George MacDonald and Confidence in the Good to Come

Today I finished reading Phantastes by George MacDonald. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while now, ever since I came across C.S. Lewis’ mention of it in Surprised by Joy. Lewis described reading this book as the real start in the conversion process God would work on him.

Though Lewis is a hero of mine, and I trust his perspective on things a lot of the time (not always, to be sure), I felt several times through Phantastes like I just wasn’t getting the book. But by the end, I definitely appreciated what MacDonald was up to. By the end of the story, the main character Anodos realizes that everyday life has an always-present, very real spiritual side. “Faerie Land” becomes the vehicle whereby Anodos, and the reader, are told this truth.

At the end, Anodos remembers his conversations with a wise, good old woman in Faerie Land, whom he observes, “knew something too good to be told.” Anodos knows by the end that there’s a greater, good purpose behind all of his life. He concludes his story with this statement: “Yet I know that good is coming to me — that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it…FAREWELL.”

I do not agree with a lot of what MacDonald believed. He didn’t believe an eternal Hell could exist, for one thing; if you’re interested, you can read a biblical debunking of this in the end notes of John Piper’s Desiring God. But I’m moved by how MacDonald portrays the confidence of knowing this life, the way it is now, is hastening on in God’s good purposes, to a final redemption and resurrection. Romans 8:28,29 (ESV) says,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

These are weighty, hopeful truths for a Christian. We have been saved from our sin by Christ’s sacrifice for us; God has made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5), and we wait with great expectation for Christ’s return and our glorification with Him. May God grant us “the simplicity and the courage,” by His Spirit, to believe His words to His children.

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