Piper & Keller love Lewis but say George MacDonald non-Xtian


Going back to a previous question from Caleb: I’m at the house right now, not where my materials are, but MacD did not believe that Adam’s sin simply set a bad example and that Christ’s righteousness simply set a good example offering a path to salvation by works. Even in the sermon where he was (quite correctly) explaining that the Greek term behind what we translate (sometimes) as “imputation” means correct accounting (not false accounting) of a person’s righteousness, he stressed that Abraham’s righteousness would never have satisfied St. Paul, nor did he think it would have even satisfied Abraham.

MacD does strongly stress obeying Jesus Christ, and that nothing less than fully obeying Jesus Christ can be full righteousness for a creature. He does not mean by this that someone can earn their own salvation by obeying Jesus Christ (no more than any Calvinist has ever claimed), nor does he mean that some people manage to stay free from sin by obeying Jesus Christ through an act of will and proper knowledge. (He may allow that for unfallen angels, but not for humans; and even for unfallen angels he does NOT mean that they convince God to regard them as righteous by their obedience as though they are appealing to a standard greater than God which God is obligated to acknowledge and properly judge them on.)

MacD also observes that Christ can and does count obedience to Himself in ways which religious legalists, trying to find salvation in right belief, would never imagine, thus that Christ can regard as faithful servants people who do not recognize yet that they have been serving Christ. But MacD does not mean by this that those people have earned their salvation from sin (or even merely from punishment) by doing good works which convince Christ that they are ‘good enough’; nor does he mean such people don’t have to ‘be more righteous’ than they currently are. The loving father is pleased to see even stumbling steps in his child, but cannot be satisfied with less than a fully healthy walk and run; consequently the loving and perfect Father constantly acts toward bringing about that result in the child, and acts toward bringing about the full and willing cooperation from the child: the child does not convince the Father to act in this regard by the child’s choice to cooperate, the Father is acting toward that result of the child’s cooperation from the beginning.

MacD repeatedly rejects the notion of merit. He does affirm deservedness, including that we (even as sinners) deserve love from God, but his ideas of what we deserve from God are utterly rooted in the foundational reality of God and God alone (and includes deserving the last extent of hell from God! – if that’s what we insist upon as sinners to lead us to stop sinning eventually.) His idea of desert excludes the notion of merit, as cleanly as any Calvinist could properly want, even though he and the Calvinist would disagree strongly about us deserving anything at all from God. (Or deserving anything other than hateful condemnation from God, perhaps I should say – Calvs don’t usually have a problem acknowledging such a deservedness as that. :wink: )


so…not a Pelagian then?

obviously people shouldn’t accuse others of having dodgy doctrinal stances if they only read up to the treatment of Jonathan Edward’s portrait of God and neglected to keep going.



Thank you, Jason!

As a lover of MacDonald’s teachings concerning salvation from sin as a process made possible by the sacrifice of Christ, his stress on obeying Christ and trying to please Him, and God’s plan of the ages to save all of mankind, I appreciate your understanding of the dear brother’s stance. Furthermore his life bore testimony to all that he taught.


Last week a judge in Britain sentenced 27-year-old Magdelena Luczak and 34-year-old Mariusz Krezolek to life imprisonment for the murder of Magdelena’s son Daniel, with a stipulation that they serve a minimum of 30 years before they could be considered for parole.

Daniel had suffered months of cruelty and starvation before his death. He weighed barely 20lbs when he died, and had been reduced to scavenging in bins because he wasn’t give enough to eat. His mother and stepfather did, though, force feed him salt as part of the regime of brutality they inflicted on him. When Daniel died his body was covered in more than 80 bruises. One of his arms had been snapped clean in half by his stepfather. He died slowly from the effects of a blow to the head. His mother and stepfather left him in a coma and went to sleep.

Daniel Pelka was four years old.

The god John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards believed in, and John Piper and Tim Keller continue to believe in, willed Daniel’s suffering and death. He decreed that it would happen before the world began. It was part of his holy and righteous plan for the universe:

“God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” (Westminster Confession of Faith)

One might ask why such a thing had to be the case – why an innocent four-year-old had to suffer torture and murder. Jonathan Edwards has the answer:

“… it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.”

So there you have it. Daniel Pelka had to be tortured and killed so that “God’s glory” could “shine out”.

