Sunday, October 12, 2014

Aphorisms of G.K.Chesterton


G.K.Chesterton - the Apostle of Common Sense


Someone responded to something I said with the following G.K.Chesterton aphorism and it really reminded me of the rationalistic theological straight-jacket of modern Roman Catholicism. I'm not criticizing Chesterton - I think he was what he claimed he was, a producer of Aphorisms, a Prophet of Common Sense, more like Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard than a theologian or father of the Church. Who for instance could argue with "A penny saved is a penny earned." or "For when we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing, we worship anything.”  Would that both Franklin and Chesterton were taught in our public schools rather that Marx and Hegel. But that said, in the RC push called "The New Evangelism" G.K. Chesterton has been raised to the statue of a prophet of the Church. It shows the devolution of the culture where Chesterton's aphorisms are a challenge. I think it also represents a nostalgia for the spirit of the 19th and early 20th century that saw itself as an age of "enlightened common sense." 

"Faith and reason are in this sense co-eternal; but as the words are popularly used, as loose labels for particular periods, the one is now almost as remote as the other. What was called the Age of Reason has vanished as completely as what are called the Ages of Faith." - G.K. Chesterton


That Roman Catholic rationalism is lost on me. This whole Faith and Reason meme being co-eternal is part of the great sickness that has entered the RCC. It is in fact the scholastic rationalism I have mentioned before, the exact place where the mystery is destroyed and God reduced to human understanding. Chesterton seems himself confused on the issue since he acknowledges that it is a dichotomy where BOTH have been distorted by something other than WISDOM. Something Chesterton calls "criminal." His out you see, is the phrase, "but as the words are popularly used." He doesn't go further to explain the total inability of human conceptual language to state anything that has eternal qualities, except God.


"The only way to understand an age, whether it be the Age of Reason or the Age of Faith, is to get behind these mere criminal charges, which are used to support each other and really destroy each other. It is to find some common spirit that can be polished in that particular way and coarse in that particular way. A mystical conviction is the cause both of the Franciscan being friendly and the Crusader being hostile. A rational conviction is the cause both of Dr Johnson being ceremonious and Dr Johnson being rude. But it is necessary to realize something of what that rational conviction really was; and the only spirit in which it is worth while to study history is the spirit which can feel a certain enthusiasm for the ideal of each time in turn." - G.K. Chesterton. Age of Reason.


Chesterton being "the apostle of common sense" seeing himself of the "Age of Common Sense" sees Wisdom in common sense, Childlike Wisdom that would say things like "I see this rock. It is clear that some creative force has made it." That is huge WISDOM, sadly not available to our age through "reason" which has grown prideful.  But then when was the "reason" or "spirit" of any age devoid of pride?


The weakest arguments offered by RC theologians (and as often by Protestants as well) is the plaintive plea, "Isn't it reasonable to believe x.y. or z?"

The answer is NO it is not, not until you have experienced x.y.or z. - because anyone who sincerely seeks God in Christ will find him, will meet him, will experience him, hold "relationship with him" and will not be left in decades of time, coldly separated from him, like some poor Muslim, trying to cobble Allah's Wisdom and Knowledge together with mere faith and reason - which is merely a Romanized Philosophy. In fact by worldly standards, Islam is a most reasonable faith, though all it can attain is the fore-mentioned cold separation, which is tried to be remedies by slavish ritual and passionate barbarity. 

The RCC has made of Faith and Reason a dichotomy where they stand in opposition to one another, like they produced the dichotomy of predestination vs free will. (Like the Protestants produce the dichotomy of extreme legalism vs. antinomianism).  Then they claim "wisdom" by claiming that the two, Faith and Reason are somehow locked at the hip, not in conflict and co-eternal.

Beyond faith and reason is wisdom and knowledge. One can create Islam by faith and reason or any number of pagan cults and philosophies. And the idea of ascribing "co-eternity" to the human experience of faith and reason or even to human wisdom and knowledge is ludicrous. OR IF we insist on their "eternal characteristics" we are rather ascribing these as the characteristics of God, and so we have just produced a prideful theology that reduces God to our comprehension. What need has God of the human concepts of Faith and Reason? Wisdom and Knowledge?


