Notes from Lukmanova’s Lecture on George MacDonald – #1

Last month Olga Lukmanova from Russia did a talk at L’Abri called “George MacDonald – the fairy-tale canon and the art of myth-making”. Here is the first part of my notes on this talk (they are organized topically rather than sequentially, though they follow the approximate order of her talk).

Her Meeting with George MacDonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905)

  • In 1996, she first heard of MacDonald through C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”
  • Olga was intrigued, basically what Lewis said about his perception of MacDonald was the way she viewed Lewis
  • A week later she went to her library and found that, low and behold, they had a shelf with George MacDonald books
  • (Turns out they were simplified edition of his work)
  • In her personal life she was depressed and burned out, seeking joy. She found new vigor in reading MacDonald’s works
  • Her love for George MacDonald’s work began

Her Passion for MacDonald

  • She read everything by him at the library, came to L’Abri and read more
  • Thankfully everything by MacDonald is in public domain and available online
  • She talked to her friends about him, and they asked why she doesn’t translate them into Russian
  • So far, 5 of his major works are translated and she is working on his fairy tales
  • Eventually she began pursuing a degree doing studies on George MacDonald’s fairy tales and has been doing that for 1 year

Intro to George MacDonald – Early Life

  • (he sort of looks like he could be a Russian author)
  • Born in Northern Scotland (his work presents stunning views of Scotland)
  • Lost his mother at 8 years old
  • Family was in the bleaching business
  • He spent most of his childhood on a farm which is reflected in his writings
  • Lewis noted how MacDonald’s life is very much characterized by a nearly perfect relationship with his father, which translated into his entire view of the world–the Fatherhood of God lays at the heart of it
  • When he was 15 years old, his father remarried and his father’s new wife became like a mother, George had a lot of respect for her

School/Early Adult Life

  • George was interested in natural philosophy (ie. science) and wanted to go to Germany to study, but his father didn’t have the money for that so he fell back on theology/philosophy
    • He went to Highbury
    • One winter he had to go to a library up north to catalog a library. A house with a library appears through almost all his novels.
    • Up north, he was introduced to the German romantics, especially Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (aka “Novalis”)
      • One of MacDonald’s first publications was translating the work of Novalis, and he would continue to work on that the rest of his life

His Family And Personal Characteristics

  • MacDonald married Louisa Powell at the age of 27 and they had 11 kids
  • Their family used to travel around England and stage the Pilgrim’s progress, acting it out.
  • Lewis stated that his chief weakness was his Scottish love of finery, though he was poor, he loved good food and good clothes.
  • He was incredibly generous
  • He maintained a friendly, magnetic  home that was the center of whatever community he was in
  • One of his best friends was Lewis Caroll, and his kids were the first to hear Alice in its original presentation in 1863

Post Graduation Life

  • After graduation, he began preaching in Sussex, and continued there for 3 years
    • Part of the congregation loved his preaching, the deacons and others began questioning his orthodoxy
    • He preached a broad, welcoming, inclusive God
    • He said that animals might go to heaven
    • Around Christmas he published the spiritual songs of “Novalis”, the German realist, which smacked of German biblical criticism
    • They didn’t dismiss him but cut his salary (at which time he had one child), he said “we’ll live on less”
    • They made more salary cuts, and then he left. He never again was a formal minister
  • Going forward, he never had permanent employment again, but earned money through his books, itinerant preaching, and teaching science and literature lectures at a ladies college. He also had a pension and his friends helped him out.

A Life of Sorrow

  • Tuberculosis
    • Before he reached 65,  he lost 4 of his 11 kids to tuberculosis
    • He also lost two brothers to tuberculosis
    • He also had weak lungs and tuberculosis
  • He went through sickness, disease, and poverty
  • When he wrote about affliction being the “shadow of God’s wings”, he would know about affliction
  • He lived to 81

to be continued…

One Thousand Thoughts About Church…#932

“All believers are under obligation to join themselves to local churches when and where they have opportunity to do so. It follows that all who are admitted to the privileges of church fellowship also become subject to the discipline and government of the church in accordance with the rule of Christ.” – 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

One Thousand Thoughts About Church…#934

“All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publickly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand. How large a portion shall be read at once, is left to the wisdom of the minister; but it is convenient, that ordinarily one chapter of each Testament be read at every meeting; and sometimes more, where the chapters be short, or the coherence of matter requireth it.” – The Directory for Public Worship

The War Drums Continue

According to the New York Times, “Administration officials say that even though the NATO intervention in Libya, emphasizing airstrikes to protect civilians, cannot be applied uniformly in other hotspots like Syria, the conflict may, in some important ways, become a model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened.”

Sounds like the powers that be are saying… “*Cough*Cough*Syriaisnext*Cough*Cough*”

The article does, however, make it clear that Syria may not be likely to be a target soon, because they have significant allies unlike Libya, the opposition in Syria lacks some tactical advantages that the Libyan opposition had, and they also have some ways to retaliate that would make things quite uncomfortable.


One Thousand Thoughts About Church…#935

“A successful pastor will also develop the power of prayer among his members. He will teach them and lead them to adopt the best methods in this respect. The duty of secret and family prayer will be enjoined. Each will be encouraged and exhorted to unite in the prayer meetings of the church and personally to engage publicly in prayer upon all suitable occasions. Only through such attainments will the church be spiritually developed; only through such prayers of his people will he himself be able most successfully to discharge all his duties among them.” – James P. Boyce

One Thousand Thoughts About Church…#936

“An assembly of public worship is not merely a gathering of God’s children with each other, but is, before all else, a meeting of the triune God with his covenant people. In the covenant, God promises his chosen ones that he will dwell among them as their God and they will be his people… The triune God is present in public worship, not only by virtue of the divine omnipresence, but, much more intimately, as the faithful covenant Savior. Through Christ, God’s people have access by one Spirit to the Father.” – The Directory for the Public Worship of God

Booklog (August 25, 2011 – August 30, 2011)

  • A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity by R.C. Sproul (173 pages):  There’s a great deal of good in this book. The quality of the first half is much more even than the second half. The second half is really random and quirky. It’s quite gutsy and provocative. I definitely found stuff I disagree with, but there’s also insightful stuff here. Looking at “blogosphere” reviews, I found Paul Martin to be way too hard on this book. On the other hand, Tim Challies was probably too soft on it, overlooking some of the flaws. It’s worth a read if you can handle  disagreeing with a few things and a strangely abrupt conclusion.
  • Catholic Truth in History by  G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and James Welsh (26 pages) [Audio Book]: Nothing really interesting here.
  • Love Wins by Rob Bell (224 pages) [Audio Books]:  Horrible. He has a few very valid critiques of prevailing Christian culture, but the good is buried in lousy scholarship, straw-men and rubbish, or as the KJV would put it–dung. On a lighter note (pertaining to the audio book version read by the author), if I hear Hades mispronounced as “heydz” one more time, I think I may go crazy!
  • Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson (240 pages): Balanced and insightful analysis on the ideas of Reinhold Niebuhr on Christ and Culture. Very well done.

This places the running total for books completed in 2011 at 60.

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