In Orthodoxy Chesterton has charted for us his ‘own growth in spiritual certainty’. In this final chapter he gives assurance that this path was firmly based on rational considerations, which at first fly in the face of the rationalist’s ‘reasons’, but on a closer look are really quite reasonable.
But the best bit of reading Chesterton, for me, is his use of humor in making noteworthy points:
You will observe that the startling thing is not how like man is to the brutes, but how unlike he is. It is the monstrous scale of his divergence that requires an explanation….People talk of barbaric architecture and debased art. But elephants do not build colossal temples of ivory even in a rococo style; camels do not paint even bad pictures, though equipped with the material of many camel’s-hair brushes. p218
History says nothing; and legends all say that the earth was kinder in its earliest time. There is no tradition of progress; but the whole human race has a tradition of the Fall. p219
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. p224
A tongue-in-cheek criticism of the tendency of unbelievers to believe unsupportable ‘facts’ because they fit his chosen dogma:
The sceptic is too credulous; he believes in newspapers or even in encyclopedias. p225
“…the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one….The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living church is a man alway expecting…to see some truth that he has never seen before.” p235
The freeing implications of original sin:
But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos an brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king. p239
The primary paradox of Christianity is that the ordinary condition of man is not his sane or sensible condition: that the normal itself is an abnormality. That is the inmost philosophy of the Fall.…This is the prime paradox of our religion; something that we have never in any full sense known, is not only better than ourselves, but even more natural to us than ourselves…It is only since I have known orthodoxy that I have known mental emancipation. p241
When the pagan looks at the very core of the cosmos he is struck cold…the fates are worse than deadly; they are dead. And when rationalists say that the ancient world was more enlightened than the Christian, from their point of view they are right. For when they say “enlightened” they mean darkened with incurable despair. p241
Thoughts on Joy!
The mass of men have been forced to be gay [in the sense of happy] about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. p242
Chesterton himself was know to be a bright and cheerful soul, carrying on a jovial comraderie even with his opponents. His thoughts on joy ring true with what I see in Scripture, even though I personally lean toward a quieter more melancholy nature. These thoughts spur me on to insure that joy is at the root of my thoughtfulness ( :
To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. p243
Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan,
is the gigantic secret of the Christian.
Chesterton concludes with a beautiful tribute to Jesus, the One who towers above all the thinkers who have ever ‘thought themselves tall’. Unlike the Stoics who were proud of concealing their tears, Jesus never did. Unlike solemn supermen and diplomats proud of restraining their anger, Jesus demonstrated righteous anger, but one thing he did restrain from men:
“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 that it was His mirth.” p244
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Ps. 16:11 ESV)
Thanks for allowing me to share the conclusion of Orthodoxy with you; I trust it will point you to a living faith–the only source of true joy! ( :