I have completed my upside-down exploration of the authoritative Chesterton trilogy, consisting of The Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, and now, Orthodoxy.
It is rather intimidating to approach a book that has attained nearly mythical status. These days it seems that if you want your work to be taken seriously, you must include the obligatory quote from Chesterton, and this is hard to do without casting a pallid gray shadow over your own writing.
Because of this, it's the kind of déjà vu classic that continually stirs your consciousness with remotely familiar passages, like driving through the shaded streets of a town you have never been in but many people have told you about.
I was not disappointed. The work is deserving of its decorations: in the awed words of the Queen of Sheba, "The half was not told me." I just love the way authors like Lewis or Chesterton sneak Christianity up on you, skillfully presenting it as the surprising, satisfying thing that it properly is.
This is Chesterton's Mere Christianity; likely his most fundamental work, certainly his most formidable: a crashing coup d'etat of the sour skeptics. In a healthy but reasonable 170 pages, He embarks on a wild romp through doctrine and discovery, taking the Apostles' Creed as a sort of loose outline. His enthusiasm for life is unmistakable, converting one's anxious prejudices almost immediately.
A work of this impregnable proportion is difficult to criticize, and it is with fear and trembling that I suggest an oversight. It seems that Chesterton, in his zeal for provocative paradoxes, has overlooked the essentially nonviolent nature of Christianity. He appears to have accepted and even defended the legacy of the Church Militant, which I find extraordinarily difficult to do with a clear conscience. It is not enough for this history to be dusted off and propped up; it must be repudiated. For myself, I see nothing unorthodox about representing the Inquisition or the Crusades as colossal mistakes.
Foibles aside, this masterpiece has earned its place in the list of required reading for the conscientious Christian. But perhaps "required" is the wrong word; "rewarding" may be more appropriate.
"Whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth." - Chapter VI, The Paradoxes of Christianity
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