Saturday, March 12, 2011

Paradoxes that aren't

I'm reading G.K. Chesterton's, Orthodoxy at the moment and have been really impressed with his writing.  It was very surprising to me to read his thoughts on the criticisms of Christianity and on the seeming paradoxes within Christianity itself.  I have often wondered how critics could maintain that Christianity was at the same time an overly passive, meek, even week theology/philosophy and also claim that it was too warlike, aggressive and controlling.  Even within the Bible itself we have statements that seem to create paradoxes, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Luke 9:24(NIV) How can this be? It would seem either that Christianity makes no sense at all or that it is so obstruse and complicated that few actually understand it.  Chesterton does a very good job of showing that it is neither.

The truth is that both views are correct, at least in part, and they are both held at the same time.  When called to battle we are called to devote everything to it no matter the odds.  When called to be passive we are not to be just somewhat passive, but fanatically passive.  In Chesterton's own words:

No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world; but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on.  Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?  Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence?  Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair?  Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist?  Is he enough of a pagan to die for this world, and enough of a Christian to die to it?  In this combination, I maintain, it is the rational optimist who fails, the irrational optimist who succeeds.  He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself.

This fell together with something else I read recently.  I have been doing a study of the book of Revelation with my middle school youth group.  Christ's letter to the church at Laodicea captures this thought so clearly.  Christ rebukes this church for being lukewarm, neither hot not cold, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!" Rev 3:15 (NIV)  There it is, we are called to be hot or cold, in or out, on or off.  Christianity is not Buddhism, there is no middle path in Christianity.  The middle path is compromise, conformity to the world, and death.

So, are you radically sold out to Christ, or just going through the motions?


  1. I don't think critics "maintain that Christianity (is) at the same time an overly passive, meek, even weak theology/philosophy (but) also claim that it (is) too warlike, aggressive and controlling." Critics claim, as the Bible tells us, that Christ used his passiveness and meekness as His strength. Yet Christians often use their strength and aggression and warlike abilities to solve their problems (specifically on a Nation vs. Nation scale) and at the same time eschew the more Christ-like powers of compassion, healing and diplomacy. Christianity is clear and focused. Christians, you, the followers, are generally not. You, in general, cannot (or don't chose to) line up (with) Christ's peacefully, non-aggressive ways while living in a dangerous, violent, aggressive World. Christ did not fight against his enemies. Therefore, how can you justify aggression in any sense as a Christian?

  2. There is at least one example of Christ Himself using violence to remove the money changers from the Temple. However, the example given is just one of many contradictory criticisms of Christianity, and not one you hear often these days (thus the past tense). These days it's more that the Christian Right is trying to gain power in the government so that they can impose their morals on the whole nation, while at the same time attacking most Christian leaders as being hypocrites and without morals(fleecing the flock). On a national level you are correct, though, there is currently only one theocratic Christian nation that I'm aware of, and it covers about 1 square mile. It's very common for political leaders to invoke God as justification for war, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:28 I think that there have been justifiable wars. Unfortunately, I seems to have missed my mark with this post, it's really not about a call to violence, I was going for a call to Christians to be passionate in their beliefs, not lukewarm, not to compromise, not to take the path of least resistance.

  3. The truth is that both views are correct and the truth is somewhere in between. When called to battle we are called to devote everything to it if we want to win. But you are quite right that we should choose the path of compromise.

  4. I guess that every religion is a manipulative weapon created to control the masses. Apart from that one can take many positive approcahes which to use in life and a wisdom which can teach you precious lesson. Belief means more power to deal with the challenges.