by G. K. Chesterton


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Orthodoxy (1908) is a book by G. K. Chesterton that has become a classic of Christian apologetics.

Chesterton considered this book a companion to his other work, Heretics. In the book's preface Chesterton states the purpose is to "attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it."

In it, Chesterton presents an original view of Christian religion. He sees it as the answer to natural human needs, the "answer to a riddle" in his own words, and not simply as an arbitrary truth received from somewhere outside the boundaries of human experience.

The book was written when Chesterton was an Anglican. He converted to Catholicism 14 years later. The title, Orthodoxy, is meant to avoid such sectarian questions.

There are nine chapters:

1. Introduction in Defense of Everything Else

2. The Maniac

3. The Suicide of Thought

4. The Ethics of Elfland

5. The Flag of the World

6. The Paradoxes of Christianity

7. The Eternal Revolution

8. The Romance of Orthodoxy

9. Authority and the Adventurer

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781511912846
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 04/27/2015
Series: Jefferson Publication
Pages: 106
Sales rank: 44,251
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (29 May 1874 - 14 June 1936) better known as G. K. Chesterton, was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox."
Chesterton is well known for his reasoned apologetics. Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. He was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic theologian and apologist, debater, and mystery writer.

Read an Excerpt


The Romance of Faith

By G. K. Chesterton

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57567-345-5


Introduction: In Defence of Everything Else

The only possible excuse for this book is that it is an answer to a challenge. Even a bad shot is dignified when he accepts a duel. When some time ago I published a series of hasty but sincere papers, under the name of "Heretics," several critics for whose intellect I have a warm respect (I may mention specially Mr. G. S. Street) said that it was all very well for me to tell everybody to affirm his cosmic theory, but that I had carefully avoided supporting my precepts with example. "I will begin to worry about my philosophy," said Mr. Street, "when Mr. Chesterton has given us his." It was perhaps an incautious suggestion to make to a person only too ready to write books upon the feeblest provocation. But after all, though Mr. Street has inspired and created this book, he need not read it. If he does read it, he will find that in its pages I have attempted in a vague and personal way, in a set of mental pictures rather than in a series of deductions, to state the philosophy in which I have come to believe. I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.

I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one's self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?

To show that a faith or a philosophy is true from every standpoint would be too big an undertaking even for a much bigger book than this; it is necessary to follow one path of argument; and this is the path that I here propose to follow. I wish to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance. For the very word "romance" has in it the mystery and ancient meaning of Rome. Any one setting out to dispute anything ought always to begin by saying what he does not dispute. Beyond stating what he proposes to prove he should always state what he does not propose to prove. The thing I do not propose to prove, the thing I propose to take as common ground between myself and any average reader, is this desirability of an active and imaginative life, picturesque and full of a poetical curiosity, a life such as western man at any rate always seems to have desired. If a man says that extinction is better than existence or blank existence better than variety and adventure, then he is not one of the ordinary people to whom I am talking. If a man prefers nothing I can give him nothing. But nearly all people I have ever met in this western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable. It is this achievement of my creed that I shall chiefly pursue in these pages.

But I have a peculiar reason for mentioning the man in a yacht, who discovered England. For I am that man in a yacht. I discovered England. I do not see how this book can avoid being egotistical; and I do not quite see (to tell the truth) how it can avoid being dull. Dulness will, however, free me from the charge which I most lament; the charge of being flippant. Mere light sophistry is the thing that I happen to despise most of all things, and it is perhaps a wholesome fact that this is the thing of which I am generally accused. I know nothing so contemptible as a mere paradox; a mere ingenious defence of the indefensible. If it were true (as has been said) that Mr. Bernard Shaw lived upon paradox, then he ought to be a mere common millionaire; for a man of his mental activity could invent a sophistry every six minutes. It is as easy as lying; because it is lying. The truth is, of course, that Mr. Shaw is cruelly hampered by the fact that he cannot tell any lie unless he thinks it is the truth. I find myself under the same intolerable bondage. I never in my life said anything merely because I thought it funny; though of course, I have had ordinary human vainglory, and may have thought it funny because I had said it. It is one thing to describe an interview with a gorgon or a griffin, a creature who does not exist. It is another thing to discover that the rhinoceros does exist and then take pleasure in the fact that he looks as if he didn't. One searches for truth, but it may be that one pursues instinctively the more extraordinary truths. And I offer this book with the heartiest sentiments to all the jolly people who hate what I write, and regard it (very justly, for all I know) as a piece of poor clowning or a single tiresome joke.

For if this book is a joke it is a joke against me. I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before. If there is an element of farce in what follows, the farce is at my own expense; for this book explains how I fancied I was the first to set foot in Brighton and then found I was the last. It recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious. No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne. 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. I did strain my voice with a painfully juvenile exaggeration in uttering my truths. And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine. When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion. The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.

