Orthodoxy is Chesterton’s most well-known work. First published 100 years ago and reprinted ever since, Orthodoxy is a classic work that is part memoir, part apologetic. It exhibits Chesterton at his finest—a combination of literary wit, theological acumen, and pointed cultural critic.
Orthodoxy has become a classic, taking its place on the shelves of thinking Christians beside Augustine’s Confession and C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. His goals for Orthodoxy are simple: “I have attempted in a vague and personal way, in a set of mental pictures rather than in a series of deductions, to state the philosophy in which I have come to believe. I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.” He sharply criticizes the prevailing secular understanding of truth while documenting the genesis of his own spiritual journey. Throughout, Chesterton comments on the intellectual giants of his day—H.G. Wells, Walt Whitman, Arthur Schopenhauer, and George Bernard Shaw.
You can also purchase the print edition of Heretics and Orthodoxy: Two Volumes in One.
“The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” (Page 32)
“Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion, like the physical exhaustion of Mr. Holbein. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” (Page 29)
“ I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.” (Page 14)
“I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.” (Page 19)
“How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?” (Page 15)
Chesterton’s Orthodoxy [is] one of my favorite books. I think it’s the only book I have read more than twice (except for the Bible).
In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere—‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
—C. S. Lewis
[My] greatest influence in writing was G. K. Chesterton, who never used a useless word, who saw the value of a paradox, and avoided what was trite.
—Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen