The month of June marks the anniversary of the death of “the Apostle of Common Sense”, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, most notably known as G.K. Chesterton. In a time when an hyper-sensitive culture needs more common sense than ever before, we should be reading thisprolific and prophetic writer to remind ourselves that the culture didn’t just change overnight, but begin many years ago, even in the lifetime of this great writer.
With the onslaught of political correctness, the redefining of marriage, the “protection of individual rights,” and indoctrination of the homosexual agenda everywhere in our culture, Chesterton and his straightforward wit and intellect are greatly needed to remedy the disease of this Neo-pagan, individualistic, relativistic and secular post-Christian culture we now reside. Reading him will allow us to combat the inaccuracies of an easily swayed culture, that is rooted in emotions, false concepts, and bigotry rather than in reason, intellect, and faith.
I was first introduced to the G.K. Chesterton while studying as an undergraduate in the Saint Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco in 1994. My first engagement with him was reading the book, The Everlasting Man, in the course, Revelation and Christology, which was taught by a theological giant and founder of Ignatius Press – Reverend Joseph Fessio, S.J. Although at the time I barely understood anything in the book, it was this text that encouraged me to forge ahead and abandon myself to the mind of this great author.
If you have never read Chesterton before, I would not suggest the above text at first, however, I would suggest the book written by the Chesterton scholar, Dale Ahlquist, titled, G.K. Chesterton – The Apostle of Common Sense. The book provides an excellent overview of Chesterton’s writings. After reading this book, and if Chesterton has compelled you to read more of him, I would suggest heading over to The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton in order to learn more of his life and find writings of his that you would like to read. Personally, my favorite book is the best book written on this person, it’s titled, St. Thomas Aquinas – the Dumb Ox.
At this point in this article, you might be thinking to yourself where does the understanding of common sense find its origins in the writings of G.K. Chesterton? In one of his most important works, Heretics, he says, “We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us.” According to Chesterton, the Christian faith, and particularly Catholicism, is simply common sense.
The complete lack of common sense lies within a heresy. Heresies are half-truths that are exaggerated “at the expense of the rest of the truth.” Catholicism sees a heresy as not just a false doctrine, but going further, it states that it’s an incomplete doctrine. Heretics reject part of the truth and then attack the greater segment of the truth. They are incomplete in their thought process. We see this clearly in the early church heresy of Arianism. Arians not only rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ, but they attacked it saying that Christ was not both God and Man, which is what Catholicism teaches, but claimed that he was a demi-god who was higher than man, but lower than God.
Dale Ahlquist says, “The reason why Chesterton is an apostle of common sense is that he is a complete thinker. The reason he could recognize heresy is because he could expose incomplete thinking.”
Ahlquist’s point is clearly proven in Orthodoxy, when Chesterton says, “Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected. When Mr. [H.G.] Wells says (as he did somewhere), “All chairs are quite different,” he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them ‘all chairs.’”
I would like to share with you five quotes from G.K. Chesterton’s writings in the hopes that you will not only seek them out in his texts, but you also start to read this magnificent and prolific writer.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” – What’s Wrong with the World
The moderns have created a worship of sex “which exalts lust and forbids fertility.” – The Well and the Shallows
Speaking on Marriage and Catholicism – “The religion that holds it most strongly will hold it when nobody else holds it.” – The Superstition of Divorce
Eugenicists and the wrong idea of medicine: “We call in the doctor to save us from death; and, death being admittedly an evil, he has the right to administer the . . . most recondite pill which he may think is a cure for all such menaces of death. He has not the right administer death as the cure for all human ills.” – Eugenics and Other Evils