Home > Christian, GreatQuotes > The Sovereign God of “Elfland” (Why Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism Doesn’t Put Me Off)

The Sovereign God of “Elfland” (Why Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism Doesn’t Put Me Off)

by John Piper | January 3, 2012

Ever since my days at Wheaton College, when I followed Clyde Kilby’s advice to read G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, it has been one of my favorite books. I think it’s the only book I have read more than twice (except for the Bible).

This is strange. Not only was Chesterton a Roman Catholic, he also hated Calvinism. So what’s up with me and Orthodoxy? I still think at least half a dozen Roman Catholic distinctives are harmful to true Christian faith (e.g., papal authority, baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation, justification as impartation, purgatory, the veneration of Mary). And I think “the doctrines of grace” (“Reformed theology,” “Calvinism”) are a precious and healthy expression of biblical doctrine.

Common Ground (“Elfland”)

But I keep coming back to Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. The reason is that we see the world so similarly, and the Calvinism he hates is not the Calvinism I love.

  • We both marvel that we are swimming in the same boundless sea of wonders called the universe.
  • We both are amazed not by sharp noses or flat noses, but that humans have noses at all.
  • We both think it is just as likely that the reason the sun rises every morning is not because of some so-called “law,” but because God says, “Do it again.” And that he says it more like a delighted child than a dour chief.
  • We both believe logic and imagination are totally compatible and that neither will be useful without the other.
  • We both believe that the magic of the universe must have meaning, and meaning must have someone to mean it.
  • We both believe that the glories of this world are like goods rescued from some primordial ruin — a ruin whose evidences are everywhere.
  • And we both believe that paradox is woven into the nature of the universe, and that resisting it drives a person mad. “Poets don’t go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. . . . The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

These and a hundred other happy, world-opening agreements keep me coming back, because nobody says them better than Chesterton. Like C. S. Lewis, he sees more wonder in an ordinary day than most of us see in a hundred miracles. I will keep coming back to anyone who helps me see and be astonished at what is in front of my face — anyone who can help heal me from the disease of “seeing they do not see.”… read more…

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