Heretics and First Things

We could use another Chesterton today, I think. In a time when culture and faith have drifted even further apart, we could use his brilliance, his entertaining style, and above all, his generous and joyful spirit. When society becomes polarized, as ours has, it is as if the two sides stand across a great divide and shout at each other. Chesterton had another approach: He walked to the center of a swinging bridge, roared a challenge to any single combat warriors, and then made both sides laugh aloud.
PHILIP YANCEY (2001)

Why did Chesterton write Heretics and Orthodoxy? At the start, he did not conceive of two books that would explore opposite sides of the same metaphysical coin. He had only the book that would become Heretics in view. One overarching thought impelled him. “In our time,” he wrote, “philosophy or religion, our theory, that is, about ultimate things, has been driven out, more or less simultaneously, from two fields which it used to occupy”—literature and politics. This was deeply troubling. And so, with no little sense of urgency, Chesterton took it upon himself to mount a defense of philosophy.

Kevin Belmonte, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G. K. Chesterton, from Chapter 9


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Seeking First to Understand

Sunlight gilds the pine boughs at my window,
Each needle haloed, dark against the light,
As if this evanescent brightness shows
The good this day may hold. The time is tight,
To catch my breath before the press of all
I have to do; the minutes slip away,
The fading sunlight moves along the wall
And I have done so little yet this day.
But still I turn aside, set down my pen,
And heed the deeper call that bids me here.
Agnus Dei, dona nobis pacem.
Time out of time: eternity comes near,
And in the hour I thought I could not spare,
I kneel, and, halting, ask the saints for prayer.

On Daily Mass, by Holly Ordway


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Maps

Antique maps, with curlicues of ink
As borders, framing what we know, like pages
From a book of travelers’ tales: look,
Here in the margin, tiny ships at sail.
No-nonsense maps from family trips: each state
Traced out in color-coded numbered highways,
A web of roads with labeled city-dots
Punctuating the route and its slow stories.
Now GPS puts me right at the centre,
A Ptolemaic shift in my perspective.
Pinned where I am, right now, somewhere, I turn
And turn to orient myself. I have
Directions calculated, maps at hand:
Hopelessly lost till I look up at last.

Maps by Holly Ordway


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Seeing by Holly Ordway

Summer wanes. The heavy-headed roses
Nodding by the river path, the scent
Of sun-warmed earth and hay all mark the closing
Of the year. The warmth was only lent,
And does not last. One morning all is changed:
The hedge is silvered with a sudden frost,
The very paving-stones are furred and strange.
My steps show dark on white where I have crossed
As I set out to walk along the hill.
The winter wind cuts through the leafless trees,
A sharp and sudden cold; my eyes are filled
With water, dazzle-brightning all I see,
In earth and sky: all’s silver, gold, and blue,
A sign that spring and summer will come true.


We are our own worst enemy. We know that we don’t know everything, yet we refuse to accept that which we don’t understand. If it doesn’t square with our rational mind, we reject it as unrealistic and therefore irrelevant. The only question we allow ourselves to pray is “Why?” when we should be asking “What?”  God’s answer might require action or stillness, but it invariably calls us closer to His embrace:  Father, what is your will for me now?

In her book,  Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, Holly Ordway says:

The idea of an ultimate Authority is deeply abhorrent to the modern mind—even more so, I dare say, than the principle of original sin. Here, I do not mean simply an ultimate moral authority; it’s not necessarily unpalatable to recognize that God, in an abstract sense at least, is the ultimate moral arbiter. I mean something more subtle: that there is an authority for doctrine, and for the content of our faith as it applies to our daily lives, and that this authority does not belong to the individual. The idea of individual, personal judgment as the (hidden) final arbiter for the living out of our moral code is deep- ly ingrained into modern culture, even among Christians. We are too easily tempted into thinking that “I agree (or disagree) with this doctrine” is the last word on the sub- ject, as if our agreement or disagreement was what deter- mined its truth or falsity. Even the language of conversion can be problematic in this regard, as I discovered when I wrote my own spiritual memoir; it is all too easy to de- scribe one’s coming to the Faith in egocentric terms. Jesus Christ is Lord of all; this is a fact. My acceptance of him as Lord does not grant him any authority that he does not already have, but rather is a recognition on my part of his existing sovereignty.

 

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John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Meet The Author


Holly Ordway

Ordway author photo

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).

Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).

She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.

Dig Deeper at HollyOrdway.com and buy the book HERE.

Photo of Holly Ordway by Lancia E Smith

Longing

18740379_1632128180160159_1003481258552073526_nGRACE
On the Memorial Service to C.S Lewis
Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, 22 November 2013
Holly Ordway

Noon-tide on Saint Cecilia’s day, and here
In England’s royal church, I sit and watch
The winter sunlight streaming in, gold, clear,
Silent, pure, almost solid to the touch.
Nor is it fairy-gold; it does not fade.
For though that glorious beam of autumn light
Sank down to dusk, to darkness, died that day,
In living memory it still shines bright.
Within that golden light, the choir sings –
The notes resound in blood and bone, as if
I breathed the music in like air; it brings
Me to the point of tears, this time-bound gift
So unexpected, undeserved: a grace
To hold with joy through all my dying days.


