MacDonald (selections from Lewis)

@Randy and @Mervin_Bitikofer,
You two! I started listening to “The Magician’s Nephew” while I was blocking out a shawl today. So far, an absolute treat, as you promised, Merv. It’s been a while, not a terribly long while, but a while, since I’ve read any fantasy. Yeah, in general, it’s a genre I really love, when it’s well done. Lewis had a beautiful imagination. Thanks for the encouragement.


Oh, good-oh! Did you listen to the Kenneth Branagh version of “The Magician’s Nephew”? That’s a great one–but both are really a treat, as you say
I’d like to hear any points you’d bring. One interesting one is Lewis’ gender reversal in the fall-- the boy was the cause of the fall, not the girl.

Also, spoiler alert-he uses the ancient near east motif of animals being created de novo out of the ground.



Okay, Randy, how many times have I read that entire set of books, and only just now does this get called to my attention!!? That sly dog, Lewis! What does it mean? And what other treasures about Narnia are you sitting on? Though I guess we shouldn’t do spoilers in front of Kendel, though.


I have learned so much from you that there is much to repay.
I imagine his point is that boys are equally susceptible. There is a strong theme of pride in there, as well… Uncle Andrew saying he was not to receive judgement like other men…like wizards and witches who had secret powers, "Ours is a high and lonely destiny "… But just justifies doing whatever one has to, to get what one wants. It’s only when Diggory learns to put Aslan’s and others’ needs before his own that he learns true happiness and contentment.

Do you think the original Fall is in the house of Charn (notice the similarity to "charnel house)? There seems to be a second garden and test, though, in the new world. This time, Diggory chooses life, but the Witch falls and steals the apple. Lewis seems to indicate that it’s not the fruit that is the problem, but the way we take the fruit.

“Come in by the golden gates, or not at all;
Take of my fruit for others, or forbear.
For those who steal, and those who climb my wall,
Shall find their heart’s desire, and find despair.”

In choosing to follow Aslan’s directions, he foregoes eternal life, but also escapes eternal, spiritual death. His mother (who was dying young, as Lewis’ mother and Joy, his wife, struggled with deadly illness as young women), did eat an apple that Aslan gave Diggory. She lived a normal life.

As Diggory realized later, it would have been better to die rather than eat the fruit stolen for selfishness’ sake.

I look forward to your deeper thoughts.

@Daniel_Fisher , as an expert on Lewis, you may want to weigh in! I would be very interested in your thoughts.



Actually, I am so sorry…maybe on another thread!

I don’t plan to say anything here

I don’t plan to say anything that would be much of a spoiler for Kendel. Or if it does come to that, then yeah - can use another thread.

I like the way Lewis handled these themes - pressing into them I think. I didn’t take it so much as there being some absolutely primal fall for all the worlds, but more just my own expectation that most every world has its own fallen history to contend with. At least that’s my assumption. It would have been interesting to hear origins stories for the other evil characters (and the green witch) as well. But any rich story probably has lots of open-ended details around all its expansive edges for the imagination to play with. Not all authors can be Tolkien, right?


(19) No Massing

By his creation, then, each man is isolated with God; each, in respect of his peculiar making, can say, " my God;" each can come to him alone, and speak with him face to face, as a man speaketh with his friend. There is no massing of men with God. When he speaks of gathered men, it is as a spiritual body , not a mass . For in a body every smallest portion is individual, and therefore capable of forming a part of the body.

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


Now see even I can relate to that. Was this guy a real Christian? :wink:

Of course I go further to suggest that is the only place we will find God is on whatever terms He makes available in each case. I just reject any God central overseeing everything. (I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy let alone my closest confidant.). God and people give rise to one another through their connectedness. At some point people start to notice that not only is there the elder onboard guiding our actions but we can also exercise a good deal of restraint from doing the right thing in order to pursue particular things we desire. Eventually we can decide this conscience or whatever it is archaic and turns us to sheep. We can even find a community that agrees with our new values and we can acknowledge each other’s daring a little bit in between going all out to end up on top. In the end decency becomes less common and character is seen as weakness. That damned apple! This way leads to hell’s handbasket.

More so than most of us, I suspect! But our judgment in this regard means nothing. We are barely fit to judge ourselves much less others. But judge ourselves first and foremost we must - or struggle to anyway.

If by that you mean church or some other institutional manifestation thereof, you join many in distancing themselves from organized religion and have no lack of good reasons to do so. But if you mean it to be a rejection of any deity at all as any locus of authority, then Christians must differ with you of course.

Perhaps more later.

I have a subscription to a library of digital books that are compatable with many types of output devices, including audio readers and braille displays. The are all digital voices. Think of NOAA Weather Radio. Not highly expressive, but MUCH better than the first ones. I also listen a good deal faster than I could listen to an audiobook read by a real actor like Kenneth Branagh. (What I’m missing there!) But he would sound insane at 280 wpm.
Regarding discussing these books in some thread, not necessarily Merv’s MacDonald thread, I fell no loss “hearing” you and Merv and anyone else talking about the books.
It’s not going to spoil Lewis’s gorgeous story telling, even if I knew the whole outline of the story before I read it. How many times have we all reread our favorite novels or sets of novels, eagerly anticipating a part we particularly like, because it’s so wonderful to hear it again, even though we might even have it memorized. “Oh, I can’t wait! This is my favorite part!”
No, friend,you have ruined nothing.
I love your enthusiasm and excitement.

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Of course, different strokes for different folks.

Edited to ask two questions. One, between positing God in the interface between what we are and what God is and positing God entirely outside the natural world (which presumably includes us), which is the more off putting? And two, so long as our world and the sacred intersect, what really have we lost? Maybe it is best to just stick to “the sacred” and leave “God” out of it for those of us who don’t see Him as a being apart from us.

