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This book is meant to be a companion to "Heretics," and to put the positive side in addition to the negative. Many critics complained of the book because it merely criticised current philosophies without offering any alternative philosophy. This book is an attempt to answer the challenge. It is the purpose of the writer to attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian Faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it. The book is therefore arranged upon the positive principle of a riddle and its answer. It deals first with all the writer's own solitary and sincere speculations and then with the startling style in which they were all suddenly satisfied by the Christian Theology. The writer regards it as amounting to a convincing creed. But if it is not that it is at least a repeated and surprising coincidence.

168 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1908

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About the author

G.K. Chesterton

3,085 books4,905 followers
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was an English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic.

He was educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, five plays, five novels, and some two hundred short stories, including a popular series featuring the priest-detective, Father Brown. In spite of his literary accomplishments, he considered himself primarily a journalist. He wrote over 4000 newspaper essays, including 30 years worth of weekly columns for the Illustrated London News, and 13 years of weekly columns for the Daily News. He also edited his own newspaper, G.K.’s Weekly.

Chesterton was equally at ease with literary and social criticism, history, politics, economics, philosophy, and theology.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,449 reviews
Profile Image for jenn.
22 reviews14 followers
August 1, 2011
I bought it because I heard this quote recently

"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

So far, the book is living up to my expectations. Absolutely brilliant in approach, style and process. It is an autobiography, of sorts. Essays in apologetics, of sorts. Chesterton states it this way in the preface "I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."

Chesterton is a captivating author, not only in the concepts presented but also in the way he tells them.

All that to say, so far, it's amazing. You should read it!
Profile Image for G.M. Burrow.
Author 1 book109 followers
December 16, 2011
I have to think of Chesterton as happy nitroglycerin. This book sends your head up into the clouds while driving your feet deep into the earth. It spins you dizzier than you've ever been, yet makes you walk straighter than you've ever walked.

Read this first in 2007, again in 2011.

Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
July 23, 2023
Is Your head a jumble - a violent Matrix game of cyber-head wars - with endless bipartisan political media bickering providing “no relief, but grief” for your pain? Is your body a kicked-around voodoo pincushion, and your head a pounding voodoo drum?

Well, welcome to the club! This book is a soothing anodyne for all our political headaches and heartaches. As the precious inner peace it describes was to Chesterton.

You see, Chesterton had found a relief for his grief in that peace. A peace of naive, natural faith. The kind of faith a philosopher of Chesterton’s time, Santayana, calls Animal faith.

The faith that it will all work out in the end.

Natural to us as breathing!

Orthodoxy? Pshaw.

No, Chesterton was Not Orthodox, at least not in the sense our childhood Bugbears were - meaning the rigidly grim burghers that once blighted our fun and games. In fact, all he wanted was to have truckloads of fun, just like us, in his life.

That all roads seemed to lead him to Rome should not bother us, either! For the relaxed Catholic lifestyle was never known to be a stranger to childlike fun, thank heaven.

Chesterton didn't believe in dogma, at least in the dour sense of the word. No - he believed Catholic dogma merely HAPPENED, in a personal sense, to fit his hand like a glove.

As a natural, Animal faith. For it breathed naturally, as he did.

And so the next time your head is in a hyperintellectual quandary -

Take one dose of Natural "Orthodoxy" with a cool drink -

And FEEL the stress come out.

For "believe me," says Chesterton, " it'll ALL work out in the end! "
Profile Image for Shane Avery.
154 reviews35 followers
November 8, 2014
It is with extreme reluctance that I condemn this work as worthless. The person who recommended it to me is one whose opinion and learning I respect greatly.

Chesterton seems to think (although I'm not entirely sure of anything in this book, inasmuch as the author refuses to write in anything but figurative language and metaphor. In fact, the term "mixed metaphor" is an entirely inappropriate descriptor. One would need to use exponents to keep track of the metaphors and smilies that he heaps upon one another in the attempt to explain his position) that Christianity, has achieved some miraculous balance, solved some insolvable paradox. Just what sort of paradox? I'm not entirely sure. He throws around labels like pessimist, optimist, anarchist, agnostic, atheist, anti-Christian, Modernist, rationalist, mild-rationalist, pagan, Christian, Christian Scientist, and quite many more, I assure you, without ever deigning so much as to provide even rough definitions of what he means. His argument is that Christianity leads to sanity, and anyone who argues otherwise is a damn (though thankfully not a damned) fool: "Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad." (166)

But my favourite line has to be: "Our grandmothers were quite right when they said that Tom Paine and the free-thinkers unsettled the mind. They do. They unsettled mine horribly." (154) And it's those blasted "free-thinkers," according to Chesterton, who perpetrated this insidious and invidious idea that life itself is full of problems and uncertainty. For shame! It is only within the Christian context that one can find a worry-free and jolly existence. For you see, Christianity solves all of life's mysterious contradictions, for it is itself one giant and glorified contradiction. And just how does Christianity function thus? Here it is straight from the horse's mouth: "All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought to keep two colours co-existent but pure. It is not a mixture like russet or purple, it is rather like a shot silk, for a shot silk is always at right angles, and is in the pattern of the cross." (174) Now why didn't I think of that?!
Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.
Author 20 books2,155 followers
January 23, 2022
This was my umpteenth time reading Orthodoxy. For years I had the audio version on my iPod Shuffle. Hilariously it played the chapters out of order, but it didn't really matter. I listened to them over and over again. it was fun to go back and read it in print again.

And as other of my friends have said, even though I am one of the dreadful Calvinists, I still love Chesterton and his masterful way with words.

Since I read it on my Kindle I will share my highlights that way.

I am looking forward to our next book-club reading on Chesterton's wife.
Profile Image for Fr.Bill M.
24 reviews51 followers
July 26, 2007
This is an absolute must for either Catholics or Protestants, as Chesterton addresses an aspect of mere Christianity (it's profound and monumental common sensensicalness!) in a way that sparkles with wit, humor, and intellectual derring-do.

Incidentally, if you set yourself to reading it out loud, you will put yourself through a training in diction and oral expression that far surpasses anything you could ever hire.
129 reviews4 followers
March 11, 2007
imagine walking into a dangerous and violent bar with the biggest, baddest ufc champion ever to grace the octagon. or walking into a house party with the hottest date ever. or entering a church basketball tournament with an nba caliber ringer on your team. i'm guessing that's what it would have felt like to walk with gk chesterton into a room full of skeptics and post-modern christian haters.

okay, that whole paragraph did not work. but this book deserves credit for being mostly a pre-modern work that predicts most of the 20th century.
Profile Image for Owlseyes .
1,670 reviews269 followers
October 10, 2021
"And though St John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators"

"It was natural, perhaps, that a modern Marxian Socialist should not know anything about free will"

"The new scientific society definitely discourages men from thinking about death"

"Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism"

"But the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity, for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing"

"Descartes said "I think therefore I am". The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says "I am not, therefore I cannot think"

"Nietzsche started a nonsensical idea that men had once sought as good what we now call evil;..."

