Tuesday Apr 30, 2024

THE EVERLASTING MAN by G. K. Chesterton, Book 2, Chapter 6b

THE EVERLASTING MAN by Gilbert Kyle Chesterton

Part Two: On The Man Called Christ

Chapter Six: The Five Deaths of the Faith

Gilbert Kyle Chesterton remains one of the great voices of Christian faith in the last century, and it is a tragedy that more Christians are not familiar with his work. C. S. Lewis credits Chesterton, and in particular The Everlasting Man, with displaying the rationality of the Christian worldview par excellence to him, though it was not one work alone that changed his mind, but a progressive development away from atheism and toward God, that Lewis discusses.

I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.

It was while in the army in WWI that Lewis said:

It was here that I first read a volume of Chesterton's essays. I had never heard of him and had no idea of what he stood for; nor can I quite understand why he made such an immediate conquest of me. It might have been expected that my pessimism, my atheism, and my hatred of sentiment would have made him to me the least congenial of all authors. It would almost seem that Providence, or some "second cause" of a very obscure kind, quite over-rules our previous tastes when It decides to bring two minds together. Liking an author may be as involuntary and improbable as falling in love. I was by now a sufficiently experienced reader to distinguish liking from agreement. I did not need to accept what Chesterton said in order to enjoy it.... For the critics who think Chesterton frivolous or "paradoxical" I have to work hard to feel even pity; sympathy is out of the question. Moreover, strange as it may seem, I liked him for his goodness. I can attribute this taste to myself freely (even at that age) because it was a liking for goodness which had nothing to do with any attempt to be good myself. I have never felt the dislike of goodness which seems to be quite common in better men than me.... It was a matter of taste: I felt the "charm" of goodness as a man feels the charm of a woman he has no intention of marrying. It is, indeed, at that distance that its "charm" is most apparent.

It seems as though Lewis himself took up this "charm" when he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia years later, introducing the real-world content of the Gospel message in a digestible form for those who might not wish to taste it full strength, and thus avoiding the censor.

In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere--"Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.

This is a point that motivates ALL of our work here on Simple Gifts ... ALL of God's creation, and thus all of man's best creative efforts, when properly understood point us to the Creator. For Lewis, one work in particular was the proverbial "straw":

Then I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense. Somehow I contrived not to be too badly shaken. You will remember that I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive "apart from his Christianity". Now, I veritably believe, I thought--I didn't of course say; words would have revealed the nonsense--that Christianity itself was very sensible "apart from its Christianity".

We present here this text with the hope that the effect might be reproduced in others, too.



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