The Beginning of Wisdom
How should the Hebrews be other than terrified at that which was opposed to all they knew of themselves, beings judging it good to honor a golden calf? Such as they were, they did well to be afraid. … Fear is nobler than sensuality. Fear is better than no God, better than a god made with hands. … The worship of fear is true, although very low: and though not acceptable to God in itself, for only the worship of spirit and of truth is acceptable to Him, yet even in his sight it is precious. For He regards men not as they are merely, but as they shall be; not as they shall be merely, but as they are now growing, or capable of growing, toward that image after which He made them that they might grow to it. Therefore a thousand stages, each in itself all but valueless, are of inestimable worth as the necessary and connected gradations of an infinite progress. A condition which of declension would indicate a devil, may of growth indicate a saint.
Taken From: George MacDonald as collected by C.S. Lewis – An Anthology: 365 Readings
Original Source: Unspoken Sermons, First Series, The Consuming Fire by George MacDonald
I know I know, it may be cheating because I just wrote about this quote a couple of days ago, yet here I am writing about it AGAIN! The problem I had however was that I had two relatively separate thoughts based on the same quote so I pray that you forgive me for my faux transgression.
The issue that I wanted to also discuss is this notion of fear that George talks about at the beginning. It’s a fantastic notion that “fear is better than no God, better than a god made with hands.” In this way, fear is the reason why to the people living around 0 BC the gospel was easily considered the “Good News”. All people feared. They feared the eternal effects of their transgressions and didn’t have to be convinced of the existence of sin. The Good News is that we can be made clean from our sin, that the eternal effects are completely changed. Sin doesn’t become Good, but Sin becomes powerless.
To be without fear is a much harder case. How can someone be convinced of Good News if it isn’t Good News to them? If instead it is bad news because they don’t fear the afterlife, don’t fear their effects on others? To not fear the consequences of your moral actions is to be truly greedy. Greedy in the sense that to truly not fear is to not focus on how your actions affect others; but instead only focus on yourself to the detriment of others. Such a person could be considered a sociopath.
Though it seems to me that we have many people who do not fear in modern times, yet care for others. Is this due to apathy in reason or am I off base here by stating that to be without fear is to be sociopathic? I guess one could be only focused on this present life and thus not fear for an afterlife; nor fear for the eternal consequences of their actions on others.
This strand is probably the hardest one to fix.
Unfortunately it is also one of the most common in society today.
This post is the second in a long series of commentary based on quotes pulled from George MacDonald as collected by C.S. Lewis – An Anthology: 365 Readings. The book was an enjoyable, pretty short and easy read. Here are some quick links to posts related to this book: Short review of the book itself, all the quotes in one place, and a list of other commentary like this one.