Catechesis in Contemporary Culture: Skepticism—The Suicide of Thought

Authored by Brian Pizzalato in Issue #31.4 of The Sower

G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy[i] contains a chapter entitled ‘The Suicide of Thought.’ There are ways of thinking that stop thought itself! Among these different ways Chesterton includes materialism, false theories of progress, and pragmatism. However, his main emphasis is on the problem of the modern skeptic: ‘the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation…so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought.’[ii]

Skepticism claims to be rational, but is actually an attack on reason. Chesterton recognizes that when man begins to wildly question, reason will be the first thing to be questioned. In his humorous way he says, ‘The mere questioner has knocked his head against the limits of human thought; and cracked it’,[iii] and ‘With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it.’[iv]

Skepticism is part of the cultural soil we must take account of in catechesis. How does it impact catechesis?

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