Greek heroes do not grin: but gargoyles do – because they are Christian.
Christ prophesied the whole of Gothic architecture in that hour when nervous and respectable people…objected to the shouting of the gutter-snipes of Jerusalem. He said, "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
The prophecy has been fulfilled as far as Chesterton is concerned, as seen in the gargoyles of the many gothic churches in Europe.
There is an appropriate end, or purpose, for a human life. It is not random, as must be the case for the evolutionists. It is this that Chesterton argues in this chapter. Moderns argue that we must make things better, or good. But when asked what this means, they talk in circles:
Evolution is only good if it produces good; good is only good if it helps evolution.
We cannot take our principles from nature – the nature we see around us – because there is no principle in nature. We do not get equality from nature, nor do we get inequality. Both require a standard of value, but what is the standard of value offered to us by nature? Can nature tell us that cats are more valuable than mice (or one cat more valuable than the next)?
Hence, evolutionists are left to identify their doctrine of good without a standard to lean on. Nietzsche is described as offering nothing but physical metaphors. When he said “beyond good and evil,” he avoided the need to say more clearly “more good than good and evil” or “more evil than good and evil.” Had he done so, this idea would have been exposed as nonsense.
So, when he describes his hero, he does not dare to say, "the purer man," or "the happier man," or "the sadder man," for all these are ideas; and ideas are alarming. He says "the upper man," or "over man," a physical metaphor from acrobats or alpine climbers. Nietzsche is truly a very timid thinker. He does not really know in the least what sort of man he wants evolution to produce. And if he does not know, certainly the ordinary evolutionists, who talk about things being "higher," do not know either.
These others then come up with even sillier notions: whatever evolution brings was right, what was avoided was wrong; or whatever I want is right, and whatever I don’t want is wrong. Reason, as Hume put it, is slave to these passions. It is in this way that we progress – that we might be progressing down the wrong road is the question avoided.
Instead, we might consider reform. To reform means something that was in form is now out of shape; the intention is to put it back in shape again. Reform is the proper task for reasonable and determined men.
And this is where the modern world has gone awry. Progress should mean that we are changing things to suit a vision; instead, progress has now been taken to mean that the vision always changes – driven by our passions or desires. We have freed ourselves to the extent that every day brings a new vision, a new “good,” a new end to be the pursuit of man.
As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind.
This, then, points to a requirement if one is to discuss progress: the objective must be fixed. An artist might remain discontented with his pictures, yet not become discontented with his art. A simple example will suffice: a man has as his objective to paint the world blue. Every day he makes progress, painting a blade of grass, a tree, a patch of dirt. Each one blue. It is unlikely that he will achieve his objective in his lifetime, but that he has made progress can be easily seen and measured.
But what if each day he decides on a new color: today, his objective is to paint the world blue, tomorrow green, the next day orange, and so on. Can it ever be said that he is making progress? Is his perfect world coming closer into view?
Thus we may say that a permanent ideal is as necessary to the innovator as to the conservative; it is necessary whether we wish the king's orders to be promptly executed or whether we only wish the king to be promptly executed.
And with this, Chesterton felt a presence of something else in the discussion (keeping in mind that this entire book documents his realization that what he discovered was already in Christianity): “My ideal is at least fixed; for it was fixed before the foundations of the world.” This fixed ideal cannot be altered; it is called Eden. And for those orthodox who understand this of the ideal, there is always revolution:
In the upper world hell once rebelled against heaven. But in this world heaven is rebelling against hell.
This understanding offers a fixed ideal at which one can aim. It offers a single morality. Darwinism offers no such possibility – only offering two mad moralities, but not a single sane morality: when considering the kinship and competition that exists among and between all creatures, one can choose to be either insanely cruel or insanely sentimental:
That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being as cruel as the tiger. It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger. But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws.