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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read before you die, 8 April 2009
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This review is from: Hcc Orthodoxy (Hendrickson Christian Classics) (Hardcover)
This is an extraordinary book, a definite `must read' before you die. I was expecting a sort of early version of C.S. Lewis, a robust defence of traditional Christianity. It is much more than that. Whereas Lewis gently takes you along with a persuasive argument, Chesterton pulls you into a room full of mirrors and out of the box thinking, not just in the paragraphs, but almost in every sentence there's an irony, a contradiction, a reflection saying something you don't quite expect. Take the opening sentence of Chapter Two, entitled, `The Maniac' - `Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world; they rely all together on a few cynical maxims that are not true.' As he gets into the argument, the crackling irony continues. A worldly maxim is that the man who believes himself will go far, the truth: `The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums'. Of course he's right, all the way through, and even if you don't agree with him, the polemic is superb. In this chapter he establishes that materialism, the void, makes men mad, and what keeps people sane is mysticism, the irony that `man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand'. Every chapter is like a glass of cold water in a desert, but probably the best was `The Ethics of Elfland' Again we start with mirrors - `The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud.' And so soon he is turning our clichéd way of thinking on its head by passionately arguing for fairy tales, superior both to religion and rationalism, `the sunny country of commonsense'. This is not just to do with the morals you get from the tales, but that they are more accurate in their observations than science. The answer to both why eggs turn to birds, and Cinderella's mice to horses is the same: magic. There is no inevitable law involved, and to pretend that there is makes you `strictly a sentimentalist'. No let up with the irony. At the end he helpfully sums up his fairy story creed. The world does not explain itself; but it must have a meaning which implies someone `to mean it'; that meaning, purpose, is beautiful; we owe obedience to whatever this is. There's a lot more, but if you are bored of reading self righteous politically correct twaddle about stakeholders and recycling, get hold of some Chesterton. One last comment: there is a very silly myth that people who believe traditional Christianity don't use their brains: I wouldn't like to be with these people if they meet Chesterton in heaven.
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