Chesterton and the Eastern Church

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Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby rusmeister » October 19th, 2009, 5:12 pm

It is with some misgivings that I post here at all. I feel that people who hold conscious dogmatic beliefs are not terribly welcome here, and that respect for other's beliefs increasingly means not suggesting that they may be wrong; ie, it seems that here doubt is only respected in regards to one's own beliefs.

However, in the hopes that not all serious and dogmatic Catholic and Orthodox posters have fled the boards here, I would like to pose a question specifically to them; most specifically to Catholic posters - whose faith G.K. Chesterton ardently and specifically defended, and that is this: What knowledge did GKC have of the eastern (Orthodox) Church? I have become an Orthodox Chestertonian, and have read perhaps half of GKC's published works (more actual books, not as many journalistic essays as I'd like - the man wrote well over 4,000 essays and close to a hundred books), and despite his enormous knowledge spanning Protestantism, Buddhism, Islam, and atheist/skeptic thought, he shows essentially no knowledge of the Orthodox Church. I have found perhaps three or four vague references (two, I think, in his book on St Thomas Aquinas) to the eastern Church, period.

The result is that Orthodox Christians can essentially claim Chesterton as their own - in nearly everything he says, they may confidently replace the word "Catholic" with the word "Orthodox", and the effect and meaning is the same. (Never mind his broader use of the word "orthodox".) Of course his emphasis is on medieval history, and his intent is Catholic, but it seems pretty clear that his information on Orthodox Christianity is acquired straight from (obviously biased) Catholic sources, and the policy of the Catholic Church regarding the general public seems to have been to maintain silence on the existence of the Orthodox Church.

This is not at all to debate Orthodoxy vs Catholicism per se; I'm only interested in GKC's relation to it. Not to argue, but to learn (maybe someone here really does know something I don't know). It certainly is an anomaly - a serious gap in his enormous knowledge and thought, which I have the greatest respect for (heck, I'm dedicated to reading all of his works and to getting as many as possible translated into Russian, lest anyone think I want to knock a truly great man).
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Mr Bultitude » October 20th, 2009, 10:17 pm

As only an amateur Chestertonian, I can't offer an answer to the question you're asking in your post. But for our benefit and to at least add some replies here: can you describe, or link to resources that describe, the differences and commonalities between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches?
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby rusmeister » October 23rd, 2009, 4:10 am

Hi, Mr B!
We are all amateurs, in the sense that we love these things. :)

Here is a link that evidently tries to present differences from a neutral point of view:
http://christianityinview.com/comparison.html

Obviously, Orthodox and Catholic sources see and present the issues and history in different lights. www.oca.org is a reliable and canonical Orthodox site, one of the most authoritative out there.

But I really don't want to debate Orthodoxy vs Catholicism; what I would welcome are ideas as to why Chesterton's works can or cannot be, with the qualifications of the Papacy and specifically Catholic history being taken into account, equally used by Orthodox Christians as apologetics for Orthodoxy. (Well, the 'can' is pretty obvious if you know anything about the Orthodox Church - I'll only say here that if your knowledge of any Church does not come from that Church about its own teachings, you ought to suspect your 'knowledge'.)

Like I said, I think the Catholic people and those most knowledgeable about Chesterton and best able to respond that I knew here have been driven off. But if there is anyone here who can respond, I'd welcome it!
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Mr Bultitude » October 23rd, 2009, 4:22 pm

Thank you for posting those links. The history and present state of denominational Christianity are things I find most interesting, especially because I have yet to officially align myself with one or the other.

In lieu of commenting on the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, as that is not the purpose of your thread, I could say one thing about your question of whether an Orthodox is as justified as a Catholic in using Chesterton as a defense of his faith. I'd say that as much as Chesterton doesn't claim that his views are exclusively in support of Catholic Christianity is how much a non-Catholic could refer to them as illumination of his own Christianity. Although Chesterton sometimes invokes Catholicism specifically, he also often speaks of the fundamental Christian idea, which needless to say is accessible to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In fact, in my amateur interpretation of it, his Orthodoxy is a fine defense of both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I think most of his stuff is in harmony with the idea that Lewis ran on in his Mere Christianity, that it is more productive and accessible to deal with the Christianity that is beneath the denominational fractures, than it is to deal with the Christianity that positions itself relative to the fractures.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Sven » October 23rd, 2009, 7:48 pm

rusmeister wrote:Like I said, I think the Catholic people and those most knowledgeable about Chesterton and best able to respond that I knew here have been driven off. But if there is anyone here who can respond, I'd welcome it!


