“The special mark of the modern world is not that it is skeptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it” by G.K. Chesterton

“The special mark of the modern world is not that it is skeptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it. It says, in mockery of old devotees, that they believed without knowing why they believed.

But the moderns believe without knowing what they believe– and without even knowing that they do believe it. Their freedom consists in first freely assuming creed, and then freely forgetting that they are assuming it.

In short, they always have an unconscious dogma; and an unconscious dogma is the definition of a prejudice. They are the dullest and deadest of all ritualists who merely recite their creed in their subconsciousness, as if they repeated their creed in their sleep.

A man who is awake should know what he is saying, and why he is saying it– that is, he should have fixed creed and relate it to a first principle. This is what most moderns will never consent to do.

Their thoughts will work out to most interesting conclusions; but they can never tell you anything about their beginnings.

They have always taken away the number they first thought of.

They have always forgotten the very fact or fancy on which their whole theory depends.”

–G.K. Chesterton, “The Debate on Spiritualism (March 15, 1919),” The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. XXXI: The Illustrated News, 1917-1919, Ed. Lawrence J. Clipper (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 31: 441.

“Do it again” by G.K. Chesterton

“All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork.

People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact.

For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire.

A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still.

But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness.

The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon.

It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.

It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.”

–G.K. Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland,” Orthodoxy (The Christian Heritage Series; Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1908/2020), 61.

“The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder” by G.K. Chesterton

“The object of my school is to show how many extraordinary things even a lazy and ordinary man may see if he can spur himself to the single activity of seeing.

For this purpose I have taken the laziest person of my acquaintance, that is myself; and made an idle diary of such odd things as I have fallen over by accident, in walking in a very limited area at a very indolent pace.

If anyone says that these are very small affairs talked about in very big language, I can only gracefully compliment him upon seeing the joke.

If anyone says that I am making mountains out of molehills, I confess with pride that it is so. I can imagine no more successful and productive form of manufacture than that of making mountains out of molehills.

But I would add this not unimportant fact, that molehills are mountains; one has only to become a pigmy like Peter to discover that.

I have my doubts about all this real value in mountaineering, in getting to the top of everywhere and overlooking everything. Satan was the most celebrated of Alpine guides, when he took Jesus to the top of an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth.

But the joy of Satan in standing on a peak is not a joy in largeness, but a joy in beholding smallness, in the fact that all men look like insects at his feet. It is from the valley that things look large; it is from the level that things look high; I am a child of the level and have no need of that celebrated Alpine guide.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help; but I will not lift up my carcass to the hills, unless it is absolutely necessary. Everything is in an attitude of mind; and at this moment I am in a comfortable attitude.

I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”

–G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co, 1909), 6-7.

“The best way to shorten winter” by G.K. Chesterton

“The best way to shorten winter is to prolong Christmas.”

–G.K. Chesterton, Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. 11 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 11: 376.

“What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation” by G.K. Chesterton

“They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body.

There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried.

It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived.

But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead. On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.

In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.

What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

–G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume 2 (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986), 2: 344–345.

“A true story” by G.K. Chesterton

“To sum up: the sanity of the world was restored and the soul of man offered salvation by something which did indeed satisfy the two warring tendencies of the past, which had never been satisfied in full and most certainly never satisfied together.

Christianity met the mythological search for romance by being a story and the philosophical search for truth by being a true story.”

–G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume 2 (San Francisco: St. Ignatius Press, 1925/1987), 2: 380.

“The riddles of God” by G.K. Chesterton

“In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, the right method is to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.

This, I say, is the first fact touching the speech (i.e. Job 38-42); the fine inspiration by which God comes in at the end, not to answer riddles, but to propound them. The other great fact which, taken together with this one, makes the world work religious instead of merely philosophical, is that other great surprise which makes Job suddenly satisfied with the mere presentation of something impenetrable.

Verbally speaking the enigmas of Jehovah seem darker and more desolate than the enigmas of Job; yet Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing, but feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told.

The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”

–G.K. Chesterton, “The Book of Job,” in On Lying in Bed and Other Essays, Ed. Alberto Manguel (Calgary: Bayeux Arts, 2000), 176.