The Courage, Creativity and Charm of G.K. Chesterton

by | Dec 1, 2021 | Men

One of the most important cultural figures a hundred years ago was G.K. Chesterton: an astonishingly prolific writer, speaker and defender of Christianity.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in 1874 to a London family with a liberal religious faith, from which he soon drifted away. He studied art in London where he also took classes in literature but left without any degree. Chesterton, intelligent and well read, began working in a publisher’s office but increasingly wrote art and literary criticism. His ability to rapidly produce appealing, thought-provoking articles on almost any topic was soon recognised and he began writing weekly columns for journals, something that continued for the rest of his life.

Chesterton’s wife Frances, whom he married in 1901, was responsible for bringing him to faith in Christ. Increasingly, “GKC” became a celebrated figure on the cultural landscape. In fluent and frequently humorous words, he took a firm stand for a traditional Christianity and challenged many of the ideas of the early twentieth century. Chesterton became an imposing and popular speaker, debating with people such as George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and Bertrand Russell. He was increasingly widely read and quoted, and in the 1930s began giving popular radio talks.

Chesterton died of heart failure at his home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire on June 14, 1936, aged sixty-two.

Chesterton was remarkably prolific, somehow writing 80 books, several hundred poems, 200 short stories, 4,000 articles and several plays. He has been called “a master without a masterpiece.” His three enduring achievements are his books defending Christianity, his poetry and his detective novels.

His two defences of the Christian faith — Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man — have played a part in many conversions, including that of C.S. Lewis. In his poetry, Chesterton created some of the most memorable and popular poems of the English language. Perhaps Chesterton’s most enduring achievement lies in his creation of Father Brown, an amateur detective who is a short, clumsy priest. In over fifty short stories, Father Brown succeeds in solving crimes not because of his intelligence or deductive skills but — on the contrary — because he understands the depths of the human soul.

In his many writings Chesterton produced numerous, quotable phrases, many of which involve some sort of paradox in which a truth is seen in a fresh and unexpected way. Let me give you some of my favourites:

“We do not want a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world.”

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

“Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

“Science must not impose any philosophy, any more than the telephone must tell us what to say.”

There is too the brilliantly brief response he wrote to a newspaper:

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly.”

Chesterton was a big man in every way. He got a lot right but even his greatest admirers admit he was flawed. So while he saw the threat of Hitler, he was less critical of Mussolini. He had a naïve nostalgia for the Middle Ages and, perhaps most troubling today, wrote things that can be considered anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, as the Christian poet T.S. Eliot said, Chesterton “was importantly and consistently on the side of the angels.”

As an evangelist, I see Chesterton as one of the great defenders of the Christian faith in the twentieth century. He was resolutely, persistently and brilliantly countercultural, and in the wonderful way he spoke out I find three things worthy of praise.

First, Chesterton confronted his world with courage. It was not easy being a traditional Christian in the early twentieth century when it was fashionable to have belief in progress and disbelief in religion. Undeterred, Chesterton boldly attacked atheism, agnosticism and liberal Christianity. He consistently reminded the people of God, Christ and their need for redemption.

Second, Chesterton confronted his world with creativity. He wrote an enormous amount on a variety of topics in many genres but his Christian faith was there in everything. The result: a multifaceted attack on unbelief. So, for example, those able to resist Chesterton’s arguments in prose often found themselves challenged by his poetry.

Finally, Chesterton confronted his world with charm. All that he wrote bubbles with wit and humour. Although he battled against the most hostile of thinkers, he did so not with anger but with generous grace. For all his zeal to confront, Chesterton made few enemies. In fact, the persistently happy tone of his writing may have had as much impact as the words themselves.

We could certainly benefit from having men and women like Chesterton today who can defend the Christian faith with courage, creativity and charm. {eoa}

Canon J.John has been an evangelist for four decades. He has spoken in towns, cities and universities in 69 countries. This has included 36 series of Just10, re-examining the Ten Commandments, where the combined attendance exceeded one million people. In 2017, he launched JustOne at the Arsenal Emirates Stadium in London and JustOne events are being conducted throughout the UK. Evangelist, minister, speaker, broadcaster and writer, J.John communicates the Christian faith in a practical way. He has his own weekly TV programme, which is broadcast globally, and a number of podcasts. He has written several books across a range of subjects including the “Theology for Little People” series to help children understand biblical truth. J.John lives near London in England. He is married to Killy and is a father and grandfather.

Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

There are many incidents of God giving people a sign throughout the Bible. Although I believe God still does this, I also believe that we must be careful. Asking for a sign can be misleading if other factors are not taken into consideration. In Genesis, we find an...

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

The last words Jesus spoke to me in my 23 Minutes In Hell vision were, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” Then He repeated Himself and said again, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” The Bible is clear that Jesus is coming back to rapture His believers,...

The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

I believe that other than the gospel regarding salvation through faith in Christ, learning to walk in love is the most important lesson in God’s Word. Jesus says that love is the most important commandment (Mark 12:28–31). The apostle Paul writes that love is the...

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Praise be to Almighty God, righteous judge, holy of holies, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The earth is His footstool, and to His kingdom there is no end! Breached Births The Spirit of the Lord says this day: “There has been a breach—breached births, My...

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

The global apostolic movement is the most significant expression of Christianity today. This is the view expressed by historian Philip Jenkins. He talks about the rapid expansion of the church in the global south, much of which is reminiscent of the first-century...

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Do you have any relationship struggles? Perhaps you want to learn how to love, for real. Too often today, people search for a fairytale love and are disappointed when the fairytale fizzles, which it will. Michael Gibson, author of Real Life Love, challenges folks to...

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

Have the words that others have spoken over you ever significantly impacted you? Words can birth destinies on the inside of us and bring hope to our hearts for the future. They have the power to ignite our dreams and give life to our souls. At the same time, negative...

RECENT ARTICLES

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus warned us that we have an enemy, and he is a thief. He steals our joy, purpose,...
Activating Introverts in Evangelism

Activating Introverts in Evangelism

 Many believers mistakenly think that evangelism is only for charismatic, extroverted personality types. If they aren’t called to be evangelists, they shrink back from sharing the gospel with the lost entirely. The scriptural reality is that fivefold ministers, and...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]