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?