Wednesday, June 25, 2008

G.K. Chesterton

The latest Trinity Forum Reading, (always stimulating stuff), featured G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), and a short Father Brown story: The Oracle of the Dog. In a foreword P. Douglas Wilson writes about Chesterton's literary and Christian influence. Perhaps you know the story of when The Times newspaper invited him (with other authors) to submit essays on the theme "What's Wrong with the World?" he replied;
Dear Sirs, I am, Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.

But then the foreword comments:
"Tellingly this deep confidence in his own faith was expressed in regular and robust engagement with people of all stripes and worldviews. His ongoing debates and conversations with the likes of Clarence Darrow, H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell...George Bernard Shaw, illustrate the ease with which he was able to navigate, challenge, and unsettle the intellectual and literary world of his day.
Like William Wilberforce (seventy-five years earlier)....both men were willing to engage cheerfully and confidently, without pre-conditions, with others of differing and opposing views. Both believed that one must engage with a person to influence them - and further, that such engagement does not entail surrendering core principles.
Our day, by contrast, is characterized by the reverse: too many of us refuse to engage anyone who does not already share our worldview. And we suspect those who do engage in dialogue with their ideological opponents of capitulation or compromise."

Do you think there is less robust engagement, cheerfully and confidently engaging with others today ? And how might we do it?

2 comments:

dawneen said...

I think we may be less willing to engage those that oppose the gospel today due to a lack of confidence in our own abilities. In itself, this is a poor reason because we need to realize that God is able and if He has called us, He will make provision for us to accomplish his will. It's what you have been talking about in this integrity series and in your talk to the pastor's at Moody Bible, "Jesus still builds and he is at work and will use me if I let him." That is true for pastor's and for the layman as well. He will do the work. To be used, all we need do is walk with Him, to faithfully seek his face, and be available when he asks. We do need to be in the world though to have those encounters. For myself, I talk to the people I meet in my day-to-day life. Do we need to be specifically seeking people out though? We did a lot of that when I was in college.

I must say, I had not heard the reply "I am" in response to the question, what is wrong with the world. What a humble man Mr. Chesterton was!

wsuriano said...

As believers, it might help to recognize some simple truths. Among these are the following:
1. People can and will change. Indeed, many people want to change.
2. People are seekers looking for meaning in their lives.
3. People crave relationships.
4. People listen most to those who have the closest relationships with them.
In other words, the "engagement" ground has already been tilled and fertilized just by the nature of who we are as created beings. God has already prepared the soil. If we truly understood how much God has already done, it might put our engagement role in perspective and make it easier for us to act. We should assume that our neighbor, co-worker, friend, etc., wants to change, is seeking meaning, craves a relationship with us and will listen to what we have to say, even if he or she does not agree with us. Doesn't that make it all a bit easier to engage the non-believer?