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Posts Tagged ‘G. K. Chesterton’

Did you catch last week’s post, “There’s No Such Thing as a Christian Genius?”

That title came from a blog-responder some years ago who didn’t realize evidence refuted his opinion. Intelligence is to be found among believers in Jesus—in the sciences (as we discovered last week), and in the humanities, as presented below:

ART 

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)—considered by many as the greatest Renaissance artist of northern Europe. His career began at the dawn of the Reformation under Martin Luther, whom Durer supported.

One of his prayers penned five hundred years ago is just as applicable today. Included here are excerpts:

 

O God in heaven, have mercy on us!

Preserve in us the true genuine Christian faith,

Help us recognize your voice,

Help us not to be allured by the madness of the world,

So that we may never fall away from you,

O Lord Jesus Christ (1).

 

Self-portrait of Durer

 

Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840) produced more than 500 works. He is best known for his landscapes, all of which possessed a spiritual quality and meaning.

Friedrich expressed his convictions in poetry as well:

 

Through the gloomy clouds break

Blue sky, sunshine,

On the heights and in the valley

Sing the lark and the nightingale.

God, I thank you that I live

Not forever in this world

Strengthen me that my soul rise

Upward toward your firmament (2).

 

Two Men Contemplating the Moon by Friedrich, ca. 1824

 

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) was one of several who led the Hudson River School, a group of painters known for their realistic landscapes.

They desired to portray the presence of God in his creation. One technique was to include small human figures surrounded by mammoth trees and vast meadows.

Cole saw “the mission of the artist as a spiritual one, to spread the Word of God through art devoted to nature” (3). To that end, Cole prayed before he painted.

 

Dream of Arcadia by Cole, ca. 1838

 

MUSIC

George Frideric Handel produced numerous works in at least seven genres. His most remarkable effort is perhaps his most famous composition, Messiah, which he accomplished in just twenty-four days.

In 1759, while receiving an ovation after his last performance, Handel cried out: “Not from me…but from Heaven…comes all” (4).

He hoped to die on Easter, hoping to “meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection” (5). Handel arrived in heaven the day before, in 1759.

 

George Frideric Handel

 

Johann Sebastian Bach, another prolific composer, is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.

While serving as a church organist and teacher, he set an impossible goal: write a different cantata for every Sunday, for three years. Not only did Bach create the music, but made sure his singers and instrumentalists had copies, and time to rehearse with him before each Sunday’s service.

Even on his secular works, Bach often wrote “I.N.J.” for “in the name of Jesus.” Finished manuscripts were frequently initialed, “S.D.G.”—Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone, the glory) (6).

 

“Soli Deo Gloria” in Bach’s own hand, bottom right

 

Felix Mendelssohn excelled in numerous fields: philosophy, linguistics, watercolor painting, poetry, gymnastics, and of course, music. During his brief life of only thirty-eight years, Mendelssohn produced approximately 750 musical works in nearly every genre.

He gained great popularity and prestige as a musician, yet maintained a humble and devout faith in Christ.  In one of his letters, Mendelssohn wrote: “Pray to God that He may create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us” (7).

 

 

LITERATURE 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) had no equal in the literary history of any country, according to the Edinburg Review (8). Her literary works reflected keen intelligence and deep faith. As a teenager, she taught herself Hebrew so she could read the Old Testament with greater understanding.

Browning’s writings often explored Christian themes:

 

“Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush is afire with God.

And only those who see take off their shoes;

the rest sit around and pluck blackberries” (9).

–from Aurora Leigh

 

And from the poem, “Comfort”:

 

“SPEAK low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet
From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee so
Who art not missed by any that entreat” (10).

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) distinguished himself as an essayist, columnist, humorist, poet, and novelist. About him, one evangelical scholar wrote : “There has not been a more articulate champion of classic Christianity, virtue, and decency.”

Articulate, indeed:

“Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car”—original source unknown (11).

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”—from the Illustrated News, 8-11-1928 (12).