"...Nietzsche who preached something that is called egoism"

"Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be with such men still living...".

A fierce catholic, Chesterton never got into an university degree, only attending an arts school. He wrote around 4,000 essays; kept his weekly column in a British newspaper for 30 years; and wrote many books; noteworthy, the father Brown detective “series”; and this "Orthodoxy".

Some called him the "apostle of common sense". He was against: materialism, relativism, atheism, socialism and capitalism. His focus was “the ordinary man”. His values: family …and the catholic faith.

Alan Watts said of Chesterton: he knew how to perceive the world like a child: “an entirely new world”; he knew how to be child-like; he, somehow, kept the “innocent view”.

On his style, Watts recalled how Chesterton used non-sense in his writings (“the cosmic is the comic”). Watts had read Chesterton when an adolescent and then he’d found “the sense of wonder” in the British author. “Even God needs a surprise”. You’ll find a world vision in Chesterton contrary to this “everything completely controlled”. The Chesterton world is not the serious, solemn, grave (with gravity) world; but full of lightness; even frivolity. Heaven is not that serious. Satan is just a kind of prosecutor.

Dale Ahlquist (of the American Chesterton Society) said when you read Orthodoxy for the first time you underline the text (because you understand little, it’s implied); then you’ve got to re-read it; finally, on the third trial things start to "come together”.

Joseph Pearce acknowledged Chesterton had “gratitude and wonder” in his work; he could laugh at himself; his works “combine wisdom and innocence”.

Peter Kreeft joked about Chesterton:"...he leaves you feeling stupid".

I am on my first reading-trial. I know I’ll need other trials.
So far, it looks solid, these following assertions:

(1) the book is an attempt to justify his Christian belief, yet a “companion to heretics”

"Let us begin, then, with the mad-house; from this evil and fantastic inn let us set forth on our intellectual journey"

(2) the author has recourse to a sort of “absurd reduction” in the second chapter (The Maniac) when he admits he’s the “the fool of the story”, in order to prove his point. He’s discovered a NEW PERSPECTIVE. It is as if an Englishman departed from his nation, by ship, to discover a new world; yet, unknowingly, he returns to his departure nation; he’s again on land, thinking he’s found a new one in the South Seas, and preparing to put the flag on the ground of Brighton; you can imagine how people are looking at him. “I am that man”; looking like a fool.

(3) Chesterton won’t provide you with a set of “serious deductions” rather: a mental picture. That’s his method.

The book was dedicated to his mother.

(Chesterton and wife)

UPDATE; beatification of Chesterton, why not?
Check here:

"A Most Unlikely Saint
The case for canonizing G. K. Chesterton, the bombastic man of letters and paradoxical militant for God"
in: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/a...

11th December 2016
Profile Image for Clare.
1,460 reviews307 followers
February 6, 2012

A complex work of great scope that I will need to read a few more times. Chesterton uses metaphors to explain the meaning of his theses, and the reader must work to comprehend what they signify on different levels. I find it amazing that this was first published in 1908. Its ideas refer to - but are so independent from - the philosophies of that time, as though it were written today looking back on them rather than their contemporary.

I'll not write a comprehensive review, but just wish to list some of the things that particularly impressed me on first reading. Chesterton asserts that the only fitting way for us to consider the world is with a sense of wonder. Thus the world of fairy-tales with its magic and mystery is closer to reality than the most naturalistic world described by science. I agree! I need to think about this some more.

Then rather than focusing on the limitations placed on us in the world, we should consider the greatness of the world that has been given to us - with this whole world at our disposal, is it not natural that there should be a limit, the very boundaries of which ensure that we can 'dance and play on the top of the hill without the worry of falling off the cliff' - boundaries which allow us to live most fully and without fear?

On another theme he asserts that the problem with contemporary literature is that it is often centred around extraordinary, strange protagonists who do even more strange things, and so the reader finds them uninteresting because they cannot relate to them. The classics, he counters, wrote about ordinary people who did extraordinary things, and so they are interesting and the reader can relate. The same thought had occurred to me when bored with a contemporary novel, why does the protagonist have to be so strange? And the contemporary stories I love I now realise are often based on an ordinary character who has the courage to do something extraordinary. This would be worth exploring further, an article perhaps.

And I loved the last chapters when he writes with wonder of the person of Jesus shown in the Gospels, a God who is not afraid to let his tears be seen, and sometimes his anger, and yet who has a certain shyness and reserve that gives him an intriguing, attractive depth. I've often thought the same.

And so many more ideas that I'll need to consider slowly...
Profile Image for Jamie.
147 reviews18 followers
November 20, 2009
I learned that the Orthodoxy of the Catholic faith is what keeps it (and the world) sane. It calls to us from our fairy tales while at the same time appealing to our logic.

I also learned why so many people, like C.S. Lewis, Scott Hahn, and J.R.R. Tolkien have made reference to G.K. Chesterton - he is brilliant. His mastery of the English language is second to none.

The only difficulty of this book is that it may come off as "high-brow" because it was written in the U.K. (and their English is different from American English) at the beginning of the 20th century. Once you can get past that, you will see how the words of our language make plain the Word of God.
Profile Image for Barnabas Piper.
Author 11 books937 followers
June 19, 2023
Chesterton expresses things about the faith that I have long felt and not been able to express. He is truly brilliant. This is a powerful book to help Christians and non-Christians alike understand the faith.
Profile Image for Chris Shank.
162 reviews139 followers
August 6, 2010
When I first started reading this book, I was dumbfounded, and I quickly sensed my vulnerability. I’m used to reading challenging authors who work hard to drop-kick your old paradigms and hold you teeth-down to the grinding concrete they’re speeding recklessly over in pursuit of truth. I can sense when an author is sliding towards sensationalism and theatrics in his attempt to convince readers that their life is a sham and essentially a waste of time. I even like it when authors do that, because I become so desensitized to it that much of authors’ fervent exhortation comes across my ‘reader’s-block’ as hardly a compunctive tickle. But Chesterton, called by Philip Yancey the ‘prophet of mirth’ for his playful manner, plays cat and mouse with his audience just about as well as I’ve ever experienced. He really spooked me initially, and though I think I finally fought my way out from under the crushing weight of some of HIS more untenable theses with some of my ideas intact, yet I’m not sure I’m the same person.

