Grace In The Arts: G. K. Chesterton: The Theology Of Philip Yancey’s Favorite Writer -- By: James A. Townsend

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 15:2 (Autumn 2002)
Article: Grace In The Arts: G. K. Chesterton: The Theology Of Philip Yancey’s Favorite Writer
Author: James A. Townsend


Grace In The Arts:
G. K. Chesterton:
The Theology Of Philip Yancey’s Favorite Writer

James A. Townsend

Elgin, Illinois

A 1950s cowboy comic book advertised on its front cover that sidekick Andy Devine was “the master of mirth and of girth; that’s why he’s the rage of the sage.” Although G. K. Chesterton was once photo-graphed with several of his cronies dressed in full Western get-up, he could hardly be denominated “the rage of the sage.” However, that other line of the preceding advertising could be readily reapplied, for Chesterton was unquestionably “the master of mirth and of girth.”

Evangelical Protestants are most likely to have read some of Chesterton’s quips, courtesy of the British intellectual C. S. Lewis or the popular evangelical author Philip Yancey, with whom G. K. Chesterton is a favorite. In fact, Yancey calls Chesterton “The ‘Ample’ Man Who Saved My Faith.”1 Therefore, it seems appropriate to ask about the faith of the one who saved Yancey’s faith.

I. Introduction

G. K. Chesterton (hereafter mostly referred to as GKC) was often remembered for his wit and his weight. He was weighty in a dual sense of the word, for GKC was a heavyweight in the Jude 3, combative-for-Christianity sense of the term. One biographer-friend called him “the

greatest man of the age.”2 Sir Laurence of Arabia reported that George Bernard Shaw (GKC’s frequent sparring partner in public debates) called him “a man of colossal genius.”3 Etienne Gilson, the foremost twentieth century authority on St. Thomas [Aquinas] commented ruefully on Chesterton’s [book] St. Thomas: “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.”4

GKC was prolific in publication, penning seven books in 1926, six in 1927, and six in 1929. He authored around 4,000 essays and 100 books, including volumes of poetry and plays. He may be most remembered as the author of a mystery series starring the Roman Catholic priest-as-detective, Father Brown (a somewhat Columbo-like underplayed mystery solver).

C. S. Lewis once spoke of wit as “that sort of mental agility or gymnastic which uses language as the principal equipment of its gymnasium.”5 GKC’s ...

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