It may be that somebody will be entertained by the account of this happy fiasco. It might amuse a friend or an enemy to read how I gradually learnt from the truth of some stray legend or from the falsehood of some dominant philosophy, things that I might have learnt from my catechism—if I had ever learnt it. There may or may not be some entertainment in reading how I found at last in an anarchist club or a Babylonian temple what I might have found in the nearest parish church. If any one is entertained by learning how the flowers of the field or the phrases in an omnibus, the accidents of politics or the pains of youth came together in a certain order to produce a certain conviction of Christian orthodoxy, he may possibly read this book. But there is in everything a reasonable division of labour. I have written the book, and nothing on earth would induce me to read it.

I add one purely pedantic note which comes, as a note naturally should, at the beginning of the book. These essays are concerned only to discuss the actual fact that the central Christian theology (sufficiently summarized in the Apostles' Creed) is the best root of energy and sound ethics. They are not intended to discuss the very fascinating but quite different question of what is the present seat of authority for the proclamation of that creed. When the word "orthodoxy" is used here it means the Apostles' Creed, as understood by everybody calling himself Christian until a very short time ago and the general historic conduct of those who held such a creed. I have been forced by mere space to confine myself to what I have got from this creed; I do not touch the matter much disputed among modern Christians, of where we ourselves got it. This is not an ecclesiastical treatise but a sort of slovenly autobiography. But if any one wants my opinions about the actual nature of the authority, Mr. G. S. Street has only to throw me another challenge, and I will write him another book.


The Maniac

Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world; they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true. Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it. The publisher said of somebody, "That man will get on; he believes in himself." And I remember that as I lifted my head to listen, my eye caught an omnibus on which was written "Hanwell." I said to him, "Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums." He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums. "Yes, there are," I retorted, "and you of all men ought to know them. That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself. That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself. If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter. Actors who can't act believe in themselves; and debtors who won't pay. It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he believes in himself. Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness. Believing utterly in one's self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcote: the man who has it has 'Hanwell' written on his face as plain as it is written on that omnibus." And to all this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, "Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?" After a long pause I replied, "I will go home and write a book in answer to that question." This is the book that I have written in answer to it.

But I think this book may well start where our argument started—in the neighbourhood of the madhouse. Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

In this remarkable situation it is plainly not now possible (with any hope of a universal appeal) to start, as our father did, with the fact of sin. This very fact which was to them (and is to me) as plain as a pikestaff, is the very fact that has been specially diluted or denied. But though moderns deny the existence of sin, I do not think that they have yet denied the existence of a lunatic asylum. We all agree still that there is a collapse of the intellect as unmistakable as a falling house. Men deny hell, but not, as yet, Hanwell. For the purpose of our primary argument the one may very well stand where the other stood. I mean that as all thoughts and theories were once judged by whether they tended to make a man lose his soul, so for our present purpose all modern thoughts and theories may be judged by whether they tend to make a man lose his wits.

It is true that some speak lightly and loosely of insanity as in itself attractive. But a moment's thought will show that if disease is beautiful, it is generally some one else's disease. A blind man may be picturesque; but it requires two eyes to see the picture. And similarly even the wildest poetry of insanity can only be enjoyed by the sane. To the insane man his insanity is quite prosaic, because it is quite true. A man who thinks himself a chicken is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad. It is only because we see the irony of his idea that we think him even amusing; it is only because he does not see the irony of his idea that he is put in Hanwell at all. In short, oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dullness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the center is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of today discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.


Excerpted from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. Copyright © 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

I Introduction in Defence of Everything Else

II The Maniac

III The Suicide of Thought

IV The Ethics of Elfland

V The Flag of the World

VI The Paradoxes of Christianity

VII The Eternal Revolution

VIII The Romance of Orthodoxy

IX Authority and the Adventurer

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Whenever I feel my faith going dry again, I wander to a shelf and pick up a book by G. K. Chesterton." —-Philip Yancey