Chesterton makes you feel like you've never done any real thinking before this moment, or that until now you have been evading the truth all along to coddle your pet delusions. Remember those annoying kids from 3rd grade who would wait until you were resting your chin on your hand, and they’d ever so slightly bump your elbow, knocking out your chin rest? Well, I was one of those annoying kids, and I relished observing the resulting shift in balance that was enough to make the whole body jerk as it overcompensated to stay in charge. It is precisely in this way that Chesterton wakes a person from their philosophical stupor—by relentlessly poking at an idea that may not seem to underpin the whole system, but the whole comes crashing down to reveal what a small, unlikely, pitiful rivet held it all tenuously together. He is a jester that playfully and ironically disarms his opponents, then urbanely turns their own weapons against them to reveal the sharpness, or dullness, of their own points. There were times while reading that I found my arguments suddenly naked and defenseless before the might of even his most flippant, tongue-in-cheek remarks. I loved and hated it.

The reason why I hated it is obvious—it’s uncomfortable and cumbrous to get through because it’s so startlingly fresh and painfully alive—like rich blood to a sleepy limb. But he's fighting for us. He asserts our right as common men and women, mundane thinkers but strong in action, to make decisions befitting kings and queens of creation. We are born into a world that we must first be loyal to, because we are grateful, but we must also reform it into what it was meant to become. We have the right to dream, and we have the duty to act, and this is exactly what Chesterton's ideas free us to do. If there was ever a person that felt cowered by the giants of secular academics bloated with information, or left behind by the awful speed of cerebral athletes—then Chesterton is flying his beautiful banner of ideological democracy over you.

My more negative critique would touch on Chesterton's defense of Christianity as if it were the only thing of its type. In one sense it is, but only inasmuch as every religion is a unique blend of conservatism and progressivisim, of thinking and action, of love and truth. If Christianity is special as a balance of the gamut, then Bhudism/Islam can be thanked for being the extremes that help define the moderate, although I’m sure every belief system prefers to view itself as the mean and not the extreme. I'm not in agreement with the broad strokes which Chesterton paints non-Christian religions with, but I do love his idea of the perfectly balanced belief system (Christianity in his mind) being a precise balance of 'furious opposites'. This is nothing new in philosophical thought: Aristotle has his virtues, Hegel his dialectics, Jung his tension of opposites; but Chesterton's idea is somewhat original in that it preserves the full energy of his ‘opposites’ in equilibrium instead of abating their energies at an impasse.

I wasn’t sure about the title when I began this book, and I received different perspectives as to whether or not Chesterton meant it to be tongue-in-cheek. But, in my opinion, the author’s label is spot-on. It is an authentically orthodox perspective, but with an original expression of its rationale. There was nothing he espoused in the course of the book that wouldn’t accord with the Apostolic creed, or with a fundamentalist approach to faith. He describes his journey to discover faith as much nearer in actuality to a rediscovery of orthodoxy, much in the same way that a seafarer arrives back on his own continent of departure unawares, all the while thinking he discovered a new land. This work is indeed a reaffirmation of general orthodoxy (of Catholic doctrine more specifically), but his approach is extremely clever, having the power to make his audience appreciate the role of tradition and orthodoxy that may be already present in their lives.
In the end, I not only appreciated this book, but I felt that is was a wonderful reclamation of lost truth. Truth is not only discovered afar off through a telescope like a land we are journeying towards, but it is brought out from a back shelf and dusted off, dug up and unlocked from right beneath our feet. Truth is here! A Chesterton-like appreciation of orthodoxy, democracy, and tradition (all the same thing in his mind) might be in order for our generation of neophiles who are grasping for the far reaches of space, and losing what they have here to be crusted over with the slow deposit of forgetfulness and one day make rediscovery of local truth seem like landing in a new world.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books375 followers
January 7, 2022
“The drowsy stillness of the afternoon was shattered by what sounded to his strained senses like G.K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin.”

― P.G. Wodehouse


I read this book long ago and what's stayed with me is not the theology, but some psychology from his chapter titled "The Maniac."

Back in my early 20’s, I was involved in social ministry. Half one summer I spent shadowing a chaplain in a jail and the other at the very busy USC-LA County Hospital. I saw and participated in a lot of things at the hospital, in particular, including visiting a mental ward. I also knew a guy who snapped and ended up in one.

We think of people in that situation as incoherent. And there are many like that. But some can seem very coherent at first.

As you listen to them talk you get a detailed story, connecting one thing with another on a map more elaborate than a maze. It’s nuts because it has nothing to do with reality.

This is what I have been getting from my sister, a Trump supporter who doesn't think he lost. Only yesterday, I got a non-stop monologue from her that intricately explained everything, but did not have an ounce of truth in it. (e.g. Justice John Roberts is being blackmailed by a pedophile ring which explains his "liberal"decisions).

And the fact that she could not talk about anything else (books, TV) for long, but felt compelled to go back to her serpentine narrative, underlines her obsession. She's crazy.

As the saying goes: "A fanatic can't change his mind and won't change the subject"
Profile Image for MihaElla .
228 reviews359 followers
March 8, 2023
The Romance of Orthodoxy, or, so to say, there is faith in my honest doubt! :)

To a Christian existence is a STORY, which may end up in any way. In a thrilling novel (that purely Christian product) the hero is not eaten by cannibals; but it is essential to the existence of the thrill that he MIGHT be eaten by cannibals. The hero must (so to speak) be an eatable hero. So Christian morals have always said to the man, not that he would lose his soul, but that he must take care that he didn’t. In Christian morals, in short, it is wicked to call a man “dammed”: but it is strictly religious and philosophic to call him damnable.

It is very customary to complain of the strenuousness of reading when the text involves the word Orthodoxy , and this gives an apparent bustle of the intellect
Doubtless Chesterton is not the most scientific man, but still his phrases are used like scientific wheels to make swifter and smoother this very mysterious path, for some even comfortable, of the Orthodoxy . For me it was and still is a very good exercise to try to think for myself. How does that sound? Nice, isn’t it? :D
Having myself entangled in this new love affair with Chesterton, I realized that I can hardly go reading without having movements of the gray matter inside my skull, so I have discovered with a thrill of horror, but also delight, that I am obliged to think. Good heavens! Can anyone fancy a harder task?
Chesterton has no mercy! He is a fearfully unmerciful man. And trust me there is not much metaphysical subtlety when I say that in fact he is a damn’ unmerciful man. But I love him! :D

