Monday, November 13, 2006

Chesterton on original sin

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After finishing C. B. Moss' fantastic book The Old Catholic Movement: It's Origins and History, I have picked up G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I've already come across several gold nuggets--so far none as good as his ever-relevant comments in the second chapter on sin and our tendency to ignore it. It is relevant in today's Episcopal Church which often lauds the sacrament of baptism, but denies the need for it at the same time (as evidenced in the new and illegal fad of giving Holy Communion to the unbaptized).

Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt.

Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell [a "modernizer" in religion during Chesterton's time--ed.], in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.

The strongest saints and and strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel ex­quisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the exis­tence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

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