The first and last idea of it is Resurrection…

What makes this passage so intriguing and revealing is that Chesterton takes all the erroneous trends, the facets of truth, (which Ages and their societies break off the whole truth and elevate to a heresy) and demonstrates the error so simply by showing how the truth becomes whole in these words: Redemption and Resurrection and Salvation and the Image of God

Now against all this, as its chief enemy, though he may not know it, stands the old Catholic philosophy of Man. The first and last idea of it is Resurrection, that is the resurrection of the whole of man. It is, as I have said before, a mystical refusal to despair of the original prehistoric monster of that name. It is true that the older creed often demands amputation in the sense of asceticism, as in the text about cutting off the hand to enter Heaven. But the difference is instantly made vivid by the rest of the text, which declares that even such amputation is better than casting the whole body of man into Hell. But the Shavian evolutionist does really want to cast the whole body of man into Chaos. He wants to cast it into the melting-pot, and boil it to nothing, that a new and superior something may at last emerge. This is indeed much more than amputation, it is annihilation. At least it is so for those who still see a sanctity in Man as a potentially complete creature, even if we commonly see him as incomplete. I have concluded upon this point, because it is the crux of the controversy, in what I cannot pretend to be anything but a long series of controversies. Only I understand the crux better than when I began to controvert about it, ave crux, spes unica. We do not believe that man is a mass of mistakes that have to be shed until he has lost everything but shame in the very memory of his manhood. We think they are lower forms and fallen applications of his true powers and instincts, damaged by one great mystical mistake. We do not believe that all property is wrong, though we agree that much money-getting and all money-grabbing is wrong, because we believe that the primary human sense of individual and independent possession is perfectly right. We do not admit that all punishment is wrong, though we warmly agree that all tyranny and mere vindictiveness is wrong, because these are only low and morbid forms of something that is right, whether it be just expiation or even just indignation. We do not admit that all vows of constancy are wrong, though we fully admit that they may be treated wrongly, because we think that even the tragic tradition of them is the remains of the truth concerning a complete and triumphant human love. So the same clue runs through a hundred questions down to trivial questions like the mere forms of festivity or the mere externals of civilised habit. We do not want all fermented liquor abolished because some men are too drunken, any more than we want all clothes abolished because some women are too dressy. For we believe that all that is historic in humanity has its higher forms and its lower forms , and we refuse to prohibit the higher because we happen at some particular place or time to suffer from the lower. But this other school that calls itself Progressive is always Prohibitionist. Marriage must vanish for ever; property must vanish for everybody. The Prohibitionists hoped to produce a younger generation that had never tasted anything but water; the Nudists a generation that had never known any embarrassment in nakedness. For these thinkers there is never anything between abnormality and negation, between abomination and abolition. And it is in vain that we point out that the normal is not only possible but visible, and holds the centre of the stage; that in the central civilisations of the world the abnormalities and abominations have in fact been largely avoided. They are blind to the fact, staring them in the face, that the wine-drinking countries drink very little wine: that the beer-drinking countries drink a remarkably mild beer. For in their hearts they do not believe it is a question of turning human life from abuse to use; it is a question of finding a new use for human life; or rather making it useful to a life that is not human. They are not quite such lunatics as they look, or rather their lunacy is of a larger and more hopeful sort. They do not only want to cut off a man’s legs to cure him of lameness. They really believe that with the loss of his legs he will immediately grow wings or possibly wheels. This is the great faith which stands facing the ancient faith in the Resurrection of Man, and this sketch is but a small skirmish in the great campaign between those two creeds.

We hear very much in these days of the true essence of true Christianity, and not only, though perhaps most often, from those who are not Christians. But if we really wish to know about it, there was something which is always essential to Christianity, and for a long time was even common to all forms of Christianity. If we will condescend to cast an eye backwards upon those words which are certainly old, and which many rather antiquated sceptics suppose to be antiquated if we will look at the actual words Redemption and Resurrection and Salvation and the Image of God, we shall see in them quite simply staring us in the face, all that I have said here. It was religion that refused to despair of Man; it is scientific progress and evolution that are already despairing of him. And it is not the Superman but very truly and actually the Son of Man, Who comes in clouds of glory to judge the world.”

-G. K. Chesterton, The Later Phases, George Bernard Shaw, 1909

image source: The Resurrection. (c. 1715-1716) By S. Ricci, Wikimedia Commons


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