Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chesterton on mystery and free will

Well, we have come to Paul in my Christian Scriptures class and I was reading one of my favorite passages again, Romans 9-11.  There is so much that is fascinating in those three chapters, not the least of which if Paul's view of election, predestination, and the fate of Israel.  Predestination vs. Free will is a debate as old as Christianity (even older), and one that is not going away any time soon.  Some of the greatest thinkers in Christian history have weighed in on this issue and come to opposite conclusions. 

Back in August, I did a four part series on predestination and free will, but never finished it (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).  I guess that is because I find the whole debate tiresome and somewhat fruitless in the end. So, instead of finishing the series, I thought I would end with a quote from G.K. Chesterton which I think sums up for me the sanity to be found in the insanity of the whole debate.
"Mysticism keeps men sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  He has permitted the twilight.  He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland.  He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them.  He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.  His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures 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."  G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (New York: Doubleday, 1990 (originally published 1908)), 28


  1. Chesterton nails it, as usual.

    And I love how Paul concludes his plunge into the treacherous waters of predestination:

    "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

    An eloquent way of saying, "This is well beyond my capacity to understand, much less to adequately explain. So I give up!"

  2. I was thinking of commenting but what is the sense of commenting when there is a Chesterton quote in the post? GKC said it first and best.