“Orthodoxy” by G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton is one of my favourite authors.  I love how he logically makes his point with not-so-subtle jibes, and well-thought out metaphors.  It seems like he, as a philosopher, speaks in ways that I understand and (often) can’t help but agree with.  I also like how he decided to write this work in particular.  Someone disagreed with one of his books, so he wrote another in response (to clarify his earlier work).  He is quick to respond with his opinion; but it is a well-thought out opinion and, even better, a well-put one.

In his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton gives his readers a sort of pictorial auto-philosophy.  That is, he tells us how he came to believe as he believed using pictures, or more accurately, snapshots of life and metaphors to show his philosophy. For example, the seeing of a bus marked with the name of a well-known lunatic asylum, leads him to comment, “The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” After which he goes on to prove that reason (without anything else) is insanity and that any philosophy that depends solely on reason is as well.

But he doesn’t stop there: he goes on to discuss the suicide of thought in the modern era, the merits of believing in elf-land, the vileness of suicide, true patriotism, the paradoxes of Christianity that intrigued him, the romance of orthodoxy that wooed him, and the need to be under authority to be truly free.

He deals with each subject thoroughly, but not lengthily. The book has only 168 pages: it really is amazing how he puts so many thoughts in such a small space.  And what has he to say about God?

“And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation.  The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall.  His pathos was natural, almost casual.  The Stoics, ancient and modern, where proud of concealing their tears.  He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of his native city.  Yet He concealed something.  Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger.  He never restrained His anger.  He flung furniture down the the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell.  Yet He restrained something.  I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness.  There was something that He hid from all men when he went up a mountain to pray.  There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation.  There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”


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