A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here, citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Influence of G.K. Chesterton, Part Two

The Influence of G.K. Chesterton, Part Two

For the first part of my list of the influence of G.K. Chesterton, considering it from a secular perspective, please click here.

This is the second part of my list of the influence of G.K. Chesterton, considering his influence from a Christian perspective (both Catholics and Protestants)- though no doubt I could find a lot more material to include! :-)


-Chesterton's writing played a key role in the conversion to Christianity of perhaps the greatest Christian writer in the English language of the twentieth century (with the possible exception of Chesterton himself).

-C.S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity was greatly helped by GKC's book The Everlasting Man.:
Then I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense . . . I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive "apart from his Christianity. Now, I veritably believe, I thought that Christianity itself was very sensible 'apart from its Christianity.' [1]
Elsewhere Lewis wrote (in a much longer passage than here provided, describing his discovery of Chesterton's writing):
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...God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous. [2]
He also described thinking, even while he was an atheist, that:
Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together... [3]
Lewis described The Everlasting Man as:
the best popular apologetic I know [4]
the [very] best popular defence of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesteron's The Everlasting Man. [5]
Finally, (among other instances I could quote) from C.S. Lewis' final interview, a couple of snips:
Wirt: A light touch has been characteristic of your writings, even when you are dealing with heavy theological themes. Would you say there is a key to the cultivation of such an attitude?

Lewis: I believe this is a matter of temperament. However, I was helped in achieving this attitude by my studies of the literary men of the Middle Ages, and by the writings of G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton, for example, was not afraid to combine serious Christian themes with buffoonery
Wirt: What Christian writers have helped you?

Lewis: The contemporary book that has helped me the most is Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man [6]
-Pope Pius XI, after Chesterton's death in 1936, gave him the title "Defender of the Faith." GKC was only the third person ever in the history of the Catholic Church (and the first in about four hundred years) to receive such a title from a pope. [7]

(Chesterton also mentions, in his book The Resurrection of Rome, that when he met the Pope in 1929, the Pope said "some very generous things about a sketch I wrote of St. Francis of Assisi." [8]

 -Pope John Paul I wrote a "letter" to Chesterton in a book of his (simply as a literary form, of course, as GKC had been dead for decades at this point) while still a Cardinal. The letter may be viewed at the link below in the references. [9]

-Pope John Paul II quoted Chesterton in his general audience of January 26, 2000 [10a] . On another occasion, commenting on a Chesterton quotation, he wrote:
Chesterton's words are beautiful. Beautiful and true. Moreover, they are shrewd- and demanding. [10b]
-Pope Benedict XVI, on at least four occasions that I have discovered, has quoted or referred to Chesterton, including one where he stated
G.K. Chesterton was often blessed with the gift of a striking turn of phrase. [11]
-Pope Francis was (is?) part of the "Comite de Honor" of the Argentinean Chesterton Society [8a] and in 2005  when Archbishop of Buenos Aires sponsored the first Chesterton conference in South America, for which he also said Mass [11b]

-Hans Ur Van Balthasar (who was Pope John Paul II's favorite theologian) was a great admirer of Chesterton:
Saward points out that Balthasar, in Volume II of his masterwork, The Glory of the Lord, describes how he had to make a selection of certain authors to be studied in his volumes on clerical and lay styles of theology. After listing those he has chosen -- Hopkins, PĆ©guy, Soloviev -- Balthasar then goes on to list other thinkers he could have opted to write about: a gallery of pre-eminent figures in the history of Christian thought. Within the English tradition he mentions Newman and Chesterton as writers he could have studied besides Hopkins. It is remarkable, says Saward, that Chesterton is included in such august company, a "short list" that consists of Newman, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, and Bernard. To be numbered in these ranks, among the giants of Western thought, is a supreme honour. Indeed, in speaking of all those he did not include, Balthasar uses words like "all these great ones," and "the great names". Chesterton is considered one of these "great ones." [12]
-Etienne Gilson, considered by many the greatest Thomistic scholar of the twentieth century, described Chesterton's biography St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox in this way:
I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement. Everybody will no doubt admit that it is a 'clever' book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years in studying St. Thomas. . . cannot fail to perceive that the so-called 'wit' of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. He has guessed all that which we had tried to demonstrate, and he has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas. Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being modest and charitable, so he left it to those who could understand him to know that he was right, and deep; to the others, he apologized for being right, and he made up for being deep by being witty. That is all they can see of him. [13]
And also of note:
Yet perhaps an even more prestigious tribute was given by Eitenne Gilson, arguably the world's most highly esteemed Thomist scholar. Gilson had long been an admirer of Chesterton's writing, considering Orthodoxy 'the best piece of apologetic the century had produced', yet he was still utterly astonished by the publication of St. Thomas Aquinas: 'Chesterton makes one despair. I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book.' [14]
an unpublished letter, written in 1966, to a priest in England, Gilson recalls his meeting with Chesterton in Toronto some thirty years earlier.'Everything which I heard him say,' Gilson writes,`was an intellectual revelation. With Chesterton, more than literature is at stake. Here, in Toronto, we value him first of all, as a theologian.' [15]
-Others who considered Chesterton's St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox the best book ever written on Aquinas included prominent Thomists such as Jacques Maritain and Anton Pegis [16]