I daresay many Calvinists would have a problem with this. Not John Piper. He accepts Daniel’s torture and death without question, because it is the will of the sovereign god he believes in. Says John, “It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.”

Still, it is possible, according to Piper’s worldview, that Daniel is one of “the elect”, in which case we can hope he has gone to a better place.

But then again, perhaps he is one of those souls who the god of Calvin and Keller and Edwards and Piper has “foreordained to everlasting death”, in which case his four short years on this earth will have been a mere bagatelle compared to the eternity of torment that awaits him, “for the manifestation of [God’s] glory”.


Hi Johnny :slight_smile: Nice to hear you distinctive voice again :laughing: Hope everything is OK with you old chap? I’ve just decided that you argue like Ivan Karamazov does :slight_smile: Can I call you ‘Ivan’ - and when he was good he was very very good and when he was bad he was ‘Ivan the Terrible’ :wink: :laughing:


Dick :slight_smile:



You dear, sweet man. You can call me anything you like, my dear old thing :smiley: . We’re going to win the Ashes in about two hours …

I have been reading along but deliberately refraining from posting on this thread as I don’t want to get into any more fights here. I am weary of battle. But I was reading about the Daniel Pelka case on the train this morning, and it struck me like a bolt of lightning that this is the reality of hard Calvinist predestination, and of the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty - as espoused by both Edwards and Piper. I’m sorry if any Calvinists reading this find that unpalatable truth hard to stomach, but truth it undoubtedly is.

You know, in some respects I admire Piper. At least he doesn’t (normally) soft soap his hard Calvinistic determinism in duplicitously Arminian language - as do, say, Tim Keller or my old mate Mark Driscoll. And he’s openly admitted that if his god ordained his (Piper’s) own children as reprobate, and hence condemned them to ECT, he would accept that. I guess that indicates that he has succeeded in doing something which all the ex-Calvinists here have failed to do, ie cauterising his conscience. Funny thing grace isn’t it?




Although the language is inflammatory, I largely agree with Johnny. Though I think the charge against God is wider than just determining … I feel that similar charges could be laid at the foot of any God who ‘foreknows’, ‘permits’, ‘permissively wills’, such horrors, thus encompassing Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists … :frowning:

Certainly don’t want to discuss those things here. Just nodding a broad agreement with Johnny.


Hi Johnny  and Pog 

I have every sympathy what you say. For the purposes of the site - and to be all thing to all men – I reckon this is a tricky one.

I don’t know any Calvinists at the moment. It is a minority pastime in England for historical reasons (and it’s not that big in Scotland anymore, for historical reasons0, if you want to meet Calvinists in the UK in any numbers you have to go to North Wales or the North of Ireland. I guess it’s easy to get lathered up over talking heads – especially Mark Driscoll. But it is a far more delicate matter if you have Calvinists who are friends and neighbours. So we need to be sensitive about this.

I think Jason it right in his approach on how to debate lovingly with a Calvinist (well a TULUP Calvinists I guess). Start from shared principles and reach out from there to try and establish an understanding of why it is a partial model of God that double predestination limited atonement Calvinism preaches. This is especially true of those who are really having second thoughts about Calvinism rather than coming on this site to disrupt and hector and scoff even if done charmingly.
When it comes to people having some beliefs that are disturbing I think we also need to be aware that these beliefs are often what Quakers would call ‘notional’ beliefs rather than what they truly believe in their hearts and what truly informs the ground of their faith. I truly believe that it is not assent to doctrine and creeds be they ever so soundly worded that make someone a Christian but rather their conformity to the Spirit of love which you know by their deeds

But I also think it is necessary at other times to express some of the visceral recoil from the doctrine of double predestination. I think it is important that people who still have issues with TULIP Calvinism are allowed to do this – with some people it’s not just a case that they’ve been ‘hurt’ as if they, say, have been dumped unceremoniously by their girlfriend or boyfriend – its’ a case that they’ve been driven to the edge of despair and felt so worthless or afraid for their loved ones because of thoughts about double reprobation that they have almost been driven to suicide. We must protect these people when they turn up here.

I think I was necessary to defend our GMD here too.

But we must live for something rather than against something I think.

At times I think it is necessary to point out what the doctrine that God hates most people has meant historically. Especially if we’re getting some hassle. I think any charges of Satanism against extreme Calvinists are probably unhelpful – you need to say what you mean by this. You don’t mean they are Satanists – but they hear that you do mean this because ‘Satanism’ is a very exciting and emotionally charged word.

