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G.K. Chesterton

What was the meaning of all that dim but vast unrest of the twelfth century; when, as it has been so finely said, Julian stirred in his sleep? Why did there appear so strangely early, in the twilight of dawn after the Dark Ages, so deep a skepticism as that involved in urging nominalism against realism [See, for example, Albertus Magnus and the Legacy of Universalism.]? For realism against nominalism was really realism against rationalism, or something more destructive than what we call rationalism. The answer is that just as some might have thought the Church simply a part of the Roman Empire, so others later might have thought the Church only a part of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages ended as the Empire had ended; and the Church should have departed with them, if she had been also one of the shades of night. It was another of those spectral deaths or simulations of death. I mean that if nominalism had succeeded, it would have been as if Arianism had succeeded, it would have been the beginning of a confession that Christianity had failed. For nominalism is a far more fundamental skepticism than mere atheism. Such was the question that was openly asked as the Dark Ages broadened into that daylight that we call the modern world. But what was the answer? The answer was Aquinas in the chair of Aristotle, taking all knowledge for his province; and tens of thousands of lads down to the lowest ranks of peasant and serf, living in rags and on crusts about the great colleges, to listen to the scholastic philosophy.

… A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.

[G. K. Chesterton: "The Five Deaths of the Faith" in The Everlasting Man]

Lenin said that religion is the opium of the people . . . But it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticize the government. Once abolish God and the Government becomes God. That fact is written all across human history, but it is written most plainly across the recent history of Russia, which was created by Lenin. . . Lenin only fell into a slight error: he only got it the wrong way around. The truth is that irreligion is the opium of the people. Wherever people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world.
[G. K. Cheterton: Christendom in Dublin]

There has arisen in our time a most singular fancy: the fancy that when things go very wrong we need a practical man. It would be far truer to say, that when things go very wrong we need an unpractical man. Certainly, at least, we need a theorist. A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice, to the way things commonly work. When things will not work, you must have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all. It is wrong to fiddle while Rome is burning; but it is quite right to study the theory of hydraulics while Rome is burning.
[G.K. Chesterton: "Wanted, an Unpractical Man" What's Wrong with the World]

The great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
G.K. Chesterton: "The Unfinished Temple" What's Wrong with the World]
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