Is there anything that is transcendent and eternal?
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “In Orthodoxy, in one of the early chapters, G.K. Chesterton is pondering the question of whether or not there is anything that is transcendent and eternal, or whether everything is ephemeral and short-lived and thus you can make it up as you go along.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: In his book Orthodoxy, which you should all have a copy of – I can think of no reason to not have a copy of Orthodoxy. In Orthodoxy, in one of the early chapters, G.K. Chesterton is pondering the question of whether or not there is anything that is transcendent and eternal, or whether everything is ephemeral and short-lived and thus you can make it up as you go along. Of course, Chesterton, being probably, from the English-speaking world anyway, the most brilliant Brit that ever put a pen to a piece of paper, worked his way with great humor through the issue. He wrote this:
It is commonly the loose and latitudinarian Christians who pay quite indefensible compliments to Christianity. They talk as if there had never been any piety or pity until Christianity came, a point on which any mediaeval would have been eager to correct them. They represent that the remarkable thing about Christianity was that it was the first to preach simplicity or self-restraint, or inwardness and sincerity. They will think me very narrow (whatever that means) if I say that the remarkable thing about Christianity was that it was the first to preach Christianity. Its peculiarity was that it was peculiar, and simplicity and sincerity are not peculiar, but obvious ideals for all mankind.
Mike: I’m going to pause right there. We find ourselves making statements often that would lead an alien traveler who had just visited us and was seeking wisdom from us to believe that only certain peoples are the ones that our Lord Christ said: You twelve, go out and teach all nations. He didn’t say: Go out and teach all nations that have white people in them. He didn’t say: Go out and teach these nations that are nearby. He didn’t limit the instruction and the commandment. It was plural in the very large, pan sense of the world. We often forget that. That would then include the Mohammedans. You talk about [mocking] “What are we supposed to do about the Mohammedans, huh? Are we supposed to be pacifists and lay our arms down?” Yeah, sure, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do. That would include then trying to convert the Mohammedan. Irony of all ironies, is it not? Why is the Mohammedan warring against the infidel? Because we are infidels to them. The irony of ironies is we were instructed to do what? Find infidels. And do what? Convert them. Back to Chesterton:
Christianity was the answer to a riddle, not the last truism uttered after a long talk. Only the other day I saw in an excellent weekly paper of Puritan tone this remark, that Christianity when stripped of its armour of dogma (as who should speak of a man stripped of his armour of bones), turned out to be nothing but the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light. Now, if I were to say that Christianity came into the world specially to destroy the doctrine of the Inner Light, that would be an exaggeration. But it would be very much nearer to the truth. The last Stoics, like Marcus Aurelius, were exactly the people who did believe in the Inner Light. Their dignity, their weariness, their sad external care for others, their incurable internal care for themselves, were all due to the Inner Light, and existed only by that dismal illumination. Notice that Marcus Aurelius insists, as such introspective moralists always do, upon small things done or undone; it is because he has not hate or love enough to make a moral revolution. He gets up early in the morning, just as our own aristocrats living the Simple Life get up early in the morning; because such altruism is much easier than stopping the games of the amphitheatre or giving the English people back their land. Marcus Aurelius is the most intolerable of human types. He is an unselfish egoist. An unselfish egoist is a man who has pride without the excuse of passion. Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light.
Mike: By the way, folks, we have tens of millions of people out there right now who are pursuing this Inner Light-ism, which is acting as their own pope, their own bishop, taking gospel truth and not applying it, not seeking any form of historical or magisterial framework to view it in and to carry it on, but instead say: No, no, it means this. You know why? Because you’re an arrogant fool. It
means that to you. It’s not supposed to mean anything to you. It’s in the form of a commandment. Either you take it or you don’t. When you don’t take it, then you’re not obeying the law of God. We don’t get a vote on this. I can’t tell you how many times I make this point and I get all kinds of hate mail on this. [mocking] “That’s just you and your silly dogma.” No, it’s not my dogma. That’s the whole point. That’s the point Chesterton is making here. We don’t get a vote on dogma. It’s dogma because it didn’t get voted on. It’s passed down to us as good. You pass it on to your children as good. This is not difficult. Why we go through these fits and contortions to make it difficult. And to believe: All we have to have is the proper form of constitution. I’d love to have the proper form of constitution. I’d love to have obedience to the current one. That would be great. However, it is not necessary to the preservation of a positive fate for my or your eternal soul. We can have it; it’s not necessary. When we lose sight and track of that, that’s when we fall into error and that’s what Chesterton is writing about here.
Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. Any one who knows any body knows how it would work; any one who knows any one from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it does work. 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.
End Mike Church Show Transcript