God. But the word of God once understood, a man must live by the faith of what God is, and not by his own feelings even in regard to God. It is the Truth itself, that which God is, known by what goeth out of his mouth, that man lives by. And when he can no longer feel the truth, he shall not therefore die. He lives because God is true; and he is able to know that he lives because he knows, having once understood the word, that God is truth. He believes in the God of former vision, lives by that word therefore, when all is dark and there is no vision.

As found in “The Temptation in the Wilderness” sermon.

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(29) Presumption

“If ye have faith and doubt not, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.” Good people, amongst them John Bunyan, have been tempted to tempt the Lord their God upon the strength of this saying, just as Satan sought to tempt our Lord on the strength of the passage he quoted from the Psalms. Happily for such, the assurance to which they would give the name of faith generally fails them in time. Faith is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it; or, not knowing it, stands and waits, content in ignorance as in knowledge, because God wills; neither pressing into the hidden future, nor careless of the knowledge which opens the path of action. It is its noblest exercise to act with uncertainty of the result, when the duty itself is certain, or even when a course seems with strong probability to be duty.

[Footnote: In the latter case a man may be mistaken, and his work will be burned, but by that very fire he will be saved. Nothing saves a man more than the burning of his work, except the doing of work that can stand the fire.]

But to put God to the question in any other way than by saying, What wilt thou have me to do? is an attempt to compel God to declare himself, or to hasten his work. This probably was the sin of Judas. It is presumption of a kind similar to the making of a stone into bread. It is, as it were, either a forcing of God to act where he has created no need for action, or the making of a case wherein he shall seem to have forfeited his word if he does not act. The man is therein dissociating himself from God so far that, instead of acting by the divine will from within, he acts in God’s face, as it were, to see what he will do. Man’s first business is, “What does God want me to do?” not “What will God do if I do so and so?”

As found in “The Temptation in the Wilderness” sermon.