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229 of 238 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 1998
Portly, fun loving, witty G.K. Chesterton decided to write this book as a companion volume to his book HERETICS. Since HERETICS had criticised contemporary philosophies, ORTHODOXY was written to present an alternative viewpoint, and is therefore both affirmative in tone and autobiographical in many places. A sampling of his chapter titles gives some idea of Chesterton's sense of fun as well as his unusual approach to the matter of Christianity. Chapter one is "In Defense of Everything Else" (one pictures Chesterton with a whimsical, impish smile on his face as he wrote this). There are also chapters on "The Suicide of Thought", "The Ethics of Elfland" (a really superb chapter), "The Maniac", and "The Paradoxes of Christianity". In this easily readable book (only 160 pages in the small paperback edition), Chesterton shows that theological reflections and philosophical ruminations need be neither boring nor incomprehensible. This was jolly good fun to read, being both funny and intellectually stimulating. Highly recommended.
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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 1998
This book is Chesterton's defence of orthodox Christianity. It is partly autobiographical, in the sense that Chesterton describes various insights into the nature of reality, and various puzzles about reality, and then shows how (to his astonishment) the Christian faith accounts for the insights and answers the puzzles.
The following quote expresses this idea:
"This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden."
But don't just take my word for it! You can read it online from the G.K.Chesterton web page and then buy the book!
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2003
Love this book. Chesterton is sort of the Mark Twain of apologetics. Reading it I found that I was laughing one minute and seriously blown away the next. I am not a Christian, but this book gave me hope that maybe there is a place for a logic and faith based Christianity which is both orthodox and stronger than a fearful fundamentalism. I like the fact that Chesterton opposes his critics while for the most part honestly respecting them as intelligent people. It's the sign of a man secure in his ideas.
I would recommend this book to any other failed pagans out there. Would also be a good read for any agnostic interested in the role of imagination in simple, thoughtful living.
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111 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
Orthodoxy is written for the poet and the child in each of us (The latter being that part of us Jesus said can inherit the Kingdom). Orthodoxy is, at the same time, one of the wisest, and funniest, books I have ever read; almost up to the level of Everlasting Man. It seems to me he does give a logically challenging, if rather whimsical, argument for the Christian faith here. And having read many of the most famous skeptics of our time, his argument remains no less timely, powerful, and suggestive.
How do I explain the reaction of the reader below, then, who appears intelligent, but finds "Little that is intellectually bearable" in this book, and could not even read it through once without throwing it down in disgust? For one thing, Chesterton's approach is not scientific, but psychological. For those to whom science is the only god, a little prior reading might be worthwhile -- John Polkinghome or Hugh Ross on evidences for the Creator in modern cosmology, for example. Let Scott Peck's People of The Lie search your heart. Or even try my book, Jesus and the Religions of Man, which offers empirical evidence of a more historical nature for the truth of the Christian claims. Let the facts presented in these books take the edge of your arrogance.
Then, maybe, go for a walk through Mt. Rainier National Park when the huckleberries are reddening in the fall, or skin dive in Hawaii. Or walk through a dark forest on a clear night when the stars are out. Observe and wonder. Become a child again. Laugh at your certainties and prejudices a little. Then try reading this book again.
"(Skepticism) discredits supernatural stories that have some foundation, simply by telling natural stories that have no foundation." "The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer Light, fair as the sun. . .""To be allowed to make love to the moon and then to complain that Jupiter kept his own moons in a harem seemed to me a vulgar anti-climax." You still don't see the relevence or wisdom of such teachings? Oh, well. Chesterton did warn, "If a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small. . . It is impossible without humility to enjoy anything -- even pride." This book, I guess, is no exception.
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88 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2007
Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and Lewis' "Mere Christianity" are classics of contemporary Christian apologetics. Both write to a similar audience, namely, secular academics. Lewis' appeal was broader, however, for he was reaching out to those people influenced or educated by these academics. Consequently, these books are full of reason and logic but are devoid of Bible quotes. This might dismay some fundamentalists, but this type of apologetic is absolutely necessary. Just as a Muslim will not convince a Christian regarding Islam by quoting the Qu'ran, so, in most cases, a Christian will not convert a secular academic by quoting the Bible. The appeal must be made on common ground, in this case, reason and logic. In this regard, Chesterton succeeds.

