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Archive for October 6th, 2013

The Everlasting Man Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton is brilliant and witty and I wonder why it took me so long to finally getting around to his work. Since this is my first work by Chesterton, I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t even know what the book was going to be about. Immediately I was struck with Chesterton’s prose, his wit and his humor which lead me to think, “If Chesterton keeps this up, I would definitely enjoy eating up this book!” I can see why great communicators that I enjoyed reading/hearing have quoted, appreciated and benefited from Chesterton—men such as Ravi Zacharias, Doug Wilson, etc. Here in this book, Chesterton explores the history and nature of man in the first half with the second half titled “On the man called Christ.” His first two chapters took to tasks Darwinists and the sort who read too much into the fragmented evidences of early man, who paints him as a cave dweller who’s violent against women, etc. Against, such stereotypes, Chesterton makes the point of not reading into things, things that are not there. There are many great one liners in the book but these aren’t just cheap shots, as there are many things that is thought provoking in the book. For instance, he notes the irony of how anti-Christians of his days mock the Trinity, the concept of Three in One, when these very same critics believe all religion essentially is about the same God despite the various doctrinal disagreements, gods and practices. Chesterton also notes how many skeptics of his day are tired of hearing about the religion that they haven’t fully understand and when it comes down to it, don’t really know. That’s true today! He observes how we in the West can be funny, thinking of how just because someone is “Western” we think we know them thoroughly (think of Plato, etc) while those under the category of “Eastern” (curiously, he uses the term “Chinamen” loosely at times) we see as mysterious if not with an interests of the mystique while excusing everything as acceptable. Chesterton notes we should understand Christianity as Eastern rather then our modern conception of “Western,” though I think today we can better nuance this and take it a step further to say that we ought to understanding the Bible in it’s milieu of the Ancient Near East, Mediterranean culture or better yet, Jewish Old Testament as its root. I found it intriguing in one of the later chapters of how Chesterton talks about mythology and how our imagination often goes beyond our reason—and how we can imagine something intelligible first before we can ask the question of whether or not it’s true. His point here is that there’s a world that is transcendent, when we observe how words can paint things in our mind and work our imagination. While it definitely made me think more about the wonderful gift that God has given man of imagination and creativity, I can’t help also to think about Romans 1 and Calvin’s point that our heart is a factory of idols. I must say that while Chesterton does not embrace paganism, his work is not as fully biblical as I would like in terms of his view of pagan thought. His taxonomy of religion is also interesting: he doesn’t think much of paganism, and doesn’t even consider them truly a religion but mere superstition.  I wonder why can’t we see it as a superstitious religion?  This leads me to remember that Chesterton’s own creed is Roman Catholic and that might have something to do with it. This work was not as strongly Roman Catholic flavored as I thought it would be and Evangelicals and Reformed can pick something up with discernment when they read it; yet while one may say Chesterton’s broad “mere Christianity-ish” is beneficial I think it also is a liability in the sense that the second portion of the book on the Man Jesus Christ was in my estimation theologically weak and a disappointment after great fanfare in dealing with modernism and Christianity’s critics. While he does make the point that Christianity is definitely unusual and that he believe it, the second part of the book spends too much time talking about other things besides Christ

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