Chesterton on the Universality of Sin

G. K. Chesterton writes in Chapter 2 of Orthodoxy (1908):

Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient maters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin – a fact as practical of potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. . . .

The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

Or, to put it more succinctly, it is widely reported that when The Times asked Chesterton for an essay on the theme, “What’s wrong with the world,” Chesterson simply wrote back:

Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton

Sounds right, but Chesterton also wrote a substantially longer reflection on the same subject, which can be found here: What’s Wrong with the World.

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