William March's Reviews > Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
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Dec 10, 11

Read from October 30 to December 06, 2011

It is an exceedingly difficult task trying to write a review of Orthodoxy because the book is a strange aggregation of many different ideas mostly posited in the form of metaphors and quotable phrases. The author, G. K. Chesterton, comes across as a very amiable person who is keenly intelligent. He seems like the kind of guy you want in a coffee house discussion group because he will always take a position or have an opinion that completely differs from anyone else's thinking process.

He says Orthodoxy started as "an answer to a challenge" from a friend asking him to state his philosophy and "in its pages I have attempted in a vague and personal way, in a set of mental pictures rather than in a series of deductions, to state the philosophy in which I have come to believe." So, I fear that anybody who reads this book for sound rational arguments to sway them to Christian faith or reads it just so they can find it's flaws to tear down the Christian faith will be greatly disappointed.

What you will find within the pages of Orthodoxy is the personal reasons for why Chesterton came to conclude that Christianity is the only right system of thought for a "sane" mind and an exposition as to why he believes that all other systems of thought are flawed in comparison.

Any thinking person trying to read this book from an unbiased perspective will agree with Chesteron's thinking one moment and then the next moment be flabbergasted by an argument that is deeply flawed. One moment you are struck by a very lucid and insightful observation and then next minute you feel as if you have been decieved by an exteremly complex sophism.

Chesterton rightly points out the shortcomings of rational thought, eastern philosophy, egoism, materialism, fatalism, skepticism, pantheism, the scientific method, the idea of a social contract, pessimism, optimism, stoicism, paganism, athiests, secularists, progressing moral ethics, agnostics, liberals, conservatives, buddhism, etc. The only problem is that he sets them up as paper tigers and then tears them apart but fails to address them as actual complex thought systems capable of dealing with nuanced arguments.

He is a master of seeing the contradictions and flaws in watered-down version of other systems of thought but fails to turn those eyes to see the contradictions and flaws in his own belief system. He admits Christianity has contradictions but then goes on to extensively argue that those contradictions are strengths. He then shows how Christianity deals with nuanced arguments that he would not allow other systems of thoughts to address.

But, if you can suspend the impulse to nitpick sections of the book for specious arguments and look at the book as a whole, like stepping back from a pointillism painting to make a coherant picture out of a series of meaningless smudges of color, you will see a beautifully crafted work that captures how Christianity can fill the gaping void most people feel in their life. If you let it, Chesterton's writing and thinking process lets the skeptic and believer alike glimpse the ecstacy, bliss and peace that a religious experience can bring to the constantly doubtful wandering mind.

Orthodoxy is a book full of complex ideas that are a pleasure to explore and compare to your understanding of the world. Chesterton is impressive in the way he can take a concept you think you have a grasp on and turn it over on its head and leave you re-evaluating your seemingly concrete understanding. His walkthrough of his thinking process on his way to his ultimate philosophic choice is a journey everyone will benefit from regardless of whether you agree with him or not.
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