That being said, I give the book only 3 stars because of his rambling, time-sensitive style. It is easy for an American reading in the 21st century to become completely lost in Chesterton's quips and references to late-modernity intellectuals.

Lewis' broader appeal makes him more accessible to Chesterton, so I recommend "Mere Christianity" over "Orthodoxy" to the average 21st century American, whereas I recommend "Orthodoxy" to those who are educated in late 19th and early 20th-century intellectualism.

Both books are useful for Christians in developing apologetic skills and for non-Christians, especially seculars, in understanding a traditional, intellectual, and non-fundamentalist brand of Christianity.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2009
Lewis is one of my all-time favorite authors and thinkers. So, when I read in his autobiography the impact that Chesterton had on him, I had to pick up a copy of one of his books. I chose this one, and what an introduction it was. It is a wonderful thing to find a new author that you enjoy so immensely.

As the title of my review intimates, Chesterton has all of the intelligence and keenness of mind of Lewis, but with the added bonus of a boundless, cheery sense of humor (not to say, of course, that Lewis does not have a good sense of humor in his own rights). If you read this book without smiling to yourself dozens of times, you are missing something. Chesterton's jabs at his contemporaries, as well as his predecessors, in philosophical thought are at once humorous and severe, all without the slightest hint of mean-spiritedness; a tribute to his sense of paradox.

My one complaint about this edition is the endless typographical errors contained in its pages. I find it appalling that a publishing house would send to print something with so many glaring errors. After the first couple, I thought it to be no big deal. But after the first ten I became a bit put off. If you can overlook the typos, then this edition will suit you just fine. And the errors can in no way detract from wealth of prose, candor, analogy, and humor found within this gem of a book.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2005
Not since The Great Divorce by CS Lewis have I read a book this surprising. Like Lewis, Chesterton employs what is seemingly whimsical to chart a course of logic. The reader, politely enduring what is plainly fanciful, soon finds that Chesterton has stolen the lead. Doubling back, he then takes the solidity of accrued wisdom to playfully poke the materialist in the eye.

Good natured, jovial, yet deeply perceptive, Orthodoxy not only defends the Christian worldview, but seeks, in the Catholic tradition, to establish ecclesiastical authority. To the extent that it does so is up to the reader. I never found Chesterton less than provocative and often entirely persuasive. His reasoning is frequently unexpected, but always (and supremely) pertinent. Though I am no longer Catholic and may, rightly or wrongly, suspect the institution (see papal infallibility), I consider Orthodoxy highly ecumenical and a welcome girder for my faith. 5 stars.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 14, 2006
Once I had the good fortune to be in a discussion group for this book. Like most book reading groups, most of the members didn't read the book, skimming or glancing at it, barely cracking the cover. However, this book was different. It exercised a spell even on those who didn't read it. Why? Because Chesterton is so given to aphorisms that even if you don't follow his logic (or illogic some might contend) or don't agree with his arguments (or random trains of thought in another view), you still might be caught by some pithy epigram or turn of phrase.

I heartily throw in my lot with all those who think this is GKC's best non-fiction book, but I'd rather tackle the opposite concern of the problems it poses for the casual reader. One reason is that Chesterton often resorts to metonymy as a kind of shorthand, which means he uses a piece to represent a whole. In a bad writer, this amounts to stereotyping (of which Chesterton has been accused). In a good writer it nevertheless anchors the work to a time and locality.

In Chesterton, it means you need to either be an anglophile or have a good grip of things British. You don't know that gaol is a jail or Pimlico slang for prison. Bedlam represents a madhouse. Taking this idea to extremes, he often uses a hot button word to represent an idea (and nearly always an idea opposite to that commonly held). Anybody else would accompany such passing thoughts with reams of footnotes and disclaimers, but Chesterton eschewed both, and instead goes for the naked effect.

The example that comes to mind is that he seems to be arguing in favor of the Inquisition, when in fact he's making some other point altogether. For most readers that conjures the horrors of Torquemada as lampooned in Mel Brook's movie History of the World Part One. GKC however, is referring not to the Spanish excesses, but to the gentler, kinder version on the continent which at its inception not only had no truck with torture but in fact forbade it.

As most readers are aware, Chesterton was Anglican (Church of England) when he wrote this book, although his thinking is arguably Anglo-Catholic. It's also largely a book of thinking out loud rather than a settled, finished statement. Some chapters therefore read easier than others, The Ethics of Elfland and The Flag of the World being the premier examples.

