Why would any evangelical admire G. K. Chesterton?

In Marketing 101 one of the basic principles they teach you is the Theory of Social Proof.GKC This theory posits that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust. This is otherwise referred to as the “me too” effect. Even if the beliefs or actions of the admired group are not the optimal choice, people want to identify with what they perceive to be the “in” crowd.

In evangelical circles we see this kind of thing all the time. C. S. Lewis is widely quoted by pastors even though he held many beliefs that were at odds with Biblical evangelicalism. See my critique of Lewis’ outrageously popular “Mere Christianity” here.

Another name that keeps popping up in evangelical circles is G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922. Chesterton was a Catholic writer and apologist and, as such, was obligated to believe and defend the following:

  • Salvation by sacramental grace and merit
  • Baptismal regeneration
  • Sacramental conference of grace, ex opere operato (sacraments being efficacious in and of themselves)
  • The mediation of priests, Mary, and saints
  • The changing of bread and wine into the literal body, soul, and divinity of Christ
  • Purgatory
  • Papal authority and infallibility
  • Church tradition equal to or superseding Scripture
  • Confession of sins to a priest

So why is Chesterton, whose beliefs were starkly opposed to Biblical evangelicalism, admired by many evangelicals? What’s that all about? Perhaps I might know at least part of the answer. Several months ago I heard a young evangelical pastor, just out of seminary, bemoan the fact that evangelicalism had very few high-brow intellectuals of the caliber of Chesterton. What? You mean there are no William F. Buckleys preaching the Gospel down in the Bible Belt? What’s to become of us?

Praise the Lord for the evangelical saints who uphold God’s Word and salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE rather than arrogant, worldly-minded “intellectuals.”

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” – 1 Corinthians 3:19

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13


13 thoughts on “Why would any evangelical admire G. K. Chesterton?

    1. Thanks, Maria. I haven’t read anything by Chesterton and I don’t plan to. I already know what he believes in. But it’s sad to see Evangelical pastors and writers holding up Lewis and Chesterton as shining examples to their audiences. I was reading last night how very popular pastor and author, Tim Keller, is a big fan of the Catholic mystics: “The best things that have been written almost are by Catholics during the counter Reformation — Ignatius Loyola, Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila — great stuff.”

      It’s very sad to see Evangelical leaders enthusiastically embracing error but that’s the reality in the church today. Those who question it are the “odd” ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Tom, it’s possible that Mr. Keller who mentioned that these authors wrote during the (early) Counter-Reformation is part of the Counter-Reformation himself. I understand why you haven’t read Chesterton. As a mystery fan, I have read his fiction. I’ve avoided Mere Christianity, because of resenting his speaking on theology with so much credibility from his fiction as to seem authoritative. Yes, Sproul is a much better choice, though none of us are perfect – infallible!! :0)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. In the big picture Keller is part of the continuing Counter-Reformation. I’m not an expert on Ignatius but I do know he was an ultra-Marianist and as the founder of the Jesuits was one of the greatest opponents of the Reformation. For an “evangelical” pastor to commend Ignatius’ meditative disciplines to his congregation is flagrant apostasy. I don’t want to be a self-righteous religious lawyer as if my set of Protestant beliefs is the only correct theology but we’re seeing more and more of this flagrant embracing of error.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. very true! Former Catholics may be more sensitive to the slide back there. I considered becoming a Carmelite and wrote to a convent in Erie, Pa. I thought that having such a life was the only way to love Jesus. The Little Flower was someone I admired as a completely loving person. The Lord didn’t allow this for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Right. JI Packer complained that ex-Catholics were his biggest critics when he participated in Evangelicals and Catholics Together but that would only make sense. I had my mind made up in the 5th grade I was going to be a priest but then I began to notice girls. So much for that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Good News is that He uses imperfect messengers. I see your point with marketing. The Church is constantly barraged with leadership idolatry. Nithing wrong with giving honor to our spiritual patents, but they are not our source! Thanks friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great piece!! Thank you, I was looking for some input about Chesterton from a reformed theology point of view and your article was helpful! I just his philosophical statement, “If there were no God, there would be no atheists” (G. K. Chesterton) was brilliant so I did a Wiki read on him to discover he moved to Catholicism. Very unfortunate – I too am an excatholic – the most important two words since I started to follow the true Jesus of the Bible – CHRIST ALONE!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Anthony! Evangelicals’ obsession with Chesterton is blatantly contradictory, but in today’s doctrine-lite era, objections fall on mostly-deaf ears.


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