As far as the charges against John Calvin go – I think there are real reasons to think that he lost his way and as his doctrine of double predestination hardened whatever the cause and effect was (I find it very amusing to learn that young John was up before dear of Martin Bucer on a charge of anti-Trinitarianism. But I guess calling Calvin simply a murdered is a bit like calling Mohammed a Paedophile – it will just give offence and those addressed will not be able to hear the concern behind the words.

However, there are lot of different kinds of Calvinists – and we must make valid distinctions and clarify distinctions when speaking to Calvinists (some of whom will be very close to us anyway). If I’m anxious to give this broad charity to Muslims I should also be anxious to give it to Calvinists. I’ve seen the analogy made here between Calvinism and Islam, and Pilgrim makes it above. For me the important thing is if a person’s Calvinistic beliefs incline towards Caesaro Popism (or theocracy). The same goes for Muslims. Now we don’t get any Muslims on this site at the moment so it’s not good to try and get identity from loathing Muslims – it’s not loving. However, if we got one of the ‘Greetings Kaffir’ brigade on here I’d be as hard on their trail as anyone. I wouldn’t just recommend to them our God made vulnerable – I’d tell them to wise up to the benefits of separation Church and State to the benefits they so undeservedly derive from this; and tell them that Mohammed Caesero Popism phase compromised his earlier message IMHO. Likewise with a Rushdooney type Calvinist. They are a small minority – but need to be named so they remain a small minority. Calvinist theocratic thinking is largely a thing of the past – that’s what gives me hope that Muslims of good will can indeed adapt to democracy.

However, when I see a flash advert for a Rushdonney acolyte about the necessity for Christians to be armed to fight the enemies of God in line with Bezae’s resistance theory and to establish theocracy – at that point I find it hard to be temperate (and it happened here on this site – and if you are reading Pilgrim it was this sort of practical sectarian Calvinism that I thought had no part in a debate here (although I’ve no idea whether the person doing the flash advert realised what they were up to); so you can forgive with understanding about this).

So it’s a difficult one – different styles for different people on different threads I guess. And discernment is required between naivety and hostility.

Love to all



Hi Dick
Yes I’m reading and I hear you brother. Thank you for your input. I’m confident that you are aware of my position on this topic. I happen to believe that we show respect to those of ‘other’ persuasions by admitting and accepting differences where they are clear and stark. This is the case with the beliefs of Piper and Kelly.
I might give a list of commonalities between iron pyrite and gold but I would be fooling only myself if I tried to convince anyone that they are of the same essence. This is why I maintain that Piper and I worship entirely different gods (something on which I am sure they would agree). The two gods are different in essence. One is cruel and capricious by almost any rational person’s standards, and the other is Love it/Himself.
I also believe the texts which tell me that we were once made in the image of the god we try to serve and, as we try to serve Him, we are changed into His likeness. This is what is so very dangerous about the doctrine and why it is of no surprise that Piper/Kelly would deny MacDonald the possibility of salvation whilst I (on the other hand) regard Piper/Kelly as ultimately saved.
I balk at the idea (mentioned in this thread) that I should be or am in any way ‘better’ than Piper or Kelly. I think this once again shows far more disrespect to them than anything I might believe. We are all works in progress and we start from different positions. It is just not good enough to defame GMD by saying that he was using emotional hyperbole nor is it good testimony to imagine that, because some of us happen to have a different stance on this issue that we must be venting off steam. This is the same sort of disrespect that I feel is being shown to Piper and Kelly by those who want to believe that we share the same faith. Let’s take their word for it that we are of different faiths- I do and I don’t doubt their sincerity. May God preserve their honesty and integrity.
On the matter of one’s approach to those of a Calvinistic persuasion, I can understand the idea of positing a shared foundation only if one believes that what is required is evolution rather than revolution. I happen to believe that it is a revolution in belief that is necessary for one to make the transition from Calvinism to genuine relationship with the other God.
You mention the lack of Calvinistic belief in the UK and I accept both your superior knowledge on the matter and the foothold Calvinism has gained in the States but I wonder if you are fully aware of the (rather red-faced) Calvinism that is extremely popular amongst conservative evangelical anglicans and its colleges or the widespread Calvinism in FIEC churches here in Blighty (not to mention the influence of Philip Jenson in Sydney Australia).
The Calvinistic approach has done and is doing great damage amongst my non-christian friends and colleagues. I need not remind you of the influence it has had in history (e.g. apartheid South Africa ) nor do I consider it coincidence that Wesley (the Arminianist) happened to be abolitionist whilst his contemporary Whitfield (Calvinist) was pro-slavery.
I am of the persuaion that we generally ARE what we believe but your point of ‘notional’ beliefs is well made and accepted without hesitation. I am absolutely certain that many hundreds of congregants in England sit silently absorbing Calvinistic sermons on a weekly basis without actually taking the smallest step down that evil path to perdition.
As for my reference to Islam, I am sure that you are familiar with the work of the Sufi mystic Jalaludin Rumi? All I can say is that my Spirit leapt for joy when I first encountered him knowing that I had met a fellow traveler and co-worshipper of the ONe True God who is Unconditional Love.
God bless you my friend and thank you once again for your thoughtful input in this thread. I am away from t’internet for a day or so.


