His better-known sayings—like "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly"—hint at why philosopher and essayist G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was considered a master of irony and paradox. This reputation was accompanied, however, by its own irony. "Critics were almost entirely complimentary to what they were pleased to call my brilliant paradoxes," he once said, "until they discovered that I really meant what I said." He became a formidable defender of classic Christianity, virtue, and decency, especially in Orthodoxy (1908).
The soul does not die by sin but by impenitence.
—The Resurrection of Rome
The greatest act of faith that a man can perform is the act that we perform every night. We abandon our identity, we turn our soul and body into chaos and old night. We uncreate ourselves as if at the end of the world: for all practical purposes, we become dead men, in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection.
—Lunacy and Letters
In the majority of sane human lives there is no problem of sex at all; there is no problem of marriage at all; there is no problem of temperament at all; for all these problems are dwarfed and rendered ridiculous by the standing problem of being a moderately honest man and paying the butcher.
—A Handful of Authors
It may be a good thing to forget and forgive, but it is altogether too easy a trick to forget and be forgiven.
—The Crimes of England
The true way to overcome evil in class distinctions is not to denounce them as revolutionists denounce them but to ignore them as children ignore them.
—The Man Who Was Thursday
If I get drunk I shall forget dignity, but if I keep sober, I may still desire drink. Virtue has the heavy burden of knowledge; sin has often something of the levity of sinlessness.
—The Glass Walking Stick
Blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends on belief, and is fading with it. If anyone doubts this, let him set down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.
We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.
Excerpted from The Quotable Chesterton: A Topical Compilation of the Wit, Wis dom and Satire of G. K. Chesterton (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).
See today's exclusive excerpt from Philip Yancey's newly released Reaching for the Invisible God, " Living With Furious Opposites ."
G.K. Chesterton's writings are available on the web, including his religious essays, fiction, and poems, or take things slower with Chesterton day-by-day .
For pictures and descriptions of Chesterton's appearance, click here .
Gilbert! is a magazine devoted to the ideas and orthodoxy of Chesterton. Read sample articles or read its mission statement .
The Quotable Chesterton and More Quotable Chesterton are available at the Christianity Online bookstore and other book retailers.
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