Was Chesterton a theologian? Why I Believe in Christianity. I will try and explain why I think a religious philosophy necessary and why I think Christianity the best religious philosophy. Why I Am A Catholic.
G. K. Chesterton, Theologian : Aidan Nichols :
Skepticism and Spiritualism. An impartial person is a good judge of many things, but not of all. He is not for instance a good judge of what it feels like to be partial. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas confronts other creeds of good and evil, without at all denying evil, with a theory of two levels of good. The Religious Aim of Education. The deepest of all desires for knowledge is the desire to know what the world is for and what we are for. Miracles and Modern Civilisation. It was almost as though he shied away from applying the full power of his imagination to a mystery that tragic and glorious, and could not bring himself to "play" with it in his mind and with his pen as he played with the idea of Christmas.
The reason is not that he took less interest in the Cross than the Crib or took it less seriously, but that it lends itself less easily to his kind of commentary. Of course, in The Everlasting Man he does not avoid the topic altogether. He begins by contrasting Christ with all other philosophers, prophets and founders of religions. Jesus came not to teach, but to die. He came not so much to fulfil the philosophies as to fulfil the mythologies. The death of Socrates could only be what Chesterton called the end of the philosophers' picnic, or at best another lesson to his disciples, the lesson on how to die.
Unlike the Buddha, "The primary thing that He was going to do was to die". There is nothing morbid about this, as Chesterton might have remarked; Jesus had to die because his object was to overcome Death, and Death could only be conquered in its own domain and at the height of its strength. At this point in his chapter on "The Strangest Story in the World", in a passage of remarkable eloquence, Chesterton sets forth his reasons for not writing at length about the passion of Christ. By this he means that they were either involved in killing him, or involved in being unable to save him.
They represent "the great historical truth of the time; that the world could not save itself. And at the deepest point of the Passion Chesterton senses the mystery at its very heart, of which the sign is the great cry of abandonment: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? He writes:. There are no deeper resources for reflection in theology than these.
G. K. Chesterton
It is noticeable that in the last words I have quoted Chesterton again presents a parallel to Balthasar. Chesterton's sensitivity to the mystery of Christ was so great that only this greatest of modern theologians can do justice to the depths of his insight. Balthasar makes much of the fact that an "abyss" had opened "even in the unity of the absolute", which yawned wide enough to encompass all the lostness of the world.
His "theology of Holy Saturday" is a remarkable and still controversial development of that insight, guided in part by the experiences of the mystic Adrienne von Speyr. Even Chesterton's remark, quoted earlier, that God can be "astonished at the things He has Himself made" finds an echo in Balthasar's Theo-Drama. Notice, finally, that in Ch.
VIII of Orthodoxy Chesterton even touches on that controversial theme in Balthasar, the possibility of universal salvation. It is tenable, but it is not specially favourable to activity or progress. Our fighting and creative society ought rather to insist on the danger of everybody, on the fact that every man is hanging by a thread or clinging to a precipice. To say that all will be well anyhow is a comprehensible remark: but it cannot be called the blast of a trumpet. To pursue this thought further would take us astray, but at least we are beginning to see something of what Chesterton meant: there are secrets that theology has not begun to touch in two thousand years.
Once again, we realize that the Christian religion is not old; it has barely begun. And however far it travels in its continually renewed beginning, the job and the delight of the theologian will be to circle around the same two points, points that define the centre of a circle whose perimeter is the cosmos itself: the birth of God and the death of God, Christmas and Easter. Chesterton's use of paradox and even his fondness for puns places him in the company of the Fathers of the Church and the great Christian poets, such as Donne, Traherne, Crashaw, Blake, John of the Cross, Hopkins and Eliot.
I do not claim that he was as great a poet as any of these, because such comparisons would be pointless and even ridiculous. No more do I wish to claim that he was as great a theologian as Irenaeus or Augustine.
But just as he was indisputably a poet, if only because he wrote and published some fine poetry. I do now wish to claim that he was given our earlier definition which liberates the word somewhat from its modern academic context a "theologian"; that is to say, an explorer of Revelation, endowed with a generous measure of intellectual grace. One sign of this indwelling grace is pointed out by Kafka: "He is so happy, one might almost think he had discovered God.
It was manifested, too, in his gift for friendship: even those who disagreed with him most violently such as George Bernard Shaw admitted they loved him. Chesterton was not a "man of the world" but a man of the Kingdom, a man who lived in the light of that Paradise which awaits us on the other side of the Cross.
