In one of his most important books, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton claims that he is doing spiritual autobiography, not apologetics. He goes so far as to declare: "I never read a line of Christian apologetics." Yet in this and many other works, he made his era's most robust case for faith.

Defense on the attack

Several elements come together to produce Chesterton's unique—and unusually effective—apologetic style.

First, though the word apologetics means literally "defense," Chesterton was never defensive. As one commentator put it, he "wrestled the initiative from the skeptics and presented the historic faith upon a note of triumphant challenge."

By exposing the false and irrational presuppositions of unbelief, Chesterton shows that the self-styled rationalist is as naked as the monarch in "The Emperor's Clothes." A few examples typify Chesterton's withering logic.

He observes that "the man who denies original sin believes in the Immaculate Conception of everybody."

Against the argument that we must remain agnostic and never claim that God has in fact revealed himself in this world, he says, "We don't know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable."

He says to those who believe that evolution eliminates God's creative activity, "It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything."

Chesterton never tires in pointing out the unjustified and unrecognized dogmatism of the unbeliever, contrasting this close-mindedness with the open and attractive worldview of the orthodox Christian. "The Christian," he writes, "is quite free to believe that there is ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.