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The Everlasting Man Paperback – April 1, 1993
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What, if anything, is it that makes the human uniquely human? This, in part, is the question that G.K. Chesterton starts with in this classic exploration of human history. Responding to the evolutionary materialism of his contemporary (and antagonist) H.G. Wells, Chesterton in this work affirms human uniqueness and the unique message of the Christian faith. Writing in a time when social Darwinism was rampant, Chesterton instead argued that the idea that society has been steadily progressing from a state of primitivism and barbarity towards civilization is simply and flatly inaccurate. "Barbarism and civilization were not successive stages in the progress of the world," he affirms, with arguments drawn from the histories of both Egypt and Babylon.
As always with Chesterton, there is in this analysis something (as he said of Blake) "very plain and emphatic." He sees in Christianity a rare blending of philosophy and mythology, or reason and story, which satisfies both the mind and the heart. On both levels it rings true. As he puts it, "in answer to the historical query of why it was accepted, and is accepted, I answer for millions of others in my reply; because it fits the lock; because it is like life." Here, as so often in Chesterton, we sense a lived, awakened faith. All that he writes derives from a keen intellect guided by the heart's own knowledge. --Doug Thorpe
I've reread this book after ten years and found it just as astonishing a work as I did the first time around. Chesterton is a consummate apologist, combining a sincere reverence for his subject matter with a devastating sense of humour and a true generalist's erudition. He has a wonderful ability of taking accepted secular dogmas, turning them completely on their heads, and in the process making Catholic dogmas, rejected for their lack of congruence with modernism, look sensible and enlightened. This polemical mastery is one of the enduring qualities of The Everlasting Man. --A Customer
This is a book that everyone ought to read two or three times at least. It is a crime that such nonsense as Conversations With God, or better but still relatively shallow introductions to comparative religion like Religions of Man, seem to be better known. Here you will find a description of Christianity and its relation to other faiths strong and fine as aged wine. I don't know of anyone who writes with this much class in the modern world. Having ordered the book for our college library, I tried not to mark it too much, but found myself putting ink dots on paragraph after paragraph of material I wanted to quote. He rambles a bit, but I think there is more wisdom, humor, and insight in a single page of this book than in whole volumes that are better known in our days. --David Marshall
Everlasting Man had a decisive role in one of the most important conversions of the this century. C.S. Lewis described reading it in 1925 when he was still an atheist: ''Then I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense . . . I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive;apart from his Christianity; Now, I veritably believe, I thought that Christianity itself was very sensible;apart from its Christianity.'' (Surprised by Joy) When asked what Christian writers had helped him, Lewis remarked in 1963, six months before he died; ''The contemporary book that has helped me the most is Chesterton's The Everlasting Man.'' (God in the Dock) --Fr. Phil Bloom --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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These are the questions that G. K. Chesterton attempted to answer in his extremely popular and influential book, <i>The Everlasting Man</i>. The results are mixed. This is not due to his not trying or being successful in his task, so much as the type of argumentation he makes, combined with science and history, to use a popular term, “marching on”.
What I mean by this is that Chesterton's method of persuasion depends a lot more on philosophical questioning, than on logic. Those who are familiar with the name of Chesterton due to his being cited by C. S. Lewis, or others, as influences on them, may be disappointed if they are expecting to see exercises in logic. Not to say that Chesterton does not use any logic or reason, but that they are mainly in support of philosophical arguments, than themselves the core of the argument. In other words, unlike Lewis, for example, he does not break down the elements of a concept to it's basic components, and analyze them. Instead, he takes a position and defends it as is.
Part of this, I think, was due to his heavy emphasis on Catholic theology and tradition. He wasn't one for breaking down arguments or ideas to their root concepts and moving from there. Instead, he seemed to accept Catholic ideas and traditions, and arguing why they are true.
This does work to an extent, in that sometimes one doesn't want some overly cerebral argumentation, but may prefer a defense of an actual creed or ideals. The only thing that was unfortunate with the book, having nothing to do with individual taste, is the part of science and history that I alluded to earlier “marching on”.
What I mean by that part is Chesterton's arguments based on evolutionary science and the history of medieval times or before. Look, regardless of whether one believes in evolution, creation, or theistic evolution (most scientists believe this last one, no matter what some talking heads tell you), you will decidedly <i>NOT</i> find any answers or arguments to use in this debate from <i>Man</i>. Science has really made strides since then to the extent that all but the most general concepts Chesterton discusses are not current.
On the history front, Chesterton accepts a lot of false information about the negative traits of the “dark ages”. In C. S. Lewis' time, this popular notion of the ignorant dark ages was already well-known to be bunk, and today, it is all but dismissed by serious historians as ridiculous. But at the time of the book, the arguments against it were just starting to be made.
The importance of the cautions in these two areas comes in because the author does use the bad information of the time in his philosophical musings. Taking them out doesn't make his arguments fall apart, but it is useful to note them, and be extra-cautious when considering those parts of his thesis.
Overall, this was a brilliant defense of the traditional Christian and Catholic creed, and useful for those who wish to better understand said creeds.
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REALLY A SIX STAR ****