The Ball and The Cross
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The Ball and The Cross

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,019 ratings  ·  69 reviews
The Ball and the Cross is a novel filled with debates beginning with one between a professor named Lucifer and a monk named Michael. If adventure is your objective The Ball and the Cross is for you. There are few things more exciting than the battles in the war of ideas. This a book most worth reading.

This kindle edition has a linked table of contents, which makes it easy...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published October 18th 2010 by WHITE DOG PUBLISHING (first published 1909)
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Another Sci-Fi story from Chesterton, however much easier to follow than The Man Who Was Thursday. A real duel with arms needs to take place between a Catholic and an atheist, they struggle to find the right place and so they become fugitives and comrades. Their adventures are both funny and witty and both of them start leaning towards his enemy.

Chesterton again surprised me by being able (in such a short book) to portray two opposite characters in such a way that the reader feels sympathy for b...more
Bizarre but certainly entertaining and provocative. I'm a big fan of Chesterton with his rollicking plots and writing style and the question is why he is not more widely read today, albeit having a niche group of fans that apparently includes Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I had a glimmer of the answer in reading his collected Essays -- including one in which he defends the jury as opposed to the single judge system, in the spirit of democracy; his argument, to me, felt dated, although i empat...more
Utterly fantastic! I see now why all my Hillsdalians rave over Chesterton. I will certainly look for more of his works :) The Scandal in the Village chapter is perfect!
1. You cannot defeat the Cross, for it is defeat
2. The difference between Jesus and Satan is that Jesus wanted to descend, and so rose, while Satan wanted to rise and so fell.
Ken Bickley
Many reviewers have called this entire novel a confusing allegory, and even Chesterton himself confessed in later years that he was a bit confused by it. Nevertheless, the story of an atheist and an orthodox Roman Catholic trying to fight a duel over faith, despite continual police intervention, is amusing and interesting. Duels were decidedly uncouth in Edwardian England, as indeed was any public discussion of religion. Religion was a private matter, after all. The climax is a bit more puzzling...more
Jun 12, 2009 Virgiliana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: conservative Christians, GKC fans
I just finished rereading The Ball and The Cross. It's not a very good novel--Chesterton himself did not like how it turned out--but I enjoyed it--it was at least a good idea for a story, and expresses, if poorly, some very fun and interesting ideas. I also reread Martin Gardner's introduction to the book and thought it was not very good. Contrary to what he says, the novel isn't really about the conflict between the Catholic and the atheist--it's about what brings them together--that specifical...more
Dave/Maggie Bean
I purchased the Dover edition, which contains a fantastic foreword by Martin Gardner. Said foreword is worth the price of the book – a pittance at $7.95. The text itself is worth twenty times more. TBATC was purportedly inspired by Chesterton’s debates with (deservedly) forgotten R.P.G. Blatchford. (I doubt even Gardner -- who refers to ciphers and numerology in his foreword-- caught the "woo-woo" significance of Blatchford’s initials: Blatchford, like the Soviets, whose B-40/RPG-7 became a weap...more
Cooper Williams
My second Chesterton work has awakened in me a most wonderful kind of rage. It is the rage that drives a fervent Catholic to hurl a rock through the window of an editorial office. It is the rage with which an atheist prints blasphemy and logical syllogisms. The rage by which both men take up swords time and again to defend their views.

On the other hand, Chesterton's gentlemanly prose exudes forgiveness. Similarly to The Man Who Was Thursday, the author paints a picture of the cosmos's workings t...more
This book is not about the everyday world. It has little in common with the modern novels I am used to. It is not interested in exploring the nuances of introspection and social interaction. It seemed to me to be more like a farce with characters running around implausibly, saying witty, profound things. It also felt at times like a morality play with characters declaring their views on the state of the universe and of each other.

In the end, it is its own sort of book, a book obsessed not with "...more
Delightful and thought provoking as ever. Highly recommended. However, I think it is best appreciated when there is a familiarity with some of Chesterton's other works in general and ORTHODOXY in particular. I saw many ideas and settings from ORTHODOXY which actually took place in this book. Insane asylums, the men who discover England, what things are worth fighting for, believing in oneself... all shared by both ORTHODOXY and THE BALL AND THE CROSS. They really need to be read together.

