The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Modernised George MacDonald Sermon - Justice

Hi all

I have recently discovered George MacDonald and have decided that until I find out of such a thing already existing, I am going to set about modernising his entire Unspoken Sermons. I’ve found that for myself, modernising them helps them hit home even more (if that were possible), and I think they might make it possible for some others who wouldn’t normally wade through some of the longer sentences to appreciate him. I’ll add them here as PDF attachments.

Each one takes a number of hours to do. I would appreciate any comments people have, either positive or negative, but always constructive! I would suggest reading through his original sermon first, and then reading my translation. Things I’m interested in knowing: what sort of difference did it make? Were some things able to be understood better? Do you think I’ve still captured the heart of what he wrote?

I hope they might be a blessing to some.

I begin with (apparently) his most famous sermon - Justice.

translation Series 3 - Justice.pdf (157 KB)

I’ve done much the same thing here already on the forum, though due to time and energy constraints I stopped before getting quite all the way through Volume 2. (For readers who don’t know, MacD’s famous sermon on “Justice”, which has huge relevance to his universalism, comes from Vol 3.)

The most recent one I did can be found here, and I think links can be tracked back all the way through the first sermon of Vol 1. But I don’t recall ever making a title page collecting the links together.

Another one of our newer members, David Baldwin, has been part of a project transferring MacD’s sermons to audio-visual presentation of the text on YouTube. I don’t recall how far he’s gotten (and it’s the full original text, not edited/formatted to make it a bit easier for modern readers to follow), but he updates the thread occasionally here.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for posting other transcriptions and/or modernizations, though. :smiley: Especially since the other two sets are in different sub-categories.

I’m only about 1/3 through your version of Justice, but wanted to say I think you’ve done a good job with it. Thanks!

I didn’t realize you were modifying the Unspoken Sermons–just thought you were just posting it up in bits! :wink:


Thanks Sonia. Glad it’s looking good so far!

I’m only up to page 2 but I think it’s good too :sunglasses:

I want to thank you rline. I’ve been reading your update of ‘Justice’ and I’ve been savoring every sentence. I’ve been too busy to give it the meditation it requires but hope to have more time this next week. Thank you for being a blessing to me.

Did George MacDonald believe in some form of reincarnation? … rgiven.htm

Pilgrim wrote:

It’s a real pleasure! I found that when I was “translating it”, things just kept coming alive to me, and so I thought that they might also to others. I hope the rest of the sermon is as enlivening to you.

Michael wrote:

I’ve never read this before (I haven’t read a large amount of MacDonald, but my opinion, for what it’s worth, is probably not. Mind you, it’s very interesting, and you could see how people might read that into it. I think MacDonald uses an awful lot of pictures and figures of speech to make his points; this is one of them. His “in some other world” might refer to hell. In Justice at least, he certainly seems to believe that people will be making amends for their sin in hell, whatever that means! That they will be learning to love purely and perfectly.

Of course, it’s also possible that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Perhaps wiser (and more acquainted with GM) heads could comment.

I read it and loved it too! At times I had to double check and see what was the point of something GM was saying because he states things to make a point, but it’s not his conclusion. Sometimes he comes outright and says what he thinks and at other times he doesn’t and asks a lot of questions, some of them sarcastic. Maybe that’s just me reading it like that?

Reading this article gets me fired up about why I don’t like penal substitution.It doesn’t make sense of God’s justice. GM puzzles me with his passion for clearing up the false ideas of penal substitution, even saying he’d rather hang out with wild animals that can’t reason, and , at the same time, saying he’s not out to try to convince people, but help people along that feel burdened by this understanding of justice. How can he feel so strongly against penal substitution and not want to convince people it’s wrong? I guess he thinks it won’t be beneficial if people aren’t already ready to question certain ideas? It has me asking myself, how damaging is this belief in penal substitution? Is it harmelss or does it have harmful effects for how people view God and what he is doing?

Amy wrote:

I just this morning read about Elhanan Winchester and his method of discussion and argument. It was quite humbling as my natural tendency is to try drum people into submission (based of course on the importance of the truth being known). Here’s what he said:

I was more afraid of myself than my antagonists. I feared lest I should in any instance return railing for railing, or that a spark of wrath, pride or contempt should arise in my heart while defending what appeared to me to be the truth of God. And I considered it a million times better that my name and character should be trampled under foot, and despised, than that my soul should be hurt by those evil tempers before-mentioned, the innocent cause of Religion be reproached through my means, the name of that God whom I profess to love and serve, be dishonored, and fresh cause of stumbling given to mankind.

Amy wrote:

I have only just come to be aware of the idea that penal substitution might be wrong! I would be really interested in hearing other people’s ideas on this.

