is a book by G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....
that has become a classic of Christian apologetics
Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views...
. Chesterton considered this book a companion to his other work, Heretics.
In the book's preface Chesterton states the purpose is to "attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...
faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it." In it, Chesterton presents an original view of Christian religion. He sees it as the answer to natural human needs, the "answer to a riddle" in his own words, and not simply as an arbitrary truth received from somewhere outside the boundaries of human experience.
Analysis of the Text
The book is developed as an intellectual quest by a spiritually curious person. While looking for the meaning of life he finds truth that uniquely fulfills human needs. This is the truth revealed in Christianity. Chesterton likens this discovery to a man setting off from the south coast of England, journeying for many days, only to arrive at Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...
, the point he originally left from. He does not at first recognize it, and thinks he has discovered something new--only to find that it has been found by many before him. Such a man, he proposes, would see the wondrous place he grew up in with newly appreciative eyes. This is a common theme in Chesterton's works, and one which he gave fictional embodiment to in Manalive
Manalive is a book by G. K. Chesterton detailing a popular theme both in his own philosophy, and in Christianity, of the 'holy fool', such as in Dostoevsky's The Idiot and Cervantes' Don Quixote.-Plot summary:...
. It is also the way in which he describes his spiritual journey. He thought of himself as making a "blueprint" of what would be necessary in a religion, only to find that the structure had already been built and was standing in front of him--that structure is the Church.
The book has few quotations from (although many allusions to) Scripture
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...
. It also lacks authoritative statements by religious authorities. Chesterton sums up the essence of his intention in the introduction when he says, "When the word "orthodoxy" is used here it means the Apostles' Creed
The Apostles' Creed , sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or "symbol"...
, as understood by everybody calling himself Christian until a very short time ago and the general historic conduct of those who held such a creed. I have been forced by mere space to confine myself to what I have got from this creed; I do not touch the matter much disputed among modern Christians, of where we ourselves got it. This is not an ecclesiastical treatise but a sort of slovenly autobiography. But if any one wants my opinions about the actual nature of the authority, Mr. G. S. Street
George Slythe Street was a British critic, journalist and novelist. He was born in Wimbledon, London on July 18, 1867. He was associated with William Ernest Henley and the 'counter-Decadents' on the staff of the National Observer. His works were characterized by "whimsy, detachment, sympathy,...
has only to throw me another challenge, and I will write him another book."
Still, the book's message is presented as an intellectual inquiry by an individual looking for an explanation to the mysteries of human existence that satisfies his own innate reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...
. Yet, after investigation Chesterton is not merely convinced that orthodoxy is the right answer for his needs, but that it is right for all.
There are nine chapters:
- Introduction in Defense of Everything Else
- The Maniac
- The Suicide of Thought
- The Ethics of Elfland
- The Flag of the World
- The Paradoxes of Christianity
- The Eternal Revolution
- The Romance of Orthodoxy
- Authority and the Adventurer