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Another free Kindle book: G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy

January 15, 2015

I wanted to call attention to the fact that G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is now available free in Amazon Kindle format.  At the time of this book’s writing, Chesterton was High Church Anglican, and I think this comes through in much of the book – he is somewhat like C.S. Lewis in seeking to avoid sectarianism.  Orthodoxy, according to the book’s preface, seeks to “attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it.”

This book is a classic, indeed, and Amazon has an excellent quote from Dale Ahlquist describing it:

Orthodoxy is the trunk of the tree from which all the other branches of Chesterton grow. It is a masterpiece of rhetoric, it has never been out of print since it was first published in 1908, and it is simply one of the best books written in the 20th century. If you only read one book by Chesterton well then shame on you but if you only read one book by Chesterton, it has to be Orthodoxy. But don t compound your shame by thinking you can get away with reading it only once. Or only twice. The first problem is that every sentence in the book makes you stop and think, which makes you lose the thread of the main argument. Every act is an act of self sacrifice. Think about that. Or, Death is more tragic than death by starvation. Or, The mere pursuit of health always leads to something unhealthy. Or, Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to suit the vision. Progress does mean (just now) that we are always changing the vision. Or this one: Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. Besides the fact that almost every sentence in the book is a show-stopper, the next problem is that the next sentence, or even the next word is never what you expect which makes you lose the thread of the main argument. A madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. When you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. We do not need a censorship of the press. We have a censorship by the press. And there s a third problem: when you read the book a second time, completely different sentences will jump off the page at you, leading you to conclude that Chesterton has somehow managed to re-write the book since the first time you read it. Which makes you lose the thread of the main argument. So, what is the main argument that seems so hard to keep a hold of in this book? It is this: that the central Christian theology (sufficiently summarized in the Apostles Creed) is the best root of energy and sound ethics. Simple. Chesterton begins the book by describing a book he didn t write, a romance about a man who sets sail from England in order to discover a new land. He accidentally gets turned around and returns to England, thinking it is the new place he had sought to discover, and finds himself looking at familiar things as if seeing them for the first time. Chesterton had intended to write that story as a way of illustrating what he perceived to be one of life s greatest riddles and challenges: How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? But more importantly, Chesterton s unwritten story of romantic discovery is a metaphor for his own spiritual odyssey. He had set out to discover a new heresy that he could call his own. But when he had put the finishing touches on it he discovered that it was traditional Christianity, or orthodoxy: 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.

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