Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Inspired by Chesterton

After putting it off and putting it off I've finally decided to "graduate" to a more respectable form of blogging. Yes, now that I've finally mastered the weird intricacies of blogging on MySpace I'm going to tackle Blogger -- glutton for punishment that I am. Hopefully a few of my loyal readers there will follow me here and I'll meet some new folks along the way.

The title Frightfully Pleased is inspired by G.K. Chesterton of whom I've waited far too long to read. In the opening paragraph of the chapter titled "The Eternal Revolution" in Orthodoxy Chesterton writes.

The following propositions have been urged: First, that some faith in our life is required even to improve it; second, that some dissatisfaction with things as they are is necessary even in order to be satisfied; third, that to have this necessary content and necessary discontent it is not sufficient to have the obvious equilibrium of the Stoic. For mere resignation has neither the gigantic levity of pleasure nor the superb intolerance of pain. There is a vital objection to the advice merely to grin and bear it. The objection is that if you merely bear it, you do not grin. Greek heroes do not grin: but gargoyles do--because they are Christian. And when a Christian is pleased, he is (in the most exact sense) frightfully pleased; his pleasure is frightful. Christ prophesied the whole of Gothic architecture in that hour when nervous and respectable people (such people as now object to barrel organs) objected to the shouting of the gutter-snipes of Jerusalem. He said, "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out." Under the impulse of His spirit arose like a clamorous chorus the facades of the mediaeval cathedrals, thronged with shouting faces and open mouths. The prophecy has fulfilled itself: the very stones cry out.

As with so many of Chesterton's formulations, one just marvels at the sheer brilliance. It's an audacious sort of a book. He's rather like a baseball slugger who's always swinging for the fences -- he strikes out occasionally, but more often than not hits his opponent's arguments out of the park. If you've never read Orthodoxy then you're in for a treat. I don't think any writer is better at fleshing out the glorious paradox and romance inherent in Christianity -- that "superhuman paradox whereby two opposite passions may blaze beside each other."

Be warned my fellow Calvinists, he does take some potshots at the doctrines of Calvin (at least as they are understood by Mr. Chesterton), so if you're Reformed and lacking a sense of humor you may take umbrage. As for me, I thank God for this merry, grand contender for the essential tenets of my faith as spelled out in the Apostles' Creed. He knew better than most that (in his words) "joy, which is the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian."


JenLo said...

Welcome to the big leagues, Dude!

Randy said...

Hi, Steve,
I wandered over here from the Hobe Sound site and was pleased to see the GKC blog. I had the joy of doing an MA Thesis on GKC's apologetic for the family. I was amazed to learn how much he said about it and, of course, how well he said it. I agree with your analysis of his style. Lewis was a fan, listing everlasting Man as one of the top ten most influential books for his life, but he critiqued his style. Hard not to love though. And he does take some cracks at Calvinism and determinism. That doesn't bother me b/c I think he is right, but, oh well.
On the family, there is an anthology of his best on this, edited by Alvaro de Silva: "Brave New Family". Also, Martin Ward has a web site with a large number of his works in e-format. Just google Martin Ward and you'll find it pretty fast. I have a thing or two in my blog pages you may enjoy, but not much at this point.
Glad to connect with a GKC enthusiast.
Randy Huff

Stephen Ley said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I've come across some of your posts now and then and enjoyed them. The one on worship in particular. Yes, EVERLASTING MAN is next on my list. Can't wait to dig into it. As far as Chesterton's jibes at Calvinism, etc. I think it may be another case of Calvin not being well served by some of his later students and interpretors...especially Beza who took it upon himself to rearrange Calvin's teachings on predestination in The Institutes. Thus originating the supralapsarian view (sometimes called double predestination) which in my opinion (based on what little I know about it) and the view of most Reformed theologians since was not Calvin's view. Well I digress....

Thanks for the recommendations!