G.K. Chesterton on Human Nature

It is an observable reality that there is good and evil in the world, and that that good and evil resides within each single individual. When confronted with this reality many people come to the conclusion that we are either not-that-good, or not-that-bad, depending on how you view the proverbial glass. We are really not that noble, and we are not really that ignoble. Our goodness offsets our badness and our badness offsets our goodness. The less spiritually minded will say simply that we are animals, and merely animals, no better, but no worse than any other animals. Christianity takes a different view, which leads me to (another) quote from G.K. Chesterton (emphasis added).

In so far as I am Man I am chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners. All humanity that had meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view of his whole destiny – all that was to go. We were to hear no more the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no pre-eminence over the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest of all the beasts of the field. Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. Man had pre-eminence over all the brutes; man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god.

His point is that. Christianity doesn’t view humans as not-so-bad-but-not-so-good but as both unimaginably valuable and irreparably broken. The two don’t balance each other out, they are true at the same time. Chesterton continues (emphasis added):

“Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul.

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  1. Pingback: Several Disconnected Thoughts on G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy | The Slasher Pastor

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