Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chesterton on the OTF

HT: Bob Prokop

"The next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. And a particular point of it is that the popular critics of Christianity are not really outside it. They are on a debatable ground, in every sense of the term. They are doubtful in their very doubts. Their criticism has taken on a curious tone; as of a random and illiterate heckling."

"I do seriously recommend the imaginative effort of conceiving the Twelve Apostles as Chinamen. In other words, I recommend [one] try to do as much justice to Christian saints as if they were Pagan sages. ... When we do make this imaginative effort to see the whole thing from the outside, we find that it really looks like what is traditionally said about it inside. ... It is exactly when we see the Christian Church from afar ... that we see that it is really the Church of Christ. To put it shortly, the moment we are really impartial about it, we know why people are partial to it."


Anonymous said...

This is just way too funny. Here we've been debating ad nauseum the so-called John Loftus OTF (trademark), and it turns out that it was invented by a CHRISTIAN apologist long before poor Mr. Loftus was born! And even funnier, Mr. Chesterton considered the OTF to be a point IN FAVOUR OF Christianity!!!

John, you are a fraud and a plagiarist. Ha, Ha, Ha!!!

JS Allen said...

I'm guessing this is from "Everlasting Man". Chesterton starts with this great parable about a guy who sails away from England to discover a new land, discovers this new foreign and exotic land of wonder and beauty, and only later realizes he's "discovered" England.

Like Lewis, I immediately recognized myself in Chesterton's parable. Based on my personal experience, I don't see anything wrong with people "sailing away" from a country that's become too familiar to them. But we can't rule out the possibility that the new and exotic land we seek will end up being right where we started.

Ron said...

Chesterton is a gem. Seeing Christianity from the outside saved my faith. Atheists in our culture take a lot for granted in terms of morality many pagans of old would have scoffed at or have been perplexed at. That the strong should dominate the weak was an axiom in the ancient world just as infanticide was defended by the philosophers. Most atheists (besides Peter Singer, that is) are horrified by infanticide though they either deny or have forgotten why that is so.

Seeing Christianity as something foriegn, something strange and new, definitely makes you re-examine it. If you find yourself totally outside where you are not a "atheist," or "secularist" but just outside as we are all outside of Hinduism (none of us would call ourselves non-Hindus though as Westerners we might use the term 'non-Christian'), then you can examine what Christ and his teachings relate to your life. The cultural barrier of religious baggage is removed.

Walter said...

Like Lewis, I immediately recognized myself in Chesterton's parable. Based on my personal experience, I don't see anything wrong with people "sailing away" from a country that's become too familiar to them. But we can't rule out the possibility that the new and exotic land we seek will end up being right where we started.

Some of us sailed away from "England" and discovered "America."

The new, exotic land is not what we started with.

Mr Veale said...

Can't go wrong with Chesterton!

Mr Veale said...

In fact, I think Chesterton finds a marriage of reason and passion in Christianity. It's this marriage that makes Christianity so rationally compelling.

Life is a complex and somewhat mysterious problem to which Christianity gives a complex and somewhat mysterious answer.

Mr Loftus is much too glib in his rejection of Christianity. The complexity of life and Christianity seem to have passed him by (even though he has some experience of both)

JS Allen said...

@Walter - Yes, it's perfectly OK to end up somewhere different from where you started.

Chesterton is just addressing the weird claim that it's *not* OK to end up where you started. That, if you end up where you started, then you've failed to discover anything exotic and new.

It's related to his extended argument in "What's Wrong With the World", where he points out that people regard "progress" as being "different from status quo", and all of the negative consequences this brings.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

T.S. Eliot said much the same thing (though as usual, far more poetically) in "Little Gidding":

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

I think I'll give more trust to Eliot and Chesterton than I will to Loftus!

Gregory said...

Excellent Chesterton quotes!!!

Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" ought to be included in the literary canon of "great books". Even if one were to reject the apologetic aspect of the book, I think any honest reader can see that Chesterton is a high caliber writer, thinker and humorist. Second to none, if you ask me.

He is what Orthodoxy and Scripture call a "fool for Christ". He undoubtedly was an oddball. But God loves "oddballs" (1 Cor. 1:26-29; 4:10).

Blaise Pascal said...

Great quote. I like this thought very much.

Blaise Pascal said...

Here is a online copy of Cherstertons Everlasting Man: I have read only the beginning. But it seems that he is making the Outsider Test for Earth.

"Far away in some strange constellation in skies infinitely remote, there
is a small star, which astronomers may some day discover. At least I
could never observe in the faces or demeanour of most astronomers or men
of science any evidence that they have discovered it; though as a matter
of fact they were walking about on it all the time. It is a star that
brings forth out of itself very strange plants and very strange animals;
and none stranger than the men of science. That at least is the way in
which I should begin a history of the world, if I had to follow the
scientific custom of beginning with an account of the astronomical
universe. I should try to see even this earth from the outside, not by
the hackneyed insistence of its relative position to the sun, but by
some imaginative effort to conceive its remote position for the
dehumanised spectator. Only I do not believe in being dehumanised in
order to study humanity. I do not believe in dwelling upon the distances
that are supposed to dwarf the world; I think there is even something a
trifle vulgar about this idea of trying to rebuke spirit by size. And as
the first idea is not feasible, that of making the earth a strange
planet so as to make it significant, I will not stoop to the other trick
of making it a small planet in order to make it insignificant. I would
rather insist that we do not even know that it is a planet at all, in
the sense in which we know that it is a place; and a very extraordinary
place too. That is the note which I wish to strike from the first, if
not in the astronomical, then in some more familiar fashion."

T.D. said...

I think Chesterton described critics such as Loftus very well when he wrote:

"They cannot be Christians and they cannot leave off being Anti-Christians. Their whole atmosphere is the atmosphere of a reaction: sulks, perversity, petty criticism. They still live in the shadow of the faith and have lost the light of the faith."

JS Allen said...

Sorry everyone, I cited the wrong Chesterton work. It's actually the opening chapter of "Orthodoxy" that has the parable of the man leaving England only to rediscover it. It's a pretty good example of the OTF.