Chesterton's Orthodoxy as the Antidote to Modernity

Celebrations of G.K. Chesteron’s birthday resulted in my finding this interesting take from Matthew Lee Anderson on Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.  He makes the somewhat tongue-in-cheek argument for the book as “the most important work of the twenty-first century” (even thought it was written in the twentieth):

Cover of "Orthodoxy"
Cover of Orthodoxy

Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, then, differs from Lewis’ Mere Christianity precisely in its attempt to ground Christianity not in the propositions of natural law, but in the elemental human and artistic experiences that we begin to neglect as we grow old. It is an attempt, dare I say, to defend and engender a faith that exudes wonder and astonishment at the mystery of reality. But Chesterton had told us as much at the beginning. Orthodoxy is not a “series of deductions,” as he says at the outset, but an attempt “in a vague and personal way, in a set of mental pictures, to state the philosophy in which [he has] come to believe.”

It is this approach that I would argue is perfectly suited for our post-modern age. Chesterton is the anti-Nietsche—a poet-philosopher who understands that unless truth exists, the enterprises of art and beauty are rendered meaningless. What’s more, his method is consistent with his argument: he artistically defends the existence of the truth and grounds Christianity in the pre-rational experience of story without jeopardizing truth’s existence or fallaciously opposing reason and emotion.

I will confess to never having finished Orthodoxy (having briefly started it on a few occasions) and I am not a big fan of Mere Christianity (for which I might lose my conservative evangelical card).  But this makes me want to read both books through this lens.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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