Back of the North Wind

Discussions of theology, philosophy, religion and life inspired by the writings of George MacDonald (and perhaps others such as CS Lewis) posted by "recovering fundamentalists".

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I am a "recovering fundamentalist". The trick is to figure out how not to throw out the Baby with the bathwater. I learn through dialogue, and so invite commentary on my posts to Back of the North Wind.

Monday, September 20, 2004

A Liberal (cont'd)

Continuing in George MacDonald's The Seaboard Parish, ch 24: the main character,
Parson Walton, is discussing with his friend, a medical doctor, one of
Wordsworth's poems: the "Ninth Evening Voluntary". The dialogue starts with Doctor Turner:

"...But you don't agree with Wordsworth, do you, about our having had an existence previous to this?" He gave a little laugh as he asked the question.

"Not in the least. But an opinion held by such men as Plato, Origen, and Wordsworth, is not to be laughed at, Mr. Turner. It cannot be in its nature absurd. I might have mentioned Shelley as holding it, too, had his opinion been worth anything."

"Then you don't think much of Shelley?"

"I think his feeling most valuable; his opinion nearly worthless."

"Well, perhaps I had no business to laugh at it; but"---

"Do not suppose for a moment that I even lean to it. I dislike it. It would make me unhappy to think there was the least of sound argument for it. But I respect the men who have held it, and know there must be something good in it, else they could not have held it."

MacDonald goes on to analyze what might be good in Wordsworth's poem, even if he disagrees with Wordsworth's intent. MacDonald concludes:

"...To interpret in this manner what Wordsworth says, will enable us to enter into perfect sympathy with all that grandest of his poems. I do not say this is what he meant; but I think it includes what he meant by being greater and wider than what he meant. Nor am I guilty of presumption in saying so, for surely the idea that we are born of God is a greater idea than that we have lived with him a life before this life."

This illustrates exactly that "liberality" that George MacDonald was referring to in my earlier post: MacDonald is seeing the "good and true" in someone who differs from him.