I ordered G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy for one of my college classes, half expecting a systematic-theology-ish book. But as I soon discovered, Chesterton was many wonderful things, but systematic wasn’t one of them.
My mistaken views were corrected the moment I turned to the table of contents and discovered the book has a chapter titled “Ethics of Elfland.” Yes, “Elfland.”
Orthodoxy was delightful.
At once playful and solemn, hilarious and sobering, it was one of those books that refuses to remain safely inside the cover after you have closed it. The images and colors leap from the page, and I looked up from reading only to see the world glimmering with the same charm and magic. Chesterton did not give me ideas; he offered a new way for me to see the world.
In the first chapter, he asks the question that defines the tone of the rest of the book: “How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town, and the comfort and honor of being our town?”
Chesterton, using his unconventional wit, explores this view of the world throughout the rest of the book. He is unafraid to confront the incomprehensible mystery of a world created by an infinite God, and this unique courage lends Orthodoxy a wild wonder that sweeps the reader along for the ride. If you want a book that leaves you with a neat and tidy view of reality, Orthodoxy should be avoided at all cost. This book could very well turn your world upside down.
Chesterton confronts head-on the mistake that the orthodox is tame and dry. To the contrary, it is falling into lies that is the tame and obvious thing to do, and in his own words, “to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”