Are you actually accusing us of anti-Catholicism?
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Adam Linton » October 23rd, 2009, 9:40 pm

Sven wrote:
rusmeister wrote:Like I said, I think the Catholic people and those most knowledgeable about Chesterton and best able to respond that I knew here have been driven off. But if there is anyone here who can respond, I'd welcome it!


Are you actually accusing us of anti-Catholicism?


Thank you, Sven. I almost responded, myself, to the "driven off" bit. (Nonsense, frankly; as I see it.) I thought, however, that my responding would only fortify some less-than-desirable dynamics that the Wardrobe is fortunately moving beyond. I'm glad that you weighed in here, though. Your efforts as Moderator are appreciated.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby john » October 23rd, 2009, 10:11 pm

rusmeister wrote:Like I said, I think the Catholic people and those most knowledgeable about Chesterton and best able to respond that I knew here have been driven off.


Driven off? No. People chose to leave, and that's fine. On the other hand, people who felt uncomfortable and crowded out by the more aggressive members have chosen to return now that we have "pushed the reset button," so to speak.

If anybody feels driven off, it's most likely because they've decided they have no place here anymore, yet can't accept responsibility for their part in why the changes were necessary.

From my last post regarding the recent changes:

...if there are those among you who feel that the forums are too limiting, and do not fulfill a particular need you have, then you may choose to stay (participating within the scope of it, and observing the code of conduct), or you may simply choose to leave. This site will never be everything to everybody -- so as long as that's true, I might as well do what I feel is best, and what makes me happy. This is, after all, my hobby.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby rusmeister » October 24th, 2009, 5:54 am

Sven wrote:
rusmeister wrote:Like I said, I think the Catholic people and those most knowledgeable about Chesterton and best able to respond that I knew here have been driven off. But if there is anyone here who can respond, I'd welcome it!


Are you actually accusing us of anti-Catholicism?

Hi guys!
The first thing I'll say is that I really did post this thread in hopes of getting discussion from people (which, I'll grant, are not many) who have genuine and extensive knowledge of Chesterton and his works (which are many and deep)*. I really don't want this to turn into a discussion of forum policy, which John has established and I think wrong (because this site is explicitly dedicated to Lewis, and not to John - it is Lewis that draws people here, not John). If there is anti-anything here, Sven, it is anti-dogmatism, and I mean that in the positive sense Chesterton meant it in, not in the negative sense you probably understand it as today. The first chapter of GKC's book "Heretics" describes the mood well:
We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost.
http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/boo ... s/ch1.html

So no, there is nothing specifically anti-Catholic as such here, except where the Catholic Church claims it is actually the truth and the Church, and not just a 'part of Christianity'. (Please remember that I'm not Catholic) Anyway, such discussions are moot - I just don't want you to misunderstand me. If anything comes across as bitter, it is because I miss something that was really good here.

John, I am aware of your position, remember what you said then, and have no intention of arguing with you (you do have the power here). I expressed what I see, and it stops there. If this resource that you created can help me find an answer to my current question, that is all that I want now.

That said,
I'd say that as much as Chesterton doesn't claim that his views are exclusively in support of Catholic Christianity is how much a non-Catholic could refer to them as illumination of his own Christianity. Although Chesterton sometimes invokes Catholicism specifically, he also often speaks of the fundamental Christian idea, which needless to say is accessible to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In fact, in my amateur interpretation of it, his Orthodoxy is a fine defense of both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I think most of his stuff is in harmony with the idea that Lewis ran on in his Mere Christianity, that it is more productive and accessible to deal with the Christianity that is beneath the denominational fractures, than it is to deal with the Christianity that positions itself relative to the fractures.


