Friday, October 19, 2012

George MacDonald & Michael R. Phillips

I just had a long conversation with Michael R. Phillips, one of the world’s leading authorities on George MacDonald.  C. S. Lewis regarded MacDonald as his master teacher, and in his celebrated The Great Divorce has MacDonald coming from deep heaven to the shadowlands to meet and teach Lewis’s character. Of MacDonald, Lewis said, “I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.”

At this stage in my life I would put MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons at the top my list of my all time favorite books.  Needless to say the conversation with Michael was off the charts.  In his own right, Michael is an accomplished writer, but his great contribution to the world is his editing and republishing of many of MacDonald’s books.  I am very grateful to Michael for his labor of love over several decades.  His web site is a veritable treasure chest of light.

New blog (which is barely in its infancy):   


Florian Berndt said...

Funny! I've just been to Michael's website because I was looking for a George MacDonald quote. Thanks for sharing...

robianov said...

Hi, I am new to this blog, and indeed to the whole discussion of Trinitarian theology.

A few days ago I posted a comment on an April thread about "Who rejected Jesus" with a question and had no reply yet! Would that be because no one would know I posted so far back? Would be really grateful for feedback as I am wrestling with many questions at the moment, having been in an evangelical/charismatic environment for the last 3 decades steeped in a rather driven culture strong on the whole penal substitution idea. Thanks for listening!

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...


I went back and read you post from April. Your questions are important. The best I can do is refer you to my new book The Shack Revisited, and to the chapters, "The Rejection of the Anointed Son," and "The Wonderful Exchange." Hopefully those chapters will help. Read Isaiah 53 in several translations. As to 'the straw man,' I think we can agree to disagree on that one. I consider myself very fair and somewhat mild on criticizing penal substitution.

robianov said...

Thanks so much for replying. I will certainly get hold of the Shack Revisited. Am currently reading Athanasius, and trying to get through Torrences Mediation of Christ (the latter more hard going!).

I have felt deeply challenged and shaken by this wrestling with Trinitarian theology. Maybe the straw man perception comes out of that place. It's a bit like having played golf for years being taught a certain way, and someone comes along and suggests adjusting your swing as you've been taught wrong. As you go into a transition adjusting well established muscle memory, you feel like a novice again, off balance and unconfident to hit the ball properly. You have to make a decision whether to press on, or stick with the familiar. I feel like I am in transition, but ironically (in view of the positive message) feel thrown in my Christian walk as it affects everything from worship through prayer and evangelism and much more.

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Ironically, I am in the middle of a golf swing change. So I know how you feel. There are so many applications, chief among them is that constant, moment by moment 'awareness' is essential. Otherwise I will revert to my default patterns. Much like learning to live in the truth after so many, many years of confusion. In a flash of a second I am back to fear. Bless you Father for giving us Jesus, and sending the passionate Holy Spirit, that great lover of our souls and our real liberation.

robianov said...

Your new book is in the post and I look forward to its arrival. Today I have been rereading (again!) Jesus and the undoing of Adam. I am attracted by your definition of God's wrath as the passionate No! to our destruction (p68). But then I read in Rom 5.9 Paul says : Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Also in 1 Thes 1.10 : ..even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. If God's wrath is His love in opposing action vs our destruction, why is Paul indicating that it is something we shall be saved from, as in the future?

Anonymous said...

I have found George MacDonald & Michael R. Phillips website a treasure and want to thank you,

Lee said...


You are at a critical point in your faith that has you peeking through the door, hopefully afraid of what may await you. Having been there, let me read Romans 5 in a more hopeful light. This chapter is just dripping with the joy of God's love for us. In spite of this, we, having been steeped in the Western Church, can see only fear and judgement.

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

What? I thought verse nine says we are justified by Christ's blood. Could it be that his death was meant to show us God's forgiveness in spite of our evil? Could it be that Christ's blood proves God's love, and therefore allows our faith? Faith to me, is trust/love. As v.1 says, our faith justifies us. Our faith is the turning point, because God never stopped loving us, and will never stop loving us. Reconciliation is a condition that requires both parties to share in the harmony. God has easily forgiven, but can we see that fact?

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Get that! God demonstrated his love for us. It wasn't just Jesus, it was the Father showing how much he loves us. The problem isn't sin, the problem is our inability to see a loving God. We cannot trust. The lie told to us in the garden wasn't so much the arguments convincing Adam and Eve to sin; rather, it was the idea that God was now angry with us.

The Father was in the Son, reconciling the world to himself.

And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

You don't exult in someone who, after beating up on his son, can now stand to be in the same room with those he was angry with!

16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

How you read this verse shows how you understand God. I know that sins, judgment, and condemnation are realities; but even more real, are the free gift, (think about those two words), and the justification.

Lee said...


My last comment was from my best understanding at the time, but now I think it lacked understanding.

I have begun reading "Hope Beyond Hell" (The Righteous Purpose of God's Judgement) by Gerry Beauchemin. My view of God has grown in just a few chapters!

My reading of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 has avoided the last part, concerning God's judgement:

32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,l until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The idea that we must forgive perfectly before God will forgive us, didn't seem to agree with the teachings of the apostles:

13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3)

32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4)

I am beginning to see that grace will not be enough for some. God's will cannot be stopped by our free will. He can use appropriate punishment, (usually mistranslated as ever-lasting), to bring change of heart to all his children. The parable in Matthew 18 is the perfect explanation of how God deals with us. He can easily forgive, but he must also bring about healing in each of us by enabling us to forgive also. God's anger is just, and never causes him to act rashly. However, his love may include purgative punishment.

I would highly suggest reading "Hope Beyond Hell"; it is an excellent way to see how scripture has been misused by the Church.

“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)

23And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36)

robianov said...

Lee, many thanks for taking the time and trouble to share your developing thoughts, I really appreciate that. I am continuing to study, currently starting to read an introduction to TFTorrence's work, and also John Stott's classic The Cross of Christ (to get a solid reasoned view of the other side), hard work for people like me not being too intellectual! Your book recommendation sounds interesting and I will follow it up. I continue to feel a sense of major transition, one of the most disconcerting aspects being not quite sure how to share the gospel any more! Hopefully all this is leading to stronger, more truthful framework of reality. I'm now convinced the Trinity is the place to start. Blessings Ian

David Jack said...

I have only just stumbled upon this blog, and realise I'm coming late to the conversation, but thought it might be of interest to you and your readers that in the years since your original post, another website has been launched, which features an 'ask michael Phillips page'.

For those who have read Michael's edited editions of MacDonald's Scottish novels, I can also inform you that the original unabridged GM novels are now beginning to be available in translated form. In 2016, I began the task of translating all 12 of the full length Scottish novels, in partnership with Michael, who provides brand new introductions for them. Two have been released so far, Robert Falconer and Castle Warlock, with Sir Gibbie (perhaps the most popular of the Scottish novels) due out in about a month (November 2018.)