All Christianity concentrates on the man at the cross-roads. The vast and shallow philosophies, the huge syntheses of humbug, all talk about ages and evolution and ultimate developments. The true philosophy is concerned with the instant. Will a man take this road or that? – that is the only thing to think about, if you enjoy thinking. The aeons are easy enough to think about, any one can think about them. The instant is really awful: and it is because our religion has intensely felt the instant, that it has in literature dealt much with battle and in theology dealt much with hell. It is full of DANGER, like a boy’s book: it is at an immortal crisis.
[…] Life (according to the faith) is very like a serial story in a magazine: life ends with the promise (or menace) “to be continued in our next”. Also, with a noble vulgarity, life imitates the serial and leaves off at the exciting moment. For death is distinctly an exciting moment.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books598 followers
June 7, 2010
Chesterton was one of the premier Christian thinkers of his generation, fully engaged in the intellectual debates of his day (which turn out to be not much different from those of our own!). His writing is frequently characterized by love of paradox, exuberant humor, and intellectual rigor which can make his thought demanding to follow in places (a quality mitigated by his clear effort to tailor the presentation to the average educated reader). All of those qualities are in evidence here. It's also important to keep in mind the purpose of the book; he's not trying to lay out a universally rounded, all-bases-covered systematic apologia for Christianity. Rather, he sets himself the much more limited task of indicating the psychological processes behind his own initial and continued acceptance of Christian belief. He invites the reader to follow his thoughts and feelings; how much apologetic value they have will depend on the degree to which individual readers can relate to them. (The book is also not --though its title might create that impression-- an attempt to provide an exhaustive and "authoritative" hair-splitting definition of just what "orthodoxy" believes; which is fortunate, since I tend to be suspicious of and impatient with such attempts at rigid definition. :-))

As the Goodreads description of the book indicates, Chesterton makes it clear that his embrace of Christianity was not irrational as such; indeed, he characterizes himself as a "rationalist," and submits rational reasoning on behalf of Christian truth claims. But he also makes clear his conviction that the success of reasoning as an approach to truth is heavily dependent on its first premises, and that the latter can be as (or more) validly grasped by intuition as by reasoning alone. (More on this below.) Another very valid and important insight here, IMO, is the assertion that the acceptance of big ideas (such as Christianity, or any other worldview) is not usually the result of one intellectual tour-de-force of reasoning, but rather the gradual result of a myriad of observations and impressions from many areas of human experience, all finally recognized as tending in the same direction. (I would add that this latter point tends to reinforce my conviction that people usually are not "argued into" believing in Christianity. Dealing with honest intellectual questions about Christian evidences is legitimate and helpful, both for believers and non-believers, but I think people accept Christianity, if at all, when they're ready inside --psychologically, emotionally and morally-- to do so, and not before.)

It's impossible to summarize the thought of a nearly-300 page book in a short review. Some of Chesterton's major points, however, are that Christianity uniquely meets the paradox of apparently opposing human psychological needs; that the moral critique of the existing order implicit in the doctrine of the Fall provides both the psychological spur for social reform and a consistent ideal for reform to aim at, in ways that some of the rival philosophies do not; that philosophies based on negation necessarily wind up negating the basis for confidence in Reason itself; and that a priori rejection of all empirical evidence for the miraculous on the grounds of its metaphysical impossibility is the opposite (not the epitome!) of evidence-based investigation.

Critics of Christianity who aren't ready, in the sense I referred to above, to be convinced obviously won't be convinced by this book. This is particularly true of spokespersons for hate-based "New Atheism," a few of whom have generated trash talk about Orthodoxy based on a "I'll hold my nose and read this horrible #@1*&(: just so I can expose its infamy to the world" approach. That's not an approach that usually produces any results that are intellectually worth replying to; but it might be pertinent here to address a few howlers. First, Chesterton does not attack reason as such here; his factual demonstration that insane people are often rigorously "rational," given their premises, isn't designed to prove that reason itself necessarily leads to lunacy, but that reasoning based on false premises can support lunacy. Second, the role of his references to "fairies" in the chapter "The Ethics of Elfland" and elsewhere in the book are clearly metaphorical, used in much the same way that his contemporary Francis P. Church uses Santa Claus in his famous "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" editorial (which also makes the statement, "You might as well not believe in fairies!" :-)); they serve as symbolic embodiments of a dimension of reality that includes the mysterious, the affectional, the intangible and immeasurable, that melts the hard iron "practicalities." (It's a metaphor, of course, with a humorous cast; and fanatics of any stripe aren't psychologically well-equipped to appreciate either metaphor or, especially, humor.) Third, Chesterton's contrast of Zola and Torquemada, in one of his characteristic paradoxes, neither states nor suggests that the former was morally inferior to the latter --their relative merits aren't even the subject of the contrast!

The 1908 diction here is clear enough for the average modern reader, and the book is actually a fairly quick read, except where you have to take some time to digest the thought. Some British place names, and a few references to other writers/thinkers of Chesterton's day, will be unfamiliar to most modern American readers; but the substance of the thought, and the issues being dealt with, aren't at all dated. I would recommend the book highly to readers of all stripes who enjoy grappling with serious ideas and existential questions.
Profile Image for Douglas Wilson.
Author 273 books3,654 followers
May 22, 2013
I first read this in 1975. It was a life-saver then. Not sure how many times I have read it since, but Nancy and I just finished reading it aloud together (May 2013). Fantastic, as always.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
595 reviews573 followers
December 12, 2012

"Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true."

Certainly nothing is irrelevant to discussing Christianity when G.K. Chesterton writes a classic apologetics work. Orthodoxy is and is not a typical apologetics work. It defends the orthodox Christian world-view and it moreover discusses and reveals what Chesterton's own views and values were. As such Chesterton does not back away from discussing as broad a range of topics as possible. He moves from ideologies to science to philosophy and to literature both criticising and appraising other values, ultimately holding a sustained argument that discusses that, as he sees it, Christianity can be defended both logically and emotionally.

For those who ask whether such a book holds value today Chesterton can still defend himself. He defends with the subtle wit of a genius and he is a thinker who builds strong argument upon strong argument. "Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the 12th century, but is not credible in the 20th. You might as well believe that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays but not on Tuesdays." The same idea holds I believe for this book. It is applicable today as it was in the 1900s.

I've chosen a few chapters that particularly appealed to me and have tried to summarise what I saw in them of interest.

The Maniac

"'The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums ... Believing utterly in one's self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcoate: the man who has it has 'Hanwell' written on his face as plain as it is written on that omnibus.'
And to all this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, 'Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?'
After a long pause I replied, 'I will go home and write a book in answer to that question.' This is the book that I have written in answer to it."

In this second chapter, following a brief introduction, Chesterton explores the nature of madness. He challenges the idea which claims poets as being mad due to their artistic nature. It is not artistic endeavour which creates madness, Chesterton insists, it is too much reason.

"Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea and so make it finite."