Same here, this morning I was reading about it on :slight_smile:

I mostly talked about it in my notes to the first transcript; although I tacitly mention it at the beginning of every transcript by saying “Most of the preceding sermon can be found here [linking to the previous transcription], while a full version can be found for free here [linking to an American publisher].”

My alterations fell into the following categories:

1.) adding paragraph breaks (by far the most extensive alterations);

2.) clarifying the pronoun trails by putting nouns back in place of some pronouns (and putting divine caps on others);

3.) adding a bit of formatting for emphasis;

4.) omitting a paragraph on rare occasion where MacD goes off on some tangential material that I thought would generate too much technical controversy, distracting from his main point. (This happened very rarely, and I signalled such omission by means of bracketed ellipses like this …].)

At the beginning I think I recall not quoting his scripture referent for the sermon, but that was a stylistic choice. Eventually I started doing it when he began referring to the scripture immediately without subsequently introducing it.

Thank you for posting this Alex! I think this is probably exactly what I needed to hear. So many theologies these days causing me such angst like limited election, atonement, penal substitution as justice, and God’s love that will give up on a great many. I haven’t quite known what to do with my frustrations over hearing such, in my opinion, terrible doctrines. How do I get excited with people in my congregation that are celebrating them? In the end it will all be clear, but what to do with myself until then? As a result, I can really relate to what Winchester is saying about pride and contempt entering our heart. And I certainly don’t want to do anything to dishonor God and cause others not to be able to see his wonder. I probably just need to be silent and find reasons to rejoice with others where I can.

Rline and Alex, I recently ran into this link, about the Christus Victor view of the cross vs. penal substitution, and have enjoyed reading it, especially Part 4. It’s the understanding the cross link to the right. … hurch.html

Amy, Penal Substitution is another evangelical “sacred cow” which (like ECT) has very questionable roots and hardly any biblical support when you look into it. Derek Flood’s article at
At the end of the day both PS and ECT should be rejected because they rely on a picture of God more evil than the worst human beings. For this reason alone it is hard to avoid the conclusion that these doctrines are blasphemous.

Thanks so much, Rline, for modernizing “Justice”! It is one of my favourite passages in all of GMD’s works!
I have saved your work, I will treasure it, and will share it with others.

Thanks again!


Thanks Paidion for your encouraging words. I also found it enlightening and challenging as I was translating it.

Revdrew61, I got that link from you when I just happened upon it from one of your posts from a long time ago. So happy to have found it! :stuck_out_tongue: Just so happens it’s right around the time I’m reading Rline’s Justice from George MacDonald. They go so well together! What great timing! Your assessment that ECT and PS, both, rely on a not so great God seems to be George MacDonald’s same assessment. I think much of the church has common ways of thinking to keep them in the zone of approving these doctrines. I have not always rejected them, but, the further out I get, I wonder what in the world was I thinking?! :open_mouth: I am amazed that taking a closer look now, especially at the penal substitution texts, they are not so penal after all. Jesus died so that we would be drawn to him, have a righteousness in us, etc. It’s all still a bit new to me so I am still working out exactly what is different about Jesus and his accomplishment for us.

We will probably get told off for hijacking rline’s thread, so, for the record, I love GM’s unspoken sermons too and its great to have them available in modern English! Thanks rline :sunglasses:
And thanks Amy - I’m glad that link was a help. Another brilliant resource for unpicking what’s wrong with PS is a collection of essays called “Stricken by God?” edited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin. Several of the contributors are also against ECT. One of them, Sharon Baker, recently brought out a very good book called “Razing Hell”. I think several of the doctrines which are now being questioned came to prominence as a result of Christianity becoming the official religion of the empire, instead of being subversive of empire. So doctrinal differences came to be decided by the sword and christianity was corrupted into a tool for scaring the masses into obedience. If this theory - and I’m by no means the only person to hold it - is correct, it may explain why these doctrines appear so clumsy and inappropriate in a post-christendom world. We need to get back to a true understanding of God’s love and justice… which takes us back to George MacDonald and kindred spirits. :smiley:

Hey revdrew61, I don’t consider it a hijacking! I’m intrigued by the whole thing. I have to confess I feel a little like Neo who comes out of the matrix and wakes up in the real world. For the first time, I’m being confronted with a lot of stuff which I never even thought of. It’s liberating, it’s scary and it’s challenging. But I took the red pill because I wanted to know the truth! To be made aware that not only is penal substitution not the only theory of atonement, but also that it may be completely wrong, is difficult to accept! I do remember in Bible college, though, having a page which listed out 7 different theories of the atonement. Obviously, they took the penal sub view and so I never even considered the others. I might have a look at my notes now…