Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chesterton's Heretics I

If there is anything that shows that things are going well for me right now, it is that I am reading more books at the moment than I have fingers on my right hand....which by the way is the same number that I have no my left hand, just to be clear.

One book that I am reading is Heretics, by G.K. Chesterton.  I love Chesterton.  Chesterton is the lesser known buddy of the C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien threesome (apparently one rule of the group is you have to go by your initials).  Chesterton is a devout Catholic and an excellent apologist and social commentator.  He calls a spade a spade in such a way that a spade would be wholeheartedly impressed with his spade-dom before he realized he was just called a shovel with a little handle.  And oh, does old Gilbert Keith see things clearly.

 In Heretics, Chesterton starts out with bemoaning that we are now a society where ideas are regarded as unimportant.  Opinions on some things are okay.  But ideas -- principles which guide a life, are not to be tolerated.  He states that it used to be somewhat shameful to be an avowed atheist, but now it is just as bad to be an avowed Christian.  I think in our society we've progressed to the point where in many circles, it is more acceptable to be an avowed Atheist.  Yet in most circles, it is probably more virtuous to never really have thought too much about either.  God might be someone who is remote, but when I need Him, he cares about me...and most of all He agrees with me.

For instance, look at the trend that has been going on since 9-11.  Major tragedies must be commemorated by a joint worship service.  But the fact that we are coming together is much more important than what God we are acknowledging in the service (not going any farther with the fact that Lutherans are not supposed to participate in the leading of these..that is a different tangent...actually, maybe it's not, but I'm not going to get into how it has been handled, because honestly, I was offline most of this past week and am completely ignorant of how things went).  But to have a pastor participate and declare that there is one God who is true, and the rest are not would be a great offense.

The way we approach the spiritual in our society is very much like the way it has been done in soap operas for decades.  Even back in college when I would rush back to the dorm commons to see what was happening on General Hospital or Days of Our Lives, I used to be amazed at how people could kidnap, murder, destroy, insult, and/or sleep with each other, but then, when a wedding, a death, or a tragedy happens, bring in the extra who plays the priest and let's have a worship service.  No one at all minds that this is the only time God enters the picture...only to bring blessing and comfort-- least of all the priest.  Now it's not just on the soap, it's real life, and real life clergy and Christians are expected to act just like the ones on t.v.  They are not supposed to care when God's children are destroying themselves and others, they are only supposed to bless them.

Chesterton discusses how now when someone expresses an idea, they now have no qualms about adding "but I guess that makes me somewhat of a heretic."  Not too long ago, to be a heretic would've been worse than to be crazy.  Heretics didn't think they were heretics, they thought they were orthodox and that they held to truth and were often ready to die for it.  Knowing what a person believes would be the key to knowing that person and whether they were worthwhile to keep company with.

Now, we only are about opinions, not idea(l)s.

"A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinions on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter.  He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost.  Everything matters--except everything."  G.K. Chesterton


Kris said...

"They are not supposed to care when God's children are destroying themselves and others, they are only supposed to bless them." I am unclear as to what this statement means, especially with regard to the current controversy. Would you mind clarifying? Thanks.

RPW said...

I'm not trying really to address the current controversy, as much as the idea of joint services in general.

People don't want the Church in their lives from day to day, especially the Church proclaiming the Law to the unrepentant. The Church they want is the one that shows up when they are alarmed, giving generic comfort from a generic God. And then they want to go back to their normal lives, that excludes God and His will. That's why interfaith services are so common in tragedy. It isn't about God and His comfort because of salvation in Christ. It's really about community. They just want the Church to occasionally tell them that God loves them and is in control when things go bad, and then forget Him when everything seems okay again. But to many, the Church isn't supposed to be a voice proclaiming God's Law; and the message that salvation comes through Christ's death and resurrection alone is also offensive.

Scott Diekmann said...

I like Chesterton too, although I haven't read Heretics. But!, I just downloaded it for free. That's another thing I like about Chesterton!