Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GKC: Christ's Supreme Miracle and Shaw's Complaint About It!

It is not what you expect... but please read this first excerpt and consider it. Then proceed to the next somewhat longer excerpt which (you will be surprised to learn) touches on all the usual modern media whine against Christ - and answers it as only a genius like GKC can: by going deeper into the mystery, the mystery which we shall peer into in these next few days.

--Dr. Thursday.

...all these incidents have in them a character of mounting crisis. In other words, these incidents are not incidental. When Apollonius the ideal philosopher is brought before the judgment-seat of Domitian and vanishes by magic, the miracle is entirely incidental. It might have occurred at any time in the wandering life of the Tyanean; indeed, I believe it is doubtful in date as well as in substance. The ideal philosopher merely vanished, and resumed his ideal existence somewhere else for an indefinite period. It is characteristic of the contrast perhaps that Apollonius was supposed to have lived to an almost miraculous old age. Jesus of Nazareth was less prudent in his miracles. When Jesus was brought before the judgment-seat of Pontius Pilate, he did not vanish. [Jn 18:33-19:16] It was the crisis and the goal; it was the hour and the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53] It was the supremely supernatural act of all his miraculous life, that he did not vanish.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:340]

Some little time ago Mr. Bernard Shaw, faced with the frightful difficulty of explaining how a man of his intelligence could be anything else nowadays but an orthodox Christian, invented (as is his wont) a really new argument, good or bad. The old-fashioned blasphemers (who are the most lovable of men) had always denounced Bible stories as silly stories; they were too clumsy and faulty to be believed. But Mr. Shaw said of the central Bible story, not that it was too faulty to be believed, but that it was too faultless to be believed. He rejected it not because it was imperfect, but because it was perfect. He declared that the story of Calvary was to be discredited precisely because it was sublime, because it was pointed and poetic. Things so artistic as that (he said in effect) do not happen.

I am not concerned here to offer any of the many minor criticisms which might be made upon this view. I might remark for the hundredth time upon the hundredth example of the fact that the enemy of Christianity is always eating his own words and deserting his own standard; that the attack on that faith can only be kept up even for three generations by each one of its accusers repudiating the last accusation, by every son of scepticism disowning his own father. I might even suggest that if the Superman ever came on earth Mr. Shaw would not complain if he talked naturally in poetry - if he asked for the mustard in an impromptu sonnet. If it be imaginable that the Superman on earth might speak poetry, it is surely not unlikely that God on earth might act poetry. But I am not entangled in any of these considerations. It is only one much more innocent aspect of Mr. Shaw's theory that I propose to attack.

He said that a certain tale is probably unhistorical because it is dignified and dramatic, a thing with an artistic climax. I am concerned to point out that Mr. Shaw said this because he had not really read or understood human history; because he has allowed his great genius and sympathy to be suffocated with the materialism of a mean modern environment. The truth is that the things which astonish us in the tremendous tale of the Passion are things which not only would happen at a divine crisis, but which have happened at every genuine human crisis. It is only in epochs of exhaustion and mere pottering about with problems that they do not occur. Mr. Shaw, when he suggested that the Passion was too artistic to happen, really meant that it was too artistic to happen in the Fabian Society or in the London School of Economics. But in history it did happen. It happened again and again.

We talk of art as something artificial in comparison with life. But I sometimes fancy that the very highest art is more real than life itself. At least this is true: that in proportion as passions become real they become poetical; the lover is always trying to be the poet. All real energy is an attempt at harmony and a high swing of rhythm; and if we were only real enough we should all talk in rhyme. However this may be, it is unquestionable in the case of great public affairs. Whenever you have real practical politics you have poetical politics. Whenever men have succeeded in wars they have sung war songs; whenever you have the useful triumph you have also the useless trophy.

But the thing is more strongly apparent exactly where the great Fabian falls foul of it, in the open scenes of history and the actual operation of events. The things that actually did happen all over the world are precisely the things which he thinks could not have happened in Galilee; the artistic isolation, the dreadful dialogues in which each speaker was dramatic, the prophecies flung down like gauntlets, the high invocations of history, the marching and mounting excitement of the story, the pulverising and appropriate repartees. These things do happen; they have happened; they are attested, in all the cases where the soul of man bad become poetic in its very peril. At every one of its important moments the most certain and solid history reads like a historical novel.

[GKC "The Heroic That Happened" in Lunacy and Letters]

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