By Jeff Goins, Editor
Do you find that there just seems to be a shortage of deep Christian books these days?
That has been my struggle over the past few years, as God has begun deeper works in my heart and soul, causing me to yearn for meatier spiritual truths. If you go into your nearest “family bookstore”, you’re bound to encounter an entire section of Christian reading, but most of it, despite what the back cover may read, seems to just be the same stale “milk” in a new package. It can get a little frustrating. So, I’ve started looking for more profound Christian literature and delving into some of the spiritual classics.
About a month ago, I finished G.K. Chesteron’s Christian classic Orthodoxy. I am certain that I could read it again and again, each time gaining new insights on faith, life, and God. What I loved most about it was its simplicity coupled with profound Christian truths presented in a manner that was free of typical “Christianese,” without delving into obscure or erroneous theology.
Orthodoxy is meant to be read as a companion to a previous apologetics book Chesterton wrote called Heretics, but I admit that I didn’t read the prequel and still had no trouble keeping up with the content. The
book itself is fairly short (just barely over 150 pages in the version that I read), composed of nine concise chapters, each dealing with a different issue of faith in Christianity.
Within each chapter, Chesterton lays out a series of objections to the basic tenets of the Christian faith and then provides a rational explanation for each one of them. The book is written in such a way that even someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible could be convinced that the Christian God is the Creator and Savior of the Universe. However, in a rather strange type of apology, Chesterton doesn’t outright defend Christianity as much as he objects to the objections. As a British writer and scholar in the early 1900s, his method of approaching an argument was uniquely literary and fascinating to read. He was renowned for turning ideas inside out until the foolishness, or truth, of them was exposed. He attacked both conservative and liberal politics, and even his intellectual opponents revered him as a genius (“G.K. Chesterton“, Wikipedia)
Despite the title, Orthodoxy isn’t a book of systematic theology. Chesterton’s definition of orthodoxy is free from denominationalism or sectarianism. The closest comparison I could make, regarding doctrine,
would be Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which is another book full of simple, easy-to-understand Christian concepts.
Ever the erudite, Chesterton was, admittedly, difficult to comprehend at times. He pulls from classical theology and literature to subtly prove his points, instead of taking the typical, less creative route of modern theologians (an objection followed by three points to disprove it). But overall, he was a delight to read – like a distant cousin of Lewis – full of mystery, logic, and paradox.
His short case for Christianity renewed my hope in a belief system that is not just a series of sound, rational points, but rather an invitation into a deeper story. At the same time, faith, as in Orthodoxy, has far less problematic points than simply not believing in anything. In other words, to believe in the Christian God is a more rational decision than not to believe, according to the author. Chesterton’s unabashed belief in Jesus is based on the same reasons that agnostics refute such faith – it makes the most sense. His sense, he might argue, just happens to be a little more sensible than theirs.
For Chesterton, the driving force behind the universe is paradox: if we can believe that the human body is perfectly symmetrical (two eyes, two lungs, two arms, but only one heart), how absurd is it to think that Jesus could be both man and God at the same time? He beautifully explains how anything that is not paradoxical, in some sense, simply isn’t real. The very fact that something doesn’t fit perfectly into
our human scope of knowledge and understanding may indeed prove its existence, after all.
Orthodoxy reiterated a few simple ideas that I had forgotten — namely, that mystery and faith are part of our everyday lives, and when you take away all of the mysticism of what it means to be a “believer”, following Jesus just happens to make the most, yet peculiar, sense.
Jeff graduated from Illinois College, a small liberal arts school, with a degree in Spanish and Religion. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Ashley. He works for Adventures in Missions, edits this silly little magazine, and loves to do new things. Check out his blog: Pilgrimage of the Heart.