There is a sense that Chesterton is setting up his argument to reveal first and foremost that the world we live in is one of both reason and wonder. He questions the nature of the world that we can both accept something as old and still find something new within it regularly. He does not aim to state that reason is bad, he later suggests that reasoning is important. However his argument is about reason without imagination or 'wonder.' For that is Chesterton's insanity that he argues about.

"It is the logician that seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits."

The flag of the world

Chesterton here discusses the idea of jingoism, relying on that as a concept for how people may approach the world. His argument is that as we all have various patriotic ties so too we may have patriotic ties that link to our worldviews. This idea is particularly extended to reveal that the jingo version of a view is one that does not actually love that which it claims to love. A jingo love for democracy does not actually love the people which it is meant to love but rather loves the idea of democracy in other words.

The Paradoxes of Christianity

This chapter was one of my favourites. I feel that Chesterton is at his best when utilising or discussing paradoxical situations. He appears to understand them better than any other author I've read. In this chapter Chesterton discussed his personal reaction to what he terms the paradoxes of Christianity. This being that Christianity is a bad religion because of the arguments made that a)its followers are too passive (due to the 'turn the other cheek' mentality) and also b)too violent (due to the crusades).

"This puzzled me; the charges seemed inconsistent. Christianity could not at once be the black mask on a white world, and also the white mask on a black world."

This discussion appealed to me because I think Chesterton highlighted a key point. The element of humanity involvement with any belief. Christianity as an ideal belief is pure, it is the hypocritical and double-thinking element of man which makes it into any paradoxical idea.


"We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars."

It appears to me that Chesterton's argument ultimately boils down into the call for a return to an orthodox faith which is practical theology. I feel that this belief is what is needed in today's sceptical world. Belief which can be used in reality.

"Christianity, even when watered down, is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags."

G.K. Chesterton may appear too condescending to some and too self-deprecating to others. I cannot help but wonder if he, the prince of paradox, would have found that somewhat amusing. On the whole however I find his writing to be full of wit, humour, irony, sarcasm and above all wisdom. His way of stating his opinions in a manner that is forceful and commanding and yet rarely resorts to dictatorial preaching is something I want to see more of in today's individuals. Surely the gift of defending one's beliefs has not died out in the past century and surely the gift of writing about and with paradox can be found in other authors? I surely hope so.

"If I say, 'A peasant saw a ghost,' I am told, 'But peasants are so credulous.' If I ask, 'Why credulous?' The only answer is - that they see ghosts."
Profile Image for Malakh.
52 reviews23 followers
October 22, 2021
Un libro brillante, obra de una mente enormemente libre e imaginativa, capaz de abordar grandes problemas mediante razonamientos sencillos sin caer en la arrogancia o la simplificación. Verdaderamente nos entrega unas lentes con las que ver y analizar el mundo que lo llenan de color y aventura. Y es que, en muchos sentidos, nunca deberíamos dejar de ser niños. En este libro, el pensamiento católico es presentado por Chesterton como una lúcida explicación de la realidad que no se reduce a un rígido esquema proyectado de forma artificial, sino que resuelve los problemas que se nos manifiestan como acertijos, asumiendo su carácter paradójico. Además, nos invita a afrontar la vida de forma alegre e inquieta, siempre dispuestos a descubrir nuevos misterios.

Tras esta primera lectura, voy a optar por no realizar una reseña más profunda, ya que pienso que el libro está plagado de reflexiones y pequeños detalles que puedo haber pasado por alto, como ocurre con aquellos duendes que sólo avistan los labradores. Aprovecharé el tiempo hasta la segunda leída para familiarizarme con Herejes, la obra precedente.
Profile Image for Skylar Burris.
Author 20 books238 followers
June 3, 2008
Chesterton is witty but dense; his reasoning requires concentration. If I am reading him and not paying close attention to the trajectory of his thought, I find myself saying, "What is he babbling about? What does this have to do with anything, let alone Christian orthodoxy?" If I am paying attention, however, I often find him extremely insightful, and I wish to highlight nearly ever line. I also find him quite contemporary; what he says seems to apply somehow to every age. This is not apologetics; it is not quite spiritual autobiography either. It is wit, and reason, and persuasion, and conversation. It's Chesterton. How else is there to put it? As an orthodox Christian who has sometimes struggled with the doctrines of my own faith, I found this work bolstering and refreshing and encouraging; I particularly liked his discussion of the importance of the doctrines of Trinity and Original Sin.
Profile Image for Stefania.
243 reviews25 followers
February 12, 2023
Volver a leer a Chesterton es como volver a ser feliz. Es el único escritor que consigue llenarme de un inocente y alegre entusiasmo por la vida. Es un ensayo único. Creo que debe leerse al menos una vez en la vida.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
124 reviews15 followers
April 26, 2011
Ah, Chesterton. You never cease to awaken me to the paradoxes and perplexities of life. The foremost being, "How can Christians actually like you when you're paradoxically narrow-minded and a god-awful writer to boot?" Life never ceases to amaze me.

So following is not my review of the book, but the "Ten Things I Hate About Chesterton." This was part of my Torrey notes when I actually had to read the book in school last year. After struggling through a monstrosity such as Orthodoxy, there was much need for catharsis.

10. He has an intermittent genius. This is why he gets two stars instead of one. He sees through a lot of garbage, but then as if to compensate he makes you wade through all his garbage. When he is right (about wonder, etc), you just want to strangle him for being so obtuse the rest of the time.

9. Everything HAS to be symbolic. Tombstones and ballots are marked by a cross (46)! OMG! I never realized it before! It's so deep! Thank God Chesterton lived too early to know about Laminin, or he would have had a field day. If there were swastikas in our blood, would Chesterton defend Nazism? Ok, probably not. If you're Chesterton, why wait for a pretext?

8. He likes the status quo. That's because he's an upper class, imperialist, white male. If he was one of the millions actively oppressed by orthodoxy (and if you want to get technical, for Chesterton Orthodoxy includes anything European)he would feel very different about defending the system.

7. He overused alliteration. Why does he compare two things in one of his pointless aphorisms? Because they sound alike and he thinks it's cute. For instance, Hell and Hanwell (not bedlam) on page 9.

6. He's uninformed. Sure, he'll admit when he's not the most qualified person to speak on a subject (6), but it's not like that stops him from giving his rant anyway. And he pretends to the authority of eternal truth. Worse, people believe him.

5. He's wordy. Overuse of the second person, filler adjectives (quite, really), meaningless phrases ("if I may say")--any high school student knows how these can clog up writing. If Chesterton cut the conversational tone and got right to the point his book would be half as long and twice as good. If only he had, I don't know, worked on a newspaper or somethin' maybe he would have picked up basic writing skills.

