Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Adult Faith Formation, January 27th - Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton, Session 3 - Chapters 3 and 4 (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

 We discuss chapters 3 and 4 of Chesterton's classic Orthodoxy: The Suicide of Thought and The Ethics of Elfland.  

In these chapters, Chesterton speaks first of the crisis of thought which is prevalent also in our day - not so much to reject what has come before, but to pretend like the genius of previous ages never existed. If a man does not love the Medieval Theologians, he should at least hate them - but modern man commits the suicide of thought by pretending there were no theologians in the middle ages, and that no one until our modern day has anything to contribute to philosophy, theology, or reason.

In The Ethics of Elfland, Chesterton puts forward his own apologetic for morality. This is a most compelling chapter -- Why should we be good? Because the world is beautiful, and being good is a way of expressing our gratitude to the Creator.

Listen online part 1 [here]!

Listen online part 2 [here]!


Adult Faith Formation Series – Spring 2021 – Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

January 26th – Chapters 3&4 – The Suicide of Thought & The Ethics of Elfland

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.

It has been found difficult; and left untried. - GK Chesterton



I. Chapter 3: The Suicide of Thought

A. The false humility of doubting absolute truth, and doubting the ability to know truth

B. Modern skepticism is a skepticism against all thought – which is the death of thought

C. Chesterton notes that religion and religious authority (indeed, he mentions many of the traditional forms of authority) were established not so suppress reason or free thought, but to defend it

D. Chesterton is a strong critic of evolution. This refers not so much to the actual science of evolution of living organisms (although he was suspicious of that too, especially because of the eugenics claims of his day), but more especially to the claim of the evolution of thought and of truth. Loving progress for the mere sake of progress without any reference to absolute truths.

E. There must be objective truths and moral standards which are valid through all ages and for all peoples.



II. Chapter 4: The Ethics of Elfland

A. What does Chesterton mean when he states that he is a “liberal”? It has a different meaning in his time, referring to the idea of democracy and voting.

B. GK Chesterton has a charming comparison of democracy and tradition.

C. Fairytales help us to regain that original wonder and even surprise at the world. That we might delight in the world.

D. When Chesterton criticizes scientific laws, he is speaking on a philosophical level. Granted, there are certain “laws of nature” and scientific principles that order the world, but that still doesn’t get to the deeper philosophical question of why things are the way they are and even why anything exists at all.

E. Chesterton’s “Doctrine of Conditional Joy” – a foundation for morality based on joy and wonder.

F. A God who is eternal young, and perfectly creative.

G. The realization that all that exists is most precious, it might not have been and was saved as from a great ship wreck. 

H. Overview of the five points made at the end of this chapter.



III. Looking ahead to next week

A. The Flag of the World:  A good corrective to nationalism as well as to disloyalty. Note Chesterton’s discussion of suicide, which perhaps strikes us a somewhat harsh.


B. The Paradoxes of Christianity: Chesterton is famous for his presentation of paradoxes. His aim is to show that Christianity is wholly unique and really nothing like any other religion or philosophy.



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