By G.K. Chesterton
What can be said of the mind, the wit, and the writing that captivated atheist turned Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, but "engage it." G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man is the opportunity to do just that. Chesterton was taking aim at H.G. Wells when he wrote this book, but his shot hit C.S. Lewis.
Humanly speaking, Chesterton was the pivotal figure in Lewis's journey to faith. The Everlasting Man was the book most responsible for that about face. It is "the best popular defense of the full Christian position I know" he wrote in a 1947 letter to Rhonda Bodle.
What stands out to me about The Everlasting Man is Chesterton's unconventional argument, namely that most critics of Christ and Christendom are standing too close; they are actually living "in the shadow of the faith and have lost the light of the faith" (page 5). They need to step back and see the "whole of the picture."
Chesterton writes, the "vital point I shall try to show in these pages that when we do make this imaginative effort to see the whole thing from the outside, we find that it really looks like what it traditionally said about it inside" (page 5). Chesterton then takes us on his delightful quest to show that we have indeed been standing too close to both man and Christ. Man's history, mythology, and philosophy demonstrate that he has not evolved, but devolved. All his efforts have left him bankrupt. And Christ, rather than being a mere religious competitor in a crowded field, is in fact by teaching and example the only solution to moral, spiritual, and philosophical insolvency.
This passage from his chapter, "The Strangest Story In The World," moves toward his culminating argument:
We are meant to feel that Death was the bride of Christ as Poverty was the bride of St. Francis. We are meant to feel that his life was a in that sense a sort of love-affair with death, a romance of the pursuit of the ultimate sacrifice. From the moment when the star goes up like a birthday rocket to the moment when the sun is extinguished like a funeral torch, the whole story moves on wings with the speed and direction of a drama, ending in an act beyond words (Page 99).
That act, of course, is the substitutionary death of Christ on Calvary, and the act that separates The Everlasting Man from every other man.
Aaron Earls writes, "At his death, it was said of G.K. Chesterton, 'All of this generation has grown up under Chesterton’s influence so completely that we do not even know when we are thinking Chesterton.' Unfortunately, this trend continues to today."
Read Chesterton's The Everlasting Man
1. For his argumentative prowess: His use of the a-priori argument is spendid.
2. For his intellectual bandwidth: It takes someone with a broad and masterful scope of history, mythology, and philosophy to speak broadly and masterfully on the uniqueness and preeminence of Christ and Christianity when placed side by side.
3. For his captivating quotes: "When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do" (page 5). Expressions like that are no doubt the reason Chesterton is he most quoted English writer after Shakespeare.
4. For his masterful use of language: Chesterton's words cartwheel and somersault across the page like an Olympic gymnast. Here is but one example: "I know of no explanation except that such a thing is not unreason but reason; that if it is fanatical it is fanatical for reason and fanatical against all the unreasonable things" (page 111).
5. For his apologetic method: Rather than condemning mythology, philosophy, or religious movements, he demonstrates why Christ explains some, refutes others, and towers above all.