Paperback volume containing G.K. Chesterton's great companion apologies Heretics & Orthodoxy.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton has become synonymous with modern Christian apologetics. But his impact goes beyond just those interested in a defense of Christian thought. His writings have influenced such diverse authors as C.S. Lewis, Marshall McLuhan, and Jorge Luis Borges, and remains a subtle and unseen presence in contemporary Catholic thought. At his funeral, Ronald Knox said "All of this generation has grown up under Chesterton's influence so completely that we do not even know when we are thinking Chesterton." Before his conversion from atheism to knowing God, C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity & The Great Divorce, said "in reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere -"
Chesterton wrote in a time when materialism and new forms of political theory were soon to cause havoc in the western world. His was a voice calling for restraint - pointing back to the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, the purpose and value of which was being lost in the noise and commotion of the post industrial age. Describing the rush towards less familiar and attractive ideologies, Chesterton wrote: "In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'"
Chesterton was a man who continually showed us the use of orthodoxy in Christianity - most of all in his three great apologies: Heretics, Orthodoxy & The Everlasting Man.
In Heretics, he first points to the flaws in the beliefs of the moderns. In Orthodoxy, he defends the values handed down through millennium of Christian dogma. In The Everlasting Man, he tells the grand story of Christianity itself and the often ignored miracle of its appearance in the life of man.
Chesterton was a great debater, often trading blows with modern thinkers such as George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow. He became known as the "prince of paradox," He was also a prolific writer, producing biographies on St. Augustine and St. Francis, and touched on many of the varieties of religion in his writings. He wrote fiction as well, authoring the famous Father Brown books and the Man Who Was Thursday.
Chesterton was certainly not the imitation of Christ in his personal life. A large man fond of food and drink, he was almost childlike in wonder of the magic of the world, while expressing the wit of an ancient. He gave no secret doctrine or systematic theology, but his "goodness" and basic "common sense" led many to the Church. One commenter stated: first you read C.S. Lewis, then Chesterton, then you become Catholic. Despite his less than temperate life, he is now under investigation by the Church for Beatification: such was his impact.
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About the Author
Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War. His 1922 "Eugenics and Other Evils" attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior version of itself. In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wisdom of his once "reactionary" views.
His poetry runs the gamut from the comic 1908 "On Running After One's Hat" to dark and serious ballads. During the dark days of 1940, when Britain stood virtually alone against the armed might of Nazi Germany, these lines from his 1911 Ballad of the White Horse were often quoted:
I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Though not written for a scholarly audience, his biographies of authors and historical figures like Charles Dickens and St. Francis of Assisi often contain brilliant insights into their subjects. His Father Brown mystery stories, written between 1911 and 1936, are still being read and adapted for television.
Heretics belongs to yet another area of literature at which Chesterton excelled. A fun-loving and gregarious man, he was nevertheless troubled in his adolescence by thoughts of suicide. In Christianity he found the answers to the dilemmas and paradoxes he saw in life. Other books in that same series include his 1908 Orthodoxy (written in response to attacks on this book) and his 1925 The Everlasting Man. Orthodoxy is also available as electronic text.
Chesterton died on the 14th of June, 1936 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. During his life he published 69 books and at least another ten based on his writings have been published after his death. Many of those books are still in print. Ignatius Press is systematically publishing his collected writings.