4. He's patronizing. Ah, those poor silly fellows who are so foolish as to disagree with Chesterton--and not merely Chesterton, I might add, but the full force of Christendom and (gasp!) WESTERN thought! How entertaining they are, and yet also worthy of eternal torture. (For it is not incompatible to mock the damned. A Christian combines all extremes. You always knew double-think was more than just Orwell being pessimistic, didn't you?) We are even respectful to our damnable detractors, not using their bare surnames, but even sticking a "Mr." in front, which gives the impression of a slight, ironical bow (17).

3. He speaks in aphorisms. Scan through a paragraph looking for the main argument, and you could easily end up highlighting, "Monkeys may throw bluebottles at sunset, but Christians SHALL not." Ok, this is not really from Chesterton. But this is: "Greek heroes do not grin: but gargoyles do--because they are Christian. And when a Christian is pleased, he is (in the most exact sense) frightfully pleased, his pleasure is frightful" (104). Does this make any sense? No. does it support the argument (whatever that is)? No. Does it sound clever. Uh, actually...no.

2. He keeps knocking perfectly good authors such as Nietzsche, Wilde, and Tolstoy. He ones remarks that for his opponents no stick is too bad to beat Christianity (89). We can see where they learned it. For Chesterton, no stick is too bad to beat Nietzsche. In Torrey, students have it drilled into their heads not to feel superior to geniuses because we are Christian and they are not. Apparently, no one ever gave that advice to Chesterton. Sometimes I wonder if he even understood Nietzsche...especially on 107 where he seems to completely miss the idea that rejecting labels such as "good" and "evil" means that you can't use those labels anymore. Oh, well. At least it's clearly ridiculous for Chesterton to criticize Nietzsche for hiding behind metaphors. Yeah, don't you just hate it, Chesterton, when authors disguise their lack of argument with flashy prose? Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to target you. Your prose is just bad.

And the number 1 reason to hate Chesterton is...

1. He equates "western" with "all goodness possible on earth." Orthodoxy doesn't quite come out and say "If the King James version was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me," but it comes pretty damn close. This man has never stopped to realize that he worships a Middle Eastern Jew. Sure, he's right to say Christianity is the only true religion. Where he goes wrong is assuming that every single aspect of European culture is superior to every single aspect of any other culture, and moreover that the difference points to a theological truth. Who cares if Buddhist saints have their eyes closed? If Christian saints did, you'd dredge up some reason to defend that.

Is it just me? I might think so, but when I recently spoke up at a lecture about what I saw as the flaws in Chesterton's worldview, it only took a few seconds for a girl sitting next to me to whisper, "I think Chesterton's racist too. Just because you're nice doesn't mean you have no misconceptions about other cultures." But she was too afraid to speak up.

This is why I ultimately can't be a thinking person and fully defend Chesterton. With a great imagination, he cuts himself off from so much symbolic richness by his narrowminded prejudice against all that is different. He seems to think that Athens brought glory to Jerusalem, instead of the other way around. And there I go with the mindless aphorisms...
Profile Image for Asclepiade.
133 reviews58 followers
June 17, 2019
Quand’ero piccolo, la Rai trasmetteva gli sceneggiati di Padre Brown, con Renato Rascel nella parte del protagonista; io ero troppo piccino per capire le vicende, ma trovavo simpatica la faccia di Renato Rascel, che a quei tempi, d’altronde, compariva spesso in televisione come ospite degli spettacoli di varietà: e i varietà di allora, benché in sé a volte non fossero nulla di straordinario, in rapporto a quelli odierni e recenti appaiono giganteschi capolavori estetici. Credo che in Italia lo scrittore inglese Gilbert Keith Chesterton sia tuttora famoso principalmente quale creatore di Padre Brown; ma in realtà egli fu autore prolifico di saggi e giornalista, famoso per il suo stile brillante, costellato di paradossi. Ortodossia fu ritenuto fin da subito come una delle sue opere più importanti, al punto che l’ammirarono anche parecchi suoi avversarî e detrattori: con un’esibizione sgargiante di richiami storici, facezie a raffica, paragoni arditi e gustosa ironia l’autore mette garbatamente in ridicolo molte posizioni ideologiche legate al materialismo, al marxismo, al razionalismo, all’irrazionalismo, alle applicazioni etiche o politiche delle teorie di Carlyle, di Nietzsche o di Darwin, contrapponendovi la ragionevolezza e l’equilibrio delle idee cristiane. Sebbene Chesterton, dapprima fedele anglicano, finisse per convertirsi al cattolicesimo, nel capitoli di questo libro non si riferisce a dottrine specificamente cattoliche, tanto che il testo potrebbe fungere da garbato lavoro apologetico accettabile tanto per un cattolico quanto per un protestante o un ortodosso: in effetti, è un’opera precedente di parecchi anni la conversione. Oltretutto, sebbene scrittore molto devoto, egli non aveva mai l’aria del predicatore o dell’apologeta cupo e aggressivo; né, bisogna dire, vagheggiava idee politiche reazionarie: da buon inglese, la democrazia ce l’aveva nel patrimonio genetico, e la difendeva con ardore paragonabile alle sue certezze religiose, assieme a posizioni per quei tempi molto progressiste, come i diritti delle donne. Com’è prevedibile in un testo vecchio di circa un secolo, si possono incontrare concezioni o definizioni che, alla luce di studî più recenti, non sapremmo accettare a cuor leggero, come avviene per la svalutazione della filosofia di Marco Aurelio o le affermazioni semplicistiche sulla religiosità degli antichi greci; ma si tratta, dopotutto, di peccatucci veniali e occasionali, che non riescono a sminuire il piacere d’una lettura divertente, gradevolissima, ennesima testimonianza della capacità che hanno gl’inglesi di scrivere con mani lievi anche e soprattutto riguardo a materie gravi, dove per esempio un autore italiano purtroppo si getterebbe a capofitto in uno scialo retorico di plumbea pesantezza.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
Author 1 book251 followers
March 21, 2020
See here for a chapter-by-chapter sketch of an audio version I listened to in 2020.

Available online. See Plodcast, Episode #7 and Episode #18.

My first Chesterton book. It was slow-going for the first few chapters, but I enjoyed it more as I went on. This book has come up again and again, and I really need to read through it again. Having interacted with it on a deeper level since the first time I read it, I think that I'd give it five stars if I read it again.

Here's Piper on why Chesterton's anti-Calvinism isn't completely off-putting. Here's N. D. Wilson on Chestertonian Calvinism.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 31 books490 followers
March 12, 2013
GK Chesterton, that huge and hilarious Christian, wrote two books which might be called, above all his others, masterpieces. One of them is his novel, The Man Who Was Thursday. The other is his apologetic filibuster (if I may use the word): Orthodoxy. I recommended this book to my sister the other day.

