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chesterton versus the new gnostics

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 01, 2007

Ever notice how neo-pantheists like Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox, for all their exaltation of nature, seem fatally fond of grand-sounding but conceptually fuzzy abstractions? They convey an embarrassment with the God of the Bible as both primitive and importunate. The following passage from G.K. Chesterton (found in Maisie Ward's biography) is an admirably gentle spoof -- and more than a spoof -- of the same tendency. This is from his 1903 controversy with Robert Blatchford:

If there be such being as a God, and He can speak to a child, and if God spoke to a child in the garden, the child would, of course, say that God lived in the garden. I should not think it less likely to be true for that. If the child said, "God is everywhere, an impalpable essence pervading and supporting all constituents of the Cosmos alike" -- if, I say, the infant addressed me in the above terms, I should think he was more likely to have been with the governess than with God. So if Moses had said God was an Infinite Energy, I should be certain he had seen nothing extraordinary. As he said He was a Burning Bush, I think it very likely that he did see something Extraordinary.

St. Augustine wrote that God's otherness makes His nearness possible. It's interesting that the god of the eco-gnostics comes across as neither something "other" nor something especially near. Theirs is a fully domesticated deity: it never intrudes.

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  • Posted by: JARay - Jan. 01, 2007 9:20 PM ET USA

    Well, Mr. Berry does quote St. Thomas Aquinas:- "There he asks why are there so many different modes of being in the universe. He answers that because the divine could not image forth itself in any single being, the divine created the great diversity of things so that the perfection lacking to one would be supplied by the other and the whole universe of beings participates in, and manifests the divine, more than any single being whatsoever." I think that Chesterton would have approved!

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