Orthodoxy [NOOK Book]

Overview

The most brilliant book of apologetics in the English language. Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy in 1908 in response to a challenge from one of his readers to state his creed. Rarely has any challenge been more gloriously and chivalrously met. This is early Chesterton at his best: sparkling paradoxes, breathtaking word-play, trenchant argument and blinding logic.

The reader is treated to a witty and insightful work, that illustrates how reasonable orthodoxy really is, despite the ...

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Orthodoxy

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Overview

The most brilliant book of apologetics in the English language. Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy in 1908 in response to a challenge from one of his readers to state his creed. Rarely has any challenge been more gloriously and chivalrously met. This is early Chesterton at his best: sparkling paradoxes, breathtaking word-play, trenchant argument and blinding logic.

The reader is treated to a witty and insightful work, that illustrates how reasonable orthodoxy really is, despite the attacks of its critics. The book also provides a spiritual autobiography, as Chesterton employs his own discovery of orthodox Christianity in order to defend its beauty and its sanity against modern secular schools of philosophy. The book manages to intellectually challenge the reader, while still appealing to a child-like sense of awe at the world around us.

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596255456
  • Publisher: Neeland Media LLC
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (1874-1936) is the author of 100 books, including Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, which led young atheist C.S. Lewis to become a Christian. He is probably best known for his series about the priest-detective Father Brown and was also known as a poet and a playwright. In spite of his literary accomplishments, he primarily considered himself a journalist, writing over 4,000 newspaper essays for papers such as Illustrated London News and Daily News, as well as his own G. K.'s Weekly.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter II

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 mad-house. 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 sceptics 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 fathers 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 dulness 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 centre 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 to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.

Let us begin, then, with the mad-house; from this evil and fantastic inn let us set forth on our intellectual journey. Now, if we are to glance at the philosophy of sanity, the first thing to do in the matter is to blot out one big and common mistake. There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man's mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination. Artistic paternity is as wholesome as physical paternity. Moreover, it is worthy of remark that when a poet really was morbid it was commonly because he had some weak spot of rationality on his brain. Poe, for instance, really was morbid; not because he was poetical, but because he was specially analytical. Even chess was too poetical for him; he disliked chess because it was full of knights and castles, like a poem. He avowedly preferred the black discs of draughts, because they were more like the mere black dots on a diagram. Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. He could sometimes forget the red and thirsty hell to which his hideous necessitarianism dragged him among the wide waters and the white flat lilies of the Ouse. He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin. Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets. Homer is complete and calm enough; it is his critics who tear him into extravagant tatters. Shakespeare is quite himself; it is only some of his critics who have discovered that he was somebody else. And though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators. The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion, like the physical exhaustion of Mr. Holbein. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

It is a small matter, but not irrelevant, that this striking mistake is commonly supported by a striking misquotation. We have all heard people cite the celebrated line of Dryden as "Great genius is to madness near allied." But Dryden did not say that great genius was to madness near allied. Dryden was a great genius himself, and knew better. It would have been hard to find a man more romantic than he, or more sensible. What Dryden said was this, "Great wits are oft to madness near allied"; and that is true. It is the pure promptitude of the intellect that is in peril of a breakdown. Also people might remember of what sort of man Dryden was talking. He was not talking of any unworldly visionary like Vaughan or George Herbert. He was talking of a cynical man of the world, a sceptic, a diplomatist, a great practical politician. Such men are indeed to madness near allied. Their incessant calculation of their own brains and other people's brains is a dangerous trade. It is always perilous to the mind to reckon up the mind. A flippant person has asked why we say, "As mad as a hatter." A more flippant person might answer that a hatter is mad because he has to measure the human head.

And if great reasoners are often maniacal, it is equally true that maniacs are commonly great reasoners. When I was engaged in a controversy with the Clarion on the matter of free will, that able writer Mr. R. B. Suthers said that free will was lunacy, because it meant causeless actions, and the actions of a lunatic would be causeless. I do not dwell here upon the disastrous lapse in determinist logic. Obviously if any actions, even a lunatic's, can be causeless, determinism is done for. If the chain of causation can be broken for a madman, it can be broken for a man. But my purpose is to point out something more practical. It was natural, perhaps, that a modern Marxian Socialist should not know anything about free will. But it was certainly remarkable that a modern Marxian Socialist should not know anything about lunatics. Mr. Suthers evidently did not know anything about lunatics. The last thing that can be said of a lunatic is that his actions are causeless. If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

The madman's explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; this may be observed specially in the two or three commonest kinds of madness. If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do. Or if a man says that he is Jesus Christ, it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ's.
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Table of Contents

Preface 9
A Note on the Text 11
I Introduction in Defence of Everything Else 13
II The Maniac 18
III The Suicide of Thought 35
IV The Ethics of Elfland 51
V The Flag of the World 71
VI The Paradoxes of Christianity 87
VII The Eternal Revolution 109
VIII The Romance of Orthodoxy 131
IX Authority and the Adventurer 148
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Customer Reviews

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( 69 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2006

    One of the greatest books I have ever read

    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!

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2000

    Chesterton's Orthodoxy is a Masterpiece of Language and Faith

    Few books are graced with the power of expression and conviction of belief which characterize Chesterton's 'Orthodoxy.' While not quite Chesterton's masterpiece (that honor belongs to 'The Everlasting Man'), 'Orthodoxy' is simply brilliant in its defense of the truth and, importantly, the beauty of the Apostles' Creed. Likening religious faith to a sane but romantic poetry, and scientific materialism to prosaic insanity, Chesterton makes the claims of faith seem quite reasonable if not rational (rationalism is not his task). Therefore, although the tone is not formal or the method scholastic, his argument is an act of theology as understood in the high Middle Ages -- not as a rational proof of the truth of religion, but rather as a demonstration that the deposit of faith is not by nature revolting to human reason. This is quite simply an exhilarating read. Some readers may be a bit impatient at times with Chesterton's rhetoric, since he occasionally piles paradox upon paradox until the reader almost loses sight of the point of the discussion; yet even these famous Chestertonian ramblings contain gems. If one is suspicious that Christian orthodoxy may indeed be the answer to the big questions, this book will likely confirm such suspicions.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009

    interesting and different

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    bravo!

    well written, and a must read. this format does not include titles for the chapters in the table of contents though

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2009

    Same great Chesterton with helpful index

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well read, good Sir! Well read.

    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.<BR/><BR/>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!<BR/><BR/>You will not go wrong with this audio production of ORTHODOXY.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2013

    Orthodoxy

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    Part of My Moral Landscape

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2002

    Classic defense of Christianity

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    Moral Sanity Throughout

    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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  • Posted February 27, 2011

    WON'T OPEN ON MY NOOK!

    SOMETHING'S WRONG WITH THIS. IT WON'T OPEN ON MY NOOK!!

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2011

    WON'T OPEN ON MY NOOK

    SOMETHING'S WRONG WITH THIS. IT WON'T OPEN ON MY NOOK!!!

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2011

    Table of Contents nicer in other free nook edition ISBN-13:2940019696628

    I selected a different free nook edition (ISBN-13: 2940019696628), which has a scan of the table of contents instead of the jumbled text TOC in this edition.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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