Patricia Hofer

G.K. Chesterton

What some New Testament versions translate as mystery, others translate as secret. And a little research shows that the Greek for this word does include both. Jesus talked of “the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10). And after his revelatory conversations with the Lord, Paul often used the Greek word for mystery as well (Eph. 3:3-4).

G. K. Chesterton—a 20th century English writer and lay theologian who wrote two classic defenses of Christianity, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man

I was raised in a religion of focused knowing and disciplined thinking, where Jesus was a Way-shower that we were supposed to follow. But then I experienced a conversion experience that was indeed a “mystery.” There was nothing logical or intellectual about it.

And that leads me to G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. He concluded that the “trouble” with the world is not found in its reasonableness or in its unreasonableness. He wrote:

The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. … It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is … It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything” (60-61).

And it is in this “silent swerving” that Christ operates. I was indeed lifted up and changed in an “uncanny” encounter when the Lord’s “swerving” found me. Oh, the wonder of it!

And so I agree with Paul when he cautions us about claiming “to be wiser than we are.” There is so much more to Christianity than we can know or presume to follow. That’s why believers get off track. They become experts too soon. Some might embrace the “wisdom” that Jesus was being a good, or maybe great, teacher. Others of us trust our own righteousness, just sure that we could be wholly good, by choice, if we really wanted to and tried hard enough. Then, too, there are those others of us who study the Bible as great myth and great literature. We do get into the ways that are “wise.”

But the power behind the scriptural accounts of the prophets is more than beautiful poetry. The Bible contains at least “an inch” of Chesterton’s “uncanny element.” And Jesus didn’t just teach, he healed people and raised the dead. And, most importantly, he resurrected himself.

And so the challenge isn’t for us to make Christianity logical. What powers Christianity is not just intellectual or doctrinal. It is challenging us to lend our hearts to the illogic of it. Abandoning worldly or humanist conceits, we open ourselves to the “swerving” that is Christ. Our believing is powered by the spirit of Jesus, the presence of the living Saviour, at our sides and in our hearts.