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George MacDonald (4) – Freedom to love

May 12, 2009

Freedom is a vital element in George MacDonald’s theology. There is never any real personal evil without the freedom to choose good or evil. This is why MacDonald reacted so strongly against the theories of election and predestination preached by his co-religionists and which surrounded him as he grew up. 

He loved Robert Burns (as I do), and I imagine one of his favourite poems must have been “Holy Willie’s Prayer” with its brilliant self-condemnation of the sanctimonious Willie, an elder of the Kirk, smugly sure of his election to heaven, and all the more content because of the horrible fate in store for the vast majority of mankind!

O Thou, wha in the heavens dost dwell,

Wha, as it pleases best thysel,

Sends ane to heaven, and ten to hell,

A’ for thy glory,

And no for any guid or ill

They’ve done afore thee!”

 

Compare this with the humble but confident prayers of David Elginbrod in the  novel of the same name. A gulf of charity lies between them. One of the clues to George MacDonald’s hatred of doctrines such as election, and predestination, which involve blind submission to the inscrutable decrees of a distant God, lies in the epitaph which struck him with the force of revelation when he first saw it, and from which came the character and novel, David Elginbrod. It went:

“Here lie I, Martin Elginbrodde:

Hae mercy on my soul, Lord God;

As I wad do, were I Lord God,

And ye were Martin Elginbrodde”

Could a man be more loving and forgiving and understanding than God? A thousand times No, says MacDonald.

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