By: Adam E. Carnehl, Guest Contributor
If one is to study the life and times of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, he will inevitably encounter the biographical work of Maisie Ward. Ms. Ward was GKC’s first major biographer who wrote the definitive biography on him in 1936.
Ms. Ward was a good friend with both Gilbert and and his wife, Frances Chesterton, and she personally interviewed other close Chesterton family friends for her biography as well. This included people such as Hilaire Belloc, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells. Ward used these interviews to craft the most accurate and intimate portrait of Chesterton she possibly could.
In the course of the book, she includes excerpts from essays Chesterton wrote between 1903-04, which were in response to a secular-socialist journalist named Robert Blatchford. Blatchford issued a challenge from his journal Clarion to all those who might disagree with his progressive, anti-Christian writings. Chesterton answered the challenge with a handful of brilliant essays that later formed the basis for his classic spiritual autobiography Orthodoxy.
Here is an excerpt from his first essay in that series, entitled: “Christianity and Rationalism”. The excerpt includes the first and last of the four arguments he makes in favor of the Christian faith.
The first of all the difficulties that I have in controverting Mr. Blatchford is simply this, that I shall be very largely going over his own ground. My favourite text-book of theology is Blatchford's God and My Neighbour, but I cannot repeat it in detail. If I gave each of my reasons for being a Christian, a vast number of them would be Mr. Blatchford's reasons for not being one.
For instance, Mr. Blatchford and his school of thought point out that there are many myths parallel to the Christian story; that there were Pagan Christs, and Red Indian Incarnations, and Patagonian Crucifixions, for all I know or care. But does not Mr. Blatchford see the other side of the fact? If the Christian God really made the human race, would not the human race be prone to be interested in rumors and perversions of the Christian God? If the center of our life is a certain fact, would not people far from the center have a muddled version of that fact?
If we are so made that a Son of God must deliver us, is it odd that Patagonians should dream of a Son of God?
And, lastly, let me take an example which leads me on directly to the general matter I wish to discuss for the remaining space of the articles at my command. The Secularist constantly points out that the Hebrew and Christian religions began as local things; that their god was a tribal god; that they gave him material form, and attached him to particular places.
This is an excellent example of one of the things that if I were conducting a detailed campaign I should use as an argument for the validity of Biblical experience. For if there really are some other and higher beings than ourselves, and if they in some strange way, at some emotional crisis, really revealed themselves to rude poets or dreamers in very simple times, that these rude people should regard the revelation as local, and connect it with the particular hill or river where it happened, seems to me exactly what any reasonable human being would expect.
It has a far more credible look than if they had talked cosmic philosophy from the beginning.
If they had, I should have suspected "priestcraft" and forgeries and third-century gnosticism.