George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles
The Bible is full of miracles. Yet how do we make sense of them today? And where might we see miracles in our own lives?
In this installment of the Hansen Lectureship series, historian and theologian Timothy Larsen considers the legacy of George MacDonald, the Victorian Scottish author and minister who is best known for his pioneering fantasy literature, which influenced authors such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton, and Madeleine L'Engle.
Larsen explores how, throughout his life and writings, MacDonald sought to counteract skepticism, unbelief, naturalism, and materialism and to herald instead the reality of the miraculous, the supernatural, the wondrous, and the realm of the spirit.
Based on the annual lecture series hosted at Wheaton College's Marion E. Wade Center, volumes in the Hansen Lectureship Series reflect on the imaginative work and lasting influence of seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.
"Rarely, if ever, does a theologian grasp the essentials of luminaries such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and Madeleine L'Engle. But here, in this exquisitely argued, beautifully crafted, and elegantly written thesis, Timothy Larsen offers a beguiling meditation on incarnation, doubt, and reenchantment. With his careful and nuanced focus on George MacDonald, Timothy Larsen has produced a poised, sumptuous, and sublime theological essay—worthy, indeed, of Lewis, Chesterton, Tolkien, L'Engle, and MacDonald. This is Christian apologetics at its best and from one of the finest public intellectuals writing in our time."
"It is hard to imagine a better pairing of author and subject than George MacDonald, one of the essential Victorians and one of the deepest of Christian writers, and Timothy Larsen, one of our very finest historians. This book is truly a joy to read."
"In a Victorian religious culture saturated with religious preoccupations and moral anxieties, George MacDonald stands out as a relatively neglected author whose work nonetheless pays careful attention to the intersection of religion and literature. Tim Larsen brilliantly opens up MacDonald's imaginative writing as well as his sermons and essays to demonstrate how closely he followed contemporary interest in Christian doctrine and the challenges it faced in his day. No one who knows Larsen's work will be surprised at this: with wit, knowledge, and an acute critical intelligence, Larsen picks out again and again the ways in which MacDonald's fiction illustrated or experimented with controverted points of Christian doctrine, yet still functioned as good, readable fiction. A series of other interlocutors comment insightfully on Larsen's chapters and open up further seams of interpretation. For anyone interested in Victorian religious history and literary culture, this is a gem of a book."
"Victorian writer George MacDonald was a powerful influence on later authors such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton, and Madeleine L'Engle. In this fine collection of lectures, scholar Timothy Larsen provides an essential context to MacDonald's life and thought, and indeed to the religious history of the nineteenth century. With his acute literary and theological insights, Larsen's book is a readable and perceptive guide to one of the great Christian thinkers."
"Larsen has an original, interesting, stimulating, and even at times, controversial take on George MacDonald and his work."
"Drawing widely on George MacDonald's novels, stories, poems, and sermons, Larsen boldly presents him to us in all of his heterodoxical orthodoxy. Here is a fiery Scotsman with a capacious faith and vision who could find Christ in the most unlikely of places."
"In this gem of a book, Timothy Larsen uses the delightful and moving writings of George MacDonald to open surprising new vistas on the religious world of Victorian Britain. I recommend it highly."
"These lectures are steeped in a scholarly acquaintance with George MacDonald's writings. Their accessible style aims at bringing MacDonald's theological insights on such ever-pressing matters as religious doubt and the purpose of human suffering to a wider Christian audience."
"Larsen . . . writes about MacDonald with great sympathy and admiration, but also with a clear eye and deep sense of irony."
Introduction to the Hansen Lectureship Series (Walter Hansen)
1. George MacDonald in the Age of the Incarnation
Response: James Edward Beitler III
2. George MacDonald and the Crisis of Doubt
Response: Richard Hughes Gibson
3. George MacDonald and the Reenchantment of the World
Response: Jill Peláez Baumgaertner