Throwback Thursday: Why would any evangelical admire G.K. Chesterton?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 30, 2016 and has been revised.

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“I suppose it will take centuries to unwind the coil of confusion and stupidity, which began when the Reformers quite irrationally separated the Bible from the Church.” – G.K. Chesterton

In Marketing 101, one of the basic principles they teach you is the “Theory of Social Proof.” This theory posits that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group 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 or the objectively rational choice, people desire to identify with what they perceive to be the “in” or “with-it” crowd.

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

Another name that increasingly pops up in evangelical circles these days 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 the saints
  • The changing of bread and wine into the literal body, soul, and divinity of Christ
  • The sacrifice of the mass as an atonement for sin
  • Purgatory
  • Papal authority and infallibility
  • Church tradition equal to or superseding Scripture
  • Confession of sins to a priest

So why is Chesterton, whose beliefs and apologetics were UNABASHEDLY OPPOSED to Gospel Christianity, admired by some 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? To put it bluntly, some of the VERY misguided interest in Chesterton is intellectual snob appeal.

Praise the Lord for the evangelical saints who uphold God’s Word and salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, and aren’t seduced by the intellectual snob appeal associated with Chesterton and Lewis (and Thomas Aquinas).

“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

Postscript: The efforts by some Catholics to have Chesterton canonized a saint have been stymied by his documented anti-Semitism, including his clamoring for a law that would have forced Jews living in Britain to wear identifiable clothing.

16 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Why would any evangelical admire G.K. Chesterton?

    1. Thanks, Jimmy. I’m happy to hear that. I think many evangelicals were carried along by the Lewis-Chesterton bandwagon without really understanding what those two men specifically believed and propagated. It’s frustrating as an ex-Catholic believer seeing Chesterton venerated by evangelicals. It’s not apples and apples but it would be like someone coming out of Mormonism to Christ and then seeing evangelicals widely quoting Brigham Young.

      Liked by 2 people

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