I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart, warm toward everything human and divine; but let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall have the Master’s praise. If the Lord were to appear, he has been so misrepresented by such as have claimed to present him, and especially in the one eternal fact of facts—the relation between him and his father—that it is impossible for many that they should see any likeness. For my part, I would believe in no God rather than in such a God as is generally offered for believing in. How far those may be to blame who, righteously disgusted, cast the idea from them, nor make inquiry whether something in it may not be true, though most must be false, neither grant it any claim to investigation on the chance that some that call themselves his prophets may have taken spiritual bribes “to mingle beauty with infirmities, and pure perfection with impure defeature”--how far those may be to blame, it is not my work to inquire. Some would grasp with gladness the hope that such chance might be proved a fact; others would not care to discern upon the palimpsest, covered but not obliterated, a credible tale of a perfect man revealing a perfect God: they are not true enough to desire that to be fact which would immediately demand the modelling of their lives upon a perfect idea, and the founding of their every hope upon the same.
But we all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.
Of Good Hearts and Foolish Forms
by Dave Roney
"You have neither heard His voice... nor seen His shape" (John 5:37)
“I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart, warm to everything human and divine; but let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall have the Master's praise.”
What thinking person would ever look to the shadow of a man rather than to the man, and attempt to explain what the man looks like only by what the shadow reveals? The gray, distorted, and two-dimensional silhouette might in a vague way suggest the man, but could never reveal him truly. And Scripture can be the shadow of God to us, lest we look for the Reality of which it speaks, for which it stands and represents, and what is its singular purpose. There are “foolish forms” which cover the living hearts of men, good men, men who love God and their fellows; but these are those who search the Scripture thinking that in them is life, when, as said our Lord, the Scriptures point to Him; “In Him was Life” and not in the written Word; “and the Life was the Light of men,” and not some supposed “light” emanating from Scripture or especially by interpretations given to it by men.
If the Son of God and Man is divorced from our understanding of Scripture, we are left with but a shadow. And what St. John says following those words hold true for believers as well; “And the Light shined in the darkness and the darkness perceived it not.” Had you thought these words applied only to the sinner and not the saint? Any thought of God which does not mirror and align perfectly with the Truth which is detectable in the Person and life of Christ Jesus is darkness, and it is not the unsaved alone who hold misconceptions of Him, but believers as well:
“If the Lord were to appear, He has been so misrepresented by those who claimed to present Him, and especially in the one eternal fact of facts—the relationship between Him and His Father—that it is impossible for many that they should see any likeness. For my part, I would believe in no God rather than in such a God as is generally offered for believing in.”
In the reading for today is used a term uncommon to most of us; it is word palimpsest. You will know what it is by remembering a paper in which part of the writing has been erased and written over, but the original words are, even so, still to be made out if one studies the paper closely. It is what MacDonald is referring to when he says that some, believing their doctrines (“foolish forms”) “would not care to discern upon the plaimpsest.” It is the true Light obscured by the lamp shade of man's theology, any theology which looks for the truth first in Scripture but not in the Christ of Scripture: The original writing is the Logos, the Word Incarnate; it is Christ, but contemporary evangelical Christendom has erased the clear image and written over it their doctrines, set in their own words presumed higher, more cogent, than the simplicity of Christ, seeking to interpret that which is, or can be, or ought to be, clearly understood with little or no interpretation; and any interpretation laid siege to the Scripture that does not bring the clarity of Christ into purer focus is a blot on that theology. The error is so profound, has such a dead lock on the minds of men, that many will defend their positions to the end without allowing so much as an honest question, a single doubt, to ever enter their minds; these refuse to “discern” what is “a credible tale of a perfect man revealing a perfect God: They are not true enough to desire that to be a fact which would immediately demand the modeling of their lives upon a perfect idea, and the founding of their every hope upon the same.”
But even so thinking, and in fact knowing, "I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart.” And this fact none should ever forget, for with men, even the best of men, there will always be errors of thought and of distinguishing, discernment and interpretation; our creaturely limitations nearly demand that it be true. And our only defense is to fasten our eyes steadfastly on the Savior, as He is presented in the four Gospel accounts, and allow that He and only He be our great Lens for the correction of faulty vision, and His Mind be ours for understanding; and above all else to never misrepresent “the one eternal fact of facts—the relation between Him and His Father;” for, He and His Father are exactly alike in every way, a fact lost on many theologians through the preponderant doctrines carefully worked out by them, and there is none other way to understand the Father except by what is discovered in the Son.
As for the errors we make, if they come from “a live heart” they will cause us no permanent damage; and we may here think of the small childlike child of a good earthly father, who misunderstands his father in points but nonetheless is seeking only to please him; such a father will help the child, by love and patience, to learn better of him in time. So also our great Heavenly Father is through His Spirit working with us even unto now. Therefore we can say and believe with confidence “But let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall have the Father's praise.” For, the Father is infinitely more interested in the live heart of His child than the academic mind.
The mind of man will always be less than that of God; His purpose is to create in us a heart as glorious as His own, that the Love He sends into us will be reciprocated in exact kind and degree, sent out from us into Him, Perfect Love returned perfectly. Of human marriage He said from the beginning “For this cause a man shall leave his mother and father and the two of them shall become one flesh;” and I take this as a lowly example of something much higher, greater, more glorious: "For this cause, My great Love, a man shall leave all other things aside, and love Me even as I, his God and Father, loves him, and the two of us, God and man, will become one in Love's perfect union even as My Son and I are One." And if we will start to do this now, to love God with all our heart and mind and being, as best we can, regardless of our faults and failings or our errors in thinking, as long as our hearts are true, we shall, indeed, “have the Father's praise”...