GOD TEMPTATION | G. K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was an English writer, poet, theologian, and art and literary critic. Often referred to as the ‘prince of paradox’, his writing focuses primarily on Christian apologetics. Having being introduced to his work mainly through listening to Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, I wasn’t aware of him until very recently. During the April 2019 debate with Jordan B. Peterson on Happiness: Capitalism vs Marxism, Zizek remarked: “I agree with G. K. Chesterton, who once said that… During the crucifixion, for a brief moment, God Himself becomes an atheist.” At first, the idea sounded extremely bizarre. How can He lose faith? Zizek, of course, an atheist himself and a radical materialist—as he likes to be labeled—uses it to highlight Christianity’s shortcomings. All of which, conveniently, also happen to coincide with his natural pessimistic view of the world. Unsurprisingly, this is from a man after all who likes to joke that, when somebody tries to convince him that ‘there is a light at the end of the tunnel’, the reply is ‘yes, and it’s probably another train coming towards us’. Coming from him, therefore, ‘God the atheist’ has somewhat of an opportunistic taste. But just as Peterson was captivated by that insight during the debate, so was I. “It’s an unbelievable merciful idea”, he said. And so the metaphor goes that “In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God”, so that even Him, for an instant, with Christ the Son on the cross, lost faith and became an atheist. A deep notion about human existence and its relationship with God instantly occured to me. An idea that, months after, delving into Chesterton’s thought—contrary to Zizek’s goal—rather than weakening my faith, has ended up strengthening it. Here below, written in 1908, are his words: 

“That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already, but that God could have His back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents forever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point — and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologize in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in the terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”

G. K. Chesterton

Excerpt from: Orthodoxy

“You don’t climb to God, you are free in a Christian sense when you discover that the distance that separates you from God is inscribed into God himself… The crucifixion is something unique, because in that moment of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, for a brief moment, symbolically, God Himself becomes an atheist. In the sense of… You get a gap there, and that is something absolutely unique, as it means that you are not simply separated from God, your separation from God is part of divinity itself.”
Slavoj Zizek, Zizek vs Peterson debate

by: Mark Granza

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