Thanks, Mr B!
I think you are right, that his ideas can be broadly accepted by non-Catholic faiths insofar as those faiths correspond the the ancient historical (pre-Reformation) ideas of Christianity - that is all that he could mean by a 'fundamental Christian idea'. But in a great many areas, such as the veneration (NOT 'worship'!) of Mary, modern protestantism already has enormous difficulty in attempting to reconcile the modern and ancient stands.
The problem (although it's not a problem for me) is that Chesterton does increasingly (not 'suddenly in 1922) support specifically the Catholic Church. I think it is too simplistic to assume that just because he remained Anglican as long as he did, that he was really open to what we think of as 'broader interpretations'. He was already under Catholic influence from the beginning of his writing career, and it seems clear that what little information he did have about Orthodox Christianity was from Catholic sources. He recognized early on that Christianity had to have had a continuous history, and in the West, and as far as he evidently saw, its pre-Reformation history was Catholic. The unity of the Eastern and Western Churches, gradually eroding over the first thousand years, gets hardly a glimpse in his writings. The result is,as I said, that aside from references to papal authority and specifically Catholic (post-Schism) history, what he says can be equally applied to the Orthodox Church. He DOES address the Reformation, and leaves little room for apologists like Derek Sauer to try to justify Chesterton as a Protestant apologist. But he does leave the door to Orthodox apologists wide-open.

One thing he is not at all in harmony with is Lewis's idea of "Mere Christianity". This is the difference between them. Chesterton saw the need for a physical presence of the Church on earth as a concrete thing, something that people can not re-define to suit themselves, and so points to the Church, the Catholic Church - and in my opinion, he did the best he could with the knowledge he had, and the strange thing is how he could have known so little about Orthodoxy. Lewis consciously and knowingly dismisses the Church, based on a general belief that it is ultimately probably not really necessary - he believes that God will sort it out (which He will), but dismisses our need to do the best we can to discover that Church established by Christ.

*This was the problem with the Chesterton thread (anti-Semitism). The people who accuse him of doing so do so on soundbites, on a limited context based on superficial readings and not having read his biography, autobiography, and other writings, mistake him for an Anti-Semite. That's why those unfounded accusations rise up every decade or so. But who today has the strength to read 80 books and 4,000 essays?
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Mr Bultitude » October 24th, 2009, 2:27 pm

rusmeister wrote:
Sven wrote:
rusmeister wrote:Like I said, I think the Catholic people and those most knowledgeable about Chesterton and best able to respond that I knew here have been driven off. But if there is anyone here who can respond, I'd welcome it!


Are you actually accusing us of anti-Catholicism?

Hi guys!
The first thing I'll say is that I really did post this thread in hopes of getting discussion from people (which, I'll grant, are not many) who have genuine and extensive knowledge of Chesterton and his works (which are many and deep)*. I really don't want this to turn into a discussion of forum policy, which John has established and I think wrong (because this site is explicitly dedicated to Lewis, and not to John - it is Lewis that draws people here, not John). If there is anti-anything here, Sven, it is anti-dogmatism, and I mean that in the positive sense Chesterton meant it in, not in the negative sense you probably understand it as today. The first chapter of GKC's book "Heretics" describes the mood well:
We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost.
http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/boo ... s/ch1.html


Though I was not really present for the dissolution of the RSP (?) forums, I can appreciate the point you're making here. Afterall, our opinion of the universe is what really matters; it is the opinion upon which all our other opinions are based. If you say tramcars are bad, but I say they're good, it would aid the discussion's unfolding to know that I think the universe is a concrete existent thing, but you think the universe is the dream of an old god. It's a dangerous discussion, as it is the most personal, and therefore most likely not just to "offend" someone but more to pull the rug out from under him. Nonetheless, everything hinges on it.

So no, there is nothing specifically anti-Catholic as such here, except where the Catholic Church claims it is actually the truth and the Church, and not just a 'part of Christianity'. (Please remember that I'm not Catholic) Anyway, such discussions are moot - I just don't want you to misunderstand me. If anything comes across as bitter, it is because I miss something that was really good here.

John, I am aware of your position, remember what you said then, and have no intention of arguing with you (you do have the power here). I expressed what I see, and it stops there. If this resource that you created can help me find an answer to my current question, that is all that I want now.

