"Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true."
Certainly nothing is irrelevant to discussing Christianity when G.K. Chesterton writes a classic apologetics work. Orthodoxy
is and is not a typical apologetics work. It defends the orthodox Christian world-view and it moreover discusses and reveals what Chesterton's own views and values were. As such Chesterton does not back away from discussing as broad a range of topics as possible. He moves from ideologies to science to philosophy and to literature both criticising and appraising other values, ultimately holding a sustained argument that discusses that, as he sees it, Christianity can be defended both logically and emotionally.
For those who ask whether such a book holds value today Chesterton can still defend himself. He defends with the subtle wit of a genius and he is a thinker who builds strong argument upon strong argument. "Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the 12th century, but is not credible in the 20th. You might as well believe that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays but not on Tuesdays."
The same idea holds I believe for this book. It is applicable today as it was in the 1900s.
I've chosen a few chapters that particularly appealed to me and have tried to summarise what I saw in them of interest. The Maniac"'The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums ... Believing utterly in one's self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcoate: the man who has it has 'Hanwell' written on his face as plain as it is written on that omnibus.'
And to all this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, 'Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?'
After a long pause I replied, 'I will go home and write a book in answer to that question.' This is the book that I have written in answer to it."
In this second chapter, following a brief introduction, Chesterton explores the nature of madness. He challenges the idea which claims poets as being mad due to their artistic nature. It is not artistic endeavour which creates madness, Chesterton insists, it is too much reason."Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea and so make it finite."
There is a sense that Chesterton is setting up his argument to reveal first and foremost that the world we live in is one of both reason and wonder. He questions the nature of the world that we can both accept something as old and still find something new within it regularly. He does not aim to state that reason is bad, he later suggests that reasoning is important. However his argument is about reason without imagination or 'wonder.' For that is Chesterton's insanity that he argues about."It is the logician that seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits."The flag of the world
Chesterton here discusses the idea of jingoism, relying on that as a concept for how people may approach the world. His argument is that as we all have various patriotic ties so too we may have patriotic ties that link to our worldviews. This idea is particularly extended to reveal that the jingo version of a view is one that does not actually love that which it claims to love. A jingo love for democracy does not actually love the people which it is meant to love but rather loves the idea of democracy in other words.The Paradoxes of Christianity
This chapter was one of my favourites. I feel that Chesterton is at his best when utilising or discussing paradoxical situations. He appears to understand them better than any other author I've read. In this chapter Chesterton discussed his personal reaction to what he terms the paradoxes of Christianity. This being that Christianity is a bad religion because of the arguments made that a)its followers are too passive (due to the 'turn the other cheek' mentality) and also b)too violent (due to the crusades)."This puzzled me; the charges seemed inconsistent. Christianity could not at once be the black mask on a white world, and also the white mask on a black world."
This discussion appealed to me because I think Chesterton highlighted a key point. The element of humanity involvement with any belief. Christianity as an ideal belief is pure, it is the hypocritical and double-thinking element of man which makes it into any paradoxical idea. Conclusion"We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars."
It appears to me that Chesterton's argument ultimately boils down into the call for a return to an orthodox faith which is practical theology. I feel that this belief is what is needed in today's sceptical world. Belief which can be used in reality."Christianity, even when watered down, is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags."
G.K. Chesterton may appear too condescending to some and too self-deprecating to others. I cannot help but wonder if he, the prince of paradox, would have found that somewhat amusing. On the whole however I find his writing to be full of wit, humour, irony, sarcasm and above all wisdom. His way of stating his opinions in a manner that is forceful and commanding and yet rarely resorts to dictatorial preaching is something I want to see more of in today's individuals. Surely the gift of defending one's beliefs has not died out in the past century and surely the gift of writing about and with paradox can be found in other authors? I surely hope so."If I say, 'A peasant saw a ghost,' I am told, 'But peasants are so credulous.' If I ask, 'Why credulous?' The only answer is - that they see ghosts."