Friday, November 21, 2008

Orthodoxy Still Kickin' It At 100

One of the most thrilling works of Christian biography, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, was published 100 years ago. I say “thrilling” because Chesterton’s style of writing and journey into the faith make for very enjoyable and enlightening reading. Often frustrating to hard-core philosophers, and hard to read for many modern Americans, the book remains a classic, and a must-read classic at that. The truths put across are timeless and Chesterton’s wit is without peer in our world today.

In honor of the 100th birthday, I thought it would be fun to quote some of the gems in the book. Before I get specific, however, one “large picture” issue struck me over and over. As a Christian, Chesterton knew his culture so well he was able to quote its movers and shakers in almost every conceivable field of influence, understand them to a rather profound degree, and then skewer them. And all this in a daily newspaper. We need these people again.

As Chesterton opens the book, he apologizes for foisting another book on the public. But this one was asked for. After writing Heretics and attacking other popular philosophies, he was challenged to defend his own. Thus Orthodoxy was born. His fundamental defense was this:

“I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me….I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it.”

Coming to faith in Christ was not a triumph on his part, it was coming home to the truth he was made to find. In many ways, this is the doctrine of grace. We do not construct the truth of the Gospel, we are given, by God’s prevenient grace, the blessedness of seeing it. God made it; we accept it.

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