Sunday, May 29, 2011

G.K. Chesterton and the Move Towards Orthodoxy

Today is the birthday of G. K. Chesterton, a thinker gone from the consciousness of most of us.  He was a prolific British writer throughout his life (1874-1936), writing not only works that considered Christianity, but poetry, plays, art criticism, well, really just about everything.

Two things intrigue me most about him.  The first is his switch from Anglicanism to Catholicism.  Yes, I know, it's not an extreme switch.  It's not as if he became a Muslim.  Now, that would be a change.

But as I get older, I notice more and more people moving towards orthodoxy.  And it's interesting to see that this phenomenon has been going on for longer than my lifetime.

If I made the switch, I'd go towards Eastern Orthodoxy.  But it's hard to imagine changing as there are so many elements of Lutheranism that appeal to me that aren't found in most other stripes of Christianity.

I'm also intrigued by the fact that Chesterton gets credit for the conversion of C. S. Lewis, and in that way, Chesterton has probably had a much wider influence than most of us realize.  I would argue that Lewis is one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century, one of the writers that has won over more of us than any other, whether it be by way of The Screwtape Letters, or his writing on loss, or his Narnia books, or the fact that he began life as a doubter.  And we might have had none of that, if we had had no G. K. Chesterton.

So, today, as we head to our churches, as we head towards Ascension and Pentecost, we might also think about that move towards Orthodoxy.  Are we content to continue to swim in the waters we're in?  Or might we find ourselves crossing some unforeseen river, the Tiber to Rome or some river in Asia that might take us back to the Byzantine?  We might think of the appeal of more rigid orthodoxies, whether Christian, Muslim, or other.  We might wonder if reintroducing some of that firmness might lead our churches out of the wildernesses in which we wander.

Or maybe we can just enjoy the beauty of a Sunday morning, which would also be a great way of celebrating Chesterton, a man who sometimes got so lost in the present moment that he forgot where he was supposed to be.

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