Defender of the faith: 11 quotes from Christian wordsmith GK Chesterton
The inimitable novelist, journalist, theologian and social critic GK Chesterton died on this day in 1936. The English Catholic is remembered and beloved as an apologist and storyteller who explained and enlivened the drama of Christian faith for millions.
His witty, thrilling and enigmatic narratives like The Man who was Thursday won him literary acclaim. In Orthodoxy, he showed off his apologetic, philosophical and imaginative prowess as he shared how he came to believe in the Christian faith.
Chesterton’s writing would inspire the atheist CS Lewis to convert too, and Chesterton continues to engage and delights many today, not least through his much-televised Father Brown detective stories. George Bernard Shaw wrote of this prolific defender of the faith that ‘The world is not thankful enough for Chesterton’.
Here are 11 quotes that capture his provocative genius.
1. ‘I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller’ (Orthodoxy).
2. ‘The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected’ (Illustrated London News, 1924).
3. ‘The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried’ (What’s Wrong With The World, 1910).
4. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason’ (Orthodoxy).
5. ‘The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people’ (ILN, 1910).
6. ‘Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave’ (The Everlasting Man).
7. Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious…One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul’ (Orthodoxy).
8. ‘Liberty has produced scepticism, and scepticism has destroyed liberty. The lovers of liberty thought they were leaving it unlimited, when they were only leaving it undefined. They thought they were only leaving it undefined, when they were really leaving it undefended’ (Eugenics and Other Evils).
9. ‘Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around’ (Orthodoxy).
10. ‘Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity’ (The Man Who Was Thursday).
11. ‘Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live’ (Orthodoxy).