Forget Your False Teachers

I got a Kindle for Christmas this year. I like it, but I still prefer regular books. Probably always will.

The reason I got the Kindle is because you can get all of George MacDonald's works for free or practically free. My plan for the Kindle was to get back into the novels of MacDonald. It's been years since I'd read one. But which one to read first?

I picked Donal Grant as he was the character that stuck with me the most all these years. Perhaps because he was a scholar/tutor. So, a quote for your weekend, from the novel Donal Grant:

Those who seek God with their faces not even turned towards him, who, instead of beholding the Father in the Son, take the stupidest opinions concerning him and his ways from other men--what should they do but go wandering on dark mountains, spending their strength in avoiding precipices and getting out of bogs, mourning and sighing over their sins instead of leaving them behind and fleeing to the Father, whom to know is eternal life. Did they but set themselves to find out what Christ knew and meant and commanded, and then to do it, they would soon forget their false teachers. But alas! they go on bowing before long-faced, big-worded authority--the more fatally when it is embodied in a good man who, himself a victim to faith in men, sees the Son of God only through the theories of others, and not with the sight of his own spiritual eyes.
This quote captures one the greatest lessons I've taken from MacDonald. Following Jesus--obedience to the Master as MacDonald would put it--is the truest path to good theology, orthodoxy, truth, doctrine, and understanding. Behold the Father in the Son and leave the stupid opinions behind. Set yourself to find out what Christ knew, meant and commanded, and then do it, and forget your false teachers.

Insights that changed my life in college.

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26 thoughts on “Forget Your False Teachers”

  1. Thank you very much for introducing George MacDonald to me. Over the Christmas I've been reading Adela Cathcart and I found it very fascinating.

    On the Kindle I recommend: And thank you for a very interesting blog.One of your readers from Sweden

  2. After all the degrees, sermons, books, etc it seems it boils down to this - do I hear His Voice? And hearing it, will I let His Spirit empower me to obey? I love the apostle Paul's one sentence summary of the whole shebang - "since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit!"

  3. Yes, and I'm the last person who would want to throw education and theology under the bus. The key for me is hermeneutical. I filter everything through Jesus--as MacDonald says "beholding the Father in the Son"--as I follow him in my life. Simplest examples: I look at my heart when I'm loving my children or visiting the men in prison. And I ask myself: As I love others as Jesus commanded me, what am I learning about the heart of God? Because I can't know God until I start loving like God. And the lessons I learn this way become primary. All theology is then filtered through those "heart lessons."

  4. I downloaded that exact thing. 50+ works of MacDonald for $1.99.

    I calculated it like this:

    Option #1: (Buying 50 MacDonald books) x ($20 per book) = $1,000

    Option #2: (Buying Kindle for $79) + (Buying 50 MacDonald books for $1.99) = $80.99

  5. One of our elders (PhD in Theology) was teaching at the training school at the church the other night...he was teaching on the scriptures (he translates the Bible full-time)...and I asked someone "what was the main thing from the teaching?"  He said that everyone wants to go "deep" and get to the "meat" of the word and our great need is look to Jesus and do what He says.  Like MacDonald, there are so many other things that could be said, but we are best calibrated by looking first to the voice and not the different echoes.  

    Thanks for the thoughts Richard.  I'm gonna give this one by MacDonald a try.  Is this the best one to start with if I haven't read a MacDonald novel before?  Any thoughts? 

  6. I've found that it's hard to recommend novels. Your ability to relate to the characters is key. For some reason I resonated with Donal because of his bookishness.

    Beyond that, a couple of head's up about the novels:

    1. They aren't great literature. They're sort of like Victorian gothic romances. The main reason you read the novels is less for the plot than for 1) the theological nuggets sprinkled throughout and the 2) humble, natural holiness of the lead characters.

    2. The original novels have a lot of Scottish dialect in them. This can be hard going. You might find it delightful or off-putting. If you want to get around the dialect completely the best bet is to find the edited version of the novel by Michael Philips.

    That said, my two favorite novels are Donal Grant (Philip's version: The Shepherd's Castle) and What's Mine is Mine (Philip's version: The Highlander's Last Song). I read both in the edited version in college. I'm finding the original version of Donal Grant doesn't have too much dialect. But What's Mine is Mine might have a lot more as it's set in the Scottish highlands. So beware that.

  7. Humbug!  Did you think of giving the difference to the poor?  (Wow, and I thought I had overcome my inner Judas.)

    MacDonald is well worth hacking through the gorse.  (And by the way, Gorse is a musical group you might want to check out if you haven't.)Blessings!

  8. Great quote from the book. MacDonald obviously understood well what the scriptures mean when they talk about the "traditions of men"-- the "stupidest opinions concerning him and his ways. "

  9. The Parish Papers Trilogy (that's the edited version title for the threesome - I don't remember individual titles) were some of my favorites, because the way MacDonald captures human character in his fictional characters just rings so true.

  10. I've been enjoying an unbroken GM diet (sorry) for almost exactly a year now and I'm about halfway through!  Almost every novel, poem, sermon and children's story sits like a jewel in my mind.  Every time I finish one, I can't seem to stop myself starting the next - a healthy obsession, I think.  Every one contains wonderfully quotable moments.  For instance, I'm currently reading 'Alec Forbes', thought to be highly autobiographical.  The sense of place is palpable, almost hypnotic - I feel I could walk the streets of Glamerton like a ghost of the future and recognise every inhabitant, shop, house, feature.  Here, if you're interested, are a few of my underlinings from the first half of the book:

    Death alone can die everlastingly.
    Even snow must have fire at the heart of it.
    He was one on whom affliction was not thrown away.
    It is not by driving away our brother that we can be alone with God.
    Love and Death can make us all children.  Can Old Age be an evil thing, which does the same?
    In the end, those who trust most will find they are nearest the truth.
    Sorrow herself will reveal one day that she was only the benificent shadow of Joy.  Will Evil ever show herself the benificent shadow of Good?
    Every man in love shows better than he is, though, thank God, not better then he is meant to become.

