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Orthodoxy -- G. K. Chesterton
Written by Mike Noel   
Thursday, 10 March 2011


Orthodoxy is one of those books that has developed some legend around it.  References to this little book pop up all over the place in Christian literature as if everyone who is anyone has read the book.  It always receives high praise.  So much so that the praise is simply assumed and never stated.  After reading this I too sense the richness of the book.  One time through is not enough.

If we consider Lewis to be the first layer of the apologetics onion then Chesterton is the second layer. A little stronger.  A little denser.  And certainly a little less obvious.  But this book is excellent. 

One thing that must be said right from the start is that Orthodoxy is metaphorical.  All throughout the book Chesteron relies on metaphor to make his point.  The logical rigor and abstract philosophy that Lewis brings to his works is just not there.  This can make the book either better or worse, depending on your likes.  As for myself, I simply took it for what it was.

I believe the Chesterton constantly resorted to metaphor simply because he is a poet.  By that I don't necessarily mean that he writes verse, I mean that he expresses passion and life through the use of words and word pictures.   Therefore, using metaphor is the natural way for him to make his point.

Metaphor aside, Chesterton's writing style is witty and interesting.  He is the kind of character who seems larger than life but with a solid head on his shoulders.  It seems that one of his favorite tricks is leading the reader down the garden path only to find that it ends somewhere distinctly not in the garden.  He repeats a lot of "good sounding" things as if he believes them and then takes a left turn to say, "of course the facts don't support any of this." 

I recognized many of the statements and philosophies that I've been hearing for years in his book.  For example, he addresses the fallacy that all the world's religions are essentially the same and differ only in the superficial stuff.  He also rejects the myth about how Christianity is only believed by ignorant, non-progressive people.  Several other common arguments are addressed.  It is surprising to realize that he wrote this book over 100 years ago and the issues are still the same.

The book is subtle and detailed.  There is much that I didn't understand the first time through and I will have to read it again.  My favorite chapter was the last one.  It was the clearest and most straight-forward.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a little mental adventure thinking about religion and humanity.