Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton is a piercing little book that punches far above its weight. In 140 pages, he attempts to define the right faith of Christianity: that is, orthodoxy. It’s a difficult task, but Chesterton proves that he is well-equipped to tackle it, as he presents a compelling picture for Christianity.
This was my first exposure to Chesterton other than a short play, so I opened this book cautiously. Though I’ve heard his name, not just anyone can write a book on Christian doctrine. But I was pleasantly surprised by Orthodoxy. Before you close the review because ‘theology books aren’t for me,’ give Chesterton a bit of a chance. He himself describes the book as “…not an ecclesiastical treatise but a sort of slovenly autobiography.” Though the writing style may be a little archaic, the book is very personal, easy to follow, and even entertaining. Because Orthodoxy is tied to Chesterton himself, the book and the ideas inside really ring true.
Orthodoxy is divided into two halves: in the first, Chesterton unravels some of the predominant theories of the day; and in the second, moves to explaining Christianity itself. Chesterton takes us through his own personal experiences, not only debunking current beliefs against Christianity but the beliefs that he once held and was convinced away from. I felt, after reading this book, that if I saw this fellow at a party I would feel able to call him Gilbert, rather than Mr. Chesterton.
Throughout, Chesterton shows a good understanding of the culture in which he lived, anticipating possible objections and facing them, and even naming opponents and critics by name in his exposition of the faith. What he manages to fit into 140 pages is incredible. Every piece of doctrine is not left to stand on its own, but is backed up with numerous anecdotes and examples from real life. The image that stuck most with me was his comparison of Christianity to a shape. He writes,
“And then in a quiet hour a strange thought struck me like a still thunderbolt. There had suddenly come into my mind another explanation. Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. […] Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad.”
This sort of simple explanation fills the entire book. Orthodoxy is not a doctrinal book because it explains Christian beliefs about the Holy Spirit or the Trinity or infant baptism; rather, Chesterton handles the broader strokes, such as the existence of an orderly universe and a Creator, or morality and how it should be applied in society. Orthodoxy is a very practical book.
Chesterton’s entire book rings out truth in simple and clear tones. Orthodoxy has not only increased my own faith and assurance, but also equipped me to intelligently and more powerfully discuss the faith that I follow. I highly recommend this book — it is well worth the time invested. Even better, it’s free to download!
Published on 18 January, 2014. Last updated on