Protestantism Without Borders

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I will say it right now. Chesterton is my favorite papist. This is something you could probably figure out from how much I quote him, but how much I have learned from him extends far beyond that.

One of the things I learned from him is the fundamental stance of a reformer — in order to do any good whatever, a person must have a clear-eyed view of what needs to be corrected, and he must have a fundamental loyalty to that which he seeks to correct. It was Chesterton who taught me how to be a good Protestant, how best to be an evangelical son.

In Orthodoxy, in the chapter “The Flag of the World,” he writes about how women are fiercely loyal to their men, but notes this is no blind loyalty. They stick with their men through thick and thin, but they see and understand their man’s faults all right. They are “almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head.”
You don’t need to have a reason to love your people. When you have a reason your attachments become mercenary and opportunistic. To reapply Chesterton, and to change cities, we should not love Geneva because she is great. She became great because we loved her. Protestantism built one of the world’s great civilizations, but that is not why I love it. I would have loved the doctrines of grace before we were allowed to build anything, and were still hiding from soldiers on the Piedmont.

We need to think more about this matter of loyalty. We have drifted far from it, and have moved over to a rarefied definition of love. We think that in order to criticize something, we must also “love” as we do so, and this would be quite right if our definition of love included the important component of loyalty. As it is, we have multitudes of snarky, prickly, uncorrectable and destructive Christians, who believe it is their responsibility to leave this church, leaving a wide swath of mayhem in their wake, just so long as they send a letter to the elders that begins, “It is with grief in our hearts that we write this letter . . .” Lots of love, floating about fifty feet above all the action, but down in the action, no loyalty at all

This loyalty we must cultivate has a set of temptations that come with it, of course, just like everything good. Those temptations pull us toward factionalism, party spirit, sectarianism, and blinkered confessionalism. Loyalty can be corrupted and overdone. But it can also be abandoned or lost, and when it is, the result is not real catholicity, but rather giving way to the temptations that go with catholicity — emergent latitudinariansim and all the rest of it.

There is much more to be said about this, but in the meantime, Chesterton really is good for what ails you. When I read him, I don’t imitate the content of his loyalties (e.g. I am not an Englishman, I am not a Catholic). But I greatly admire the way he knows how to be loyal. He knows what it means, and his exuberant way is contagious.

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Tom Brainerd
7 years ago

It is worth noting that those loyalties to places like Geneva, Zurich and Wittenburg were formulated at great risk by some, risks that came home in the blood of many. If they are to be abandoned, surely that needs to happen with an assertion that ‘They were wrong,’ and an explanation of why. “That was then…this is now” really doesn’t suffice.

RFB
RFB
7 years ago

Mr. Brainerd, “…formulated at great risk by some, risks that came home in the blood of many.” Indeed. I find it interesting that John Calvin made a connection between an unwillingness to contend with a certain lightness in the loafers: “God does not take his people out of the world, because he does not wish them to be effeminate and slothful; but he delivers them from evil, that they may not be overwhelmed; for he wishes them to fight…” In the present circumstances, a certain guy whose name rhymes with Pug Filson cannot get the girly men to step into… Read more »

David Douglas
David Douglas
7 years ago

I am reminded about what LaPlace said of Euler: : “Read Euler, read Euler, he is the master of us all.”
Overstating it a bit, I feel that way about Chesterton.  He was wrong about the Puritans, Roman Catholicism, and how do deal with the poor and rich, but little else that I know of.  And I would pay more attention to him in matters where I know he was wrong, than I would to many people in matters where I know they are right.

katecho
katecho
7 years ago

Loyalty is an extremely pertinent topic, perhaps especially for the CREC.  I’m actually deeply troubled by what I continue to see in the young men and women.  If there’s any admonishment, it is that they should be as loyal to their churches outside of Moscow as they were to their churches inside it.  An almost complete absence of such loyalty is my gravest concern for the denomination.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

That’s interesting, Katecho. Where I came from, the young Moscow transplants were perhaps the most loyal generation. I have great hopes for where that congregation will be in the next decade or two.

Tom Brainerd
7 years ago

RFB…
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I guess I’m not exactly certain…no, not at all certain what you are trying to say to me.
As best as I can tell, I have stuck a tee in the ground off of which you are hitting your drive. And that’s fine.
In my comment I am not dealing with things like Escondido, which is where I have a sense you are headed.
N’est pas?
Christ’s blessings on you.
Pastor Brainerd

RFB
RFB
7 years ago

Pastor Brainerd, Thank you for your graceful reply. I was speaking of faith in the sense of loyalty, a loyalty expressed similarly to semper fidelis. I see faith as being loyal to our Captain, Who went to the mat for us in more ways than we can know. He took the bullet for us, and leads by example, and so we are enabled and learn how to be loyal from Him. From this flows a loyalty to His men, not a blind loyalty, but an informed a loving type that is also willing to go to the mat for our… Read more »

Stephen Spencer
Stephen Spencer
7 years ago

Chesterton wasn’t always Catholic:  he converted fairly late.   I think he is known as a Catholic because:   1.  Of course, he did convert, and wrote a few Catholic books.   2.  He wrote Father Brown mysteries:  but during 13 years he wrote them as a Protestant.   3.  He wrote of Protestant teachings–at the time–which have since changed:  perhaps most notably against artificial birth control.   4.  His vision was vividly Catholic even as a Protestant.  Most disagreements are between the Catholic “both/and” verses the Protestant “either/or”…and Chesterton was a both/and person.  And being an artist would create… Read more »

Tom Brainerd
7 years ago

RFB, Gooder’n grits. Carry on.