Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy birthday, G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton
It is the birthday of English writer G.K. Chesterton (1874), a prolific author who wrote more than 80 books, 200 short stories, 4,000 essays, and hundreds of poems. Chesterton was best known for his witty philosophical commentary and his formidable cases for Christianity, laid out in his Orthodoxy (1908) and The Everlasting Man (1925). Orthodoxy was really an account of how he came to see Christianity as the answer to natural human needs. In it, he makes the case that it is the answer not only for him personally but for all of mankind. He wrote The Everlasting Man as a rebuttal to H.G. Wells' Outline of History (1919), disputing Wells' portrayal of Jesus Christ as merely another charismatic figure. Chesterton is also known for a series of detective stories featuring Father Brown, a stumpy parish priest whose powers of intuition and understanding of the criminal mind (through hearing confessions) serve him well to solve murders. The 52 short stories in the series were compiled into five volumes, The Innocence of Father Brown (1911), The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914), The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926), The Secret of Father Brown (1927), and The Scandal of Father Brown (1935). Chesterton was a friend of Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Clarence Darrow, and Oscar Wilde, with whom he delighted in engaging in friendly but always respectful philosophical debates. In Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote of making sacrifices for the gift of creation: "Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde."

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