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Orthodoxy 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 72 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Chesterton became my favorite author of all-time after I picked up this title about six months ago. While I would describe this book as 'dense' (in that it took me a long time to read it given its content), it is by far the most rewarding book I've read. In this Christian apologetic classic, Chesterton tackles a variety of issues and uses amazing language abilities (such a metaphor) to drive home his points. One of my favorite passages reads: 'Because children have abounding vitality...they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again' and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun and every evening 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them.' He is very quotable and this book will get your reaching for not only more Chesterton titles, but the Bible as well! It has been a blessing to me, so I encourage all of you to read this indispensible classic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is not at all what I expected when I bought it. I was expecting a discussion and, perhaps, an explanation of the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church. This book is actually an account of Chesterton's journey of faith. The style of writing, being very "old-fashioned" could be a little difficult to follow and distracting. (The book was written about 100 years ago.) That said, I was surprised at how current the topics and concerns were. When you got "into it" the book had a lot to say and was very informative. I would definitely recommend it to those who had done a bit of studying and reading about the Faith. I don't really think it is for beginners and some may find the style off-putting. My advice would be to just try to get past the language; if you do you will get a new understanding and perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apparently this is an compliment to Heretics. According to the preface he literally wrote this book when his friend asked him (after reading Heretics) what he thought the truth was. So he wrote this on a dare. 'Cause Chesterson is cool that way. I enjoyed this book. It's not a systematic exposition of Christianity or the doctrine of the Catholic church/ Church of England. (I believe he was Catholic. This man has FEELINGS and OPINIONS about the reformation in general and Calvinists in particular.) I don't really think it qualifies as apologetics either, at least not in a formal sense. It's more a general outline of the main things that moved him to accept Christianity as an adult. As always, it's lovely to read. The book is quite short. I was sad when it came to an end. I would have liked to read more.
Rebecca Bobo More than 1 year ago
well written, and a must read. this format does not include titles for the chapters in the table of contents though
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up several years ago, when a book I was reading (The Sacred Romance) kept quoting it. I am so grateful I did! I have reread this book several times over, and it really has shaped my moral landscape. Chesterton examines various systems of belief in an approachable, playful (and often rather sarcastic) way. He teaches by delighting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chesterton's 'spiritual autobiography' is a fascinating look at a man who was prophetic in his outlook about mankind, spirituality, and philosophies that have been gutted of the Divine. He called the liberal theologians on their rejection of core doctrines such as original sin and hinted at where such tendencies would lead. The evolutionists, the Malthusians, ie, the 'spirit of the age' are all given a good shake down decades before some of the worst aspects of their philosophy would be obvious even to them. (For something even more prophetic, see Chesterton's book on eugenics). This edition had something that I hadn't seen before and that was an index. Though not comprehensive it is still fairly thorough and I have already used it to trace some of Chesterton's themes within the book. The edition in question is ISBN 9780979127663. Everyone should look for ways to introduce Chesterton to moderns- though they will be humbled to hear how much of their thought he anticipated. Orthodoxy is a great text for this purposes, and this version with an index would be a great edition to use.
inked More than 1 year ago
I have read Chesterton for a number of decades now and have read ORTHODOXY about once a decade since college (that's 3.5 times or so!). I decided to listen to it read by someone else. This production is excellent. Vance reads fluidly and with an strong range of tonality and inflection in the voice that provides flair and drama in keeping with the text's. I frankly found some of the readings so compelling that I listened to selected tracts as many as three time before continuing.

This was so well done that I should like a six to seven hour trip sheerly for the joy of listening to it again all at one go!

You will not go wrong with this audio production of ORTHODOXY.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This lucid defense of classic Christianity is never out of date -- in fact, it speaks to our time clearly and without apology. The extensive annotations enable the reader to follow along easily and with understanding. It also includes a helpful, and sometimes startling, introduction. Highly recommended.
Anonymous 11 months ago
nesum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful exploration of one man's faith. Well thought-out, and yet passionate and personal, Orthodoxy shows how Chesterton explored the issues of faith, came to a mighty conclusion, only then to realize that his conclusion was what Christianity had been preaching for centuries.The book is a heavy one, despite its short length, but should be studied carefully by anyone who might be looking seriously at the issue of religion.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I love the way the author expresses his thoughts and reasoning. His examples are apt, and humorous as well. I wish I could remember all of his points, but that's why I intend to buy the book, so I can refer back to it. It is fascinating to see his progression from agnostic to orthodox believer in Christianity. Very encouraging.
chriszodrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant. One to read again and again.
neverstopreading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and Lewis' "Mere Christianity" are classics of contemporary Christian apologetics. Both write to a similar audience, namely, secular academics. Lewis' appeal was broader, however, for he was reaching out to those people influenced or educated by these academics. Consequently, these books are full of reason and logic but are devoid of Bible quotes. This might dismay some fundamentalists, but this type of apologetic is absolutely necessary. Just as a Muslim will not convince a Christian regarding Islam by quoting the Qu'ran, so, in most cases, a Christian will not convert a secular academic by quoting the Bible. The appeal must be made on common ground, in this case, reason and logic. In this regard, Chesterton succeeds.That being said, I give him only 3 1/2 stars because of his rambling, time-sensitive style. It is easy for an American reading in the 21st century to become completely lost in Chesterton's quips and references to late-modernity intellectuals.Lewis' broader appeal makes him more accessible to Chesterton, so I recommend "Mere Christianity" over "Orthodoxy" to the average 21st century American, whereas I recommend "Orthodoxy" to those who are educated in late 19th and early 20th-century intellectualism.Both books are useful for Christians in developing apologetic skills and for non-Christians, especially seculars, in understanding a traditional, intellectual, and non-fundamentalist brand of Christianity.
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Basis of sanity for all in the post modern world. Some difficulties with the electronic copy, but a terribly wonderful book for the modern cynic and lost children of feminism.
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