Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Insane Sanity of Christianity

In setting up his explanation for how he came to an orthodox faith in God, GK Chesterton describes the "materialist" who relies ultimately on logic as a "madman."  For instance, Chesterton argues that a mad person might claim to be God--and the way one would work with such a person is not to deny that they are God but to point out that if they are indeed the creator of the universe, then what a small and insignificant universe it must be. Similarly, Chesterton argues that a non-believer who demands all truth claims meet the rule of logic, limits truth possibilities to a small circle. The basic argument is that Christian spirituality is more creative, less limited, and therefore more "sane" than materialistic rationality.  He writes:
Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case the road is open and I can go as far as I like, but in the second, the road is shut.
Chesterton's argument is not that the rational skeptic is not rational--rather rational skepticism is infinitely rational, it just happens to be a small and limited infinity. "Their position is quite reasonable, nay, it is infinitely reasonable, just as a three-penny is infinitely circular... [it is] a base and slavish eternity." 

All this is to set up what I believe to be the best use of the image of the cross that I have ever encountered:
For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed forever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox at its center, it can grow without changing.
This image of the cross having a collision and paradox at its center is why we can know things to be true that may not fit our limited reason. Like, "The one who loses their life for my sake will find it."  This is not a rational statement, but in the cross it makes sense. Which is true: that God is sovereign over all and knows everything before it happens, or that God has given humans free will?  They are both true. Sure it is paradoxical but it works when our reasoning is not circular, but based in the cross. Do we seek righteousness or surround ourselves with sinners?  Both!  Are we holy or imperfect? Both!  Does God judge whether or not we are faithful, or is God's approach merciful?  Both!  Christianity makes the most sense when we allow for paradox, when we don't try to reshape the cross into a small circular logic.

"The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything becomes lucid." (GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

1 comment:

  1. As a seeker of logic by nature, I love this argument. Next time I find myself questioning what's happening in my life or the life of my loved ones, I'll try to remember the paradox of the cross.