Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chesterton and the "Paradoxy" of Orthodoxy

Carl Olson reflects in an older article on how he was influenced by the sixth chapter of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, which is titled "Paradoxes of Christianity."
[Chesterton] examined various challenges to Christianity, noting, "It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons." His observations are just as illuminating today as they were one hundred years ago—perhaps even more so—for they outline the flawed nature of the biases of skeptics and scoffers, and are therefore of no small assistance to anyone defending Christianity in today's hostile public square.

The first contradictory criticism is that Christianity is "a thing of inhuman gloom" and "purely pessimistic and opposed to life". In contemporary terms: Christianity is allegedly repressive, dysfunctional, and depressing. In the words of Ted Turner, Christianity is a "religion for losers." Such is the mantra of the sexually "liberated," who see any restraint upon their libido as the work of a self-loathing and prudish Church. This portrayal of Christianity is such regular fare it hardly needs to be pointed out.

And yet, Chesterton continues, Christianity was also mocked because it "comforted men with a fictitious providence" and was " a fool's paradise." Don't you know, muses the enlightened "free thinker", that Christianity enslaves by promising heavenly bliss and eternal glory, when in fact life is a series of random biological accidents without any purpose, direction, or meaning? Ah, so who is really depressing and pessimistic? "The very man who denounced Christianity for pessimism," Chesterton notes, "was himself a pessimist." It is demeaning, say some critics, to speak of "sin"; far better to believe that man is an animal with little or no control over his lusts and passions, which are simply products of genetics and environment.

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