-And, indeed, as Joseph Pearce notes:
...it is known that the Master-General of the Dominican Order, Pere Gillet, OP, was so impressed with the book that he lectured on and from it to large meetings of Dominicans. Considering that St. Thomas Aquinas was himself a Dominican- is indeed the jewel in the Dominican crown- such affirmation of the merits of Chesterton's book by the international head of the Domincan order was praise that could scarcely be surpassed. [17]
-Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, the famous Emmy-winning television personality of the 1950's, wrote in his autobiography Treasure in Clay
The 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. [18]
Actually, Chesterton had written the introduction to the first book that Archbishop Sheen had ever written, a link to which can be found in the references below. [19]

-Clarence Darrow was one of the people whom Chesterton debated when the latter visited America:
During an American tour in 1931, Chesterton debated Clarence Darrow in New York City. The topic was the Genesis story of creation. Darrow, one of America's leading freethinkers following his dismantling of William Jennings Bryant during the Scopes "Monkey Trial," did not fare well, according to the majority opinion of those who attended; they were asked to vote for the winner of the debate, and Chesterton won, 2,359 to 1,022. One attendee said that "the trained scientific mind, the clear thinking, the lightning quickness in getting a point and hurling back an answer, turned out to belong to Chesterton. I have never heard Mr. Darrow alone, but taken relatively, when that relativity is to Chesterton, he appears positively muddle-headed."

Chesterton's opening statement following Darrow's initial speech, was, "It may come as a surprise to you, Mr. Darrow, and perhaps to all of you in the audience, but I agree entirely with everything you have said." It threw Darrow into utter confusion. In referring to the event obliquely in his Autobiography, Chesterton mentioned that in America he had debated a man who seemed to be arguing with his fundamentalist maiden aunt. [20]
-Dorothy Sayers loved GKC:
Chesterton's reputation as one of the key figures in Christian literature during the 20th century is linked inextricably with the concept of 'orthodoxy.' His book of that title, published in 1908, was, according to Wilfrid Ward, a major milestone in the development of Christian thought.

Wilfrid Ward was certainly not alone in his flattering praise of Chesterton's book. Its influence on the intellectual development of a whole generation was summed up by Dorothy L. Sayers. She had first read Orthodoxy as a schoolgirl when her faith had been threatened by adolescent doubt. In later years she confessed that its 'invigorating vision' had inspired her to look at Christianity anew, and that if she hadn't read Chesterton's book she might, in her schooldays, have given up Christianity altogether. [21]
-Sayers more specifically described Chesterton in 1952 in the following terms:
He was a Christian liberator. Like a beneficent bomb, he blew out of the Church a quantity of stained glass of a very poor period, and let in gusts of fresh air, in which the dead leaves of doctrine danced with all the energy and indecorum of our Lady's Tumbler. [22]
-Chesterton was influential in the conversions to Catholicism of both Evelyn Waugh (directly) and Graham Greene (indirectly). [23]

-Charles Williams of the Inklings stated on the occasion of Chesterton's death: "The last of my lords is dead." [24] Williams also referred to Chesterton as: "One of the first poets of our time" [25]

-Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ron Tacelli write:
The most enlightening single book we have ever read on the subject of comparitive religions and the uniqueness of Christ is the book that, more than any other, converted C.S. Lewis, namely G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man. [26]
(Kreeft as well states, on the blurb on the back of the book Brave New Family , that "no one had such bracing no-nonsense practical wisdom as Chesterton")

-Third Day recorded the song "Creed", which in the chorus states: "I did not make it no it is making me. That line is based on Chesterton's line in the first chapter of Orthodoxy: "I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me." You can listen to the song at the link provided at the bottom in the references. [27]

-Rich Mullins, who wrote and originally recorded "Creed", considered Orthodoxy as his favorite book after the Bible. [28]

Similarly, his song Growing Young, includes in the lyrics:
Well we are children no more we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see the crying boys come running back to His arms
And be growing young
Growing young
...which is based on Chesterton's statement in Orthodoxy, in the chapter "The Ethics of Elfland", where he writes: "...we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

-Peter Furler of the Newsboys is "always absorbing Chesterton" [29]

-Aaron Sand (formerly of Jars of Clay) writes:
I love the writings of G.K. Chesterton. The second-most quoted person in the English language other than Shakespeare, he had the ability to speak and write eloquently and pointedly. He was not afraid to hit the debate table, even with the toughest challengers of his day (arguably with the greatest thinkers of the past 2-300 years). I often ponder why I enjoy his perspective of the world--and his ability to bring it to life through words. Each time I come to the same conclusion. He saw the upside-down nature of the world, the presence of paradox, and instead of running from it or pretending it wasn't there, he brought it to life and peace...