So many readers are so happy to discover Chesterton that he is quoted everywhere from Rolling Stone to Looney Tunes (In a Chuck Jones Foghorn Leghorn cartoon the chickenhawk's pop is named G.K.Chickenhawk). I think that's a good thing because these days many people are not readers, preferring video games or some other entertainment, and of those who are, many don't "get" Chesterton. While this may prevent a full scale Chesterton revival, it opens doors for those who, like Phillip Yancey and Dale Ahlquist bring him up every chance they get, and gives those of us taken by his ideas or at least a few epigrams a chance to scatter the largesse.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2009
I'll be honest and say that a lot of Christian books I have read have been dull or void of passion. This book is neither. I have read a few G.K. Chesterton books and in my opinion this is my favorite of his. This book displays the wonder and mystical side of Christianity through Chesterton's eyes and can get very deep philosophically and also very witty. It has some big words yet most audiences will be able to comprehend what he is saying without getting lost. Its hard for me to clealy explain the whole synopsis but this is very good book and considering the price, you won't lose out by taking a chance and picking up a copy of your own.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2004
Before his series of Father Brown mysteries, G.K. Chesterton wrote "Orthodoxy," an autobiographical 'detective' story of how he came to believe the Christian faith. Drawing from "the truth of some stray legend or from the falsehood of some dominant anarchist club or a Babylonian temple what I might have found in the nearest parish church," Mr. Chesterton playfully and inductively reasons his way toward the one worldview that best explains and preserves the phenomena in the world he found around himself.
The world around Mr. Chesterton was rife with Modernism in the early twentieth century. Based on philosophies of the late nineteenth century, religious and political traditions were being questioned. Anarchism, communism, and socialism were the parlor topics of the day; the merely symbolic importance of religion was being settled upon. These are the roots of our post-modern society today in which the meaning of nearly everything (even words, according to literary deconstructionists) is now in doubt. At one point in the chapter entitled "The Suicide of Thought," Mr. Chesterton quips, "We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." An exaggeration even today, undoubtedly. Still, we have traveled quite a distance philosophically since the era before the World Wars, and "Orthodoxy" is an excellent snapshot of where we've come from.
But be warned: This snapshot captures a lot of active thought. It took me a couple of reads over as many years to get a handle on the structure of the book, and now the rest of it has been becoming clearer to me. Part of the problem is Mr. Chesterton's writing style. There is much playfulness in his language, and a reader could mistakenly conclude that the author's reasoning relies heavily upon wordplay, the turn of a phrase to turn the tables on his opponents. It can become frustrating if one isn't careful. Mr. Chesterton himself acknowledges this impression, "Mere light sophistry is the thing that I happen to despise the most of all things, and it is perhaps a wholesome fact that this is the thing of which I am generally accused." But don't miss the meat for the gravy (or the salad for the dressing, as your case may be). The potency of his arguments doesn't rely on his clever semantics but on his connections between observed facts and the ancient, corresponding orthodoxy of Christianity. Mr. Chesterton has fun with words because he can, not because he needs to.
This mixture of cleverness and careful thinking ultimately leads Mr. Chesterton to this conclusion: Christian faith is well-reasoned trust in Christ. And the desire for well-reasoned trust is a "practical romance," as Mr. Chesterton calls it--a need in the ordinary person for "the combination of something that is strange with something that is idea of wonder and an idea of welcome." A way to accept the knowable while looking beyond it toward what is yet to be known.
Mr. Chesterton wrote "Orthodoxy" for people looking for that kind of romance. "If anyone is entertained by learning how the flowers of the field or the phrases in an omnibus, the accidents of politics or the pains of youth came together in a certain order to produce a certain conviction of Christian orthodoxy, he may possibly read this book." However, this book isn't for everyone. "If a man says that extinction is better than existence or blank existence better than variety and adventure, then he is not one of the ordinary people to whom I am talking. If a man prefers nothing I can give him nothing." The inconvincible cannot be convinced. Yet the skeptical (such as Mr. Chesterton once was) can be because they are the doubters who're still looking around. I myself come from a skeptic's background and regard "Orthodoxy" as a plausible, if sometimes difficult to comprehend, and wonderful way someone can come to trust the claims of Christianity.
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