Caveat lector

Reader beware

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One cannot be too careful with their choice of books.  Many years ago I started reading C.S. Lewis, the source of surprising joys and other-worldly journeys.  To my Protestant friends, be very careful with Lewis.  Incredibly, the great Anglican, who even Reformed Presbyterians hail as kinsman, has led many into the Catholic Church.  See C.S. Lewis & The Catholic Church by Joseph Pearce, St. Benedict Press.  If you are convinced, as I was, that Rome is wrong, don’t let Lewis lull you to sleep.  You must keep up your defenses.

G.K. Chesteron

I discovered another author.  G.K. Chesterton.  This prolific writer, arguably the greatest of the twentieth century, produced an incredible book that I’ve read and re-read:  The Everlasting Man.  I was reading it as a Protestant convinced Rome was wrong and we were right.  But I kept re-reading.  T.E.M. is a sweeping survey of the uniqueness of Man, of the Jews, of the Church and, as the title suggests, of the God-Man Jesus Christ.  T.E.M. is on that short list of books to carry to the proverbial desert island.

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The Bible was the subject of my last two posts, specifically the Protestant error of Sola Scriptura.  Once that got straight, many pieces fell into place.  But not before.  Chesterton treats this lynchpin subject with his usual wisdom and whimsy:

I find it very difficult to take some of the Protestant propositions even seriously. What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship undera canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, “This is all hocus-pocus”; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, “Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh.”  But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, “Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,” is sensible. To say, “Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,” is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street.

Chesterton, G.K., The Catholic Church and Conversion (p. 11-12). Kindle Edition.

Chesterton, a forty-six-year-old convert to the Catholic Church, was a big part of my entrance at forty-nine.  The Everlasting Man played no small part.  I did not read T.E.M. because I wanted to convert to Catholicism.  I had no intention.  But in his winsome, witty way Chesterton, in T.E.M. and elsewhere, helped me “wrestle with a hundred devils of howling falsehood; with a swarm of lies and libels.”  (Id. at pp. 9-10).  Be careful picking up The Everlasting Man.  This amazing book “led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian.”  Who is this Guy and Why Haven’t I Heard of Him? by Dale Ahlquist, Chesterton.org.

There was a day Chesterton’s quote above likely would have been meaningless to me.  By God’s grace, a bell rung.  It cannot be unrung.  Borrowing again from Chesterton:  “I cannot explain why I am a Catholic; because now that I am a Catholic I cannot imagine myself as anything else.” (Id. at 9).

God bless you as you give your fiat to Him today.

Go to Somewhere between fighting it and the Faith:  fairness, fondness and fear.

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AS FOR ME, I KNOW THAT MY VINDICATOR LIVES, AND THAT HE WILL AT LAST STAND FORTH UPON THE DUST. THIS WILL HAPPEN WHEN MY SKIN HAS BEEN STRIPPED OFF, AND FROM MY FLESH I WILL SEE GOD: I WILL SEE FOR MYSELF, MY OWN EYES, NOT ANOTHER’S, WILL BEHOLD HIM: MY INMOST BEING IS CONSUMED WITH LONGING. JOB 19:25-27

Author: Danny Collier

Catholic husband, father, lawyer

2 thoughts on “Caveat lector”

  1. It sounds like our journeys are quite similar. I also was reading Lewis and discovered Chesterton as a Protestant and have read “The Everlasting Man” probably 3 times. Once Catholicism entered my radar in a serious way, I read “The Catholic Church and Conversion” and that very quote about sola scriptura hit me as well. As you say, it was a bell rung that could not be unheard.

    I think you’re also right that there was a grace involved. I’ve tried to share the Chesterton book and quote with other Protestant friends and family that had also liked Chesterton, because I thought it would affect them the same way. But it didn’t happen, On the topic of Catholicism, they quickly drop Chesterton and walls go up; on every other topic they consider him a genius. So I also thank God for the grace He gave to hear the bell.

    Like

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