Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Adult Formation, February 2nd -- Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton, Session 4 - Chapters 5 and 6 (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

 We discuss Chesterton's classic Orthodoxy.  Chapters 5 and 6: The Flag of the World and The Paradoxes of Christianity.

Chesterton points out that we all owe a loyalty to the world which is best characterized as a sort of patriotism. We must hate the world enough to want to reform it, but love it enough to believe it is worth reforming.

In chapter 6, Chesterton presents the paradoxes of Christianity -- this one religion is criticized on every side and from every angle. At one too pompous and too humble, too obsessed with sex and too repressive of sex, too rich and too poor, too womanly and too much a woman's religion, too pacifist and too violent, etc.  And suddenly, it occurred to Chesterton that the Church is either miraculously wrong or miraculously right, either straight from heaven or straight from hell.  Either way, Christianity is nothing like any other religion.   And, as it turns out, the extremes of Christianity happen to fit perfectly the extremes of real life - like a lock to a key, Christianity is the religion of the Creator.

Listen online part 1 [here]!

Listen online part 2 [here]!


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

February 2nd – Chapters 5&6 – The Flag of the World & The Paradoxes of Christianity

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.

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



I. Review of Chesterton’s Ethics

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

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

C. The beauty of the world inspires us to be good, this is how we give thanks to the Creator.



II. Chapter 5: The Flag of the World

A. Optimism vs Pessimism, and the failures of each.  The optimist, especially the rational optimist, is tempted to white wash the world or his nation without really fixing or reforming it. The pessimist doesn’t believe the world is worth reforming.   Chesterton is decidedly opposed to pessimism – for him, it is the greatest sin. 

B. Note his poem, The Ballad of the White Horse – the pagans move from hedonism, to war/violence, to pessimism.  That was the great sin of the pagan, that he no longer believed in anything.

C. We ought to feel a patriotism for the world, an allegiance with it, as belonging to it. We love the world with all that is wrong in it, and this inspires us to make it better.

D. To hate the world enough to want to change it, to love it enough to think it worth changing. Irrational optimism is to love the world because it is ours and because we belong to it – not for any one reason, but more the way a parent loves a child or a woman her husband.

E. The Martyr vs the Suicide: The martyr loves life enough to risk losing it, and so gains true life.  The suicide hates life and has no loyalty to the world, and so loses everything. This is the model of courage, to be willing to throw one’s life away in battle out of love for life and all that is good in the world.



III. Chapter 6: The Paradoxes of Christianity

A. The apparent logic of the world is surprisingly found to be illogical in the most unusual ways. Take the example of a man who has two hands, two lobes of the brain, but not two hearts. The genius of Christianity is that it predicts just where the world goes weird.

B. Christianity is not only denounce for being wrong, but for being wrong in every way – even in ways that would seem contradictory.  At once, too much at war and too much at peace; too extravagant and too plain; too pessimistic and too optimistic; too dismissive of women and too much a woman’s religion; etc.

C. If Christianity is wrong, it is wildly and even miraculously wrong – if it is right, it is wildly and miraculously right.  Perhaps it is not that the Church is wrong in every way, but she is right and all the critics were wrong.

D. The Church holds the middle, not be blending and softening the two extremes, but by holding them in a fierce paradox.  The lion is not the lamb, and white and red do not blend to pink.

E. The thrill of orthodoxy.



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