A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here, citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Protection of the Bible
Daily News, April 17, 1909

It is a matter of great gratification that an official voice in practical education has spoken in favour of that exclusion of all theologies from the national schools for which many have long pleaded. It is a policy promoted, generally speaking, by the most lucid and magnanimous of all parties. Some, and I am one of them, do not wish theology to interfere with education. Some, and I am again one of them, have the greatest horror of education presuming to interfere with theology, which is so much more living and exciting a subject. And a very interesting question is undoubtedly raised by the distinction which Dr. Clifford draws between the teaching of theology and the teaching of the Bible. The question of whether the Bible can be taught merely as literature is a question that raises the whole riddle of things that have two meanings, a big meaning and a small meaning. Can the Koran be treated as literature? Yes, anywhere except in Islam. Can the Bible be taught as pure literature. Yes; anywhere except in a Protestant country.

There are several popular misconceptions about this educational aspect of Scripture. One quite curious mistake is this. It is always somehow assumed that if the Bible is taken out of the schools it will be taken out in the interest of those who do not believe in it. This is a complete mistake. Those who do not believe in it are exactly the people who have no reason to object to it. It is the people who do believe in it who have a right to get restless. A reasonable Freethinker need not have the faintest objection to his child learning a chapter of Isaiah, merely as literature. In so far as he is reasonable, he will agree that it is literature, and in so far as he is a Freethinker, he will agree that it is only literature. The man who is hardly used by such teaching of the Bible is precisely the orthodox man, the man to whom Isaiah means first and foremost the blood-stirring prophecy of a world-shattering event. I should not mind my children learning Icelandic folk-lore. Nor should I mind them learning Jewish folklore- if it is only folklore. I should not mind children being told about Mahomet, because I am not a Mohammedan. If I were a Mohammedan I should very much want to know what they were told about him.

Therefore, in the struggles of which Dr. Clifford is so largely the centre, I sympathise with secular education, but not because [my] sympathy is with the new-fashioned Puritan who wishes the Bible to be treated as literature. My sympathy is with the old-fashioned Puritan, who does not want the Bible to be treated as literature, because he happens to have a religion which is about the most interesting thing a man can have. It is the old-fashioned theologians who ought to insist on secular education. It is the orthodox Puritans who ought to want the Bible kept out of the schools. The truth can, indeed, be put in a kind of dilemma. Either the Bible must be offered as something extraordinary or as something ordinary. If it is offered as something extraordinary, that is certainly unfair to the agnostics and the doubters. It is offered as something ordinary, that is grossly and atrociously unfair to the theologians and the believers.

I am often assured, and I give all respectful consideration to the assurance, that the teachers find no difficulty with simple Bible teaching. If this means that children of five and six do not start theological sessions in the schoolroom I can well believe it. If it means that the boys of eight or nine do not pay much attention to their religious lessons or to any of their other lessons, that also a stretch of imagination enables one to entertain. If it means that the wretched children in our Board schools are too bored or too tired or too hungry to ask a single intelligent question in the course of sixty lessons I will believe that also if the experts assure me of it.

But I fear I can only admit the negative success of such a system for reasons that throw grave doubt on its positive success. If Bible instruction is a success, then Board school instruction is a failure. If no child ever says of a Bible story, 'Please, teacher, did that really happen?' if no teacher ever feels impelled to tell the children a little of what he thinks himself about things so tremendous as the coming of the Cross or the mystery of the Jewish people, then something has gone wrong between pupil and teacher, and we are not educating at all. There really seem to be only three possibilities in connection with the matter, and they all have objections against them of the most ultimate and iron sort, objections of principle. Suppose a child says, 'Did Jesus really come out of the grave?' Either the teacher must answer him insincerely, and that is immorality, or he must answer him sincerely, and that is sectarian education, or he must refuse to answer him at all, and that is first of all bad manners and a sort of timid tyranny; and it is, moreover, gross and monstrous idolatry. It is something darker and more irrational than a religion- it is a silence. The Bible is worshipped without even being proclaimed. Its priests must not offer even a reason for placing it beyond reason.

Dr. Clifford expresses a hope that secular education need not mean the elimination of all faith, all prayer, or (in effect) of all religion. But surely secular education should mean this, if only in justice to the Secularists. I do not think I am misinterpreting Dr. Clifford if I put his view thus: There should be a faith, but not a creed. Well, it happens that a creed is the Latin for a faith. I would as soon say 'I will not have une foi, but I will have a faith.' How can there be faith without something to have faith in; how can there be prayer without something to which to pray? I for one cannot conceive how the Noncomformists can follow a line so destructive to both sides of their great historic effort. For the Bible compromise is false both to the civic idea of liberty and to the Protestant idea of the Bible. If Dr. Clifford insists on this retention he will have surrendered on both points to the free-thinkers. He will allow the Bible to be taught in a totally agnostic sense. And yet he will leave the agnostics a real grievance, an excuse for using against him also the weapons of passive resistance. He first gives up the Book to his enemies, and then allows them to throw it at his head.

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