 

G. K. Chesterton

 

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963), professor at Oxford and then Cambridge, is considered one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century. He authored more than thirty books; many are popular to this day.

Lewis came to Christian faith out of atheism, through the reading of such authors as George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and others. Also influential, other intellectuals of faith associated with Oxford, including J. R. R. Tolkien.

C. S. Lewis came to understand:

“Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in”from Mere Christianity (13).

 

C. S. Lewis, ca. 1940

______________________________

 

As noted last week, it is a fact many acclaimed geniuses have chosen not to become Christians.

But it cannot be said there is no such thing as a Christian genius.

Again, who would you add to the list?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. historyofpainters.com/durer/
  2. As quoted and translated by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, 1978, p. 48.
  3. https://www.equip.org/article/what-has-art-to-do-with-evangelism/
  4. christianheritageedinburgh.uk
  5. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/musiciansartistsandwriters/george-frideric-handel.html
  6. christianheritageedinburgh.uk
  7. thirdmill.org/paul/impact_mendelssohn.asp
  8. poetryfoundation.org/poets/elizabeth-barrett-browning
  9. https://www.bartleby.com/236/86.html
  10. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/comfort/
  11. http://famousquotefrom.com/g-k-chesterton/
  12. https://www.chesterton.org/quotations-of-g-k-chesterton/
  13. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/cslewisonauthenticdiscipleshippage4

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com.

 

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(“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.

It is that we should have a new soul.”

G.K. Chesterton)

A new soul. I like the sound of that, don’t you? In my imagination I see a freshening of my attitudes, improved motivations, and increased spiritual strength.

But where do I start in order to achieve a new soul?

No doubt, a new soul begins with repentance—expressing to God my sorrow for wrongdoing and availing myself of his help to change. Just as King David prayed, I can ask God to:

 

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(“Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

–Psalm 51:10, emphasis added)

 

Notice that David asked God to create in him a pure heart. David didn’t promise to clean up his act on his own. Only God could make David’s heart new and pure. The same goes for me. All I can do is submit myself to his transforming power and follow his lead.

That pure heart David asked for is a clear conscience. And with the release from guilt came a rush of joy and the restoration of sweet peace with God. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

“No one is happier than the one who has repented of wrong” (Max Lucado).

 

A new soul involves renewal of the mind.

 

romans12_2

 

Or, put another way:

 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,

but let God transform you into a new person

by changing the way you think.

Then you will learn to know God’s will for you,

which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2, NLT (emphasis added)

 

Once the negative influences of sin have been removed, I need to fill my mind with excellent, praiseworthy contemplations.

Why waste my thoughts and allow them to wander on worthless topics or circle around pointless worries? Instead, I want to set my mind on the positive, especially on God himself.

A renewed mind is not problem-focused; it is Person-focused.

 

A new soul requires day-by-day rejuvenation.

 

“We do not lose heart.

Though outwardly we are wasting away,

yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

–2 Corinthians 4:16 (emphasis added)

2-corinthians-4-16

 

God has established certain laws by which our world is governed. Gravity is one example. The law of entropy is another. It states that all elements of the universe tend to disintegrate over time. Plants and animals die and decay, iron rusts, rock erodes.

Our souls tend to disintegrate over time, too, when left unattended:

  • Worry and fear wreak havoc.
  • Self-centeredness creates an appetite for entertainment, possessions, and recognition—appetites that are never satiated.
  • Foolishness reigns because wisdom is ignored.
  • Rationalizations replace honest evaluations.
  • Uncontrolled behaviors harm relationships.

But when we avail ourselves of God’s influence day-by-day and step-by-step, the law of entropy has no effect on our souls.

 

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The Amplified Version expands the meaning:

 

“The steps of a [good and righteous] man

are directed and established by the Lord,

And He delights in his way

[and blesses his path].”

–Psalm 37:23, AMP

 

Consider the import of these key words:

 

Steps – Even spiritual achievement rarely happens in an instant. God values slow and steady progress.

 

Directed – He isn’t just interested in the details of our lives; he’s lovingly engineering them.

