Heretics by G.K. Chesterton

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Chesterton describes his understanding of the words Orthodox and Heretic as they apply to, and have changed in, the modern period. Chesterton argues that in modernity, “The word ‘orthodoxy’ not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong.” He continues to write that society no longer tolerates a man’s life philosophy or religion, yet is increasingly absorbed in “art for art’s sake.” Chesterton identifies this trend to replace ideological substance with vagueness and criticizes popular writers, public figures, politicians, and the like for proclaiming a gospel of silence when moral and philosophical direction is needed.

Heretics is one of Chesterton’s most important books. It is also one of his most neglected books. Perhaps the reason has to do with the title. The word heretic conjures up frightful images of controversial characters being barbecued for their beliefs. It smacks of intolerance. The very word dogmatic is perceived as being intolerant. But Chesterton says that man is the animal who makes dogmas. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded. There is something ironic about tolerance being an ideal, and that it is connected to religious freedom. In reality, tolerance has done more to suppress religion than has any persecution. It has left us not only afraid to debate about our beliefs, it has made us afraid even to discuss them. As Chesterton says, We now talk about the weather, and call it the complete liberty of all creeds. This strange silence about religion leaves the impression that religion is not important. There is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century… A man s opinion… on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. Chesterton says that we can t get away from the fact that we have a general view of existence, whether we like it or not. It affects and involves everything we say or do, whether we like it or not. And our general view of things is based on our ultimate view of things. Religion is never irrelevant. This book is not an attack but a defense, a defense of the ancient truths that are under attack by modern heretics. Chesterton claims to have gained a deeper appreciation of the Christian Faith through the simple exercise of defending it. He says he never realized the great philosophic common sense of Christianity until the anti-Christian writers pointed it to him. Heresy, it turns out, is usually a distinct lack of common sense. A heresy is at best a half-truth, but usually even less than that. A heresy is a fragment of the truth that is exaggerated at the expense of the rest of the truth. The modern world praises science and hygiene and progress. These are all very well and good, but they have been elevated at the expense of larger truths, such as faith and tradition and permanent ideals. In this book, Chesterton takes on George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and other heretics whose names may not be familiar, even if their heresies are still exceedingly familiar. The original objection to Heretics, which in fact compelled Chesterton to write Orthodoxy, is that his own criticisms of others were not to be taken seriously unless Chesterton himself declared what he stood for. This is perhaps why Heretics is considered the negative for which Orthodoxy is the positive. But any reasonable reader can see that Chesterton s criticisms are a defense of a well-defined position. By criticizing moral and artistic relativism, he is defending identifiable and absolute standards. By criticizing egoism and the cult of success, he is defending humility. By criticizing skepticism, morbidity and muddle-headedness, he is defending faith, hope, and clarity. Clarity. The truth which Chesterton is defending should be obvious. But because Chesterton has to defend it, it obviously isn t obvious. The heretics have obscured the truth, they have distracted us, they have won us over with lies. The first lie is that truth doesn t matter. –Dale Ahlquist, American Chesterton Society

GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936) better known as G. K. Chesterton, was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist. Chesterton is often referred to as the “prince of paradox.” Chesterton is well known for his reasoned apologetics. Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. He was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic theologian and apologist, debater, and mystery writer.

Paperback: 204 pages
Publisher: Letcetera Publishing (January 2, 2015)
Language: English
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1942796169
e-Book ISBN-13: 978-1942796206
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches

Paperback: $12.99
E-Book: $3.99


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