Monday, June 29, 2020

The Ideal of Humility

The whole secret of the practical success of Christendom lies in the Christian humility, however imperfectly fulfilled.

Heretics, Gilbert K. Chesterton (eBook)

In this chapter, Chesterton is examining H.G. Wells and his book, A Modern Utopia. 

When one rids himself of the idea of merit – merit in the Christian sense – one frees himself for all possibilities: “…the soul is suddenly released for incredible voyages,” as Chesterton puts it. This humility – taking ourselves lightly, while seeing the possibility of unmerited triumphs – is taken by many as something sinister:

Humility is so practical a virtue that men think it must be a vice. Humility is so successful that it is mistaken for pride.

Humility is lost on the modern man – the man immersed in the scientism that has afflicted all of the globe.  This causes him to look in all the wrong places:

He is still slightly affected with the great scientific fallacy; I mean the habit of beginning not with the human soul, which is the first thing a man learns about, but with some such thing as protoplasm, which is about the last.

There is so much in this one sentence.  I will only summarize one aspect: we live in a story, not in the details of facts too trivial for the concern of most.  People live in and act on a narrative, not in an idea – and for sure not in the most obscure and hidden reaches of an idea.  If this isn’t obvious today – with the narrative of destruction and evil that turns ordinary men into sycophants demanding mask wearing and abnormal men into burning and looting everything in sight – then it will never be obvious. 

Certainly for the new atheists – those like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett – the game is up.  Religion (a narrative) is a permanent condition for humans – in the West we have traded the Christian religion for the bastardized religion witnessed on the streets in the last month. 

What is left to us, therefore, is just one question: which, or what type, of religion.  One that aims at peace – albeit, always moving in fits and starts – or one that aims to destroy.  There will be no inventing a “religion that is not a religion” of peace.  It is a hopeless and even futile quest.  Why?

Ephesians 6: 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I have been seeing this verse pop up a lot lately in the dialogue.  I have been using it more often myself.  If the last 125 years of history didn’t convince you that the powers we battle are both dark and spiritual, then hopefully the last 125 days finally has.  If this doesn’t humble you – knowing where and what the battle is – nothing will.  If it doesn’t cause you to understand where and how this fight must be fought, you deserve your fate.

Returning to Chesterton and those afflicted with the scientific fallacy:

In his new Utopia [Wells] says, for instance, that a chief point of the Utopia will be a disbelief in original sin.

Oh my.  What a controversial term: “original sin.”  I am fine if you choose a different term and a different way to describe the fallen nature of man – all men and all women.  Pick any standard of “good” that you want, and then start explaining why no one meets it perfectly.  In other words, whether one takes the concept to mean we are all damned because of Adam and Eve, or whether one believes we all, inherent in our nature, will fall short of a standard of good, you end up in the same place.

If he had begun with the human soul—that is, if he had begun on himself—he would have found original sin almost the first thing to be believed in.

Again, get past what you think you know about the term.  We all fall short of the “good.”  By focusing on protoplasm, we lose sight of the nature of man.  This exposes completely the utopia of Progressivism based on scientism.  They tell us that man is perfectible, and his perfection will be brought on by…man.  Both parts of that sentence lead us to hell.

This utopian vision, Chesterton points out, is universal – therefore fully cosmopolitan.  It is borderless and boundaryless in every sense of these words.  All must be included; none may be excluded.  Not excluded from your country, not excluded from your income and wealth, not excluded from your values, not excluded from your home, not excluded from your private life, not excluded from your body. 

The only thing to be excluded is exclusion – in other words, no borders and no boundaries.  (Watch this 18-minute video by Jonathan Pageau – it will be the best 18 minutes you spend on understanding the religiosity and symbolism and new world religion of inclusivity as demonstrated in the last four months of insanity.)

Which brings us back to the utopian vision of Wells.  From the Wikipedia description of this utopia:

The world shares the same language, coinage, customs, and laws, and freedom of movement is general.  Some personal property is allowed, but "all natural sources of force, and indeed all strictly natural products" are "inalienably vested in the local authorities" occupying "areas as large sometimes as half England." The World State is "the sole landowner of the earth." Units of currency are based on units of energy, so that "employment would constantly shift into the areas where energy was cheap." Humanity has been almost entirely liberated from the need for physical labor: "There appears to be no limit to the invasion of life by the machine."

