By Dr. Melody Green
Gilbert Keith Chesterton has been described as “one of the most effective and entertaining defenders of the Christian Faith in the early part of the twentieth century.” Born into Victorian England and living until 1936, he was also one of the most popular journalists of his time. He influenced a large number of well-known writers, including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ravi Zacharias. During his life, Chesterton wrote more than 80 books, 200 short stories, 4000 essays, countless poems, and a handful of plays. No matter what the genre, in all of his writing he tackled important issues with a pithy sense of humor that often allowed his readers to lower their guard enough to really begin to think. According to a book published in 1923 about “contemporary apologists,” Chesterton “has aroused the whole world to thoughtful laughter, and even his critics are agreed that he is the most likeable man in English letters.”
More recently, Chesterton has been described as a prophet, who, while writing about the issues of his day, was also writing about issues that would still be vital a hundred years later. Issues such as human interaction with technology, international relations, racism, Darwinianism, and Marxism are just a few examples of the topics that were not only relevant when Chesterton tackled them, but are still relevant issues today.
While taking on serious topics, however, Chesterton believed that a sense of wonder and a sense of humor are both vital for clear thinking as well as for the Christian life. As an adult convert to Christianity, he believed that materialism, agnosticism, and atheism, all world views that he had at one time held to, were dark and hopeless philosophies that led to nothingness and despair. Therefore, one of the steps toward becoming a Christian, he argues, is regaining the childlike ability to see the world with a sense of wonder. After all, the world is a creation that reflects the joy and wonder of its Creator.
This summer, Urbana Theological Seminary is offering an introduction to the writings and thought of G. K. Chesterton. We will be reading and discussing his best known novel, essays, and apologetic texts, while also exploring common themes that run throughout his work. And, what better way to get you thinking about taking a class in Chesterton, than to share a few thoughts from the writer himself:
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies. That is probably because they are generally the same people.”
“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.”
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.”
This summer we will read, discuss, and laugh over G. K. Chesterton’s work. Join us!