That said,
I'd say that as much as Chesterton doesn't claim that his views are exclusively in support of Catholic Christianity is how much a non-Catholic could refer to them as illumination of his own Christianity. Although Chesterton sometimes invokes Catholicism specifically, he also often speaks of the fundamental Christian idea, which needless to say is accessible to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In fact, in my amateur interpretation of it, his Orthodoxy is a fine defense of both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I think most of his stuff is in harmony with the idea that Lewis ran on in his Mere Christianity, that it is more productive and accessible to deal with the Christianity that is beneath the denominational fractures, than it is to deal with the Christianity that positions itself relative to the fractures.


Thanks, Mr B!
I think you are right, that his ideas can be broadly accepted by non-Catholic faiths insofar as those faiths correspond the the ancient historical (pre-Reformation) ideas of Christianity - that is all that he could mean by a 'fundamental Christian idea'. But in a great many areas, such as the veneration (NOT 'worship'!) of Mary, modern protestantism already has enormous difficulty in attempting to reconcile the modern and ancient stands.
The problem (although it's not a problem for me) is that Chesterton does increasingly (not 'suddenly in 1922) support specifically the Catholic Church. I think it is too simplistic to assume that just because he remained Anglican as long as he did, that he was really open to what we think of as 'broader interpretations'. He was already under Catholic influence from the beginning of his writing career, and it seems clear that what little information he did have about Orthodox Christianity was from Catholic sources. He recognized early on that Christianity had to have had a continuous history, and in the West, and as far as he evidently saw, its pre-Reformation history was Catholic. The unity of the Eastern and Western Churches, gradually eroding over the first thousand years, gets hardly a glimpse in his writings. The result is,as I said, that aside from references to papal authority and specifically Catholic (post-Schism) history, what he says can be equally applied to the Orthodox Church. He DOES address the Reformation, and leaves little room for apologists like Derek Sauer to try to justify Chesterton as a Protestant apologist. But he does leave the door to Orthodox apologists wide-open.


While I think it would be a worthwhile area of research to aim to discover exactly what Chesterton knew about the Orthodox Church and from which sources he got his information, I still maintain my former claim that if one's goal is to use him to support the Orthodox Church, then one has to work with what one has, and use it as far as it will go, which is quite far, as far as I can tell. Let's say I was a (American) football scholar, and in my writing I spoke much about the virtues of playing football, the thrill of blocking, the excitment of running the ball downfield, the precision required in kicking, etc. If there were someone that was a big rugby fan, he could certainly lean on my arguments of the greatness of the sport for his assertion that rugby is great, for its commonalities with football, because much of what I'd written about my sport is easily applied to his own. It might be that I had no knowledge of rugby, or some knowledge of it but chose not to write of it, or knowledge of it but thought it was a worse sport (which I never wrote); these facts would have no bearing on the strength of the application of the arguments to rugby.

Now I know this sheds no light on what Chesterton actually thought of Eastern Orthodoxy, and probably does little to satisfy someone who is searching for validation of his worldview by someone (who is dead) whom he holds in high regard. Nevertheless, I find this kind of slight extrapolation helpful.

One thing he is not at all in harmony with is Lewis's idea of "Mere Christianity". This is the difference between them. Chesterton saw the need for a physical presence of the Church on earth as a concrete thing, something that people can not re-define to suit themselves, and so points to the Church, the Catholic Church - and in my opinion, he did the best he could with the knowledge he had, and the strange thing is how he could have known so little about Orthodoxy. Lewis consciously and knowingly dismisses the Church, based on a general belief that it is ultimately probably not really necessary - he believes that God will sort it out (which He will), but dismisses our need to do the best we can to discover that Church established by Christ.


This would be an interesting topic, one again that I'm not expert in, but a topic for another thread perhaps. Suffice it to say, I don't think he necessarily "dismisses" the Church (or church) so much as that he confronts those things that an individual would need to wrestle with in his coming to swallow "mere" Christianity, whether within or without the Church.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby rusmeister » October 25th, 2009, 1:49 pm

Thanks again, Mr B!
I agree, of course, that there are things for Christians of all stripes in GKC's works. As I said, people like Sauer do claim what they can (don't know if you have read his essays or rebuttals to them). The difference, of course, is that GKC openly speaks against Protestantism and the Reformation quite frequently - he does not similarly expound on the Eastern Church. It is the gaping hole in his knowledge. I do appreciate your sports analogy, as far as it goes, though.