Morris Nelms
This is the first work of fiction by Chesterton I've read. It's a fine book. Elegant and witty writing prevails throughout. Chesterton, a devout Catholic, makes the atheist the most lovable character.
It's funny. It's funny like Twain and Wodehouse are funny. It's also deep at times, often at the same time that it's being funny.

This book may not be for everyone. Some will find it too philosophical. Some will say that Chesterton is engaging in straw man arguments, that he does a poor job present...more
Sep 21, 2008 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Probably the best of Chesterton's fiction that I have read. I think this book may be better than The Man Who Was Thursday. The society outlined in this book looks eerily like our own. The whole world has gone insane, yet it has placed the sane in the asylum. Chesterton does justice to the fact that there can be friendship between disagreeing parties, and this friendship can do more than all the battles to soften hearts and make them receptive to the grace of God.
This is the zany story of a Catholic and an atheist who never find the right time or place to fight a duel in order to settle the matter of whether God exists or not.

It's a nifty premise and the whole trip is fanciful and humorous (there's even a space ship. Moreover, Chesterton sprinkles his story with deep philosophical discussions.

The author's approach to the religious discussion is level-headed, unbiased, and very humane. He doesn't let his protagonists lose themselves in abstractions or g...more
I've read a few Chesterton novels to date, and I always find that there is something confusing about them. The worst part is knowing that it is a deeper truth that I just don't understand yet, and that if I were to give the book another go, or perhaps even a third, I would probably have that light-bulb moment when everything would make sense. So, as it is, I'm a bit confused. Perhaps enlightenment will come with subsequent readings.

On the whole though, it was an amusing and fascinating book. The...more
John Carter
An intriguing book, although rather heavy on the philosophical debate between Evan MacIan, a devout Catholic from the Highlands, and James Turnbull, publisher of a newsletter called The Atheist. Heavy and inconsistent. MacIan is newly arrived in London, hugely naïve, “without having properly realised that there were in the world any people who were not Roman Catholics. […] He did not see the word ‘atheist’, or if he did, it is quite possible that he did not know the meaning of the word.” But bef...more
A thimbleful of cyberpunk, a dash of magical realism, and a pint of Chestertonian philosophy.

In early 20th century London, the editor of The Atheist publishes an article comparing the Virgin Mary to a Mesopotamian goddess, and finally (!) gets the attention he craves; a young and devout Catholic, first time in the city, accidently reads the article, breaks the window of the editor’s office, and challenges him to a duel. With swords, like gentlemen. And to the death, because it is that important...more
Robert Corzine
I thought I was re-reading The Ball and the Cross this weekend. Turns out I was reading half of it for the first time. You see, Chesterton published it twice. I had read the 1905 version which is ten chapters long and ends rather abruptly. In 1907, he published the finished version, twenty chapters long. It holds together a lot better. I always wondered why he had dropped the old monk Michael after the first chapter (he turns up again in the last chapters). The main story line features two men,...more
Chesterton gives us the archetypal Christian and the archetypal atheist, embroiled in a series of exciting and often hilarious adventures throughout England as they try to find somewhere to duel in peace.

Chesterton's characters are so passionate and full of joy in life that while they are not particularly realistic, I always get the sense that they are what people should be if they would only be true to themselves and to what is really important.

For the most part I think Chesterton fairly presen...more
Worth reading from the standpoint of comparative philosophies alone.
And this:
"Separate tall flames shot up and spread out above them like the fiery cloisters of some infernal cathedral, or like a grove of red tropical trees in the garden of the devil. Higher yet in the purple hollow of the night the topmost flames leapt again and again fruitlessly at the stars, like golden dragons chained but struggling."
Josh Anderson
Not knowing what this book was about I picked up because I read Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and loved it. The introduction told me it was basically the fiction account of the fight between a Christian and and atheist and so I expecting it to be largely a debate between the two. Instead you are lead on the continuous journey of the two men who are trying literally duel it out with swords.
Chesterton's writing is magnetizing and draws you in with a zig-zag and circle-around approach to describing a s...more
"'Why shouldn’t we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren’t important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn’t any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn’t there be a quarrel about a word? If you’re not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about?'" --Evan MacIan

Part action thriller, part philosophical dialog, and with just a dash of mystical phantasmagoria, "The Bal...more
a fantastical piece of fiction that doesn't really fall into the allegory category but more in line with CS Lewis' Space Trilogy or some of George Macdonald's works, where fantastical things happen to ordinary people, blurring the lines between the spiritual and physical realities.