...Chesterton helps me sit in these words a little deeper. When I read his essays, stories, letters, and poetry, I feel like I'm looking at the world through the eyes of a child. And I begin to trust without knowing, love without understanding, and believe without seeing just a little bit more. [30]
-Scott Derrickson (director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose) states: "Chesterton is my favorite writer. Orthodoxy is the greatest book I’ve ever read." [31]

Chuck Colson lists The Everlasting Man among his favorite books [32], and Randy Alcorn also greatly enjoyed it. [33]

-Evangelical author Philip Yancey devoted a chapter to Chesterton in his book Soul Survivor, calling him "The Ample Man Who Saved My Faith" (link to online chapter of the book provided)

Yancey writes:
When someone asked Chesterton what one book he would want to have along if stranded on a desert island, he paused only an instant before replying, "Why, A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding, of course." If I were so stranded, and could choose one book apart from the Bible, I may well select Chesterton's own spiritual autobiography, Orthodoxy [34]
Elsewhere Yancy states: "I would say Orthodoxy had as much influence on my spiritual direction as any single book, and it is one of the few books that I go back and reread. It was a revolutionary book for me." [35]

-Ruth Bell Graham, who was the wife of Billy Graham, also "greatly enjoyed" books by G.K. Chesterton. [36]

-Well-known theologian Aidan Nichols wrote a book entitled G.K. Chesterton, Theologian, and even who even wrote an essay elsewhere considering Chesterton as a possible Doctor of the Church [37]

-Finally, there is an effort underway trying to start the process for the canonization of G.K. Chesterton [38], which received encouragement from the late Cardinal Carter, the former archbishop of Toronto [39]. So perhaps one day he will be known as "Saint Gilbert Keith Chesterton." :-)

UPDATE: The preliminary steps of the process for opening the cause of Chesterton's canonization are to begin.  "[The bishop of Northampton, England] is sympathetic to our wishes and is seeking a suitable cleric to begin an investigation into the potential for opening a cause for [G.K.] Chesterton."

Also of note: "One of the reasons that especially motivated him is the fact that His Holiness, Pope Francis, expressed support for Chesterton’s Cause when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.”[40]

UPDATE 2: The bishop of Northampton has decided not to continue pursuing the canonization process, but Dale Ahlquist of the Society of G.K. Chesterton plans on continuing the effort through a different way (with no opposition from the bishop, I hasten to add).


1. Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis, p.223
2. Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis, p.191
3. Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis, p.213.
4. A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanaukan, p.90
5. C.S. Lewis: The Collected Letters, Vol. 2, a letter to Rhonda Bodle, December 31, 1947
6. http://www.cbn.com/special/Narnia/articles/ans_LewisLastInterviewA.aspx
7. Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 293
8. The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, volume XXI, p. 451
9. http://chestertonandfriends.blogspot.com/2007/07/undelivered-mail.html
10a.. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/2000/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_20000126_en.html
10b..  http://platitudesundone.blogspot.com/2014/10/pope-john-paul-ii-commentiong-on-gkcs.html
11a. http://platitudesundone.blogspot.com/2010/05/quotes-from-pope-benedict-referring-to.html
1lb. http://platitudesundone.blogspot.com/2013/03/habemus-papam.html
12. http://www.fatherbobwild.org/tumbler_intro.htm
13. G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, Dale Ahlquist, pp. 104-105
14. Wisdom and Innocence, Joseph Pearce, p. 432
15. http://www.fatherbobwild.org/tumbler_intro.htm
16. http://www.ignatius.com/Products/TAFA-P/st-thomas-aquinas-and-st-francis-of-assisi.aspx
17. Wisdom and Innocence, Joseph Pearce p. 432
18. Treasure in Clay, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, p. 79
19. http://www.distributist.blogspot.com/2007/10/chestertons-intro-to-fulton-sheens-book.html
20. http://clublet.com/why?GKChesterton
21. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/arts/al0085.html
22. Wisdom and Innocence, Joseph Pearce, p. x
23. Wisdom and Innocence, Joseph Pearce, p. x
24. Literay Converts, Joseph Pearce, p. 191
25. Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume 10, part II, xi
26. Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ron Tacelli, p. 358
27. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oybROi7Ehg
28. http://soulation.org/daleblog/2008/11/celebrating-100-years-chesterton-and-grahame.html
29. http://www.christianbook.com/html/authors/4832.html
30. http://thesandblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/children-in-upside-down-world.html
31. http://www.decentfilms.com/articles/emilyrose.html
32. http://christianclassics.blogspot.com/2005/05/chuck-colsons-favorites.html
33. http://randyalcorn.blogspot.com/2008/04/my-favorite-nonfiction-books.html
34. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/september3/6.66.html?start=2
35. Christian History, Issue 75 (Vol. XXI, No. 3), p.45
36. http://platitudesundone.blogspot.com/2011/02/ruth-bell-graham.html
37. The Holiness of G.K. Chesterton, Edited by William Oddie, pp. 54-69
38. http://www.zenit.org/article-26454?l=english
39. http://www.secondspring.co.uk/spring/boyd.htm
40. http://www.chesterton.org/2013/08/g-k-chesterton-advancing-towards-sainthood/