In the first chapter, Chesterton likens his journey of sifting through culture (both secular and sacred) for Truth to an Englishman in a boat who thinks he discovered a new land only to find he’s standing on the shores of his beloved England:
I am the man who with the utmost daring, discovered what had been discovered before . . . . I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them, I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it . . . . I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine. When I fancied I stood alone, I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing, all by myself, an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion. I did try to find a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.I actually laughed out loud when I read this. I must sheepishly admit that I identify with this point in Chesterton’s life. I’ve been doing a lot of ruminating over the last year or so regarding Kingdom life and how we do church and emerging church thought—in particular, what biblical and early church Kingdom life really looks like and how we can live it today. As I sifted through Scripture and current church culture and conversations, there were now-cringe-worthy times when I fancied myself alone, original and “some ten minutes in advance of the truth.” Oiy. Chesterton, who discovered this truth 100 years ago, reminds me that as we stumble upon the incredible and wonderful life in the Kingdom we are merely rediscovering something at least a millennia old—the ancient truth of Jesus and how his Kingdom flourished among those who walked the Way. And we are not, by infinite shores, the first to discover it.
I could be imagining it, but I think I’m hearing a divine chuckle. Heh.
(Image: Wikipedia Commons)