In the first few years of my Christian life, the works of C. S. Lewis were a lifeboat in the stormy sea of my doubts. His honesty in discussing the difficulties of Christian faith and the power of his arguments helped me to believe that it was possible to be an intellectually honest Christian. So when Lewis recommended the works of George MacDonald, I was naturally eager to read as many of them as I could find. I read and loved some of his works including Alex Forbes of Howlglen but after only being able to find a few titles in print proceeded to forget about him for almost twenty years. Recently I purchased a collection of a number of his fantasy stories including the Lewis favourite Phantastes. Reading these stories has changed the way I see the world and I wanted to share this new perspective.
The gift that MacDonald has is the ability to bring out the wonder of every day things. Whether it is the amazing beauty of a flower in the sunlight, the dizzying patterns of flowing water, the glorious beauty of leaves in fall or the mystery of a night under the full moon, MacDonald encourages you to think of everyday objects in a new way. Though he has certainly helped me to see the beauty of everyday things in a better and clearer light, perhaps the greater impact has been on the way that I look at people. MacDonald has taught me to see the nobility, the majesty and the beauty of “everyday” people in a way that I have never done before. I now look at my brothers and sisters in Christ and see them in a whole new light.
As an example of this phenomena, consider a young couple that I know. When I look at this young man and his wife, I see something glorious. I see a young knight and his beautiful lady on a noble quest to share God’s love with the world. In the view of my imagination, they stand together shod with the full armour of God. The shoes of the gospel of peace mean that wherever they go they will attempt to live out the gospel before others. The belt of truth is what makes them honest to each other and to others in all their dealings. The shield of faith protects them from all the attacks of those that hate God. The helmet of salvation ensures that no matter what happens, they will receive no critical wound. The breastplate of righteousness preserves their lives by not allowing the enemy to attack their vital organs through sin. The sword of the word of God allows them to share God’s love and truth with everyone around them. Their laughter and joy in one another is an encouragement to me and it is beautiful to see them happy together.
A Bleak and Contrary Vision
This view will seem too fantastic to some. “This couple is just a couple of mammals who joined together for the sake of creating offspring. They are descended from bacteria and there is nothing special about them. Looking at them as though there was anything special or noble or majestic about them is just deceiving yourself. It might be a pretty picture, but it is entirely fictional.” This attitude demonstrates the stark contrast between the Christian worldview and the atheist world view. Let us contrast these two world views to see which is the more “realistic” of the two.
According to the atheist world view, the most satisfying way to live for a mammal with an instinct to reproduce is to live the life of a porn star rutting with as many members of the opposite sex as possible. According to the Christian world view, such a sinful life would be a life of loneliness and quiet despair as the true desires of the human heart went unfulfilled.
According to many atheists, drugs and alcohol allow human beings to live a fulfilling life of enjoyment and excitement. According to the Christian worldview, Jesus Christ is the source of our joy and fulfillment and depending on substances for such things leads to a life of misery and oppression.
According to the atheist world view, there is no such thing as good or evil, right or wrong, love or hate, reason or irrationality, free will or design. According to the Christian world view, we live in a world surrounded by the oppressive evil that results when people live primarily for themselves.
According to atheist socialists, government programs paid for by borrowing trillions of dollars can end disease, poverty and human suffering. According to the conservative beliefs of many Christians, the government is made up of the people and the promises made by politicians are nothing more than a generational Ponzi scheme.
According to many atheist liberals, Hamas is a patriotic group of freedom fighters who dress their children up as suicide bombers because they lack economic opportunity and who will peacefully coexist with Israel if only they are granted a few acres of land. According to Biblical Christianity, Hamas is filled with a demonic hatred for God’s chosen people and they will not rest until they have repented of their awful beliefs.
According to the atheists I speak to, human beings are basically good and don’t need a saviour to rescue us from our sin. According to the Christian worldview, human beings are capable of any level of evil and depravity and desperately need the cross of Jesus Christ.
According to one of these world view, then, porn, drugs and alcohol are the keys to a fulfilling life, socialist programs liberate humanity, human beings are good and Islam is a religion of peace. According to the other world view, the key to human happiness is emulating Jesus Christ by dying to self and having loving relationships with others and with God. One of these worlds is a fantasy world that exists only in the minds of those who believe in it, and the other is the real world.
One of the frustrating things about dealing with atheists online is the delusion that they have that they are “gritty realists” who “only believe something when they have evidence”. The plain fact is, however, that their “skepticism” is biased and directional. They are only skeptical of claims of beauty, love and human dignity and show no skepticism whatsoever to claims that life is meaningless, that there is no such thing as free will, that the most sophisticated mechanisms known to man came about through unintelligent processes or that government programs are of enormous benefit. I don’t blame atheists for having the attitude that we need to look at the cold hard facts. I blame atheists because they are not at all skeptical of their bleak and evil version of reality.
Seeing with the Eyes of Faith
When I look at the knight and his lady, I see a young couple determined to do the hard work of loving each other and those around them. I see people who are musically gifted who will lift up the name of Jesus Christ in praise with gratitude. I see humble people who know they don’t have all the answers but also know right and wrong when they see it. I see a beautiful brother and sister who strengthen my faith in goodness and love. Atheists may believe that I am pathetic or that I am deceiving myself, but I know that what I see is real and that it is beautiful.