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Monday, January 02, 2017

A Dangerously Clear Head

True story: When I was in my early university career, I was friends with a girl whose father taught history there. One of his students exhibited a most peculiar propensity in his essays; and that is, that no matter what question he was asked, he always answered, “God did it”.

What caused the Napoleonic Wars?

“God did”.

How was the Declaration of Independence developed?

“God made it happen”.

What brought about the fall of the Soviet Union?

“God made it fall”.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the guy was a Calvinist. He probably thought that to attribute any causal power to anything other than God was somehow heretical, so he stuck to his single, deterministic explanation of everything. And what could an open-minded, liberal professor do but concede that he had a right to answer based on his own beliefs?

That student was one of those guys that G.K. Chesterton called, “the most clear-headed of all men”. Mind you, G.K. didn’t mean it as a compliment. The “clear-headedness” of such people comes from the “insane simplicity” of some single-minded idea they have, some theory that for them succeeds in “explaining everything and nothing at the same time”.

Now, when he coined these phrases Chesterton was talking of the Materialist Determinists of his day. But he might just as well have been speaking of Calvinists. They too are simply (to again steal an apt phrase from Chesterton) “in the clean and well-lit prison of a single idea”. They think that by the single notion of Divine Sovereignty they suddenly “see everything” scripturally; but their sensations of lucidity are merely a product of their having banished all other reasons, questions and explanations from their thoughts. And having achieved such a subjective thrill of clarity, they are not merely loath to give it up but are energized as well to force everyone else to agree with it, lest any shadow of uncertainty should creep into their comfortable prison house.

They call it “faithfulness”. And faithful to their idea they are — as faithful as the fearful can be.

1 comment :

  1. Like the fellow who when asked why he held a Calvinistic position replied, "Because I see it on every page of the Bible." No doubt.

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