Skip to content
Home " All posts " Blog " The church: the center of paradoxes

The church: the center of paradoxes

Support us Click here

A contribution from: André van Lienden

Chesterton discusses all kinds of thinking that flourished in the early 20th century. He has something to say about everything. He does this by using all sorts of paradoxes that make his point clear. "Insane people have not lost their minds; on the contrary, it is all they have left". For example, Chesterton discusses materialism and shows that such ideas destroy man's thinking. You cannot uphold man's rationality and believe in materialism.

Chesterton discovers that there is something strange about Christianity. It seems to be the center of all sorts of paradoxes. Where one person finds the Church too round, another finds it too angular. For example, the Church was too pessimistic and also too optimistic. It was too weak, too feminine, but meanwhile also too violent. Chesterton mentions here some things that led him to discover that it could well be that Church was simply at the center of everything. Church might have had the right forms, but everyone looked at it with their own form and it was not the same, so they had comments.

Next, Chesterton sees that the teaching of the Church has actually been very important. People have clung to all sorts of seeming futilities and caused all sorts of schisms with them. This was necessary, Chesterton now sees. Giving just a little to an erroneous doctrine always creates even greater misconceptions that would lead to greater problems.
The time in which Chesterton writes this is a time with all kinds of new movements: Toryism, Protestantism, Calvinism, Marxism, Reform, etc. "Put broadly, we may say, that free thought is the best of all safeguards against freedom." Ever-changing ideals get us nowhere practically, and this is rather like a slave. But one with the idea of freedom. The slave driver couldn't have it any better. For an ideal to be effective, it must be fixed and not constantly changing. People say that morality evolved slowly. So how should we admonish someone who is now a slave-driver? The fact that he is doing this now apparently indicates that his morality allows it. If there is no eternal principle of justice, who will admonish the present-day slave-driver? So even the moral ideal must be something fixed.

In addition to this first point of the ideal of progress, there is a second point. The ideal must be composite. "It should not be the mere victory of one thing, which devours all the others, love or pride or peace or adventure; it should be a painting composed of these elements in their best proportion and relationship to each other." Again, it was the Church that offered the best solution. Chesterton continues with the third point.

To keep things the way they are, we have action to take. If we want to keep our house the way she is, we have to maintain her. If we do nothing, she deteriorates. So it is with our society. There are always new ideas that we embrace, but which a little later are discarded because they have disadvantages. If we are only lucky, we become lazy. That is dangerous. We must have an ideal. The Fall is always lurking. Especially for the person who is happy and contented.

The author discusses a variety of other topics including miracles. He shows that it is not the believer who is dogmatic but the skeptic. All in all, it is an interesting book that actually still deserves some overpainting after you have read another bit. I myself will read through it again later, and all sorts of other things will start to strike me again. G.K. Chesterton has been called the man of paradoxes. He certainly lives up to that in this book.

Disclaimer: this contribution by André van Lienden previously appeared under the title 'Orthodoxy on and is reproduced with permission of the author acquired. 


Erwin de Ruiter

"One man tries to express himself in books, another in boots; both are likely to fail." - G.K. Chesterton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept the use of these cookies.  More info


Sign up for the newsletter

And receive 10% discount in the webshop!

Publisher City on a Mountain | Sense Full | Chesterton.NOW | | Mama Goes to Stay