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Orthodoxy Paperback – July 1, 1995
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"Whenever I feel my faith going dry again, I wander to a shelf and pick up a book by G. K. Chesterton." - --Philip Yancey
About the Author
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 1936) was an English writer, philosopher, satirist, and social critic. During his lifetime, the prolific Chesterton wrote eighty books, several hundred poems, some two hundred short stories, four thousand essays, and several plays. He was also known as a strong debater and Christian apologist. He often took on what he considered to be the flawed philosophy of modernism found in the writings of his good friends Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. It was Shaw who once referred to Chesterton in Time magazine as "a man of colossal genius." Chesterton's writings consistently displayed wit and a sense of humor. His ingenious use of paradox in his commentaries on the leading political, economic, philosophical, and theological beliefs of his day makes his writings as relevant today as they were a century ago.
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There was at least one point of religious thought I don't agree with Chesterton about, but he makes me think - about things and in ways I didn't think on my own. And a couple of things that gave me pause, I had to change my mind about by the time I was finished with the book.
Oh - there's this other thing. Even if you don't care about Christian apologetics, read this for the language. It is beautiful. It is tasty. It is so satisfying! This book is an intellectual delight, but written for the ordinary person on the street. It is not like a spiritually edifying book read for inspiration. You might think about things not thought of before. You certainly will marvel at how his brain worked and his language use. Enjoy!
In the introduction, Chesterton self-deprecatingly describes himself as a man who sent out from England to explore new lands, but gets blown off course in his travels and unknowingly arrives back in downtown London--where he then proceeds to claim this "new land" for England! Chesterton then charts his spiritual journey from agnosticism to Christianity and how he unknowingly discovered this "new doctrine" on his own--only to find out, much to his surprise, that it was nothing more than the old Christian doctrine which has been believed for thousands of years. Chesterton is a late comer to the party, and he doesn't mind admitting that fact throughout!
Chesterton rails against intellectualism--against the scholastics and against the George Bernard Shaw types. The atheist scientist who says there is no transcendent meaning to this thing called life. Grown up skeptics and modernized "experts" who care little for the world. In short Chesterton realizes that the fairy tales that he knew as a child, that wonder he felt within the deepest part of him when he was young, the feeling that the grass was green because it was "supposed to be green"--were actually all true. The reason the tales of the lady and the dragon, or jack and the beanstalk resonated with him so much as a child because they spoke to a certain human truth--an internal testimony, that there is something more than just molecules and chance. There had to be something more. So Chesterton figures out an understanding of original sin, of creation, of a transcendent God, and of the archetypal tale because it was really true--the story of God coming into the world to bring man back to Himself. Chesterton is unabashedly romantic, and he rejoices to find that Christianity is as well.
In the chapter that perhaps hit me the hardest (The Flag of the World), Chesterton confronts exactly what our posture as Christians needs to be towards the world. It cannot be escapism or pessimism; an unhealthy desire to withdraw from the darkness of the world: "For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre' castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening." Wow. That is romance in writing--and ointment to my own personal numbness. Another one: "The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more." "A man's friend leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else."
This is a great book, and I am already doing a second pass through it because there is so much in it that I missed. Chesterton is medicinal to the ills of a modern world--and Orthodoxy in particular has lost no degree of relevance in the century that has past since its composition.
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You quickly realize that Chesterton was a master at turning any phrase to his advantage.Read more