Man Crush Confession #3: GK Chesterton (1874-1936)

{This is a blog series. For context, please go to my Man Crush Confession numero uno and number two}

When a brilliant mind, winsome personality, and a scathing humor combines into one portly jovial frame you get my Man Crush Confession #3: Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

GK Chesterton was a renaissance man with a wickedly diverse writing palate. As a popular English author he churned out works that included poetry, political, literary and art criticism, biography, fiction and apologetic. His greatest apologetic work “Orthodoxy” had a great impact on me in college. I was grappling with what it meant for a Christian to be intellectually and spiritually driven. Or, as CS Lewis coined, what it meant to be a “Romantic Rationalist.” I found Chesterton’s writing to be winsome and challenging, entertaining and scholarly.

Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and “Everlasting Man” should both be required reading for the thinking and apologetically minded Christian. In fact, CS Lewis once said, “the [very] best popular defence of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.”

I’d submit to you this: If you have the slightest mancrush on CS Lewis, then you are indebted to GK Chesterton in some way. I read “Mere Christianity” before I read “Orthodoxy” by Chesterton. I was shocked to see the clear parallels in writing styles, logic, and apologetic flow of argument. I saw the 300 pound ghost of Chesterton in much of the polemic of Lewis. On top of this, both men were considered respected Christian philosophers, authors of fiction, and noted apologists for their day. To me, Lewis was just the Anglicanized version of the Roman Catholic Chesterton; they both impacted the thought life of Great Britain during the World Wars (Chesterton WWI, Lewis WWII).

I think one of the best ways to get introduced to Chesterton is through his quotes. He had a quotable quip for almost every topic; here are some of my favorites (sorry, some are without reference):

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man”The Book of Job: An introduction (1907)

“Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

“The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”What’s Wrong With the World?

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”Illustrated London News (16 July 1910)

“As for science and religion, the known and admitted facts are few and plain enough. All that the parsons say is unproved. All that the doctors say is disproved. That’s the only difference between science and religion there’s ever been, or will be.”Michael Moon in Manalive (1912)

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton : The Illustrated London News

“Every remedy is a desperate remedy. Every cure is a miraculous cure. Curing a madman is not arguing with a philosopher; it is casting out a devil.”Orthodoxy, Chapter II : The Maniac

“It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” Orthodoxy, Chapter 3-Suicide of Thought

“He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative”Varied Types (1903)

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”-What’s Wrong With The World?

“Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.”

“All things are from God; and above all, reason and imagination and the great gifts of the mind. They are good in themselves; and we must not altogether forget their origin even in their perversion.” The Dagger with Wings, Part One: The Homelessness Of Man, Ch. 5

Maybe my favorite Chesterton story was when a major British publication asked him to write an article on “What’s Wrong With The World.” Chesterton gave his classical pithy response:

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,
― GK Chesterton”

If Spurgeon was the “Prince of Preachers”, then it is certainly true Chesterton was the “Prince of Paradox.” He was also deemed the “Apostle of Common Sense” by his contemporaries. He was one of the few men in the world where “Paradox” and “Common Sense” seemed to reside effortlessly. Such paradox pointed to a mind awakened by the Christian worldview, not deadened by legalism. As his debating friend and antagonist, George Bernard Shaw, noted after his death, “He was a man of colossal genius.”

As a RCC adherent, he didn’t have glowing view of the Protestant Reformation or Puritanism. So in my opinion he left some things to be desired on the theological front. But he had a contagious view of the world that restored child-like wonder to even the most intellectual secular stiff. He could muse poetically and deeply on the meaning of a blade of grass, friendship, or the Trinity.

So I pay homage to this unlikely vessel God used to awaken my imagination to the wonder and mystery of the world around me.

Who are some of the unlikely vessels of godly influence in your life?

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

32 thoughts on “Man Crush Confession #3: GK Chesterton (1874-1936)”

  1. Loved your rendition of Chesterson.
    D.L. Moody would be a person that comes to mind, but his story should include Moorehouse.
    Finney for his evangelical work, prayer and impact in known revivals, though his theology is also wanting.

    Francis Schaeffer for his “The Mark of A Christian.”

  2. And two more GKC classics:
    “Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.”

    “Instead of being regarded, as it ought to be, as a matter of personal convenience and adjustment, it has come to be regarded by many as if it were a part of essential morals to get up early in the morning.”

  3. Chief, if you hadn’t been so kind as to “like” one of my posts I never would have come across yours and I thoroughly enjoy your style of writing with a healthy mix of education in the process.

    Lewis has been my favorite author ever since I realized a person was allowed to have a favorite and I’m grateful to you for explaining the connection to Chesterton. The only thing I have read of his is “the man who was Thursday” but now I’m going to have to read more.

    Thanks!

  4. I’m not a college gradgiate, Bryan (having visited my blog, you probly already know that), but I am a voracious reader and think I might enjoy this Chesterton fella’s ramblings. I’m a huge fan of common sense, and that seems to be his favorite subject.
    I enjoy your style, as well, and think I’ll hang around for a bit and see what you have to say. Seems we might be on the same page in many respects.
    Keep up the good work!
    I hope you don’t mind, but I like to leave a link to my blog with my comments, in case some of your readers might want to check out my blog: http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/daily-encouragement-214/

  5. Love this series! I feel as if I’ve been “Christian” my whole life but have only recently had my eyes opened to the huge amount of resources available for someone who is seeking God with all their heart. Haven’t thought much of reaching Chesterton but I’ll add him to my que.

    She’s not unlikely, but I’d say my largest influence is Elisabeth Elliot. She’s a woman who loves God above all else and doesn’t mince words in delivering His truth.

    1. Thanks for sharing the info (don’t know why I didn’t think of that!) I think I downloaded GKC’s “heretics” and “What’s Wrong with the world” onto my Kindle from your latter link.

  6. Chesterton is new to me, introduced by a former professor in a rehab program. The more I’ve read of him the more drawn to his words I’ve become. Thanks for taking my education further.

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