    I'm not sure anymore that I agree that it is not great literature.  It does not compare favourably to other literature, but the best literature of all, in my opinion, creates its own vocabulary, it's own truth; it becomes that by which you judge other literature, not the other way round.

  11. Awesome quote.  I hope you have better luck with the free content for kindle.  Most of the free books I have gotten are terribly formatted, the words and chapters are all jumbled up.

  12. Love this! What a fantastic quote!
    Randomly picked up a copy of the Parish Papers at the library book sale because I recognized it from my mom's bookshelf growing up. Now, I will read it!

  13. Appreciate that Richard. Hermeneutical yes! If I'm not reading in a way that leads to Christ and the grace and truth he brought, then I'm not reading well.  Like you, I'm deeply committed to teaching, to theology-in-culture. And yet. For me a good dose of needed humility lies in remembering the low social estate and lack of formal education of our Master and His apostles. And the primal power of love to change the world.

  14. I think the original George MacDonald titles are:
    "Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood" 1866,"A Seaboard Parish 1868, "The Vicar's Daughter" 1872.

    I got a copy of A Seaboard Parish for Christmas - I'm loving it,but trying to get my head round this bit

    " Either God intended that
    there should be poverty and suffering, or he did not. If he did not
    intend it—for similar reasons to those for which he allows all sorts of
    evils—then there is nothing between but that we should sell everything
    that we have and give it away to the poor."

    "Then why don't we?" said Wynnie, looking truth itself in my face.

    "Because that is not God's way, and we should do no end of harm by so

  15. Thanks, Al. You're right, those are the titles.  And I believe that Quiet Neighborhood was based on the church that MacDonald pastored for a short time.

  16. Hi Andrew, Jim, and Patricia,

    I love that you all love MacDonald.  I am of Scottish descent.  (Richard -- I too would love to see the heather before I die).

    My father left his wife and three babies many years ago.  I didn't meet him until I was an adult.  He died suddenly last Saturday at age 85 -- a life-long atheist.  I am sitting here in his living room trying to console his final "companion" -- 1,000 miles from my own home and family.  I will be the only person from his family at the funeral next week.  I am to stand before whomever shows up and say something.  I do not know what to say.

    And I don't understand any of this.  Trying to fit all this in with the principalities, powers, the Little Way, and George Macdonald -- none of it fits for me.  Why haven't all of us given away everything we have, including our families and all our possessions?  Are we supposed to live in the woods and eat berries?

    For what it's worth, you three have been a source of happiness and strength for me over the past few months.  If that is proof of a God, I accept his presence now.  No sympathy is necessary.  I just wanted to say thank you.

  17. Sam, I'm so sorry for the pain and grief that you have suffered in your life.  I'm not one of the three to whom you addressed your comment, but I have been a reader here at ET and noticed that you are wrestling with many questions and feelings about God and faith.  This must be such a hard time for you, following your father's death and upcoming funeral.  My heart goes out to you.  I wish I could just tangibly transfer a generous portion of my hope in Christ's love to carry you through this time.  I am praying for you to find words of healing, for yourself and others at the funeral, when you speak.  Thank you for expressing your questions and need here.  It often is a comfort to me to know that I'm not alone in having a lot of questions and, at times, "baggage" in regard to matters of faith.  ~Peace~

  18. The fact that you are there speaks volumes.  In our own small way, we are with you.

  19. Hi Sam, I count you as one of my friends here at ET. My husband has also had to come to terms with a strange circumstance with his biological father. In his 20s, he figured up his parents' anniversary and his birthday, and asked them about that difference, and they told him his true origin: he was the product of a rape.

  20. Sam, my heart goes out to you and all your family. As Andrew said, just being there speaks volumes, and is so often all we can do as words never seem adequate. I can only encourage you to continue to accept God's presence as the only one who can makes sense of all of this. 

    I have often heard the claim that "God would never allow us to suffer now if He really existed and was actually good." But what brings peace to me, and hopefully to you, is the promise that He not only sees and feels our hurt in times like these, but that He is also always seeing that glorious day when all will be healed and restored... when we will be reunited with those we have lost now and the tears we shed today are wiped away.

    May you feel God's blessing in those gathered around you, and know that we are all there with you.  Jim

  21. Thank you all.  I have come to admire each of you.  And thank you, Richard.  The right words are what I need most.  I'm sorry if I interrupted the flow here today, but just now in this strange place, I feel like I am six years old again, and I am alone.  All those memories can now be folded up and put away. 

    His companion
    is counting on me, as her entire family will be here.  Imagine me --
    speechless.  It's really kinda funny.

  22. Sam,

    Consider the wonder in your sadness: gentle and comforting and supportive electronic tendrils from cyberspace reaching into your heart and possibly, graciously, transforming your sense of isolation into human communion.  Since our Lord took on our frame and suffered in all ways human, he--if only for a moment and perhaps on the cross--doubted His Father's existence.  You will find the right words.

    Grace and peace.

  23. St. Symeon the New Theologian shares this sentiment.  He thinks book learning is fine, but it does not compare to the spiritual sense obtained by the practice of humility and other christian practices.

  24. I like that analogy, George.  It's the only tool at my disposal here -- a connection.  It is a wonder, and I certainly don't deserve it, but I am grateful for it.  I hope I am learning something more about faith right now.  Thanks so much.

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