Gilbert Keith Chesterton was an amateur philosopher, an intellect and a poet. He was a prolific writer, a contemporary and correspondent of George Bernard Shaw, as well as a man who considered Atheism the religion of “the mad man.”
First and foremost, however, Chesterton was a Roman Catholic; and as such, he was a man who detested Calvinism, and made no effort to hide it. In fact, he devoted a great portion of his career arguing that all Calvinists are lunatics.
Chesterton’s shocking inconsistencies, blatant misrepresentations and outright deceptions aside, he nevertheless managed to state one fact about Protestantism that remains true to this day.
“The genuine Protestant creed is now hardly held by anybody –
least of all by the Protestants. So completely have they lost faith
in it, that they have mostly forgotten what it was.”
Indeed they have. And most of what they have replaced it with is no newer than Chesterton’s Catholicism itself. Consider Herman Bavinck, for example. Bavinck writes:”Mystery is the vital element of Dogmatics. It is true that that the term ‘mystery’ in Scripture does not indicate abstract-supernatural truth in the Romish sense; nevertheless, the idea that the believer would be able to understand and comprehend intellectually the revealed mysteries is equally unscriptural. On the contrary, the truth which God has revealed concerning himself in nature and in Scripture far surpasses human conception and comprehension. In that sense Dogmatics is concerned with nothing but mystery.”
Now where have I heard that before? “His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight; he sees two different things at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young, and old age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he cannot understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”
– G. K. Chesterton ,”Orthodoxy”
So then, if I am to understand Chesterton and Bavinck here, then I must first ensure I do not understand them. For only when I do not understand them shall it be that I then do understand them. But if I begin by understanding them, it will then be that I do not understand them.
Say what? This is completely nonsensical,
In a 2002 Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference, pastor and author Steven Schlissel stated the following: “Western Christendom was not built up by the method of individual conversions; rather, it was a way of life that the people accepted as a whole, often by the decisions of their rulers. When accepted,Christianity affected the whole life of society by the change of their institutions and laws. It is easy to condemn this type of corporate Christianity as superficial, external or even sub-Christian, but at least it means that Christianity is accepted as a social fact affecting every side of life and not merely as an opinion or a specialized group activity or a hobby. If we want to know how a nation uniformly Christian has become anti-Christian, we need look no further than this individualized conception of God’s dealings . . ”
Who does Schlissel think the Catholics were persecuting for all those centuries, if not the individually converted, faithful few? Chesterton, being ever the obedient Catholic, and thus a citizen of corporate Christianity, would have adored Schlissel. Speaking of the modern world and how it is “not evil; in some way the modern world is far too good”, Chesterton writes of Christianity, “(it was) shattered at the Reformation.”
In his book, “St. Thomas Aquinas”, Chesterton goes even further when he writes of Martin Luther’s “barbarity”: “It had one theory that was the destruction of all theories; in fact it had its own theology which was itself the death of theology. Man could say nothing to God, nothing from God, nothing about God, except an almost inarticulate cry
for mercy and for the supernatural help of Christ. Man could
not trust what was in his head anymore than a turnip.”
Chesterton’s argument is silly. If man could say nothing to God, then what use to Luther was his many prayers? And if man could hear nothing from God, then just who was Luther listening to during his careful study of Scripture? And if man can say nothing of God, then what precisely was Luther talking about when he spoke of his theology?
The similarities between Schlissel’s theology and Chesterton’s philosophy do not end at corporateChristianity. In his book, Law and Gospel In Covenant Perspective, Norman Shepherd writes:
“. . . the Lord God deals with the power and corruption of sin
by teaching his people how to live happy and productive lives.”
Chesterton is in full agreement. In part four of his essay, Education: Or the Mistake About the Child, he writes, “The difference between Puritanism and Catholicism is not about whether some priestly word or gesture is significant and sacred. It is about whether any word or
gesture is significant or sacred. To the Catholic every
other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good or evil. To the Calvinist no act can have that sort of solemnity, because the person doing it has been dedicated from eternity, and is merely filling up his time until the crack of doom.”
There is a great chasm separating the Romanist from the Protestant. While the Romanist works in order to rest, the Protestants rests in order to work. (See Hebrews 4)
“. . . the only great English poet ever went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven made by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. . . . He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin.”
– G K Chesterton, “St. Thomas Aquinas”
“Calvinism held that God had indeed made the world, but in a special sense, made the evil as well as the good: had made an evil will as well as an evil world. On this view, if a man chooses to damn his soul alive, he is not thwarting God’s will but rather fulfilling it . . .
The new Calvinist taught that God originates the whole work of damnation commonly attributed to Satan. One looked back to
the first day when a devil acted like a god, the other looked
forward to a last day when a god acted like a devil.”
” ‘If once a man is born it is too late to damn
or save him.’ That is the fundamental and subterranean secret;
that is the last lie of hell.” – Education: Or the Mistake of the Child
Shepherd and Schlissel are now following Rome into salvation by works, rather than by sovereign grace.
“The biblical nature of the covenant means that man is
compacted into a covenant of mutual obligations, and is
therefore accorded a decisive role in securing its promises.
Man is required to fulfill what is due and to request thereupon
his due. This turns Christianity into a congregation of obeyers
rather than a congregation of believers.”
– Steven M. Schlissel, “A New Way of Seeing?”
“We have thought too long only in terms of covenant blessings.
The covenant of grace curses people who have the privilege of
being among God’s people on earth, distinguished from the world,
and yet don’t live up to what He teaches.”
– Randy Booth, “The Sensible Covenant”, Backbone of the Bible: Covenant in Contemporary Perspective
“To be covenantlly united with God, although intended by God
to bring favor and blessing to His chosen people, carries as well
the threat of judgment and curse. God’s covenant involves
blessing and cursing, depending upon whether one is a covenant- keeper or a covenant-breaker.” – Randy Booth
The Federal Visionist pretends to be a Reformer. In fact, however, he despisies the gospel of grace and wants to return to the grace of law. While they formally reject initial justification by works on one hand, they proclaim men can only remain justified by doing good works. they must “live up to it.” This was Chesterton’s argument, and is even today the Pope’s argument. Unlike the unbelieving Protestant however, Chesterton was at least honest enough to call his philosophy what it was – Catholicism.
Scripture is very clear on this subject of justification by works.
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never,
by the same sacrifices continually offered every year, make
perfect those who draw near.”, – Hebrews 10:1
If a man’s work could justify him, then there would be no need for him to offer works every day, every week, every year, year after year after year. If his work was good enough to justify him, he would have been once and for all justified, with no need to perform any more works. But the fact that he does indeed strive to be a good man for God, proves he shall never be a good man to God. The only righteousness God accepts is that acquired by Christ Himself, His own very righteousness, and none else. The only sacrifice pleasing to God is the blood of His Son, shed upon the cross, and nothing else.
For the Atheist, the Nihilist and the Materialist, God is dead. For the Catholics, the Federal Visionists and the Chesterton’s of this world, God is a feeble, old man, leaning heavily upon the cane of man’s free will.
Those who play at being both Protestant and Romanist have forgotten they do so at His bidding. It is a terrible thing to fall in the hands of the living God.