Yes, a Lewis/Chesterton comparison is interesting - it has been a major interest for me, since it was Lewis who brought me back to faith as an adult, and I discovered Chesterton thanks to Lewis. It has rightly been said, though, that Lewis is milk; Chesterton is meat. I have found Lewis to be right, generally speaking; but Chesterton is by far the deeper. Maybe it's a little like comparing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, or probably more accurate, the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Lewis does confront some of those things that are obstacles to moderns in accepting Christianity. But honestly, he does decidedly dismiss the Church - his policy of mere Christianity was definitely aimed at avoiding the issue - dismissed in the most literal sense.
"We must never speak of that."
He felt, mistakenly, that he could reach more unbelievers by avoiding the topic. But that turned out not to be the case. He does reach a lot of people - but is far more attractive to people who already believe, or have the soil/background for faith to grow (as I did). "Mere Christianity" without the Church is something that Chesterton denies as something that one could be satisfied with or 'settle for'. But yes, demonstrating that would require another thread, and I'm not sure that I'm up to that here and now.

One simple comparison - Lewis had two rare gifts - he was incredibly intelligent, and also humble - a rare combination. Chesterton had them also, and a third - he was also funny. Rarer still. There's a lot more to compare, but it's OT from my OP.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Mr Bultitude » October 27th, 2009, 5:49 pm

rusmeister wrote:Yes, a Lewis/Chesterton comparison is interesting - it has been a major interest for me, since it was Lewis who brought me back to faith as an adult, and I discovered Chesterton thanks to Lewis. It has rightly been said, though, that Lewis is milk; Chesterton is meat. I have found Lewis to be right, generally speaking; but Chesterton is by far the deeper. Maybe it's a little like comparing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, or probably more accurate, the Pacific and Indian Oceans.


Like you Lewis had a big part in my coming back to Christianity in my early 20s, and how he introduced me to Chesterton. And while I see some value in your analogies comparing them, I submit that such comparisons are more a matter of taste than they are objective realities. (And here let me reiterate that I'm less well-versed with Chesteron). Firstly, they have a very different style of writing. I find Chesterton's inner poet always trying to wriggle his way out, and sometimes getting in the way of the rational point he's trying to make. Lewis doesn't usually use superfluous flowery writing, though he does make use of metaphor heavily. Secondly, and perhaps this admits my ignorance too much, but at times I find Chesterton's writing bogged down by historical references and allusions, oftentimes to such minor figures that only contemporaries of his would understand his point. Third, Chesterton's writings are oftentimes history-based; there's usually a sense of the passing of times and the reaction of one ideology to another, whereas Lewis's writing doesn't focus on this history of ideas as much. Now I don't mention these things to say one is better or worse than the other, but only to defend the notion that comparing the men on the grounds of value isn't a productive activity.

Lewis does confront some of those things that are obstacles to moderns in accepting Christianity. But honestly, he does decidedly dismiss the Church - his policy of mere Christianity was definitely aimed at avoiding the issue - dismissed in the most literal sense.
"We must never speak of that."
He felt, mistakenly, that he could reach more unbelievers by avoiding the topic. But that turned out not to be the case. He does reach a lot of people - but is far more attractive to people who already believe, or have the soil/background for faith to grow (as I did). "Mere Christianity" without the Church is something that Chesterton denies as something that one could be satisfied with or 'settle for'. But yes, demonstrating that would require another thread, and I'm not sure that I'm up to that here and now.


I'm curious how you come to the conclusion that Lewis didn't reach as many believers as he thought he would.

One simple comparison - Lewis had two rare gifts - he was incredibly intelligent, and also humble - a rare combination. Chesterton had them also, and a third - he was also funny. Rarer still. There's a lot more to compare, but it's OT from my OP.