Hi Pilgrim – what a lovely reply -
Actually I may read a lot and have a retentive memory but I was wobbling here. Yes just because I don’t mix in those circles in the Anglican Church (I’m sort of liberal Catholic plus Quaker) you are right they do have an influence in Blighty among conservative Anglicans (isn’t there an angry club called REFORM). And yes Apathied and Dutch colonialism in all its terribleness was very much fuelled by Dutch Calvinism (Kuyper’s ideas of ‘pillarisation’ or ghettoised social pluralism– separate development for Catholics, secularists, non-Calvinist protestants, and Calvinists in Holland - plus a bit of racism – which infected Kuper but was ramped up more when it left the shores of Holland for the colonies– produced Apartheid. Likewise Cornelius van Til’s thinking informs Rushdooney and co. And yes Calvinism had no resources to think through abolition and to question biblical slavery. Even Wilberforce and the Clapham sect in England only took up the cause because others had laid the foundations from non-Calvinist assumptions (and Wilberforce’s role has been overplayed in evangelical propaganda – many people other than Wilberforce contributed equally to abolition in England and the Quakers started the ball rolling a hundred years before Wilberforce and when the cause was not fashionable and evoked disdain and derision.
I’ve heard about the Sydney Anglicans- Alex is very kind about them
Believe me I suffered as an impressionable young man who had lost his way from being lent books by the Rookmaaker, Schaeffer and Van Til that simply took my head apart and it took three years before it came back together again. But whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I love what I’ve read of Rumi… I can even remember a few lines in translation –

Come, come whoever you are
Wanderer, Worshipper, Lover of leaving
It doesn’t matter
For ours is not a caravan of despair;
Come and again come even if you have broken your vow a thousand times.

Although in the world a thousand tasks thou triest
'Tis love alone that from thyself will save thee

Now he was a Sufi Universalist – and when he died Muslims, Christians and Jews turned out in equal numbers to mourn a beloved teacher.

All the best



This is very helpful Jason. So I get the gist that the “Pelagian” or “Semi-Pelgian” accusations I hear from time to time are usually from Protestants who are really saying that it’s too “Catholic”, too works-oriented.

It seems that the Reformers, in emphasizing grace and de-emphasizing works, did this as a response, (in many ways proper) to excesses in Catholocism. Consequently they tend to respond towards everything from a grace-not-works paradigm and completely miss the point, and in trying to be more Biblical, swing too far to the other end of the spectrum and swing away from the spirit of scripture. I think MacDonald is much more biblical about this.

I feel like in many ways, at least in my life , the works thing takes care of itself. For example, if I start becoming more obedient to Christ in my life, often times it will go too far and that subtle pride kicks in. But that’s okay, because as I see my pride, I end up being humbled. Sometimes I recognize it and am humbled sooner, sometimes later.

You see this in Peter too, how confident he was that he would stay with Christ to the end, but ended up being quite humbled, but God used it for his good.

For from Him and too Him and through Him are all things!!!



So to be fair, it was Keller who accused GMac of being a Pelagian and Piper who couldn’t finish reading the book. I have no idea how extensively Keller has read GMac, though he did praise some of his children’s works (ie Princess and Curdie). He also said he was good at writing short bits of wisdom…don’t know if he is referring to Diary of an Old Soul.



