Orthodoxy - Chapter VI: The Paradoxes of Christianity Summary & Analysis

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The world is neither perfectly reasonable or unreasonable. A strict rationalist might think, for example, since that man is symmetrical in many ways (an ear on each side of his head, an arm on each side of his body) that he is symmetrical in every way and therefore would have a heart, too, on each side of his chest. The value in Christianity is that, like cold reason, it predicts correctly when things follow logic, but unlike cold reason, it also correctly predicts when things deviate from it. This is seen particularly in Christianity's ability to bring together what appear to be two opposites and make sense out of them—for example, Christians are able to at the same time be proud of being human and think themselves the greatest of all creatures, while also being immensely humble and ashamed of their sins. The paradox is not, strictly speaking, a paradox of Christianity; rather, Christianity is simply reflecting the seemingly paradoxical nature of reality.

This paradoxical nature, or at least Christianity's recognition of it, can be seen by the criticisms aimed against it. Many people will simultaneously accuse Christianity of opposite and contradictory flaws. For example, some way will say that Christians are naively optimistic and see everything far too rosy but then will later insult Christians for their gloomy outlook on the world. Once one observes all these criticisms, it would start to seem that critics will attempt to level just any attack they can find against it.

Yet, the critics' motives aside, the mere fact that the criticisms seemed to contradict one another did not show that they were wrong; it only showed that, if they were right, the Church was something monstrously evil, because it managed to combine together any number of flaws within itself. Further investigation shows, however, that the criticisms told more about the critic than the Church—the wealthy businessman found fault with the Church's condemnation of greed; the promiscuous lover with the Church's teaching on chastity. In reality, the Church had found a way to combine together opposing passions without either contradicting itself or compromising the passions. Thus, for example, one might think that in order to avoid being proud, one should think neither too highly or lowly of oneself. In other words, one ought to avoid the passions of extreme pride and self-hatred. Christianity is unique in that it is able to preserve the passion of each—man is, on the one hand, triumphant to belong the noble race of humans but shamed without limit to be such a sinner. Likewise, the logical man might think that a person should only forgive moderate transgressions against him. However, the Christian loathes even the slightest sin but is filled with nothing but love for the sinner.

Christianity, in short, frees men from the bondage of pagan ethics, which made men constantly restrain themselves and live dull, passionless lives. Christianity set passion free and embraced it, restraining only as much as was necessary to prevent it from destroying the delicate balance it achieved. In fact, that balance might be called orthodoxy. Since powerful passions merge together so dramatically in Christianity, it is necessary that there be a sound structure in which they interact lest one passion overpower the rest, and this is precisely the purpose of all the dogmas and rules of Christianity. While many see orthodoxy as opposed to freedom, its purpose really is to enable people to escape the greyness of a life without passion and live to the fullest extent possible. However, if that balance is ever compromised, then the whole system falls apart.

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