It would take a fool to say that God is Reasonable, for God cannot be confined in a human category. We cannot rightly say even that God is Good, since that would accomplish the same diminution of the Deity.  We can state all the "wonderful names of God" ascribed by Islam, which were merely pilfered from Christian Scripture and we have not in any true way described God. We can only say like the Holy Fathers have stated, that HE appears to us more like goodness than ill, more like beauty than ugliness, more like something than nothing, more like kindness than rudeness, more reasonable than unreasonable, more rational than irrational, more judicious than absurd. Yet if we pursue this line of the Good God, Reasonable God, Beautiful God and Kind God, before long we only produce a sugary deity more like a fairy than a Person, holding only "sweet human concepts." The reality of his awesomeness is destroyed.  Everything that is awful, dreadful, formidable,  mighty, overwhelming, superb about God washed away in sugar. 


So faith and reason may or may not lead to wisdom and knowledge. Why? Because Faith and Reason are mere means of EXPERIENCE which may when entered prayerfully produce, by the Synergistic Power of the Holy Spirit IN THAT ACTION, Wisdom and Knowledge. In other words, by walking we will have proved. (So that you may PROVE what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.) The ONLY concept stated as "nearly" holding co-eternity with God is LOVE, (God is Love) and even then we have to admit that the human concept of love is NOT the extent of the concept we intend to convey.


Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. 

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 
10 but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. 
12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. 
13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (American Standard Version) 

Notice it does not state, "But now abideth faith and reason, which are in a sense co-eternal." And each of these concepts, Faith, Hope and Love are meaningless if reduced to emotions, or mental concepts or mental/emotional assents and/or characteristics. They only have meaning in ACTION - applied and experienced in the turmoil and joy of everyday life.


Faith and reason as concepts produce NOTHING. At least nothing good, since they are the underlying core of Islam and other barbarities. But Rational Liturgizing, that is worshiping God, offering ourselves, our intellect, our emotions, our bodies, IN worship, a living sacrifice IN worship, has the power to turn our faith into HIS WISDOM, our reason into HIS KNOWLEDGE. And not just any worship, or Islam would have a leg up on us. Not mindless ritual, nor servile keeping of tradition. 



I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present (present = stand together at attention)  your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (reasonable service = RATIONAL LITURGIZING - that is not free worship, personal worship, confused and chaotic worship, but healing worship as has been passed down through the Tradition of the Church - the ANCIENT forms as honored by both Jesus and the Apostles, as adapted by the Apostles and the New Testament Church following Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.) 
2  And be not conformed to this world: (oh but aren't we supposed to make worship "contemporary and accessible to the people of this age?" Shouldn't we have Rock Bands and Clown Masses and Contemporary Worship Teams? ) but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. +++


The grasp of the Will of God is Wisdom. It trumps faith and reason, but is produced by the "faithful use of both" IN Ortho-Praxis - Proper WORSHIP. Not in philosophizing, conjecturing, or theorizing, or like in Islam, Dead Ritual, but in the LIVING THEOLOGIZING SACRIFICE, that is the Ancient Christian Tradition of WORSHIP - Rational Liturgizing.

Why don't we just engage in private prayer and worship?

“That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.” G.K.Chesterton


Chesterton even in this is still "conceptualizing" and "theorizing" never mentioning the actual gathering of that "terrible army" of the Church Militant who in Divine Liturgy join with the Church Triumphant, the saints and angels worshiping around God's throne TOGETHER.  He does allude to it saying, "to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a (should read that) divine company and a (should read the) captain" and more than observing but JOINING that divine company, where the experience is beyond REASON, beyond FAITH, beyond Philosophy, but existentially LIVED.

It is the experience of the communal worship that creates the "spirit of prayer" the prayer that never ceases, the communion with God, the heart that continually prays.


What meaning is the concept of hot until one experiences being burned?
What meaning is the concept of danger, until we experience the pain of injury?
What meaning is the concept of God or Love, until we are awash in the experience of HIM!

Archpriest Symeon Elias

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