I’m reading (and loving) G.K. Chesterton’s Heretics. But in his essay on Bernard Shaw, Chesterton ends with a passage that seems a bit off to me:
Mr. Shaw cannot understand that the thing which is valuable and lovable in our eyes is man–the old beer-drinking, creed-making, fighting, failing, sensual, respectable man. And the things that have been founded on this creature immortally remain; the things that have been founded on the fancy of the Superman have died with the dying civilizations which alone have given them birth. When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward–in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.
For the most part, I love what Chesterton is saying here. However, I think it’s too hard on Peter and too easy on Paul and John. Yes, Peter is a man, but so were Paul and John. Paul’s claim to fame is that he literally persecuted Christians before Jesus made the scales fall from his eyes. Paul wasn’t being falsely modest when he said he was the worst sinner of all. I know some Christians like to say Paul was just being a role model for us there, but no, I think he actually believed that. Precisely because of the mental faculties and training in the Jewish Law with which God had blessed him, it was unconscionable that Paul should’ve missed who Jesus was initially. I definitely would understand if Paul thought his error was far more scandalous than what Pontius Pilate had done.
As far John, I was always amazed that he had his followers ask Jesus if He were the Messiah, or if they waited for another. John recognized the Lord in his presence as a fetus. Yet the grown man, supposedly in close communion with God, and despite God the Father Himself saying, “This is my beloved Son” after John baptized Jesus, still apparently had doubts when he was languishing in prison.
But back to Peter: Chesterton is making it sound as if Jesus picked the worst possible guy, just to make sure the system couldn’t be toppled by an even bigger clown down the road. But no, I don’t think that’s true at all. Jesus picked Peter because he was a rock. Neither John nor Paul were rocks. Yes, Peter denied Jesus three times, but the only reason he was in the position to do so, was that he followed Jesus (after declaring that he would die for Him). Nobody else was there to deny that they were Jesus’ disciples, because they had fled in terror after the arrest.
Jesus didn’t just grab some random person, nor did He seek out the weakest link, when He approached Peter and his brother who were fishing at the time, and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” For one thing, that invitation/command itself wouldn’t have worked on just anybody.