The Evangelical Universalist Forum

George MacDonald Influence


John Piper’s book “The Pleasures Of God” has had a major impact on my life. I haven’t become perfect but I’m 100 times better today. After all I’m a schizophrenic. But I wanted to share this because George MacDonald had a huge impact on John Piper in his experience of wonder and paradox. I guess I can thank George MacDonald for my improvements.

Chesterton and MacDonald (and Lewis?)

I said I was going to fudge a little. Here is another fudging on this question. I am going to include here G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald. Now, I know Chesterton is a Roman Catholic. George MacDonald just hated Calvinism, because he grew up in it. So did Chesterton. Chesterton mocked Calvinism. George MacDonald mocked Calvinism. So, they qualify as non-Calvinists at least. And I mention them because of the impact that they have had on me. I almost included C.S. Lewis, but Doug Wilson made such a strong, compelling case for the Reformed thinking of Lewis at our conference a couple of years ago that I will leave Lewis out, because Lewis is massively influential to me — and he is not your run-of-the-mill Calvinist. But Chesterton and MacDonald were verbally abusive of Calvinists, and I have found this one thing when I read them both: their aliveness to the wonders and the paradoxes and the surprises and the oddities of the world in which we live.
G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald were alive to the wonders of the world in which we live.

MacDonald wasn’t even orthodox on his view of the cross. He just falls short of Arminianism. But when I read those two men’s sense of wonder in the real world in which we live, I am brought more alive to the Bible, more alive to the wonders in which I live. I feel like a healthier human being. In fact, I wrote about this on the blog. It is back there somewhere a couple of years ago, I think, called “The Sovereign God of Elfland: Why Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism Doesn’t Put Me Off." So, if somebody wants to see more of what I mean by the influence of Chesterton and MacDonald they could look there. ~~ John Piper


StM, are you a Calvinist?


I used to be. I’m Anglican. Catholic/Reformed.


George MacDonald had this correct:

“If [the gospel of Christ] be true, everything in the universe is glorious, except sin….I love my Bible more – I am always finding out something new in it – I seem to have had everything to learn over again…. But I find that the happiness springing from all things not in themselves sinful is much increased by religion. God is the God of the beautiful, Religion the love of the Beautiful, and Heaven the home of the Beautiful, Nature is tenfold brighter in the sun of Righteousness, and my love of Nature is more intense since I became a Christian – if indeed I am one.”


And This

“Let us go further and, looking at beauty, believe that God is the first of artists; that he has put beauty into nature, knowing how it will affect us, and intending that it should so affect us; that he has embodied his own grand thoughts thus that we might see them and be glad.”


I know the Bible is God’s word by the self-authenticating glory that is revealed. The main part of Christ’s Beauty is the lion and lamb paradox. This glory is revealed not only through Christ in the Gospel but is interlaced throughout the Bible as well as reality. The evidence brings a transformation of mind and heart:

“Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”~~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

This intuitive awareness and knowledge is mediated through the words of the Bible. It’s not in the words themselves but the meaning of properly understood revelation. The brightness of the beauty of the diamond is in the face of Jesus Christ. That is to say, the nondual paradox and mystery for Christians is a living Person (Christ). He is very God and very human. In Him all cosmic opposites are reconciled. It’s about becoming open to the opposites we find in Christ. It is here that we can begin to hold the opposites together in our self. A few examples:

We admire Him for His transcendence, but even more because His transcendence is accompanied by condescension

We admire Him for His uncompromising justice, but even more because it is mingle with His mercy

We admire Him for His majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness

We admire Him for His equality with God, but even more because as God’s equal He nevertheless has a deep reverence for God

We admire Him because of how worthy He was of all good, but even more because this was accompanied by an amazing patience to suffer evil

We admire Him because of His Lordship over the world, but even more because this was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission

We love the way He stumped the proud scribes with His wisdom, and we love it even more because He could be simple enough to spend time with children

We admire Him because He could still the storm, but even more because He refused to use that power to strike the Samaritans with lightening and He refused to use it to get Himself down from the cross

The purest and most exalted image of Christ is the fused together of extreme opposites. This is the highest expression of the Beautiful. It is a splendor arising out of unity in diversity. The greater the diversity the more profound the unity and the more extraordinary the Beauty.


Is that a quote from MacDonald’s work? Please give the citation if so.

If it isn’t a quote, in what way is it influenced by GMac?



No but MacDonald was open to the beauty and paradoxes of nature. And it influenced John Piper and that influenced me. I realize John Piper was also influenced by Jonathan Edwards and G.K. Chesterton. But Chesterton is the Prince of Paradox. It’s a fused together Beauty. But hey, it comes from the Bible and is part of the beauty and wonders of the world. This is also found in the Catholic Fr. Lagrange’s book “Providence”. He was a teacher of Pope John Paul II. Nonetheless, he says the same thing as Piper. He gives a different list of opposites (paradoxes) than Piper though. Except for mercy and justice.


“And when he comes to be more carefully studied as a mystic, as I think he will be when people discover the possibility of collecting jewels scattered in a rather irregular setting, it will be found, I fancy, that he stands for a rather important turning point in the history of Christendom, as representing the particular Christian nation of the Scots. As protestants speak of the morning stars of the reformation, we may be allowed to note such names here and there as morning stars of the reunion.” - G.K. Chesterton on George MacDonald, Introduction George MacDonald and His Wife, Greville M. MacDonald, 1924


Nice paradox by MacDonald

A beast does not know that he is a beast,
and the nearer a man gets to being a beast,
the less he knows it.


The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts. ~~ G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy