Hilaire Belloc was an Anglo-French Catholic writer and historian. In the early 20th century, he wrote works of many different natures including poetry, satire, and politics. It was his Catholic faith that formed his views and were reflected in his works. Recently, Ignatius Press has been re-printing some of his works, including Characters of the Reformation and The Great Heresies. Today, I would like to tell you about the latter.
The Great Heresies was published in 1938. In the introduction, Belloc discusses what heresy is and how most people equate it with something from ancient Christian times. He goes on to explain that it is of high importance for anyone looking to understand European history and Christian orthodoxy. He then gives us a formal definition of the term to be a denial of an accepted Christian doctrine and something which affects not only the individual but all of society. It is heresy which shaped Europe and would have made Europe a completely different world had it succeeded. The book is divided into the following chapters:
1. The Arian Heresy
2. The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed
3. The Albigensian Attack
4. What Was the Reformation?
5. The Modern Phase
“The Arian heresy proposed to go to the very root of the Church’s authority by attacking the full Divinity of her Founder.” In layman’s terms, it questioned the divinity of Jesus. “The Mohammedan attack threatened to kill the Christian Church by invasion rather than to undermine it from within.” Belloc saw this as a heresy and not just a new religion attacking an old one. Belloc viewed the Albigensian heresy as the one that was nearly successful. This was a precursor to Protestantism and dealt with a duality of the universe, good and evil in an equal and constant battle with each other. The Protestant attacked authority and unity within the Church. Lastly, the modern phase has seen attacks of rationalism and positivism. Belloc chose these specific five, because they showed all the different directions from which the Church can be attacked. What I love best about reading Belloc’s words are the truth they still hold today. It is nearly 80 years after this was first published, and his words still ring true.
G.K. Chesterton is one of the greatest Catholic authors, not just of the 20th century, but possibly ever. He wrote drama, poetry, mysteries, and theological works. Some of his most famous works include Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man, and my personal favorite the Father Brown series. I was recently introduced to a work of his that I had never heard of before called The Flying Inn. It was originally published in 1914 and was reprinted by Ignatius Press.
The story takes place in England, but not the England you or I know. It takes place in future England, and is a political satire. In this future England, the Temperance Movement has allowed Progressive Islam to dominate England’s political, cultural, and social landscape. Two laws were passed which effectively killed local bars and pubs. The first law made pub signs illegal, and the second made it illegal to serve alcohol in a place without a sign. You see the problem for local bar owners? Pub owner Humphrey Pump and Captain Patrick Dalroy aim to right this wrong and travel the countryside with a cart, a cask of rum, a wheel of cheese, and of course the sign. They wheel the cart around, setting up makeshift bars long enough to serve a round of drinks and then hightail it before they are caught by Lord Ivywood. Each chapter is a mini and zany episode that eventually will lead to a final confrontation.
The book is hilarious in nature, especially the drinking songs/poems which are scattered throughout the book. However, behind this outlandish nature of the story is some political foreshadowing that could almost be described as prophetic. Prohibition did occur in the U.S. about six years after this book was published and, as in the story, the rich were able to skirt the law by buying their alcohol in the pharmacy. What’s even more scary is how accurate Chesterton was about Islam’s pervasiveness in Europe. At the time this book was written, the Ottoman Empire (with Islam as its religion) was on the brink of extinction, in great contrast to the spread of Islam through Europe today. Overall, I found this to be a fun and interesting read and one that I am glad I was exposed to.
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Copyright 2017 Stuart Dunn
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