Divine Burning: Reflections on G. MacDonald 3

He will shake heaven and earth, that only the unshakable may remain: he is a consuming fire, that only that which cannot be consumed may stand forth eternal.  It is the nature of God, so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure as fire, which demands like purity in our worship.  He will have purity.  It is not that the fire will burn us if we do not worship thus; yea, will go on burning within us after all that is foreign to it has yielded to its force, no longer with pain and consuming, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God.

MacDonald offers a challenging rethinking of our presumptions about God.  Often when we think about “fire” in relation to God, we often are thinking of Hell, mostly thanks to Dante and his Inferno.   Fire is meant to be a painful punishment for people who have committed various sins.  It is not meant to build up, but tear down.  But what if we turn this idea on its head?  Is there such a thing as “good fire?”

Probably the closest analogy comes with the idea of a forest fire.  A forest fire is a necessary cleansing of the waste and debris that has built up in a forest.  Without it, new trees cannot grow, and the soil is not replenished.  It benefits both animal and plant alike, is part of the natural cycle of the earth.  Any tampering with this cycle usually brings devastating results.  At first, following our instincts of self-preservation, man has initially attempted to immediately quell these fires.  But what has happened?  More debris in the forest builds up until at one point a fire comes that cannot be contained.

Do we allow the debris and waste in our lives to be burned away?  Or do we harbor ill will and past hurts, preventing any flowering our true selves, which belong to God?  Do we, in the worst case scenario, through the misuse of God’s intentions, attempt to set fire and “purify” those who disagree with us, either through religious warfare, “racial cleansing” or other such destructive ideas of “purity” which are not of God, but of our our hatred and desire for power?

For what is the end goal here, as described by MacDonald?  “It is not that the fire will burn us if we do not worship thus; yea, will go on burning within us after all that is foreign to it has yielded to its force, no longer with pain and consuming, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God.”  Everything that is not of God: hatred, selfishness, avarice, etc. must and will burn away so that Love may have its fullest flowering in He who made us.  And then that fire will continue, as an ever present Light, which will dwell within us, and we in Him.

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