“If you’re studying apologetics,” I said, “you should really read Orthodoxy. Shouldn’t she, Justin?”

My brother paused. “If,” he said tentatively, “I could produce a marching band, a fireworks extravaganza, and a troupe of cheerleaders to second that suggestion, I would; but as it is, all I can do is…” and he gave two thumbs up.

Read the rest of my review at my blog, In Which I Read Vintage Novels
Profile Image for Matt.
Author 18 books1,051 followers
September 10, 2019
Chesterton is unmatched in his ability to express big thoughts in a big way. Same for his ability to turn a phrase—maybe even more impressive than Lewis in this respect. Parts of this book are somewhat esoteric and others are simply frustrating—he’s a Roman Catholic, after all, who isn’t a fan of the Reformation and who loathes Calvinism, which he sadly mistakes for robotic determinism. On the whole, though, the book is brilliant. Of course it’s dated in certain ways, but the most striking feature is precisely how undated—how prescient and timely—it consistently feels. The *opening* anecdote, for example, is about the bankruptcy of . . . believing in yourself. It’s like he’s writing, in 1908, a letter to 2019. I love Chesterton’s prose because it sparkles with substance and pulses with joy. What a sprawling, rickety, wild ride.
Profile Image for Omaira .
324 reviews143 followers
December 23, 2020
Siento que este año he cerrado un ciclo muy importante al leer a Chesterton. A finales del año pasado leí Cautivado por la Alegría, uno de los ensayos apologéticos cristianos de C. S. Lewis. En este breve ensayo, escrito a modo de cercana biografía, encontré distintas menciones a Gilbert Chesterton, pues fue una de las máximas influencias de C. S. Lewis en la cuestión teológica. En Cautivado por la Alegría, el creador del mundo de Narnia nos habla de su acercamiento a Dios. No voy a negar que me impresionó bastante el camino que este hombre recorrió hasta abrazar las creencias protestantes, pero no fue suficiente para propiciar mi salida del armario. Si bien es cierto que Lewis en muchos aspectos parecía más cercano al catolicismo, lo cierto es que jamás abandonó la Iglesia protestante. Lewis describía la Eucaristía como el bendito sacramento, se confesaba en privado (una práctica extremadamente excéntrica para un anglicano) y se opuso a la ordenación de mujeres con el argumento de que el sacerdote en el altar actúa in persona Christi y, además, creía en el purgatorio [más sobre las creencias de Lewis].

Estos aspectos son, en suma, interesantes y curiosos pero no dejaban de ser anecdóticos. En pocas palabras, había leído la conversión de un hombre a la religión cristiana protestante, pero no a la religión cristiana católica. Y eso, aunque aparentemente no tenga mucha importancia para mis lectores, con el tiempo he comprendido que sí fue determinante en un plano más personal.

En España hay un gran estigma hacia el catolicismo, bien sea por cuestiones históricas o porque la Iglesia va ligada a determinado signo político. No me apetece entrar en detalles en esta reseña, pero la verdad es que todos los prejuicios y diversas experiencias han supuesto para mi una barrera infranqueable desde agosto del 2017, que fue cuando se produjo mi despertar espiritual. Yo nunca había creído en Dios, e hice la comunión para que me regalaran la Nintendo DS y el vestirme de princesa. Pero luego crecí, y empecé a hacerme preguntas que me lanzaron a un materialismo reaccionario y radical. Cuando se produjo mi despertar espiritual me di cuenta de lo que esas ideas filosóficas estaban haciendo conmigo. Destruían cada ilusión que pudiera haber en mi ser, y reducían todas las cosas hermosas de este mundo a meros procesos mecánicos. Como el materialismo era uno con la ciencia, me preguntaba por qué una parte de mí me empujaba a cuestionar la ciencia, y así fue hasta que me di cuenta de que no todo lo que dice la ciencia tiene por qué ser cierto, obviando el hecho de que la ciencia no puede explicar todo. Al menos, no lo que yo siento en determinados momentos del día. Empecé a aceptar esa verdad cuando sostuve Ortodoxia entre mis manos, momentos antes de iniciar la lectura. Y me lancé.

Ortodoxia (Ortodoxy,1908) no es un mero ensayo apologético cristiano como los que escribió Lewis a lo largo de su vida. Ortodoxia es la mejor defensa que ha podido hacer un ser humano del catolicismo. A penas cuenta con doscientas diez páginas, pero cada página de este libro es de un valor incuantificable. Prácticamente he subrayado el libro entero.

Chesterton crea este ensayo a modo de respuesta a distintas personalidades de la época, que cuestionaron Herejes (Heretics, 1905) por ser demasiado crítico con las filosofías de su tiempo, pero sin ofrecer soluciones alternativas. Aquí Chesterton pone remedio a la cuestión. Pero Chesterton no acomete la empresa empezando por el tejado. Chesterton comienza con una sencilla conversación con su editor en la que, por descuido, éste hace mención a una de esas máximas sociales que rozan el optimismo descerebrado. Ten fe en ti mismo. Chesterton, pluma en mano, está dispuesto a desafiar esta afirmación, pues a pesar de ser tan breve dice más sobre la sociedad moderna de lo que uno en un primer momento pensaría. Para Chesterton esta fe en uno mismo hace referencia a la ausencia de Dios de la ecuación de la FE y allana el terreno a las atrayentes filosofías modernas que, para Chesterton, son de una simplicidad insultante. Y es que el mundo de principios del siglo XX creer en Dios comenzaba a ser algo cada vez más normal, y en el mismo lenguaje podemos ver cómo este mundo va cambiando sin darnos a penas cuenta.

El cristianismo tiene suficiente libertad para creer que el universo se da una considerable cantidad de orden y de desarrollo inevitable. En cambio, al materialismo no se le permite admitir ni un átomo de espiritualismo o de milagro en su inmaculada maquinaria […]. El cristiano admite que el universo es múltiple e incluso misceláneo […]. Cualquier persona cuerda sabe que tiene un poco de animal, un poco de diablo, un poco de santo y un poco de ciudadano; es más, cualquier persona que esté verdaderamente cuerda sabrá que tiene un toque de locura. En cambio, el mundo materialista es tan sólido y simple como el del loco que está convencido de ser cuerdo. El materialista está seguro de que la historia ha sido lisa y llanamente una concatenación de causas y efectos, igual que aquel individuo al que aludimos antes está convencido lisa y llanamente de ser un pollo. Los locos y los materialistas no dudan nunca.

