Editor’s Note: This review is a “blast from the past”, a review of a genuine Christian classic originally published in Pulpit Helps in 2008.
The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton.
Best Recent Reprint: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007, ISBN 9781598560169, 262 pages, 14.95, softcover.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), one of the eminent thinkers of early 20th century Britain, was a man of many talents. He was trained as an artist, made a career of journalism, and wrote philosophical/theological works on the nature of God and belief that continue to inspire. The London Times said that “Chesterton [had] a quite unusual power of seeing the obvious.” Indeed, the strength of his work was always its common-sense approach to things which men obscure and overcomplicate in effort to find a reality apart from God.
Among his works are the couplet of Heretics (in which he tackles the modernistic notion of equally valid viewpoints and critiques the false ideas of his contemporaries) and Orthodoxy (in which he puts forth a rationale for taking Scripture and truth at its face value based upon its continued strength after nearly 2,000 years). He is also remembered for his moralistic mystery fiction; the Father Brown series and The Man Who Was Thursday.
In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton builds a case for the truth of Christianity based upon the fact that Jesus’ resurrection and continued life flies in the face of modern anthropology and social theories. C.S. Lewis, among others, listed this book as a turning point in his own journey to Christ.
Chesterton in large part conceived this work as a refutation of H.G. Wells’ Outline of History, which was immensely popular at the time. Wells’ work approached the whole of human existence from an evolutionary, naturalistic standpoint and included Jesus merely as another mortal human. Chesterton’s book, therefore, sets out to establish a “common sense” of human history with Christ at the center.
Everlasting Man is broken into two parts—“On the Creature Called Man” and “On the Man Called Christ”. The first half builds the case that even “primitive man” was fully man (complete with art, religion, and government) and never could’ve been otherwise. He shows that secular philosophy and pure paganism lead to the same end of despair and angry misunderstanding of Christ and His Gospel. In this, he confirms that the intervention of God in human history was the only thing that could set men straight.
The second half illustrates beautifully how the mystery of Christ and His resurrection stands all other worldviews on their heads. In his words this is “an enormous exception. It is quite unlike anything else…. It is nothing less than the loud assertion that this mysterious maker of the world has visited His world in person…there did walk into this world this original being about whom the thinkers make theories and the mythologists hand down myths: the Man Who Made the World” (p. 253). The fact of His existence before, during, and after the world, Chesterton proposes, is enough to prove His deity.
Chesterton was hardly an evangelical (he was raised as a nominal Anglican, and converted to Catholicism in 1922), but his logic in most of his apologetic and theological works is sound and biblically informed. For this reason, he continues to find a wide readership in many branches of Christianity.
This classic apologetic is a bit of a difficult read (Chesterton’s witticisms and tangents tend to distract the reader from his main themes at points), but well worth the effort for its still-brilliant arguments against a Godless view of existence. Just as the same old destructive accusations about the reliability and accuracy of Scripture rise up in each generation, so the same biblical and logical refutations must be reused to hold up the beacon of truth.
Take: Highly Recommended
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