Undermining Our Own Mines
G.K. Chesterton once made the proclamation that it is impossible to live without contradiction when you live without God. We live in a world where objections are made to everything under the sun. Yet, the moment any of us condemns something, we have to assume there is some standard by which to condemn it. The modern day rebel, as Chesterton refers to the skeptic, has no standard left because he has rejected everything. Thus, he lives in contradiction. Chesterton reasons:
The new rebel is a skeptic and will not entirely trust anything… [T]he fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation applies 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… As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, as a philosopher, that all life is a waste of time. [He] goes to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his 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 sceptic, 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.(1)
If the whole universe has no meaning, C.S. Lewis said similarly, we should never have found out that it had no meaning. The very cry of skeptical objection often betrays the skeptic himself. And yet, I have no doubt that the peculiar act of undermining one’s own mines is hardly a skill left only to the skeptic.
In this, the Gospel is unique in its power to pull down our own contradictions. Jesus repeatedly challenges the way we experience reality, the way we experience ourselves as alive. What seems solid reasoning, Christ establishes as contradictory. What we might denounce as a total loss, he describes as found. What we would be quick to discard as broken, he shows us the meaning of whole.
A friend of mine in college profoundly illustrated to me this very truth. He was born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, and as a result he is unable to speak or walk or feed himself. He communicates through a computerized voice by typing with his toes. Overcoming more in his lifetime than most can imagine, he was in a public speaking class when I first became acquainted with him. Though an unlikely candidate for a career in public speaking, he has become exactly that, and is now a much in-demand speaker. His message is as powerful as his will to proclaim it. “My body,” he says through the voice of a computer, “is a slow moving, twisted shell of uncontrollable muscle, and yet my life is a picture of nothing short of wholeness. This glorious contradiction I attribute entirely to Jesus Christ.”
Jesus compels us to drastically redefine what we mean by life, just as he compelled the disciples on Easter Sunday. “They were the ones marked out for death,” writes author Paul W. Hoon, “[Christ], the ‘dead’ was really the living.”(2) Lives that are littered with inconsistencies, blind to the ways in which we undermine our own mines, are given a new picture of what it means to be human. Giving him a life to reassemble, we are given wholeness.
(1) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Haddonfield, NJ: Dodd, Mead & Co, 2013), 28-29.
(2) Paul W. Hoon, Integrity of Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971), 141.