El autor prosigue con su defensa en El suicidio del pensamiento, donde desmenuza aún más las doctrinas filosóficas modernas, su naturaleza y su estatus de “revolucionarias”:

El revolucionario moderno duda no solo de las instituciones a las que denuncia, sino de la doctrina en la que se basa para denunciarlas […] . Un pesimista ruso denunciará a un policía por matar a un campesino, y luego demostrará, basándose en los principios filosóficos más elevados, que el campesino tendría que haberse suicidado […]. El revolucionario moderno, en suma, se ha convertido en un escéptico absoluto y se pasa el día minando sus propias minas. En sus libros sobre política ataca a los hombres por pisotear la moralidad; en sus libros sobre ética ataca la moralidad por pisotear a los hombres. El resultado es que el rebelde moderno se ha vuelto incapaz de cualquier forma de rebeldía. Al rebelarse contra todo ha perdido el derecho de rebelarse contra nada

En el tercer capítulo hace referencia a los cuentos de hadas, donde Chesterton encuentra mucha más verdad que en los poetastros modernos, que con su efusivo amor a la naturaleza solo demuestran que no conocen la naturaleza y que, además, la sobreestiman:

La bella y la bestia nos dice que hay que amar las cosas antes de ser amables[…]La bella durmiente nos dice que los seres humanos reciben muchas bendiciones el día que llegan al mundo, pero también la maldición de la muerte, y que la muerte tal vez pueda aliviarse con un sueño[…]Lo verdaderamente curioso es que el pensamiento moderno contradecía las creencias fundamentales de mi infancia en dos puntos esenciales[…].En primer lugar, que el mundo es un lugar absurdo y sorprendente, que podría haber sido diferente, pero resulta bastante placentero tal y como es[…].Es posible que Dios le diga todas las mañanas al Sol: “Hazlo otra vez”, y cada noche le diga a la Luna lo mismo. Tal vez las margaritas se parecen entre sí, no por una necesidad automática, sino porque Dios las hace por separado y nunca se cansa de hacerlas. Cabe la posibilidad de que comparta el eterno apetito por la infancia, pues nosotros hemos pecado y envejecido y nuestro Padre es más joven que nosotros[…].Pero el pensamiento moderno también chocó con la segunda de mis creencias. Contradecía mi intuición de los límites estrictos que rigen el país de las hadas […]. Es una futilidad argumentar que el hombre es pequeño en comparación con el cosmos, pues el hombre siempre ha sido pequeño en comparación hasta con el árbol más próximo.

Y concluye este capítulo resumiendo las cuatro ideas fundamentales; a saber que el mundo no se explica a si mismo y que puede que se trate de un milagro o de un truco de magia. En segundo lugar, que ese truco de magia es obra de alguien y que ese truco debe significar algo para él. En tercer lugar, que el propósito del hacedor debía ser hermoso a pesar de los defectos del resultado. Y, en cuarto lugar, que la verdadera forma de dar gracias por este mundo es demostrando humildad y dominio de uno mismo: “Debemos dar gracias a Dios por la cerveza y el borgoña no bebiendo demasiado”.

Así pasamos al quinto capítulo, uno de los más interesantes de este ensayo, en el que Chesterton habla de como el ser humano arroja una visión del mundo según la lente que decida poner, y que hay que trascender la visión condenadamente positivista y la visión condenadamente pesimista para ver el mundo tal cual es.

Había encontrado un asidero en el mundo: el hecho de que uno debe encontrar el modo de amarlo sin confiar en él, de amar al mundo sin ser mundano[…]El optimismo cristiano se basa en el hecho de que no encajamos en el mundo. Yo había intentado ser feliz diciéndome que el hombre es un animal como cualquier otro, y a partir de entonces pude serlo de verdad al descubrir que el hombre es una monstruosidad.

Los siguientes cuatro capítulos los dedica a la defensa del cristianismo y a analizar los principales argumentos de los detractores y a finiquitar con las criticas de las filosofías modernas, haciendo mención además a las religiones orientales, que conservan bastantes puntos en común con los pensamientos nihilistas del momento.

A pesar de que hasta el momento había disfrutado muchísimo del ensayo, los últimos cuatro capítulos borraron cualquier rastro de escepticismo que pudiera tener. Pues Chesterton, con sus nobles palabras, me acercó a Dios.

Es fácil ser un loco o un hereje. Casi siempre es fácil dejarse arrastrar por la corriente de la época; lo difícil es no perder el rumbo. Siempre es fácil ser un modernista, como lo es ser esnob. Habría sido muy sencillo caer en cualquiera de las trampas equivocas y exageradas que una moda tras otra y una secta tras otra pusieron en el camino histórico del cristianismo. Caer es fácil: hay una infinidad de ángulos en los que es posible dar en tierra y solo uno para seguir en pie”.

“La doctrina más pasada de moda resultó ser la única salvaguarda de las nuevas democracias de la Tierra. La doctrina más impopular resultó ser la única fuerza del pueblo. En suma, descubrimos que la única negación lógica de la oligarquía era la afirmación del pecado original.

Gracias, Chesterton. Por todo.

La alegría, que era el ínfimo reclamo publicitario del pagano, es el gigantesco secreto del cristiano.
Profile Image for Regina Doman.
Author 31 books480 followers
September 22, 2008
One of the three most influential books in my life outside the Bible. This book would have made me Catholic, if I wasn't already. It also kept me a Catholic, as I was on my way out of the Church before I read it. It confirmed me in my Catholic faith, made the Church make sense for the first time, and set me on the way I'm still traveling. It gave me a vision for where I was and where I was going. I'm still on my way.
Profile Image for Tom LA.
604 reviews234 followers
August 23, 2019
I’ve read the “Word on Fire” beautiful grey hardcover edition. It was the first time I read this book, and it is without a doubt one of the very best books I’ve ever read. One of the top 5. And I’ve read many.

The number of very profound psychological insights in this book is astounding. The overarching one is the concept of coexisting opposites. While being a characteristic trait of Christianity, this is also a very typical trait of human existence: our lives are a constant dance between simultaneous opposites. Chesterton says that Christianity allows these opposites to flourish, each in its own dimension, without asking us to compromise in the middle. Love of white and red, but a healthy hatred of pink.

While making me think of Christianity under very original, deep, poetic and new perspectives (despite having been written in 1908!), I found Orthodoxy to be very close to a spiritual experience. It’s given me an immense amount of joy. Beat that, other authors...
Profile Image for K.M. Weiland.
Author 33 books2,334 followers
February 21, 2015
The title belies the true depth and value of this book. Chesterton writes, ostensibly, to share his own conclusions about why Christianity is true and worth following. But the book is so much bigger than that, just as it is so much more intimate than a mere treatise on orthodoxy. Chesterton offers clarity of thought and imagination and wit. Every single page offers something interesting and new to chew on. I’ll be returning to this one over and over.
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