 

Established – There is always design and strategy in God’s endeavors, even if we only occasionally perceive it.

 

Delights – God is pleased with those who follow the path he has thoughtfully and wisely set.

 

Blesses – God lovingly bestows such gifts as peace, joy, hope, satisfaction, and purposeful living.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Holy Creator of new souls, as I stand on the brink of a new year, I do confess my failings to you. Purify my heart; show me how to refine even the motivations behind my right actions. Thank you for your gentle nudges to turn my mind toward you, and your loving attention upon every step of my life. I praise you that continual contact with you results in a soul–a life–that is continually refreshed and made new!

 

(Art & Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.mybible.com; http://www.verseoftheday.com; http://www.dailylifeverse.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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The First Course:

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

(G. K. Chesterton — 1874-1936. Columnist and author extraordinaire;  called the best writer of the twentieth century.)

The Second Course:

“The unthankful heart…discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

(Henry Ward Beecher — 1813-1887.   Congregationalist minister, known for his support of the abolition of slavery.)

The Third Course:

“Thanksgiving gives effect to prayer, and frees from anxious carefulness by making all God’s dealings matter for praise, not merely for resignation, much less murmuring. Peace is the companion of thanksgiving.”

(Author Unknown – Quoted in Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible, Philippians 4:6.)

May wonders and mercies surround you this Thanksgiving Day, bringing you peace and happiness!

(photo credit:  www.blog.familywize.org)

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“These are the days when the Christian is expected

to praise every creed except his own.” 

—  G. K. Chesterton

 

Indeed.  Christians are often labeled narrow-minded, because we uphold what the Bible teaches:  that faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven.  We are fair game for pundits to disparage and comedians to ridicule.

This fellow, Chesterton, is right on.  Christians are expected to be kind to others; others are not always kind toward us.

A person might think Chesterton is a current commentator on American culture, but he was born in London in 1874, and died in 1936.

Do you know him?

G. K. did not start out to become a writer, much less a defender of the Christian faith.  He set out to become an artist.  But his first job upon leaving art school was to read manuscripts for a publisher.

In his spare time, he tried his own hand (and mind) at writing.  Several essays were published in magazines, and it wasn’t long before two newspapers began publishing his column.

Over a period of thirty years in journalism, G. K. wrote 4000 essays.  Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, points out the immensity of that number: you would have to write an essay every day for eleven years to reach that total.

 

 

Mr. Ahlquist adds to the marvel of this feat by reminding us: every one of Chesterton’s essays was an example of fine journalism—often witty and thought-provoking at the same time.  For example:

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmastime.  Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” 

But unlike many journalists, G. K.’s writing talent swept across numerous genres.  During his lifetime, he wrote hundreds of books, both fiction and nonfiction, two anthologies of poetry, five plays, and over 200 short stories.

It’s no wonder he’s credited with being one of the most prolific authors of his time.

 

 

While his career as a writer was burgeoning, Chesterton married Frances Blogg.  She was an important influence, helping to turn him from his agnostic beliefs to embrace Christianity.  His writings often reflected his faith.  For example:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” (from What’s Wrong with the World).

“There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” – (from Illustrated London News, 1/13/06)

“…the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the  contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things  forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.” – (from Illustrated London News, 1-3-20)

Even after his death, Chesterton’s influence lived on.  One of his books, The Everlasting Man (1925) was instrumental in leading C. S. Lewis from agnosticism to Christianity.

An evangelical Protestant scholar has said, “There has not been a more articulate champion of classic Christianity, virtue, and decency.”

Here are a few more examples of G.K.’s thoughtful writing:

“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

 “If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.”

 Words of wisdom?  I think so.  And if…

 

 

 …“he who walks with the wise grows wise” (Proverbs 13:20a), then we have certainly benefited from spending a few moments with G. K. Chesterton.

 

(Photo credits:  www.saltandlighttv.org , www.catholicnewsagency.com , www.lifesitenews.com , www.biblegodquotes.com)

 

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