Jesus didn’t write a thing… (George MacDonald)

This is a short piece I’ve been meditating on, and wrestling with:

Our Lord had no design of constructing a system of truth in intellectual forms. The truth of the moment in its relation to him, The Truth, was what he spoke. He spoke out of a region of realities which he knew could only be suggested—not represented—in the forms of intellect and speech. With vivid flashes of life and truth his words invade our darkness, rousing us with sharp stings of light to will our awaking, to arise from the dead and cry for the light which he can give, not in the lightning of words only, but in indwelling presence and power.

How, then, must the truth fare with those who, having neither glow nor insight, will build intellectual systems upon the words of our Lord, or of his disciples? A little child would better understand Plato than they St Paul. The meaning in those great hearts who knew our Lord is too great to enter theirs. The sense they find in the words must be a sense small enough to pass through their narrow doors. And if mere words, without the interpreting sympathy, may mean, as they may, almost anything the receiver will or can attribute to them, how shall the man, bent at best on the salvation of his own soul, understand, for instance, the meaning of that apostle who was ready to encounter banishment itself from the presence of Christ, that the beloved brethren of his nation might enter in? To men who are not simple, simple words are the most inexplicable of riddles.

[George MacDonald, unwritten sermons I: “I shall not be forgiven”, p 24 of this link]

Truth, with a capital T, is not mere information. Salvation is not some mystical change in some ‘book of life’ where a box is unchecked that says ‘send to hell’. Those views never made much sense to me, but more and more I start to realise that if salvation is not a real change in our lives, a real healing of our relationship with God, our fellow humans and all of creation, it does not mean a thing at all. It would make no sense to spend an eternity with a God if we don’t care to know Him… He is the ultimate reality, and it’s about knowing Him, not knowing information about Him… which may also end up in something that can be considered ‘mystical’, but not in the pejorative way I used the world earlier in this paragraph…

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and more real than we can realise. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Why would God then ever be impressed with our theology systems and our ‘cathedrals of thought’? If it does not draw us towards knowing the real living God, (no knowing about Him) it’s all useless, less than nothings…




8 responses to “Jesus didn’t write a thing… (George MacDonald)

  1. Amen!

    I have downloaded some of George MacDonald’s sermons on my kindle, but I haven’t had the time to read them. This quote makes me want to raise the priority of those sermons. =)

    • I have downloaded them in PDF ages ago, but I’m not such an ‘e-reader’ person, so I didn’t actually read it until I bought it as an oldfashioned book…

      It’s an interesting read, something to read a small part of and then think about… I don’t know if I can follow all of his ideas but they are thought-provoking in a good way…

  2. God recently did a work in my life that caused me to realize that I was so focused on knowledge of him (in a philosophical apologetic sense) that I neglected to foster my relationship with him — which in the end is what counts.

    Great read. Thank you.

    • I know what you’re meaning… Reading all of the bible, and all theology and whatever until you have perfect intellectual knowlegde of God is something other than knowing God God in a relationship. The first one is much easier and less risky… But it’s indeed the second one which counts…

  3. I personally find this dialog a bit “intellectual.” If we truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and open our eyes, then this is the same power that reveals the perfect nature of our Father in heaven through his perfect Word. The Bible.


    • Don,

      I agree with most of this sentence “If we truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and open our eyes, then this is the same power that reveals the perfect nature of our Father in heaven”, but then I have a disagreement.

      Contrary to popular evangelical tradition, nowhere does the bible claim the title of the perfect Word with capital T for itself. Mostly ‘scriptures’ is used, and I know no place in which the expression needs to mean ‘the bible’ as we know it. But the bible does give that title to Someone Else: Jesus Christ. See the first verses of the gospel of John for example. There’s a whole lot of greek thought behind that word ‘Word’ (Logos) that we don’t get, but the perfect Word, the Living Word, is Jesus, not the bible. He who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 14:9) Jesus is the one who, through the Spirit, reveals the perfect nature of the father. That revelation isn’t information, but a personal knowing of the Father.

      We don’t have any mediator except Christ between us and God, and catholics and orthodox should watch out to give saints, Mary or even the pope that role, why we protestants should watch out for the ‘paper pope’ we turn the bible into sometimes. The bible is important, but it isn’t divine itself. And without the Spirit speaking through it like you said, it’s just words on paper, not the Word of God.

  4. carrot
    This is pointless, why am I even reading it and not enjoying carrot cake? I should learn to spend my time better.

  5. My Novice Master would always say that a more proper way to understand the Logos is not really a word but a Thought. The Logos was the first Thought, also that we all ultimately exist because God continues to think about us. If God ever stopped thinking about us, we would cease to exist.

    The importance of the Logos being the first Thought is proof of God’s Love. Christ was his first and only thought God has or will ever have.

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