A subjective assessment, again. I nonetheless enjoy hearing your thoughts on the two men :)
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby rusmeister » October 30th, 2009, 5:14 am

Mr Bultitude wrote:
rusmeister wrote:Yes, a Lewis/Chesterton comparison is interesting - it has been a major interest for me, since it was Lewis who brought me back to faith as an adult, and I discovered Chesterton thanks to Lewis. It has rightly been said, though, that Lewis is milk; Chesterton is meat. I have found Lewis to be right, generally speaking; but Chesterton is by far the deeper. Maybe it's a little like comparing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, or probably more accurate, the Pacific and Indian Oceans.


Like you Lewis had a big part in my coming back to Christianity in my early 20s, and how he introduced me to Chesterton. And while I see some value in your analogies comparing them, I submit that such comparisons are more a matter of taste than they are objective realities. (And here let me reiterate that I'm less well-versed with Chesteron). Firstly, they have a very different style of writing. I find Chesterton's inner poet always trying to wriggle his way out, and sometimes getting in the way of the rational point he's trying to make. Lewis doesn't usually use superfluous flowery writing, though he does make use of metaphor heavily. Secondly, and perhaps this admits my ignorance too much, but at times I find Chesterton's writing bogged down by historical references and allusions, oftentimes to such minor figures that only contemporaries of his would understand his point. Third, Chesterton's writings are oftentimes history-based; there's usually a sense of the passing of times and the reaction of one ideology to another, whereas Lewis's writing doesn't focus on this history of ideas as much. Now I don't mention these things to say one is better or worse than the other, but only to defend the notion that comparing the men on the grounds of value isn't a productive activity.

Lewis does confront some of those things that are obstacles to moderns in accepting Christianity. But honestly, he does decidedly dismiss the Church - his policy of mere Christianity was definitely aimed at avoiding the issue - dismissed in the most literal sense.
"We must never speak of that."
He felt, mistakenly, that he could reach more unbelievers by avoiding the topic. But that turned out not to be the case. He does reach a lot of people - but is far more attractive to people who already believe, or have the soil/background for faith to grow (as I did). "Mere Christianity" without the Church is something that Chesterton denies as something that one could be satisfied with or 'settle for'. But yes, demonstrating that would require another thread, and I'm not sure that I'm up to that here and now.


I'm curious how you come to the conclusion that Lewis didn't reach as many believers as he thought he would.

One simple comparison - Lewis had two rare gifts - he was incredibly intelligent, and also humble - a rare combination. Chesterton had them also, and a third - he was also funny. Rarer still. There's a lot more to compare, but it's OT from my OP.


A subjective assessment, again. I nonetheless enjoy hearing your thoughts on the two men :)


My thanks! Even disagreement can be enjoyable if the people who disagree - and even disagree dogmatically - are civil and courteous in doing so. (Just consider Chesterton's friendship with Shaw and Wells.) And I do disagree about it being a matter of taste. :) In this case it is precisely knowledge, or lack thereof, that determines one's ability to say something like that. I'll admit in turn that I have been slightly hampered in reading Lewis, because of jealous copyright laws defended by people who wish to cash in on him, so there are some things I have not read, such as his letters (I should clarify that I live in Russia and am still not able to casually order and pay for things from overseas). But I've still read most of his major works. His bibliography is much shorter than GKC's!
The style of writing is largely irrelevant to what is being said. I went through a couple of stages of perceptions in discovering Chesterton, and an early one that I later had to discard was the idea that he was unnecessarily wordy - or as you put it, superfluous and flowery. This is a common impression - it was later cured by more reading.
Secondly, I wouldn't say that Chesterton's poetry 'tried to wriggle out' - as if it were something that tried, and sometimes failed, and had to 'struggle' to come out. He expressed it whenever the muse came on him. I wouldn't say his poetry is the greatest in poetry - although I'll have to make an exception for "The Ballad of the White Horse" - but in general it is far wiser and touches on truth much more than most of his contemporaries, including people of our time, which is undoubtedly the best criterion of what is "great".
Next, on 'being bogged down with references and allusions': It is actually a mark of how far we have fallen in terms of knowledge (while tending to pride ourselves on knowing more than our ancestors) when we do not understand the references. It reveals what we don't know - that we don't know our own history and literature (I'll have to broadly include English and American history into one big bag - but it is certain that American history cannot truly be understood if English history is not. So that is one of the things that I mean by speaking of Chesterton's depth vis-a-vis Lewis. Chesterton really knew much more of English literature - although he had the unfair advantage of a near-photographic memory of nearly everything that he read. For history he was more dependent on his friend Hilaire Belloc - also a thinker of giant proportions - and this is one of the clues as to why knowledge of the Orthodox Church was a black hole to him, btw. Belloc had a thoroughly Catholic view of history, which always leaves the Eastern Church out of the picture and depicts the world as 'Catholic or Protestant".
I'm a teacher of English as a foreign language to Russians here, and in my (only) advanced group, where we have largely finished formal EFL/ESL studies, I have been running an introduction to English literature - basically a general taste and sense of the history, its players, and most importantly, what they believed - and I myself have been forced to learn things and to stay at least 'one step ahead of the students'. (My own MA is in Russian lit, and the thing that astounds me now is how that one critical question got generally excluded from all of my courses - as if a writer's style or employment of devices were more important than what he was trying to communicate! - another aspect of the world that will discuss anything as long as you don't talk about everything.) This has resulted in a vastly greater appreciation of Chesterton, and a greater disdain for formal education.

