Friday, October 30, 2009

Excerpts from Orthodoxy

From my INTERN BLOG at

Currently Enjoying: Until June, The Damnwells, Trent Dabbs

This week I finally finished "Orthodoxy" by GK Chesterton. I will not pretend to understand everything that Chesterton says in his classic on his reasons for being a Christian. One thing is for sure, when he is understandable he often has brilliant, creative "duh" moments of logic. But man, reading a guy who wrote for the 1900's audience can be just as confusing as trying to read in a foreign language. Probably is part of the reason the book took me about two years to get through. I could only take it in small doses.

His last chapter was one of the most powerful and I thought I would take the time to share some of that with you. You can decide whether it is worth taking the time to read. Please excuse the lengthy excerpts but I hope you enjoy:

"Many a sensible modern man must have abandoned Christianity under the pressure of three such converging convictions as these: first, that men, with their shape, structure and sexuality, are, after all, very much like beasts, a mere variety of the animal kingdom; second, that primeval religion arose in ignorance and fear; third that priests have blighted societies with bitterness and gloom....The only objection to them (I discover) is that they are all untrue. If you leave off looking at books about beasts and men (if you have any humour or imagination, any sense of frantic or the farcical) you will observe that the startling thing is not how like man is to brutes, but how unlike he is. That man and brute are like is, in a sense, a truism; but that being so like they should then be so insanely unlike, that is the shock and enigma...Certain modern dreamers say that ants and bees have a society superior to our... Who ever found an ant-hill carved with the images of gorgeous queens of old?"

One of the brilliant things about Chesterton is that, much like CS Lewis (God bless those Brits), is that he is able to deconstruct common assumptions. To look at it from a different lens, seeing things not what culture tells us to see but for what they are. He goes on to state things in such beautiful ways as, when explaining the church's role in the Dark Ages, as "I read a little history. And in that history I found that Christianity, so far from belonging to the Dark Ages, was the one path across the Dark Ages that was not dark... How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them."

Or perhaps, when talking about the reality of miracles, "The believer in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder...It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence -- it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed."

Or, when talking about the need to have faith: "If faith is one of the conditions, those without faith have a healthy right to laugh. But they have no right to judge...Suppose we were investigating whether angry men really saw a red mist before their eyes. Suppose sixty excellent householders swore that when angry they had seen a crimson cloud: surely it would be absurd to answer "Oh, but you admit you were angry at the time." They might reasonably rejoin "How the blazes could we discover, without being angry, whether angry people see red?"

On God being the one, true God: "It does not trouble me to be told that the Hebrew god was one among many. I know he was, without any research to tell me so. Jehovah and Baal looked equally important, just as the sun and the moon looked the same size. It is only slowly that we learn that the sun is immeasurably our master and the small moon only our satellite."

On reincarnation and original sin: "Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despite the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood and a thing of laughter and pityl for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king."

On joy: "Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian... (Jesus') pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were preoud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never retrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet he restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied it was His mirth."

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