“It [the Faith] was supposed to have been withered up at last in the dry light of the Age of Reason; it was supposed to have disappeared ultimately in the earthquake of the Age of Revolution. Science explained it away; and it was still there. History disinterred it in the past; and it appeared suddenly in the future. Today it stands once more in our path; and even as we watch it, it grows.”
So G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book The Everlasting Man. However, he had come a long way to that belief, indeed, to any belief. He was raised in a Unitarian Universalist household and, as a young man, he went from atheism to agnosticism to, finally, Christianity. Christianity was the only system of belief that he had found that was worth fighting for and stood up to his questioning. However, he did not accept just any form of Christianity. He wanted a practical system of belief based upon a firmly reasoned theological foundation—this he called orthodoxy. Having fought his way into belief, he fought just as hard to defend the orthodoxy he had discovered. His definition of orthodoxy was “the Apostles’ Creed, as understood by everybody calling himself a Christian until a very short time ago and the general historic conduct of those who held such a creed” (Orthodoxy, p. 7). His Christ called for nothing less than complete devotion and obedience. That sounds like fanaticism. It sounds like a crushing rock of offence, but Chesterton cried out that only by being broken on that rock, only through submission of our own wills, would we be able to find joy and peace and salvation. Chesterton found joy—his stories sing with laughter and courage that cannot be ignored. His characters literally fight for their beliefs. His novel The Ball and the Cross is about a swordfight between an atheist and a Catholic, both fiercely determined to defend their beliefs to the death. Unfortunately, their society does not approve of fervent belief in anything and repeatedly attempts to lock them away as lunatics. Sound familiar? Chesterton’s writing is full of such metaphors.
Chesterton served as a watchman and as a warrior in his generation. Following Christ and holding to a creed demands all of our courage and attention in this tolerant society. I love Chesterton because he reminds me that I can respect my enemy, but refuse to compromise. He reminds me that, as a Christian, I must stand against my culture even if it is uncomfortable. I have not yet been martyred for my beliefs. Orthodoxy is essential to the nature of Christianity; without orthodoxy, Christianity is debased to just another fad in the history of the world. To be called orthodox is pejorative today, but, now that I have read Chesterton, I would be proud of the title. I am Orthodox and I will fight for that Orthodoxy.