Thursday, March 1, 2012

Room For Me

My friend and poet Malcolm Guite passed along a section from G.K. Chesterton from his book Orthodoxy.  In it Chesterton leaves the shores of his faith to attempt to discover what he actually believes, only to find himself to have arrived from the point he originally left from.   But at first he does not recognize his surroundings and thinks he has discovered something new - only to find that it has been found by many before him.  With new and appreciative eyes he sees old places of his past in totally revisioned ways. This seems to be the way of faith, the way of integrating the various tensions in life, the various energies that pull us and pull at us.  There is a redoubling, a returning, a revisioning but only after a leaving and a setting out.

When Chesterton returns part of the new vision is the fact that faith and doubt are part and parcel of the same movement.  They live together in the same space.  They do so because they live in God that way.  John Erving in his book A Prayer for Owen Meany frames his story and this interplay between the presence and absence of God by echoing the voice of his High School teacher Fredrich Buechner:  “Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.” 

Here is Chesterton, sand on his feet, standing on the shore awash with revelation: 

But if the divinity is true it is certainly terribly revolutionary. That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already; but that God could have his back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents for ever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point--and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologise in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

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