Tremendous Trifles

Tremendous Trifles

G. K. Chesterton was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and one who has had a great influence on my thinking and has captured my imagination. I can still remember the first time I encountered Chesterton as a junior in high school. I had to write a literary analysis of a short piece of writing from a select list of authors. Being one of the last to sign up, I only had a few authors from which to choose. I had wanted to write about C. S. Lewis, but by the time I got to sign up, he was already taken. So, looking over the few authors left, I signed up for G. K. Chesterton because I can remember hearing some good quotes from him at Worldview Academy. I count this as a special act of divine providence because after being introduced to Chesterton through his essay, “A Piece of Chalk,” my life has never been the same.

Chesterton was a poet, essayist, apologist, and novelist. He wrote on such diverse topics as the history of England, family life, croquet, art, economics, Christianity, eugenics, and much more. Though Chesterton was a staunch Roman Catholic for most of his life and a firm opponent of Calvinism (and I am both a staunch protestant and a firm proponent of Calvinism), I always find him a joy to read. He writes with such clarity and penetrating wit that even when he is wrong he is worth reading, and when he is right – he is invaluable. As I learned more about Chesterton I discovered that he had already influenced my life for years through his influence on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

We happen to live long enough after Chesterton’s death that the government has decided not to prosecute the free use and distribution of his ideas; therefore I have decided to post a weekly essay by Chesterton for the foreseeable future, beginning with the collection, “Tremendous Trifles.” This is the first installment of that series. So, without further ado, here is Gilbert Keith Chesterton:

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Why I Believe in God: Conclusion

Why I Believe in God: Conclusion

(This is part six of an essay by Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.
Click here for part one.)

But now I see you want to go home. And I do not blame you; the last bus leaves at twelve. I should like to talk again another time. I invite you to come to dinner next Sunday. But I have pricked your bubble, so perhaps you will not come back. And yet perhaps you will. That depends upon the Father’s pleasure. Deep down in your heart you know very well that what I have said about you is true. You know there is no unity in your life. You want no God who by His counsel provides for the unity you need. Such a God, you say, would allow for nothing new. So you provide your own unity. But this unity must, by your own definition, not kill that which is wholly new. Therefore it must stand over against the wholly new and never touch it at all. Thus by your logic you talk about possibles and impossibles, but all this talk is in the air. By your own standards it can never have anything to do with reality. Your logic claims to deal with eternal and changeless matters; and your facts are wholly changing things; and “never the twain shall meet.” So you have made nonsense of your own experience. With the prodigal you are at the swine-trough, but it may be that, unlike the prodigal, you will refuse to return to the father’s house.

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Why I Believe in God: Objections Raised

Why I Believe in God: Objections Raised

(This is part five of an essay by Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.
Click here for part one.)

By this time you are probably wondering whether I have really ever heard the objections which are raised against belief in such a God. Well, I think I have. I heard them from my teachers who sought to answer them. I also heard them from teachers who believed they could not be answered. While a student at Princeton Seminary I attended summer courses in the Chicago Divinity School. Naturally I heard the modern or liberal view of Scripture set forth fully there. And after graduation from the Seminary I spent two years at Princeton University for graduate work in philosophy. There the theories of modern philosophy were both expounded and defended by very able men. In short I was presented with as full a statement of the reasons for disbelief as I had been with the reasons for belief. I heard both sides fully from those who believed what they taught.

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Why I Believe in God: Later Schooling

Why I Believe in God: Later Schooling

(This is part five of an essay by Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.
Click here for part one.)

Meanwhile let us finish our story. At ten I came to this country and after some years decided to study for the ministry. This involved preliminary training at a Christian preparatory school and college. All my teachers were pledged to teach their subjects from the Christian point of view. Imagine teaching not only religion but algebra from the Christian point of view! But it was done. We were told that all facts in all their relations, numerical as well as others, are what they are because of God’s all comprehensive plan with respect to them. Thus the very definitions of things would not merely be incomplete but basically wrong if God were left out of the picture. Were we not informed about the views of others? Did we not hear about evolution and about Immanuel Kant, the great modern philosopher who had conclusively shown that all the arguments for the existence of God were invalid? Oh, yes, we heard about all these things, but there were refutations given and these refutations seemed adequate to meet the case.

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Why I Believe in God: Early Schooling

Why I Believe in God: Early Schooling

(This is part four of an essay by Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.
Click here for part one.)

To the argument we must now shortly come. Just another word, however, about my schooling. That will bring all the factors into the picture.

I was not quite five when somebody — fortunately I cannot recall who — took me to school. On the first day I was vaccinated and it hurt. I can still feel it. I had already been to church. I recall that definitely because I would sometimes wear my nicely polished leather shoes. A formula was read over me at my baptism which solemnly asserted that I had been conceived and born in sin, the idea being that my parents, like all men, had inherited sin from Adam, the first man and the representative of the human race. The formula further asserted that though thus conditioned by inescapable sin I was, as a child of the Covenant, redeemed in Christ. And at the ceremony my parents solemnly promised that as soon as I should be able to understand they would instruct me in all these matters by all the means at their disposal.

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Why I Believe in God: Childhood

Why I Believe in God: Childhood

(This is part three of an essay by Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.
Click here for part one.)

To go on, then, I can recall playing as a child in a sandbox built into a corner of the hay-barn. From the hay-barn I would go through the cow-barn to the house. Built into the hay- barn too, but with doors opening into the cow-barn, was a bed for the working-man. How badly I wanted permission to sleep in that bed for a night! Permission was finally given. Freud was still utterly unknown to me, but I had heard about ghosts and “forerunners of death.” That night I heard the cows jingle their chains. I knew there were cows and that they did a lot of jingling with their chains, but after a while I was not quite certain that it was only the cows that made all the noises I heard. Wasn’t there someone walking down the aisle back of the cows, and wasn’t he approaching my bed? Already I had been taught to say my evening prayers. Some of the words of that prayer were to this effect: “Lord, convert me, that I may be converted.” Unmindful of the paradox, I prayed that prayer that night as I had never prayed before.

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Why I Believe in God: The “Accident of Birth”

Why I Believe in God: The “Accident of Birth”

(This is part two of an essay by Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til. Click here for part one.)

We are frequently told that much in our life depends on “the accident of birth”. In ancient time some men were said to spring full-grown from the foreheads of the gods. That, at any rate, is not true today. Yet I understand the next best thing happened to you. You were born, I am told, in Washington, D.C., under the shadow of the White House. Well, I was born in a little thatched roof house with a cow barn attached, in Holland. You wore “silver slippers” and I wore wooden shoes.

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