George MacDonald

On self-appointed contemporary guardians of orthodoxy

‘There are two things the self-appointed contemporary guardians of orthodoxy seem to forget: (1) orthodoxy was never a guarantee of certainty, but of mystery; and (2) the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy.

Augustine spoke to the first point when he reminded us that after we have said everything we can about God we must remember that the God we have described is still not the God who is. As Daniel Migliore has said: “True faith must be distinguished from fideism. Fideism says we reach a point where we must stop our inquiry and simply believe; faith keeps on seeking and asking.” The goal of orthodoxy is to resist the simplistic reductions of irreconcilable realities, realities which invite (even demand) continued interrogation.

George MacDonald, the Scottish writer whom C. S. Lewis called his greatest influence, speaks to the second point in his fairy tale, The Princess and the Goblin: “People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less.” The church is not a club; least of all the kind of club with which you beat others over the head.

MacDonald’s admonition is just as important to theology as is Augustine’s, and perhaps even more crucial for the church to hear today. A church rattled by threats from without and within is tempted to retreat into a cocoon of fideism, demanding the unquestioning belief of adherents. But a retrenched faith lacks the energy, imagination and love to engage the world for the sake of the gospel, and a defensive faith tends to prosecute its most creative minds and adventurous spirits precisely when it needs them most’. – Michael Jinkins, ‘Orthodoxy as guarantor of mystery‘.

What love has in view …

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‘For love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected – not in itself, but in the object’. – George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons: Series I, II and III (Whitefish: Kessinger, 2004), 10.