If I recall correctly from a previous seminal article of John Piper on the topic, JP was reading Lewis’ MacDonald Anthology, and agreeing heartily along until he reached that quote from the “Justice” Sermon. At that point he just reflexively quit reading. I am not aware that he has read any actual work from MacD. (He could have hardly been reading even Vol3 of Unspoken Sermons without running into anti-Calvinistic statements before that “Justice” sermon. :wink: )


Keller said MacDonald wasn’t a Christian. Piper hesitated and never claimed MacDonald wasn’t a Christian.

It seems that Piper’s beef with MacDonald is over his views of hell and atonement. Piper never claims MacDonald wasn’t a Christian though.


In one of his written sermons, George MacDonald mentioned Christian thinkers who in heaven have repudiated their former mistaken beliefs. I wish I had the passage with me. If I recall correctly, MacDonald was basically saying, “To those who will quote past Christian authorities against me, you needn’t believe them yourself, because these authorities have long since themselves abandoned their errors.”


Pilgrim made good points at the beginning of the post.

I think that no unity is possible with CONSISTENT Calvinists:
lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/201 … alvinists/

Should we hate them? Of course not, this is a temptation we ought to resist.


I found the passage of which I was thinking. It is in George MacDonald’s sermon “Justice”, found in his third volume of Unspoken Sermons. This is arguably MacDonald’s finest sermon. Here is the passage with some of my own bolding:


As someone who immersed himself in Lewis’s writings earlier in life, and has done the same with MacDonald’s more recently, I have come to believe something that some of you may be able to assent to: I believe Lewis theologically neutered his so called “Master.” I believe, further, that this is why he is so palatable to the average Evangelical (whether Calvinist or Arminian), and why MacDonald never will be. As you all know, Lewis said he probably never wrote a book in which he didn’t at least unconsciously quote or paraphrase MacDonald. That may be, but consciously or not, the deepest spirit of MacDonald never found a comfortable place to rest in those books, in my opinion.


Hello and welcome, alatecomer! :smiley:

I agree 100% with what you say about Lewis “neutering” MacDonald theologically. I posted this on another thread [George MacDonald: Views on Politics and Pacifism?) recently which you might be interested in, mainly for the quotes from Catherine Durie.

There’s much more, of course, in her essay and I think she (and I) would also agree with you when you said:

Glad to have you here and would love to hear more about you and your journey on an “Introductions” thread! :smiley:

All the best,



The ironic thing about these guys claiming that Lewis somehow accommodated MacDonald due to the former’s ‘great generosity’ (rather than regarding him as his ‘master’ which even Piper and Keller must know is the truth) is that MacDonald is really the one they should be praising for his generosity: he was far kinder to the Pipers and Kellers of his own day than they are to him. But then his theology allows him to be. Lewis himself makes reference to this in the preface to his ‘George MacDonald: an anthology’, saying that GM, unlike most who reject Calvinism, did not also reject the whole way of life associated with it, and that, with reservations, he saw elements of real worth in what he was rejecting (not in the system of Calvinism necessarily, which he abhorred, but in certain elements present in Scottish Calvinist tradition which were true to genuine Christianity.)

A greater insight into MacDonald’s theology, and how it was shaped by his emancipation from the Scottish Calvinism in which he was raised can be found in his semi-autobiographical novel, Robert Falconer’, which I translated from broad Scots into English last year. As Lewis again says in the intro to his GM anthology, the Calvinist grannie in the story is based on George’s own grandmother ‘a truly terrible old woman’, and the burning of the fiddle (as a snare of the devil), depicted on the front cover of my translation, was a true incident taken from her history.

Jonathan Edwards is also mentioned by name in ‘Robert Falconer’, not quite as scathingly as in the quote to which Piper is referring (which is taken from GM’s sermon ‘Justice’) but still hardly in complimentary terms: “When she (Robert’s grannie) said that God was light, instead of concluding therefrom that he could not do the deeds of darkness, she was driven, from a faith in the teaching of Jonathan Edwards as implicit as any ‘lay papist of Loretto’, to doubt whether the deeds of darkness were not after all deeds of light, or at least to conclude that their character depended not on their own nature, but on who did them.”

Here’s a link to the ‘Robert Falconer’ translation, for anyone interested in the formation of MacDonald’s outlook

worksofmacdonald.com/product … t-falconer