What should I say about a book that says more in a paragraph than I could say in a chapter? G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a masterpiece that speaks unexpectedly to the 21st century, as it did to the early 20th century.
Chesterton’s goal was not to write a typical apologetic of the Christian faith, but rather to give an account of how he came to embrace the faith himself. The book is, therefore, more spiritual autobiography than theological tome. And yet, what Chesterton has written is not without reason, polemics, or theology; it’s just that these fall within the context of his narrative of conversion, rather than standing alone in abstraction.
By writing the book this way, Chesterton presents the Christian faith as the most plausible explanation for reality, the way the world really is. Throughout its chapters the reader sees time and again how Chesterton’s intuitions about reality and suspicions of the skeptics were confirmed by the Christian worldview. As he describes, there is a ‘fittingness’ that the Christian faith has when held up against reality. For if reality were a puzzle with its pieces scattered about, the Christian faith would be the picture of the puzzle assembled aright.
For Chesterton, the world is a vibrant place, full of beauty and wonder, that is better explained by fairy tales than physicists. And only when we behold the splendor of reality like a child do we see the world for what it is. But this is only accomplished through the Christian faith. Thus, Chesterton admits that his conversion was much like childbirth – not exactly in the sense of being “born again” as evangelicals would use the term, but in the sense that his conversion returned his child-like wonder by reversing his unregenerate view of the world.
Content aside, Chesterton has a way with language and metaphor that is simply put, spectacular. He manages to both illuminate and inspire: giving clarity to what’s before you and just a glimpse of what’s beyond. Chesterton writes in such a way that is comprehensible, yet simultaneously gives you something to chew on. But more than that, he leaves you feeling as though you’ve come face to face with something transcendent. In this way, reading Chesterton is as much an education as it is an experience (you’ll just have to do it to know what I mean).
I don’t imagine Chesterton would take offense, for I surely don’t mean it patronizingly, but Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a bright-eyed orthodoxy. He weds adventure to doctrine and romance to dogma, imagination to reason and magic to science. Chesterton shines the light of truth upon our darkened eyes and rouses us from our skeptical stupor, injecting us with a dose of innocent ignorance – not a thoughtless ignorance, nor an innocent stupidity, but a kind of naïve realism that is prone to wonder.
Chesterton’s Orthodoxy was both corrective and inspiring to me, and I heartily commend it to your reading pleasure. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Orthodoxy-G-K-Chesterton/dp/1515241394/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515364986&sr=1-1&keywords=chesterton+orthodoxy.