Orthodoxy

G.K. Chesterton

I’m writing this in on my laptop in a coffee shop in West Cork. The coffee shop is named after the one from Friends, which is a bit cheesy, but the coffee is great, the chairs are comfy and the wifi is free. Anyway, I bring all this up to point out that I live in a very different culture to G.K. Chesterton and one of the first impressions one might get from reading his book “Orthodoxy” is that it is indeed from another era and can seem a bit dated. Chesterton can be a bit difficult to understand with his contemporary illustrations. My favourite example is when he (presumably) rhetorically asks:

Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper?

… I really have no idea Mr. Chesterton, sir.

As confused as I was at times I was more often than not delighted by the way Chesterton looked at the world and how he explains his beliefs. Chesterton’s sense of joy and wonder at the world God has created swept me up. He doesn’t come straight out with his points at the beginning of each chapter and then go on to explain and defend them. I would be more accustomed to that style, but instead Chesterton leads me on a meandering trail through metaphor and analogy, where I began to ask what on earth he’s on about and when he’s going to get to the point. Finally, we crest the hill of Chesterton’s metaphor and I find myself astonished at the view he presents me. Brilliant and beautiful! Very different to the type of apologetics I’m used to, but I think the result was that I got to see more clearly the beauty behind the Christian faith and not only the reason.

My favourite chapter is the one called “The Ethics of Elfland”, where Chesterton begins outlining the fundamental ideas he holds that led him to belief in Christianity. He begins by telling us of his belief in fairy tales (which is a strange way to go about convincing a sceptic that Christianity is true) and ends up showing us something beautiful:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

I had to resort to using Google sometimes to keep up with Chesterton but I am glad I made the effort. This little book is a treasure and has been a great refreshment and encouragement to me, and I hope to see the world more and more like G.K. Chesterton.

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About John

Hello, I’m John and I read and blog and try to follow Jesus.

3 responses to “Orthodoxy”

  1. alexbpop says :

    It was while reading ‘Orthodoxy’ that I first became a Christian and I still love the book to this day. I agree that there are some dated references, but usually the thread of the argument is clear enough that I can figure out what the point must be, even if I’ve never heard of Lord Bacon.

    • John says :

      You’re right, I could understand the point Chesterton was making given the context, but I had to chuckle at the language.

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