He was a man of letters; but he was more than that. He was one who put the letters together in a way that makes sense. He was a man of the Word. A word is a sign, and has a meaning; it expresses something. By saying one thing, it denies another. It is a light that shines in the darkness: when it is spoken the darkness is separated from it. Chesterton gloried in the definiteness of words; he positively basked in the capacity of light to cast and to cast out shadows. He loved the dogmatic quality of Christianity, its ability to divide right from wrong and true from false.
Against the "liberal" theologians and so-called "free-thinkers" he asserted that it is the dogmas of Christianity the dogma of free will, for example that set us free, and the refusal to believe them that closes "all the doors of the cosmic prison on us with a clang of eternal iron. That one Truth, spoken in the language of the body and the language of history and incarnate in the man Jesus, speaks itself in many other fragmentary ways.
In fact everything in its deepest reality is a word, or a letter in a word, that refers to him. We see this intensively in Holy Scripture: in the pattern of types and antitypes, of prophecies and fulfilments, that the Church Fathers loved to dwell upon. For them as for Chesterton, the symbolism of Scripture merely crowned a symbolic character present in reality itself.
This comes out in many places, but particularly in William Blake , where Chesterton speaks of Blake's "realism": a "rooted spirituality which is the only enduring sanity of mankind". In this Blakean realism, the things we see about us are real because they are symbols; they are real to the extent they contain within them that which makes them what they are the monkeyhood of the monkey, the lambness of the lamb, even the motorishness of the motor car.
Similarly at the human level, "The personal is not a mere figure for the impersonal; rather the impersonal is a clumsy term for something more personal than common personality. God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God. Thus God for Blake "was not more and more vague and diaphanous as one came near to Him. God was more and more solid as one came near. When one was far off one might fancy Him to be impersonal.
When one came into personal relation one knew that He was a person. And so, despite the inconsistencies and even heresies he notes in Blake which he sees as a betrayal of the poetry , Chesterton enlists him on the side of orthodox Christianity. Chesterton writes that the truest religion is the most "materialistic". An incarnational or sacramental quality runs right through Christianity like a kind of watermark at least in its Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
Only through the incarnation of God does the material substance of the world become more than the illusion it must be for all other religions and philosophies because, of course, for them it is doomed to come to an end. That is how Chesterton saw things, and it means that he has seized on the one point that really makes Christianity unique and unassimilable. Each of these books, it will be observed, are presented as historical or autobiographical rather than theological. But precisely because history has become theology in Christianity, they are at the same time theological works.
The sacramental principle is the "golden key" to Chesterton's vision of reality. Two years before his death, Chesterton wrote in G. I had it in the beginning; and I am more and more coming back to it in the end I did not want so much to alter the place and use of things as to weight them with a new dimension; to deepen them by going down to the potential nothing; to lift them to infinity by measuring from zero.
This "almost mystical conviction" lies behind the gratitude Chesterton felt for the very gift of existence that gift whose permanence and value is finally guaranteed only by the Incarnation of God and the Resurrection of the flesh. The "most logical form" expressing that gratitude is in the act of giving "thanks to a Creator", and in that act "the commonest things, as much as the most complex, One thinks of the Canticle of Daniel, in which the Church herself gives voice to these "fountains of praise" leaping up from the clouds of the sky, the showers and the rain, the darkness and the light, the mountains and hills, the birds, beasts and children of men.
One thinks, too, of the Mass; for the supreme liturgical act of Christians is "Eucharist", thanksgiving, the "sacrifice of praise" in which the Son of God offers himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit through a human priest, the only perfect expression of the love of man for God and God for man. Chesterton's spirituality, his whole psychology as a Christian, was "eucharistic" that is to say, a joy in existence overflowing into thanks.
It was, by the same token, Trinitarian, for it is in the Trinity that all thanks begin and end. The Son receives everything from the Father and his gratitude is boundless. He gives to the Father in return all that he has received. That exchange of love includes the creation, which the Father entrusts to the Son and the Son redeems with his blood, handing it back to the Father in the act of giving up his Spirit on the Cross. At the centre of the Incarnation, which culminates in the Passion, is the act of eucharist, the sacrifice accomplished only by way of total abandonment. Schall J.
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Chesterton Theologian 5. Chesterton Theologian 6. Chesterton Heretics Nashville, Tenn. Chesterton Theologian 78— Chesterton Theologian ix Chesterton Theologian — Ahlquist G. Chesterton Chesterton 1. Schall Schall on Chesterton Chesterton Theologian 91 Chesterton Theologian 71 91 Chesterton 1— Chesterton 7—8. Chesterton 5. Chesterton Orthodoxy Chesterton Orthodoxy vi.
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