In this case, the epic struggle between faith and atheism is carried out between two men who encounter each other and challenge each other to a duel, but are thwarted by society from carrying this out. As they flee to...more
Chesterton’s novels almost stand in a genre of their own. Heavily philosophical, wildly allegorical, unapologetically adventurous, and comically surreal, it can be difficult even to describe them. And of them all, perhaps The Ball and the Cross is the most peculiar; which might be to say the worst, if you could even use a superlative negative in a sentence about Chesterton’s works. At least it does not operate on the same level of high genius as The Man Who Was Thursday. But what there is of it...more
Enjoyable -- though there's one unpleasant and somewhat racist moment that I could've done without. And I politely disagree with some of the theology -- though that's kind of a given when reading Chesterton.
D.M. Dutcher (Sword Cross Rocket)
A high-spirited novel about the eternal argument between Christianity and Atheism, and their unlikely alliance against and even greater threat. A small, angry atheist who is mostly ignored by everyone prints a scathing polemic against the Virgin Mary. A rustic, old-fashioned Catholic actually reads it, breaks the window, and challenges the atheist to a duel. Meanwhile a diabolic scientist is plotting to take over all of England, as the atheist and the catholic repeatedly try to duel, only to be...more
Matthew Hurley
In the heroes of this story — one Catholic and one atheist — Chesterton convincingly portrays the truth alluded to by Lewis, Schmemann (paraphrasing Simone Weil), O'Connor and others — that all true worship, faith, and zealous pursuit of truth leads to Christ. It's not universalism, but rather the truth universalism attempts to describe.
I enjoyed it. it's even a little stranger than most of Chesterton's fiction, and probably not most people cup of tea.
Who has been hiding this book from me? Chesterton slays it.
Pull-quote from it: (on the problem of irrelevance/apathy by the public encountered by the editor of the paper, "The Atheist")
"Year after year went by, and year after year the death of God..became a leass and less important occurrence. All the forward me of his age discouraged [him]. The socialists said he was cursing priests when he should be cursing capitalists. The artists said that the soul was most spiritual, not when freed from rel...more
Brad McKenna
I picked this up because Chesterton was on my list of Agatha Christie contemporaries...only this turned out not to be a Father Brown story. What it turned out to be is a debate between a devote Christian and a staunch Atheist. The former challenges the latter to a duel and the story revolves around them trying to avoid the law, which forbade said duel. On their trials they become friends and run into a lot of weird folks. It was a profound and pretty damn funny read. If you want to find out if t...more
I like Chesterton, but sometimes he is awful hard to follow. I liked his characters, but sometimes I felt utterly confused. The ending made sense, however, and that is something I'm grateful for. Very interesting book.
I really enjoyed the book. It kept being something other than I expected it to be. Reading it was kind of like reading The Man Who Was Thursday. I approached both books absolutely blind, with no idea at all what they would be about. Each one kept unfolding into something that I did not expect it to be. About half-way through this one, I realized how similar this experience was. This allowed me to just give myself over to it and experience the story as it was told.
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) cannot be summed up in one sentence. Nor in one paragraph. In fact, in spite of the fine biographies that have been written of him (and his Autobiography), he has never been captured between the covers of one book. But rather than waiting to separate the goats from the sheep, let’s just come right out and say it: G.K. Chesterton was the best writer of the twent...more
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“What is the good of words if they aren't important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn't any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn't there be a quarrel about a word? If you're not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only thing worth fighting about.” 56 likes
“The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times.” 4 likes
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