Even a bad shot is dignified when he accepts a duel.
These words find their home in the opening paragraph of G.K. Chesterton’s classic work Orthodoxy. The book was born out of a challenge. Chesterton was accused of critiquing others’ views while neglecting to build a case for his own in his earlier published work Heretics. G.S. Street said of the book, “I will begin to worry about my philosophy when Mr. Chesterton has given us his.” Chesterton accepted the duel.
In Heretics Chesterton gives a negative appraisal of other worldviews. In Orthodoxy he gives a positive argument for his own.
This was the first book I ever read by G.K.C. I initially expected, both because of my ignorance of the author and due to the title of the book, to find something of a biblical outline or systematic theology. Of course Chesterton gives little space to such disciplines in any of his writings. This was a work of natural theology and autobiographical in nature.
As Chesterton states, “The book is therefore arranged upon the positive principle of a riddle and its answer. It deals first with all the writer’s own solitary and sincere speculations and then with all the startling style in which they were all suddenly satisfied by the Christian theology.” For Chesterton, philosophy began in desire and led to satisfaction. Philosophy led him to Christ.
The maxim, “All truth is God’s truth” is herein illustrated. As the Apostle Paul outlines in Romans, man recognizes the Divine both in the beauty of the external world (Romans 1:20) and in internal world of moral obligations (Romans 2:14). Both creation and moral duty lead men to consider God’s existence. Philosophy is the path upon which they travel for answers.
This is not to say philosophy is without limitations. But because God has revealed himself (his invisible attributes and divine power), philosophy is a helpful tool to connect the dots. Chesterton again illustrates this point in his aforementioned book:
This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? 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 honour of being our own town? To show that a faith or a philosophy is true from every standpoint would be too give an undertaking even for a much bigger book than this; it is necessary to follow one path of argument; and this is the path I here propose to follow.
A man can easily avoid the Bible, but reality is another matter altogether. He must wake up in the morning and face the day. Philosophy matters because this man will begin asking questions about the world he lives in, a world in which God’s invisible attributes are shouting, as the Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
Philosophy helps the man hear the song. If he listens long enough, it might begin to resonate, and soon he will be dancing to its melody. May he have ears to hear. In time, if philosophy serves her purpose, he will say with C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
To be continued.