Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Adult Faith Formation, January 19th -- Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton, Session 2, Chapters 1 and 2

 We discuss the first two chapters of GK Chesterton's apologetical classic "Orthodoxy."   In Defense of Everything Else, and The Maniac -- in which Chesterton lays out the scope of his work, and begins his survey of what is wrong with modern thought.

Listen online to part 1 [here]!

Listen online to part 2 [here]!


Adult Faith Formation Series – Spring 2021 – Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

January 19th – Chapters 1&2 – In Defense of Everything Else & The Maniac

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.

It has been found difficult; and left untried. - GK Chesterton



I. Review

1. Orthodoxy as a good introduction to all of GK Chesterton.

2. Written while Chesterton was still Anglican, describing his intellectual journey back to traditional Christianity.

3. Written as a follow up to Heretics, in which he criticized the heresies against reason of his day.

4. Some of the people Chesterton frequently mentions in Orthodoxy: Shaw, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Wells.



II. Chapter 1: In Defense of Everything Else

A. “I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.” How Chesterton discovered the Christian Creed, and how it made sense of the world.


B. Orthodoxy “is not an ecclesiastical treatise” and not a study of the development of doctrine, nor even a consideration of which church is the true Church.  Rather, Chesterton shows that the Christian Creed “is the best root of energy and sound ethics” – that it resonates with the nature of man, that it touches reality.



III. Chapter 2: The Maniac

A. Chapters 2 and 3 offer a review of what is wrong with modern thought and philosophy – essentially, that it is a denial of objective truth that ends in the denial of thought.


B. On fairy tales and modern novels: “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.”


C. Who is the maniac? The one who tries to understand everything, and who manages to account for everything, but with too small a theory. “The lunatic’s theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way.”

Here we see Chesterton’s emphasis on reason and imagination – recapturing the sense of wonder.


D. The modern thinkers are mostly maniacs.  Materialism does explain, but in such a small and dry way.  And even worse, the radical sceptic who denies the existence of the external world can explain everything, but he explains it away.


E. But the religious man is a mystic, and allows the paradox of the Cross to shed light on all reality.


IV. Looking ahead, Chapters 3&4

A. The Suicide of Thought: Notice how Chesterton speaks of religion as defending reason and safeguarding freedom and thought, while modern skepticism destroys thought.


B. The Ethics of Elfland: Father’s favorite chapter!  Elfland is our world, seen with wonder!


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