H2O and the Imagination of God

“Is oxygen-and-hydrogen the divine idea of water? Or has God put the two together only that man might separate and find them out? He allows His child to pull his toys to pieces: but were they made that he might pull them to pieces? He were a child not to be envied for whom his inglorious father would make toys to such an end! A school-examiner might seem therein the best use of a toy, but not a father!

Find for us what in the constitution of the two gases makes them fit and capable to be thus honoured in forming the lovely thing, and you will give us a revelation about more than water, namely about the God who made oxygen and hydrogen. There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen; it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the living God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier.

They very thought of it makes one gasp with an elemental joy no metaphysician can analyse. The water itself, that dances and sings, and slakes wonderful thirst–symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus–this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace–this living thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table–this water is its own self its own truth, and is therein a truth of God.

Let him who would know the truth of the Maker, be come sorely athirst, and drink of the brook by the way–then lift up his heart–not at that moment to the Maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the Inventor and Mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God.”

–George Macdonald in C. S. Lewis, George Macdonald: An Anthology (New York, 1947), 81.

Seventy years ago, C. S. Lewis published in the USA his anthology of selections from the works of George Macdonald (1824-1905).

Lewis said, “My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help–sometimes indispensable help towards the very acceptance of the Christian faith …. In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice. I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him” (18, 20).