Good question. Let me see if I understand you. I honestly don’t think either is off putting, but I find that from the standpoint of needing an abstract, as a point of reference, and also because I know I’m in pretty bad shape if I’m the only one to rely on, I’m hopeful that there is a God outside the experienced, temporal world. I don’t think it’s impossible that there is nothing outside of us either, and don’t think that there is no hope in that case either. However, I’m hopeful of it. Have you ever heard of the humorous reference to Saint Puddleglum? That’s one of my favorite references in CS Lewis’s books. It’s not that we can’t learn from each other either. In fact, I think that we can learn from both experiences and points of view. Randal Rauser writes something to that effect. We can even gain humor from the discussion of contrasting the mundane and sacred. Thanks.


Mark, for a while I’ve had this idea on my mind and couldn’t remember if it was a quote from a book or something someone had said here or elsewhere. Between your posts here and over in the “Ard Louis” thread with @Klax, I felt I needed to put my finger on it, because it expresses my gut feeling well. I found it this evening in Austin Fisher’s book Faith in the Shadows:

Once you have glimpsed the beauty of Christ, there really is no going back. It ruins you. The story of the God-man becoming flesh, touching lepers, embracing sinners, drinking wine, preaching a coming kingdom of redemption and revelry, dying for the crimes of every last crook and priest, resurrected as a harbinger of a looming apocalypse of love—once you have heard this story, felt this story, lived this story, everything else will let you down. To truly hear the gospel is to evolve past ever being satisfied with something less. This doesn’t mean it’s true, but it does mean your moral, imaginative, and existential palate will find all else pathetically bland. Once you’ve acquired a taste for communion wine, Moscato makes you nauseous.
(Faith in the Shadows by Austin Fisher, Bookshare edition read in Calibre, location 78%.)

Unlike Fisher, I am not able to speculate, where I would eventually land, if I didn’t believe any more in an external, personal God, who revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. But I’m pretty sure, that anything less would feel like prostitution. I’m afraid Jesus ruins us for everything else.


(20) No Comparing

“But is there not the worst of all dangers involved in such teaching-- the danger of spiritual pride?” If there be, are we to refuse the spirit for fear of the pride? Or is there any other deliverance from pride except the spirit? Pride springs from supposed success in the high aim: with attainment itself comes humility. But here there is no room for ambition. Ambition is the desire to be above one’s neighbour; and here there is no possibility of comparison with one’s neighbour: no one knows what the white stone contains except the man who receives it. Here is room for endless aspiration towards the unseen ideal; none for ambition. Ambition would only be higher than others; aspiration would be high. Relative worth is not only unknown–to the children of the kingdom it is unknowable.

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


Leaving God out of things is something that many people, including cultural Christians in the U.S. do on a defacto basis in how they choose to live their lives, but for MacDonald - ever trying to attend in obedience to Christ and Christ’s God, he never leaves that as a viable option. The irritating thing about MacDonald (though he would never say this of himself) is that he is more Christian than what most of us are culturally comfortable with - not less.

But I will ask this; Is it possible that what you react negatively to is all the God-talk that has so closely attended cultural “Christianity” where words, ultimatums, and doctrines are multiplied far beyond any evidenced change of life and deed?

Perhaps. Had to google around to get a better feel for what is generally meant by “cultural Christian”, “cC”. I’d had in mind those living in a culture where many actively participate in that religion either communally in a church or in their minds by reading the Bible or authors who treat of such things - but not doing so oneself. (That is the sense in which I would refer to myself as a cC.). But then the term “nominal Christian” came up and that required more googling. In the end I realized much of this nuance is beyond my reach. I do better clarifying what I believe from the inside out than by perusing descriptions of what others believe looking for similarities. That all led to this quote which I’m still waiting to see if it will go somewhere in me:

“ Jesus dealt with nominal Christianity in one of His letters to the churches. The church in Sardiswore a Christian label, but Jesus saw the truth behind the label: “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). Or, as the KJV says, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” God is not interested in the labels we tag ourselves with. Having a “name” that we belong to Christ is not enough. Nominal faith is not faith.nd the label: “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). Or, as the KJV says, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” God is not interested in the labels we tag ourselves with. Having a “name” that we belong to Christ is not enough. Nominal faith is not faith. “

It seems to me that much worrying about who is and who isn’t a Christian or whether somebody who identifies as Christian really is a true Christian comes down to this. Names as applied from the outside only matter in youth. Eventually the internal sense predominates.

That quote surprised me because I thought only Paul in the Bible as being a letter writer and I don’t think literacy was very widespread in biblical times.

From my inside, there is the sense of an ever present Other who knows much more than I can. I’ve long thought that belief in God/gods would adhere to that internal Otherness in the image made available culturally. But of course whatever form it takes for us is an overlay to what it actually is which is something that must remain mysterious because of the limitations of what we are in our focused, conscious minds. It is this limited part which we most identify with and it is this part that most craves certainty. I think the greatest mystery is inside us not in a supernatural zone far, far away.

Less or different? From where I stand focusing on “an external, personal God” feels like taking care over how one paints and cloths a stone idol. Why should the decisions we make about how to imagine what it is like be so important? @Randy says “I know I’m in pretty bad shape if I’m the only one to rely on”. But can’t God work through what you are to fortify, inspire and grant you insight? When we receive such gifts do we say “oh well that ‘s just something that popped into my head, of what possible use is that?” How can imagining Him as a loving father, transcendent hippy or divine mother make so much difference when choosing to impose that image is yet again just something that we do? I suspect the answer comes down to tradition.


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.