Thursday, May 1, 2008


G.K. Chesterton is an author whose books can be profitably read by any Christian. He was Catholic but is admired as a Christian apologist by believers who are not. C.S. Lewis, for instance, listed Chesterton's Everlasting Man as one of the books that had influenced him the most.

Todd Kappelman at Probe Ministries recommends him to anyone who admires C.S. Lewis. He describes Chesterton's achievements:
Until his death at the age of seventy-two, Chesterton was a dominant figure in England and a staunch defender of the faith, and Christian orthodoxy, as well as an enthusiastic member of the Roman Catholic church. In addition to nearly one hundred books, he wrote for over seventy-five British periodicals and fifty American publications. He wrote literary criticism, religious and philosophical argumentation, biographies, plays, poetry, nonsense verse, detective stories, novels, short stories, and economic, political, and social commentaries.

An excellent introduction to Chesterton can be found in a book titled Orthodoxy, published in the United States in 1908, and affectionately dedicated to his mother. (more)
Orthodoxy was published one hundred years ago. James V. Schall recommends it as a book that repays many re-readings:
Orthodoxy is an intellectual autobiography, an intellectual treat. It is not, as Chesterton says, about whether the faith is true or not, but about how he came to believe that it is. In coming to believe in Christianity, Chesterton, as he tells us, did not read a single Christian book in the process. Rather, he read book after book of those who maintained that Christianity could not possibly be true. After he had read many of these tractates, he suddenly realized that the intellectual opponents of Christianity were constantly contradicting themselves about what they were opposing. Chesterton, the most logical of men, figured that anything so odd as to be opposed for the exact opposite reasons must either be quite strange or, in fact, rather normal and true. ....

The book is essentially about what it is to be sane, normal, to see the world as ordinary people see it. The scientific mind has its own foibles, which Chesterton has great fun pointing out. Chesterton is not "anti-scientific," but he is devastating with science when it is not itself reasonable. .... (more)
A good source for all things Chesterton is The American Chesterton Society, which is advertising a conference celebrating the centennial of Orthodoxy and has a multitude of links, including a collection of quotations, from among which I offer the following:
"If there were no God, there would be no atheists." - Where All Roads Lead, 1922

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - Chapter 5, What's Wrong With The World, 1910

"The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden." - ILN 1-3-20

"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it." - Autobiography, 1937
I have previously recommended Chesterton's Father Brown detective stories. His apologetics are just as enjoyable and probably more profitable.

Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: Schall on the 100th anniversary of "Orthodoxy"

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