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Chesterton, The Everlasting Man > Week 7: Chapers V - Conclusion

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message 1: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Chapter V: The Escape from Paganism

“It is rather ridiculous to ask a man just about to be boiled in a pot and eaten, at a purely religious feast, why he does not regard all religions as equally friendly and fraternal” Now I burst out laughing reading this sentence, and it is so true. And the political correctness to which our culture has deteriorated to has made this even more poignant.

One of the aspects of the differences Chesterton points out is that in the West we associate ethics as an integral part of religion, as a matter of fact, religion without ethics and morality is inconceivable to the Western mind. So we naturally project this to other religions, when in fact this is not always the case. He has Eastern religions mostly in mind here. So my question is, can an Eastern religion really be called a religion? Don’t we have two definitions here using the same word?

He comes back to the uniqueness of the Church, that no other belief system has anything equivalent. “What that universal yet fighting faith brought into the world was hope.” Again, we are so used to the fact that our faith brings us hope that we often forget how unique this is. The other unique concept of Western thought and fully developed within Christian thought is free will.
There will be no end to the weary debates about liberalizing theology, until people face the fact that the only liberal part of it is really the dogmatic part. If dogma is incredible, it is because it is incredibly liberal. If it is irrational, it can only be in giving us more assurance of freedom than is justified by reason. The obvious example is that essential form of freedom which we call free will.”

“What the denouncer of dogma really means is not that dogma is bad; but rather that dogma is too good to be true.”

“The moral of all this is an old one; that religion is revelation. In other words, it is a vision, and a vision received by faith; but it is a vision of reality. The faith consists in a conviction of its reality.”

“The Catholic faith is the reconciliation because it is the realization both of mythology and philosophy. It is a story and in that sense one of a hundred stories; only it is a true story.”

Chapter VI: The Five Deaths of Faith

This chapter concentrates on the fact that Christianity is a living faith that gets reborn again and again. Chesterton talks about how “the ancient world had an air of being too old to die.” If I understand him correctly, he is talking about religious or philosophical dead ends. They don’t carry a person any further or higher, there is no hope.

Over the course of the past 2,000 years Christianity waxed and waned even within traditional Christendom. The faith seemed to get tired and then we see a renewed spurt of inspiration and the faith is reborn with renewed fervor. This in many ways is a very hopeful message for us today, as we have seen our faith diminish and being relegated to the private sphere. Many people don’t even have a concept of who or what God is. Yet there is always hope, and this hope is irresistible.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”


Chesterton does a recap of the book and wonders whether he accomplished what he set out to do. I think he did very well. Some aspects may have been a bit Victorian in its wordiness, and some clash with today’s sensitivities. It doesn’t take away from the fact that he is right about Christianity.
”If it were an error, it seems as if the error could hardly lasted a day. If it were a mere ecstasy, it would seem that such an ecstasy could not endure for an hour. It had endured for nearly two thousand years; and the world within it has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable in its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death, than all the world outside. For it was the soul of Christendom that came forth from the incredible Christ; and the soul of it was common sense. Though we dared not look on His face we could look on His fruits; and by His fruits we should know.”

What were your overall impressions of the book?

message 2: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
I'm just starting part 2. I have found this book very interesting. I may quibble with Chesterton with some supporting justification, but I find his overarching points to be spot on. More detail from me will follow as I read further.

Thanks for doing a great job moderating Kerstin.

message 3: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Thanks, Manny.

message 4: by Kerstin (last edited May 01, 2018 06:31AM) (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
A quick note:
This week we'll be wrapping up the discussion on Chesterton "officially." As always, all discussion threads will remain open for anyone who needs more time to finish. There is no rush and no time limit.

message 5: by Joseph (new)

Joseph (jsaltal) | 1 comments Would this be the best book to start with if someone has not read a book by Chesterton before?

message 6: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
I've only read Orthodoxy aside from this one, and I think it is a bit easier.

Perhaps there are others in the group who can chime in :)

message 7: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Joseph wrote: "Would this be the best book to start with if someone has not read a book by Chesterton before?"

Joseph, I absolutely loved Orthodoxy. The Everlasting Man is very good too. I don't know if it matters which one is best to start with.

message 8: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Also the novel The Man Who was Thursday is a good novel, if you want to start with a novel. I enjoyed it. I hear that his biographies of St. Frances is Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas are excellent, but I have not read them to give you a personal opinion.

message 9: by John (new)

John Seymour | 167 comments Joseph wrote: "Would this be the best book to start with if someone has not read a book by Chesterton before?"

FWIW, I thought Orthodoxy was a better read than this. I think his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas is first rate. While I did not enjoy The Man Who was Thursday, I have recently read a number of the Father Brown mysteries and they are excellent.

message 10: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 692 comments I just joined this group, after two months on the Catholic Book Club Discussion Group. So much to read from both groups! Oddly, I had been revisiting Chesterton (I loved the Fr. Brown books in high school), reading some C.S. Lewis, and was actually looking for a Chesterton discussion group when I began The Everlasting Man just this last spring. So here I am a little late with my two cents, but I found Chesterton's explication of why only God could redeem sinful mankind by becoming one of us. I was overwhelmed with his argument, and of course, had to really dig my way through some of his arguments--complexity in overdrive but flawless reasoning. I would love to find a Christian apologist with the same arguments but more accessible to the modest reader (some of whom I wish would hear the case he makes). Anyone? I have begun reading Heretics, but here and there, as I tend to read 3 or 4 books at a time.

message 11: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Welcome Madeline. I am so glad you joined us. Make yourself at home and look through our discussion boards. There's a place for an introduction, if you would like to say something about yourself.

Yes, I agree with you. Chesterton is explaining why man is special because God has made him special, and though man is sinful in a way that other creatures aren't, is redeemed.

We are currently reading Dante's Purgatorio. We're not very far in, so it would not be difficult to catch up.

message 12: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 692 comments Oh, and I gave my college copy of Dante, highlighted with notes, to my grandson. I can get another but it would have been interesting to look back! This is a busy month for us, but I'll see what I can do--Dante was amazing then, and definitely worth another study!

Thank you for including me!

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