I was attempting to communicate that Lewis attracts people who already believe much more than he does people who don't, and I will concede that my opinion is subjective - based on the limitations of my exposure to responses of believers vs non-believers to Lewis, but insist that the witty-humble-funny assertion is objective. Postjudice is the positive virtue of which prejudice is the vice. People know the latter word but seem to be completely unaware of the logical existence of the former.

It really is a pity that people capable of responding to my OP, such as Stanley and Ben, are no longer here. Whatever language you choose to use: "chose to leave" or "driven off", the result is the same. The people who could respond are evidently gone. :(

(Edit) One thing I do want to add - I recommend that the very next thing you read be Belloc's "On the Place of Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters" http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/Belloc-essay.txt . It outlines six major ways in which Chesterton stands out, and addresses some of your own ideas and impressions about GKC. Obviously, the perspective is Catholic, but that only impacts one of the points, I think. The others would be pretty much universally acceptable. It's worth printing out and taking with you on your next reading opportunity. (I get about 20 pages on MS Word).
"Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Lioba » October 30th, 2009, 12:04 pm

What could be helpfull.
We should keep in mind what we have as a common heritage every Christian can refer to.
These are for example besides Holy Scripture the seven oecumenical counsels.
To be reread here.http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0835.HTM
What is often forgotten: the conservative Protestantisme including Anglicanisme widely agrees with them. Scripture holding supreme authority does not mean that all dogmatic belief is refused.Disagreements might be found especially regarding the seventh council mostly from the calvinistic side, but Highchurch- Anglicanisme reapproached lutheran and catholic views.
So it is not at all surprising that many aspects in Chesterton and Lewis writings are in harmony with Catholicisme and Orthodoxy.
Regarding Lewis words in Mere christianity he simply states the protestant view of ecclesia invisibils.
If we want to sort out what is specifically catholoc/orthodox/protestant in the writings of Chesterton and Lewis we have to to look for statements that can refer only to one of the different Churches confessions.
Lewis clearly speaks of a protestant view of Chirch when he says that god will sort it out, although he might be in harmony with Catholicisme and Orthodxy in many other aspects.
Now what about Chesterton? He clearly is not tending to protestantisme, also many of his sayings are in harmony with old lutheran teaching. His negative notions tend more to specific forms of calvinistic teaching.
What in his work can only and really only be accepted by Catholic or Orthodox creed?
Differences clearly- the filioque in the Creed as necessary ( originally totally un-catholic and a German Sin :wink: ) or totally to be refused, the differences in the definition of original sin and justification,papal infallibilty and so on.
If he clearly takes sides in such question beyond debate he can be located without a doubt.
Now he was doubtless Catholic and Orthodoxy was simply far away and maybe not so much in his focus.

