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.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


I intuitively believe that once someone has to raise his voice while making an argument, there's a good chance that the one making the argument has left reason behind. I tend to listen less when someone else is yelling. Here is what George MacDonald has his main character say to a member of a Methodist congregation, in The Seaboard Parish, ch 23:

"...I venture just to suggest that the nature of the preaching to which the body you belong to has resorted, has had something to do, by way of a reaction, in driving the church to the other extreme."

"How do you mean that sir?"

"You try to work on other people's feelings without reference to their judgement. Any one who can preach what you call rousing sermons, is considered a grand preacher amongst you, and there is a great danger of his being led thereby to talk more nonsense than sense. And then when the excitement goes off, there is no seed left in the soil to grow in peace, and they are always craving after more excitement."

"Well there is the preacher to rouse them up again."

"And the consequence is, that they continue like children--the good ones I mean--and have hardly a chance of making a calm, deliberate choice of that which is good; while those who have only been excited and nothing more, are hardened and seared by the recurrence of such feeling as is neither aroused by truth nor followed by action."

(MacDonald goes on to laud the work of the Methodists and the Wesleyans, even though he is here criticizing some of their preaching style.)

I guess this isn't just about "yelling", but about any kind of emotional manipulation in the context of a sermon. But then again, my outlook is really distorted by years of "just one more chorus of 'Just As I Am'". It's a caricature, but I lived through it.