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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

George MacDonald's Testimony

Note: My parents sent me this exerpt from the 19th Century Scottish Writer George MacDonald.

George MacDonald, From the book George MacDonald, Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller by Michael Phillips

(This is a letter responding to a lady who questioned his faith.)

“Have you really been reading my books, and at this time ask me what have I lost of the old faith? Much have I rejected of the new, but I have never rejected anything I could keep…With the faith itself to be found in the old Scottish manse I trust I have a true sympathy. With many of the forms gathered around that faith, I have none. At a very early age I had begun to cast them from me; but all the time my faith in Jesus as the Son of the Father of men and the Savior of us all, has been growing. It is were not for the fear of its sounding unkind, I would say that if you had been a disciple of his instead of mine, you would not have mistaken me so much. Do not suppose that I believe in Jesus because it is said so-and-so in a book. I believe in him because he is himself. The vision of him in that book and, I trust, his own living power in me, have enabled me to understand him to look him in the face, as it were, and accept him as my Master and Savior, in the following whom I shall come to the rest of the Father’s peace. The Bible is to me the most precious thing in the world, because it tells me his story; and what good men thought about him who knew him and accepted him.

But…to those who hold to the common theory of the inspiration of the words, instead of the breathing of God’s truth into the hearts and souls of those who wrote it…..are in danger of worshipping the letter instead of living in the spirit, of being idolaters of the Bible instead of followers of Jesus…it is Jesus who is the Revelation of God…Jesus alone is The Word of God.

With all sorts of doubt I am familiar, and the result of them is, has been, and will be, a widening of my heart and soul and mind to greater glories of the truth…the truth that is in Jesus…not in Calvin of Luther or St. Paul or St. John, save as they get it from Him, from whom every simple heart may have it, and can alone get it. You cannot have such, proof of the existence of God or the truth of the Gospel story as you can have of a …chemical experiment. But the man who will order his way by the word of the Master shall partake of his peace, and shall have in himself a growing conviction that in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

One thing more I must say; though the Bible contains many an utterance of the will of God, we do not need to go there to find how to begin to do his will. In every heart there is a consciousness of some duty or other required of it; that is the will of God. He who would be saved must get up and do that will….if it be but to sweep a room or make an apology, or pay a debt. It was he who had kept the commandments whom Jesus invited to be his follower in poverty and labour…

From your letter it seems that to be assured of my faith would be a help to you. I cannot say I never doubt, nor until I hold the very heart of good as my very own in Him, can I wish not to doubt. For doubt is the hammer that breaks the windows clouded with human fancies, and lets in the pure light. But I do say that all my hope, all my joy, and all my strength are in the Lord Christ and his Father, that all my theories of life and growth are rooted in him; that his truth is gradually clearing up the mysteries of this world…To Him I belong heart and soul and body, and he may do with me as he will…nay, nay…I pray him to do with me as he wills: for that is my only well-being and freedom.”

(Personal Note: I particularly like this statement: "though the Bible contains many an utterance of the will of God, we do not need to go there to find how to begin to do his will."

We get so caught up in faith statements and creeds that we forget that most of Jesus teaching was that we were to be doing the good that God wants to see done in the world. In fact, little of Jesus teaching was new. Most of it can be found in earlier religious teaching. (the Golden Rule had been uttered by earlier Rabbis and can be found as a part of practical every religion in the world as C. S. Lewis pointed out.) When people ask me, "Are you a Christian>" (Or more often these days "Are you saved?"), they usually mean have you followed a set formula, said the right words, been baptized the right way, think the right things. Usually I answer, "I am a follower of the man from Nazareth." That satisfied 99% of them. What I mean is that I want my life to pattern his life, his teaching, and his sacrifice. This, I hope, is pleasing to God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

I'm writing a biography of George MacDonald's fantasy literature (about 3/4 done) and have used this same letter in a chapter I've titled-The Un-Fundamentalist. Its one of the best statements against fundamentalism I've ever come across.

God Bless,
Bill Seper