Please note - I did not post these things to start a discussio what we might believe to be true- that is absolutly of no consequence regarding the topic.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby rusmeister » October 31st, 2009, 4:29 am

Lioba wrote:What could be helpfull.
We should keep in mind what we have as a common heritage every Christian can refer to.
These are for example besides Holy Scripture the seven oecumenical counsels.
To be reread here.http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0835.HTM
What is often forgotten: the conservative Protestantisme including Anglicanisme widely agrees with them. Scripture holding supreme authority does not mean that all dogmatic belief is refused.Disagreements might be found especially regarding the seventh council mostly from the calvinistic side, but Highchurch- Anglicanisme reapproached lutheran and catholic views.
So it is not at all surprising that many aspects in Chesterton and Lewis writings are in harmony with Catholicisme and Orthodoxy.
Regarding Lewis words in Mere christianity he simply states the protestant view of ecclesia invisibils.
If we want to sort out what is specifically catholoc/orthodox/protestant in the writings of Chesterton and Lewis we have to to look for statements that can refer only to one of the different Churches confessions.
Lewis clearly speaks of a protestant view of Chirch when he says that god will sort it out, although he might be in harmony with Catholicisme and Orthodxy in many other aspects.
Now what about Chesterton? He clearly is not tending to protestantisme, also many of his sayings are in harmony with old lutheran teaching. His negative notions tend more to specific forms of calvinistic teaching.
What in his work can only and really only be accepted by Catholic or Orthodox creed?
Differences clearly- the filioque in the Creed as necessary ( originally totally un-catholic and a German Sin :wink: ) or totally to be refused, the differences in the definition of original sin and justification,papal infallibilty and so on.
If he clearly takes sides in such question beyond debate he can be located without a doubt.
Now he was doubtless Catholic and Orthodoxy was simply far away and maybe not so much in his focus.

Please note - I did not post these things to start a discussio what we might believe to be true- that is absolutly of no consequence regarding the topic.

Hi, Lioba, and thank you!
The first thing I would say is "what common heritage" are you referring to? heritage is not merely agreeing on beliefs; it is something passed down through time. I think on this most of us would greatly differ, and therefore it is not something we can look to. (You accept the seven Councils, as do I, but many here consider them optional.) It is a given that nearly any text can be used by anybody to support anything, so yes, Christians of all sorts can find things they would agree in in Chesterton or Lewis - however, I am not speaking to that at all.

Next, I'm not sure if you understood what I meant by "dogma". I mean it in a very broad and Chestertonian sense - not in the narrow "dogma is something religious people have" but in the sense of things assumed to be true (whether via reason or not) and not questioned. Thus, a common dogma of the world today is based on pluralism - the idea that there is no truth; that no one can express actual and absolute truth about the nature of man and God - that there are only "points of view" and that they are all equally "valid"; ie, true (and it is, by the way, the source of "political correctness").

I am speaking of something a bite finer (in the sense of narrower) - if a person takes a dogmatic stand and insists that a certain point of view is actually the true one, and the others, while being closer to or farther from that POV are not actually true (in the sense of being equally or completely true), then how can we claim them as actually supporting us when they openly denied our position? The best we can do is to prove them wrong somewhere along the line; but to claim them as apologists for us would be going too far. Thus, concerning Chesterton and Protestantism, the issue is cut-and-dried. he took a definite and consistent stand against them as being actual and true heritage - the actual and faithful handing down, generation after generation, without a break, of what was once given to the Apostles (what is commonly called apostolic succession). Thus, it is irrelevant that Chesterton will agree with Lutherans on more things than on Calvinists - he emphatically denies them both and the validity of the entire "Reformation" which brought them about as separate entities.

Orthodoxy stands apart from the rest, because he basically did not address it at all, as I said above. It stands outside of his otherwise-vast historical view.
"Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Lioba » October 31st, 2009, 3:04 pm

Hi, Rusmeister- I tried to find a strictly logical dogmatic approach for as you said many things can interpreted differently.
Chesterton was clearly catholic in my eyes, what seperated him most from Protestantisme is his critical view of spiritual and doctrinal individualisme. Regarding Orthodoxy he could not say much about it, because creed is not only dogma- here you are right, it is also expressed through tradition, practise and it´s specific spirituality.
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