Friday, March 27, 2009

The Paradox of Parallel Passions

In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chester-ton takes the mystery of the hypo-static union and just does some fascinating and creative things with it. Maybe this kind of thing is par for the course in Rome, I don't know. But from where I stand, it's pretty remarkable.

For example, Chesterton argues that our Lord's two seemingly contradic-tory natures being united in one Person without in any way dimin-ishing either the human or the divine can act as a kind of paradigm for our faith's ability to unite other disparate qualities as well.
By defining its main doctrine, the church not only kept seemingly inconsistent things side by side, but, what was more, allowed them to break out in a sort of artistic violence otherwise possible only to anarchists.
Speaking of the various applications of this principle, Chesterton writes:
[The church] has kept [the emphases on celibacy and family] side by side like two strong colors, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink.
Chesterton then turns to the biblical prophecy of the lion dwelling with the lamb, insisting that it is too facile simply to think that this odd arrangement of bedfellows is made possible by the lion becoming lamb-like, for
... that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is, Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the church attempted; that is the miracle she achieved.
He concludes:
Anyone might say, "Neither swagger nor grovel"; and it would have been a limit. But to say, "Here you can swagger and there you can grovel"—that was an emancipation.
It's not difficult to see some implications for a two-kingdoms ethic begin to arise from Chesterton's points here. To borrow his nomenclature from elsewhere, there needs to be a balance between puritanism and paganism, or, between heavenly- and earthly citizenship. If our Lord was "at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man" while remaining "one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation," then we mustn't allow either legitimate side of a dilemma to swallow the other.

Could it be that the temptation to which the American church often falls prey, namely, to fear the world as a constant threat, is simply an example of its sloppy Christology playing itself out?