The abolition of man.  No boundaries, no borders.  No one or no thing or no value or no idea may be excluded…except exclusion.  As Chesterton describes it:

But I think the main mistake of Mr. Wells's philosophy is a somewhat deeper one, one that he expresses in a very entertaining manner in the introductory part of the new Utopia. His philosophy in some sense amounts to a denial of the possibility of philosophy itself. At least, he maintains that there are no secure and reliable ideas upon which we can rest with a final mental satisfaction.    

Then, citing Wells:

"Nothing endures, nothing is precise and certain (except the mind of a pedant) .... Being indeed! —there is no being, but a universal becoming of individualities, and Plato turned his back on truth when he turned towards his museum of specific ideals."

"There is no abiding thing in what we know.”

Except, as Chesterton notes, the abiding thing we know that nothing is…abiding.  It is true, Chesterton says, that the North Pole may be unattainable; but this doesn’t mean that the North Pole does not exist.  (At the time of Chesterton’s writing, the physical North Pole had not been achieved, but I believe the metaphorical understanding of these words is more meaningful.)

Plato turns his back on Wells.  It is true that manifest and material things change; what does not change is the abstract quality, the invisible idea.  Plato’s Form of the Good.


Returning to humility…with this humility – a recognition of the unmerited, gaining merit only through the perfect sacrifice – comes the greatest courage:

It is only the last and wildest kind of courage that can stand on a tower before ten thousand people and tell them that twice two is four.

We need many such humble men and women today.  Instead, the primary response when presented with evidence that contradicts the prevailing narrative is either a blank stare or a scream: “everybody’s doing it.”

Or a bullet.  Jesus Christ, Plato’s Form of the Good made manifest as Aristotle demanded, showed the way – what was necessary.  It’s scary, I know.

Jordan Peterson would respond when asked why he is speaking out on issues in a manner that offers him nothing but abuse in reply: Yes, there is a cost to speaking out; there is, at times, a greater cost not to speak out.

Now is most definitely one of those times.


  1. “It is only the last and wildest kind of courage that can stand on a tower before ten thousand people and tell them that twice two is four."

    "We need many such humble men and women today.”

    This, I am sure, is true, but very few people are ever going to reach that point or stature. Instead, most of us, virtually all of us would be doing well to stand in a town council meeting in front of twenty other local residents and tell them the same thing. Or in a church or church sub-group setting. Or sitting around a table with three or four good friends. Or at a neighborhood BBQ where questions and debate might arise. Or with a co-worker on lunch break. Etc., etc., etc.

    Telling the truth humbly and consistently on a small scale might lead to a very public tower. One never knows. God works, as the Scripture says, in mysterious ways...

    1. It is a difficult challenge on many levels. First, as you note, it takes courage even to say something to an acquaintance or relative, when you know that they buy into the story. It can cost family, friendships, careers.

      Second, in what language do we speak? Damnation or reconciliation? They each have a place, yet seem almost mutually exclusive.

      Jesus spoke both. The apostles did as well, after Pentecost. They all died for it. There is probably a message in that, which brings us back to the first point.

      Courage? It comes with a cost, and that cost is paid often by others, not only by the one who speaks out.

    2. Humility is so difficult to attain. It only happens through the deliberate conquering of pride in oneself and that can only happen through experience, sometimes long years of painful experience until we come to the realization and understanding that there is nothing good in ourselves. At that point, we can begin to live a life of humility in the service of others out of a spirit of love, which grows over time.

      Janis Joplin was wrong. Freedom doesn't come from the loss of everything else. It comes from the overpowering of personal pride with the resultant ability and courage to demonstrate the truth to others without being afraid of the consequences or without thought of personal gain from it.

      Paradoxically, the most humble person is, not the weakest, but the one who is most able to control himself. He doesn't have to draw attention to himself. It is evident for others to see and they will be drawn to him.

    3. For many the time approches, or has already arrived, when not speaking out is more costly than doing so. Such as Peterson.

      Regarding damnation vs. reconciliation - I pretty much gave up on trying to figure out who can be persuaded and who needs to be fought. It seems the only way to be sure is to break down the theater of polite conversation and force people to take a stand.

      Many people will consider that to be unforgivable in itself, maybe becaue they think the only approach is obviously the socially respectable one and the issue should not even be discussed except to deplore the existence of those who don't see the light. Or perhaps they believe it to be a matter of opinion, not worth risking attrition.

      Those two make up the majority in my experience, and talking straight to them requires a lot of courage indeed, because it seems so futile.

      But if the narrative becomes so unglued that it becomes necessary to risk conflict in order to hold on to a bit of sanity...