Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Modern Liberal by G.K. Chesterton

I have posted this before, but it deserves reiterating here. This is G. K. Chesterton's sublime and piercing analysis of liberals, from his book Orthodoxy:

The new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy [1] because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes hi hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything
(Orthodoxy 53).

Chesterton wrote this almost one hundred years ago. It is amazing how perceptible the illogical and ignorant positions of the liberal are. Yet, truth will always triumphant over doctrinal treason…..

[1] A person who is too much concerned with being proper, modest, or righteous: bluenose, prude, puritan, Victorian.


  1. I love Chesterton. I have been thinking of posting a quote from the chapter from Orthodoxy called "The Ethics of Elfland."

    The interesting thing about the quote that you've posted is that, considering how old the quote is, one would think anti-intellectualism would have moved on. It hasn't, and liberalism is really just old errors recycled. As orthodox Christians, that is exactly the kind of cycle we face. One of the best ways to prepare for future errors is to study the old ones.


    1. The New Perspective Controversy: study the debates of the Reformation.

    2. Open Theism: simply crack open Augustine's debates with Pelagius, Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will (the Open Theists were alive and well even then, in the New England liberals) or the Canons of Dort.

    These people are striving and fighting for originality, but they really have nothing new to offer the world. At this point in theological history, everyone thinks they're the first, but it really comes down to: are you going to side with the orthodox side of church history or with the heretical side of church history which embraces "novelty" over truth.

  2. Adam,

    I guess the Bible was right:

    "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."

  3. "And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything."

    I really laughed at this. Kind of like the man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

  4. This is, by the way, a clever handling of the Emergent trend of being skeptical of everything, including orthodox christian doctrines.

    As I quoted in another blog post, "Let the defenders of irrationality do so with whatever weapons they can find."


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