Mondays with MacDonald (on the obedience of Jesus)

Not all the sovereignty of God, as the theologians call it, delegated to the Son, and administered by the wisdom of the Spirit that was given to him without measure, could have wrought the kingdom of heaven in one corner of our earth. Nothing but the obedience of the Son, the obedience unto the death, the absolute doing of the will of God because it was the truth, could redeem the prisoner, the widow, the orphan. But it would redeem them by redeeming the conquest-ridden conqueror too, the stripe-giving jailer, the unjust judge, the devouring Pharisee himself with the insatiable moth-eaten heart. The earth should be free because Love was stronger than Death. Therefore should fierceness and wrong and hypocrisy and God-service play out their weary play. He would not pluck the spreading branches of the tree; he would lay the axe to its root. It would take time; but the tree would be dead at last—dead, and cast into the lake of fire. It would take time; but his Father had time enough and to spare. It would take courage and strength and self-denial and endurance; but his Father could give him all. It would cost pain of body and mind, yea, agony and torture; but those he was ready to take on himself. It would cost him the vision of many sad and, to all but him, hopeless sights; he must see tears without wiping them, hear sighs without changing them into laughter, see the dead lie, and let them lie; see Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted; he must look on his brothers and sisters crying as children over their broken toys, and must not mend them; he must go on to the grave, and they not know that thus he was setting all things right for them. His work must be one with and completing God’s Creation and God’s History. The disappointment and sorrow and fear he could, he would bear. The will of God should be done. Man should be free,—not merely man as he thinks of himself, but man as God thinks of him. The divine idea shall be set free in the divine bosom; the man on earth shall see his angel face to face. He shall grow into the likeness of the divine thought, free not in his own fancy, but in absolute divine fact of being, as in God’s idea. The great and beautiful and perfect will of God must be done.

by George MacDonald
from Unspoken Sermons, vol. 1, “The Temptation in the Wilderness”

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  • So a mystical salvation of the world though not at all eschatological?

    • I’d say the kind of salvation he wrote of in the quote above refers to what is brought about by a spiritually generated motivation to defy the systems of the world that we most need salvation from: oppression and selfishness in all their forms. In MacDonald, Jesus is not our salvation until we follow his example – not at all unlike Abelard’s “moral influence” version of the atonement – but more than just following his example, we are somehow (“mystically”?) empowered by Christ’s act.

      MacDonald did not to my limited knowledge discuss a punctiliar eschaton or end of the world scenario; he most certainly did not hang much of his theology upon the idea. He did believe in a time in each individual’s future in which every tear would be wiped away and all our travails would be but a painless memory, but he believed that this salvation had to come to all alike or it would be incomplete.