Sunday, 8 June 2008

G. K. Chesterton: The Christian Writer Who Inspired Lewis and Tolkien

G. K. Chesterton was not afraid to defend biblical Christianity. Image: Wikipedia

Joel Kontinen

Militant atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, have recently lifted up their voices in an attempt to convince others of a worldview that does not tolerate anything that smacks of the supernatural. Before their time, however, a very original English gentleman was already debating atheists and agnostics and exposing the logical fallacies of their ideology. “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas”, he said, “for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” Yes, he did use the word dogma – a synonym of the word doctrine that Dawkins used in Ben Stein’s film Expelled: No intelligence Allowed . They both used the words in the same sense.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a famous writer and Christian thinker. At a time when many famous European writers were either agnostics or atheists, Chesterton was not afraid to defend Christianity. He debated men like George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow and inspired other Christian writers, especially C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Chesterton answered some of Richard Dawkins’ arguments before anyone had even heard of Dawkins.

Opposing evolution was not very popular in Chesterton’s days but he was not afraid to say what he thought about origins issues. Instead of being content with superficial arguments, he dug deep into the underlying causes: “The Christian is quite free to believe that there is considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.”

Indeed, some of his though-provoking ideas were aimed at the evolutionary worldview: “It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”

Apologetics is often defined as a rational defence of Christianity. However, Chesterton did not feel he was defending the faith. Instead, he engaged in a witty discussion with unbelievers and beat them in their own game, leaving a trove of memorable quotes for all subsequent generations, including our own.


Montgomery, John Warwick. 2002. The Un-Apologist. Christian History 21:3.

Knowles, Elizabeth (ed.) 2004. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.