“The Song of the Strange Ascetic,” G.K. Chesterton

“The Song of the Strange Ascetic,” G.K. Chesterton

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have crowned Neaera’s curls*,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner,
Should sin without delight-
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.

Advertisements

Quotable: David Bentley Hart

From David Bentley Hart’s book on the new atheism, which will remain nameless because the publisher chose a bad name for it:

There is, after all, nothing inherently reasonable in the conviction that all of reality is simply an accidental confluence of physical causes, without any transcendent source or end. Materialism is not a fact of experience or a deduction of logic; it is a metaphysical prejudice, nothing more, and one that is arguably more irrational than almost any other. In general, the unalterably convinced materialist is a kind of childishly complacent fundamentalist, so fervently, unreflectively, and rapturously committed to the materialist vision of reality that if he or she should encounter any problem—logical or experiential—that might call its premises into question, or even merely encounter a limit beyond which those premises lose their explanatory power, he or she is simply unable to recognize it.

David Bentley Hart, pp. 102.

Quotable: Hitchens

Since we live in a scientific age, I imagine that stout atheists are driven more than anything by impatience to finish the job. When science is poised to solve every remaining mystery and technology unfolds every new convenience, why should we keep any allegiance to an outworn world view?

– Christopher Hitchens

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/05/16/deepak_chopra_atheists_mistake.DTL#ixzz1OqUcNkIi

A.N. Wilson, "Why I Believe Again"

For a few years, I resisted the admission that my atheist-conversion experience had been a bit of middle-aged madness. I do not find it easy to articulate thoughts about religion. I remain the sort of person who turns off Thought for the Day when it comes on the radio. I am shy to admit that I have followed the advice given all those years ago by a wise archbishop to a bewildered young man: that moments of unbelief “don’t matter”, that if you return to a practice of the faith, faith will return.

When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God “a category mistake”. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’.” And then Coleridge adds: “‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain those last words.”

LINK

Quotable: Hitchens

Peter, that is. The following are excerpted from Douglas Wilson’s review of his book, The Rage Against God:

“I want to explain how I became convinced, by reason and experience, of the necessity and rightness of a form of Christianity that is modest, accommodating, and thoughtful — but ultimately uncompromising about its vital truth” (p. 11).

“As he [Christopher] has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more certain that we cannot know such a thing in the way that we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it is better by far to believe” (p. 11).

As for Christopher’s atheism, “As long as he can convince himself, nobody else will persuade him” (p. 12). This is, in my judgment, quite right, along with another observation that Peter makes about the vulnerability of the atheist. As C.S. Lewis once commented, God is very unscrupulous, and leaves traps everywhere. One of those traps is poetry — atheism can be “countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time” (p. 12).

Strange collocation

John Piper writes,

One great benefit of going to a good Christian college is that you read important bad books with the help of wise Christian scholars. Most 19-year-olds are not ready to navigate the sophisticated arguments of seasoned skeptics. But with the guidance of a seasoned Christian thinker, the navigation can be profitable. It was for me.

Russell stressed the absoluteness of physical matter. In other words, if you trace the origin of everything all the way back, you arrive at impersonal matter, not personal spirit: Matter, not God, is absolute. This meant, for Russell, that there is only material existence.

This produced one of the bleakest views of human life imaginable. Here, he says, is “the world which science built for our belief.”

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of the universe in ruins. . . . Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built (Why I Am Not a Christian, editor Paul Edwards [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], p. 107).

It doesn’t take too much assistance from a wise teacher to help a 19-year-old see something odd in this. Tragically odd. Triply odd.

First the language he uses seems borrowed from another worldview: “loves,” “beliefs,” “devotion,” “inspiration,” “genius,” “despair,” and strangest of all, “soul.” To be sure, he insists that these are all “but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms.” Really? Why would material atoms collide to create a language affirming realities beyond matter? It is an odd creation of Russell’s world.

Second, did Russell really say to his crying children (he had three) that their sorrows were the unfortunate collocation of atoms? Did he say to any of his three wives, in the best of their affections, “This is only the collocation of atoms?” In other words, did he live his philosophy? Or was he playing 20th-century academic games?

Read the whole thing