In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” We all understand the restless heart. In younger days, we dreamt of adventure and pursued visions which were compelling if not clear. The so-called midlife crisis is often a season of disappointment when the evaluation of one’s life falls short of its earlier aspirations. The imago Dei – the image of God in which we are created longs for the eternal, and we finally find our footing on that fulfilling path when we turn and return to our Creator. His calling is specific and He knows us by name.

In her book,  Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, Holly Ordway wrote:

In the previous chapter, we considered the problem of suffering and noted that we recognize evil precisely be- cause we have a deep underlying sense of what goodness is. No matter how pervasive or inescapable suffering is, we somehow recognize that it does not, or should not, have the last word. This ‘problem of good’ opens up the possi- bility of our intuitions and desires pointing us toward the truth. The value of building on our deep-seated longing for the good and the beautiful is so great that it is worth taking the time to develop a well-rounded imaginative apologetics approach to it.

We do not merely prefer what is good, beautiful, and meaningful if we can get it. We deeply desire and are al- ways restlessly searching for it, even if we aren’t quite sure exactly what we seek or where we can find it. Although it is possible (and unfortunately all too common) to have one’s longings for goodness, beauty, and meaning dulled and misdirected, it is part of our common human nature to experience longing for something more than what we experience in the here-and-now. C. S. Lewis called it “Sehnsucht” and observed that it could not be identified with any particular experience or pleasure, but was something beyond all of those. This longing can be felt in personal terms—as a desire for meaning and beauty in one’s own life—and also as a profound desire for justice, peace, reconciliation, and love in one’s society, over against the daily injustices, conflict, hatred, and instability that we see in the news and in our own families and neighborhoods.

 

 

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John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Meet The Author


Holly Ordway

Ordway author photo

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).

Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).

She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.

Dig Deeper at HollyOrdway.com and buy the book HERE.

Photo of Holly Ordway by Lancia E Smith

Pain And Doubt

GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE
Holly Ordway

Three hundred years and more this house has stood
Along the gravelled road to Heald Pond,
Its lawns and gardens neighbored by the woods.
I knew it well. But decades now have gone
And I have not returned. Till now.
It seems To be an empty shell, a skeleton
Just like the trees beside: three mighty elms
Struck by disease, but strangely, not cut down;
Limb-lopped in years long past, left to decay.
In childhood I did not find them grim;
They simply were, these sentinels in gray,
Who gave no warning as the rot set in. . .
I turn away. I am a stranger here;
The past is gone, is lost, just as I feared.


Philosophy’s best answers to pain and doubt only get you so far.  The Cynic’s reaction to hardship was that the life of the wise does not depend on material prosperity. Hence, in contrast to “boasting”, Epictetus writes: “bring on hardships, bring on imprisonment, bring on disrepute, bring on condemnation. This is the proper exhibition …” Likewise as a Stoic thinker contemporary with the Apostle Paul, Seneca wrote of the tortures, burnings, and deaths under Gaius, and of his willingness to die for loyalty. The Stoic stressed the courage of the man under trial and the Cynic emphasized independence from material prosperity, but is spiritual toughness an ultimate goal?

In her book,  Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, Holly Ordway writes:

“How can a good and loving God exist when there is such evil in the world? “Why do innocent people suffer? “Why has this terrible thing happened to me?” Questions like these have always mattered, and people have always asked them—consider the Book of Job—and we must be ready to address them. Pain and doubt, suffering and evil: these are part of the human experience. Difficult as these topics are, we cannot afford to ignore them; these issues are cited, over and over again, as the causes of crises of faith.

We can begin, paradoxically, by turning the ‘problem of evil’ on its head. The very fact that we protest evil means that we recognize the reality and ultimate priority of goodness.

Why, after all, is suffering a problem? We recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong about certain kinds of events that happen to us, which in turn suggests that we have a deep-seated sense of what the right state of affairs is (even if we have never fully experienced it). We do not take suffering simply as a given, as it would have to be taken if, in reality, the material world is all that there is. Recognition that evil is evil points toward the existence of a moral law. Nearly everyone, if asked, will assert that some particular heinous act is wrong (child abuse or racism, for instance), even if they then try to frame their moral response in relativistic or utilitarian terms.

Protesting evil and ugliness means that we instinctively recognize goodness and beauty, and we prefer them— even when the evil, ugly condition is pervasive and persistent. The utter predictability and inevitability of death and disease has not led people to accept them; quite the contrary. A diagnosis of cancer in a friend or loved one alarms and dismays us, no matter how commonplace such an occurrence is. The ‘problem of evil’ is thus also the ‘problem of good’: the very fact that we can distinguish good from evil, and that we value the good and reject the evil, suggests the reality of an underlying moral order.

 

 

Join the discussion on Facebook HERE


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Meet The Author


Holly Ordway

Ordway author photo

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).

Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).

She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.

Dig Deeper at HollyOrdway.com and buy the book HERE.

Photo of Holly Ordway by Lancia E Smith