Hijacking Words

John Piper (in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals) quotes G. K. Chesterton, who wrote in 1908,

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled on the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

For these reasons he foresaw the culture hijacking the word arrogance and using it to refer to conviction and the word humility to refer to uncertainty (Brothers p. 161).

Just look at the comments on any blog discussing the emerging/ent church. Is this true, or is this true?

Hijacking Words

4 thoughts on “Hijacking Words

  1. John says:

    Not sure whether this applies to emergent (not something I’m involved in) but I can’t argue with GK Chesterton – fantastic writer, and this quote is one that I’ve remembered for years 🙂

    pax et bonum

  2. Stephen says:

    I must admit there is a degree of frustration over discussions of emergent. When I see someone quote a verse or two, the ec guys act as though some nerd has walked into a party for cool people, and start crying “arrogant!” or some other such remark, without addressing the scriptural argument being put. So people talk past each other.

    I have only ever read pithy quotes from Chesterton, but I guess he was writing in quite a different intellectual and theological environment, where the liberalism of Schleiermacher had gained a strong foothold at the end of the 19th century, and there was a certain antipathy towards traditional convictions.

    But as I say, I guess!

  3. Christian says:

    Great quote. If you haven’t read Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, it’s well worth the effort.

    In some ways, I think Chesterton was ahead of his time, able to critique well the present shift to postmodernism. Or maybe postmodernism isn’t all that postmodern.

  4. Stephen says:

    Hi Christian,
    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll add it to my list. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

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