C.S. Lewis on G.K. Chesterton
Note: Not an endorsement
At his death, it was said of G.K. Chesterton, “All of this generation has grown up under Chesterton’s influence so completely that we do not even know when we are thinking Chesterton.” Unfortunately, this trend continues to today.
Most Christians are at least somewhat familiar with C.S. Lewis, his faith and writings. (If you’ve ever been around me for any length of time you should be.) Many know J.R.R. Tolkien influenced Lewis in his acceptance of Christianity.
Unfortunately, too many remain ignorant of the role the Chesterton’s writings played in Lewis responding to Christ and his subsequent development as an apologist and novelist.
Previously, I complied some of Chesterton’s best lines because the man had an irresistible wit. He was the master at turning a phrase, which caught Lewis’ attention.
Here are all of the recorded quotes of C.S. Lewis on G.K. Chesterton that I was able to find.
“The case for Christianity in general is well given by Chesterton; and I tried to do something in my Broadcast Talks.”In this letter to Sheldon Vanauken, Lewis recognizes the apologetic of Chesterton and how his talks on the radio, which would later become Mere Christianity, were influenced by Chesterton. As he will say in a later correspondence with Vanauken, it is a particular book which he finds so impressive.
Have you ever tried Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man? The best popular apologetic I know.In a 1947 letter to Rhonda Bodle, he wrote, “the best popular defense of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.” Lewis would also place the book in a list of 10 books that “most shaped his vocational attitude and philosophy of life.”
In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis notes that Chesterton was subtly influencing him to Christianity, while Lewis remained oblivious.
“In reading Chesterton, as in reading [George] MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”Lewis said that MacDonald baptized his imagination, while Chesterton did the same for his intellect; both paving the way for Lewis to later respond to Christ.
Before Lewis knew what was happening, it was too late. He had already been challenged and changed by the wit of Chesterton. Again, he wrote of Chesterton in his autobiography.
It was here that I first read a volume of Chesterton’s essays. I had never heard of him and had no idea of what he stood for; nor can I quite understand why he made such an immediate conquest of me. It might have been expected that my pessimism, my atheism, and my hatred of sentiment would have made him to me the least congenial of all authors. It would almost seem that Providence, or some “second cause” of a very obscure kind, quite over-rules our previous tastes when It decides to bring two minds together. Liking an author may be as involuntary and improbable as falling in love. I was by now a sufficiently experienced reader to distinguish liking from agreement. I did not need to accept what Chesterton said in order to enjoy it.Lewis fell in love with the literary works of G.K. Chesterton. I have no doubt that many others will as well when they experience his way with words.
His humour was of the kind I like best – not “jokes” imbedded in the page like currants in a cake, still less (what I cannot endure), a general tone of flippancy and jocularity, but the humour which is not in any way separable from the argument but is rather (as Aristotle would say) the “bloom” on dialectic itself. The sword glitters not because the swordsman set out to make it glitter but because he is fighting for his life and therefore moving it very quickly. For the critics who think Chesterton frivolous or “paradoxical” I have to work hard to feel even pity; sympathy is out of the question. Moreover, strange as it may seem, I liked him for his goodness.