Tuesday, June 11, 2013

G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy in The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, V.1. Ignatius Press, 1986.

This is probably my favorite book by G. K. Chesterton. If you can read only one book by Chesterton, this should be it. Orthodoxy is in some sense a book of apologetics but not the type of apologetics' book typically read. Not many books on apologetics defends fairies and fairyland. In some sense this book is a defense of Christian humanism. Chesterton influenced both C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The readers can see many of the truths Lewis drew from Chesterton in this book. For example, the date we live does not determine if miracles are believable. Chesterton states, "An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. . . . What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or century" (278).

Orthodoxy is Chesterton's statement of what he believes. He writes, "I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me" (211). Chesterton argues against the idea that Christianity or orthodoxy is boring. He thinks it is the great adventure. He believes it fulfills the need for the "life of practical romance." It contains both "something strange and something secure." Chesterton argues that the gigantic secret of Christianity is joy. He writes, "Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian" (365). Chesterton thinks Christianity fulfills the best of paganism: "The unpopular parts of Christianity turn out to when examined to be the very props of the people. The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom"(362).

Chesterton, although he identifies himself as a rationalist argues for the importance of mystery, mysticism, and paradox. Chesterton states, "Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health" (230). He believes in the compatibility of faith and reason. Chesterton writes, "It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality" (236). Chesterton argues that the poets makes us sane: "Poetry is sane because it floats in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. . . . The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head" (220).

Chesterton was a defender of democracy, the common man, and common sense. He says the most important things must be decided by the ordinary man. Hi definition and defense of tradition is excellent: "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death" (251).

Orthodoxy is a great read. It introduces to the romance of orthodoxy. We find out that it is not orthodoxy is boring. Instead, heresy is what truly is boring. Christianity is the fulfillment of the great hopes of paganism. Joy, not sour faces, is the true secret of the Christian life. Christianity teaches the goodness of the world and we are to praise our creator by rejoicing in it.

1 comment:

  1. GK Chesterton prayer in Welsh (& other languages; http://www.catholicgkchestertonsociety.co.uk/Printable-Prayercards.html

    News of the 3rd Annual GK Chesterton Pilgrimage: http://www.catholicgkchestertonsociety.co.uk/default.html

    Need someone Converted, see; http://ecumenicaldiablog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/3rd-annual-gk-chesterton-pilgrimage.html