What You Think About God Matters--A Reflection on G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy

What You Believe About God Matters

What you believe about God matters.
Is He malleable, pliable, well-intentioned, but out of touch?
A bit like you, only ever-so-much-more-so?
Can you embrace the reality of a transcendent, crucified God who preceded matter
and interrupted the natural order “to save mankind in the awful shape of man?” (217)

What you believe about humanity matters.
Are we ever-improving, well-intentioned, but weak of heart?
A bit like God, only fatally subject to “common nonsense?” (212)

Far from the stuff of ivory towers,
my answer to these questions
flows like blood in the veins of my concept of morality,
stands like bones in the framework of my convictions on the boundaries of liberty and the nature of progress.

Orthodoxy reads the red letters of social justice alongside the venom of the angry psalms and the stories of Old Testament genocide and worships at the feet of God, incomprehensible.

Orthodoxy celebrates the boundaries of law as a “wall round the cliff’s edge” that shields God’s children from the “naked peril of the precipice.” (216) The orthodox dance with abandon inside the freedom of that wall of safety, singing and rejoicing within pleasure’s open-handed framework.

Orthodoxy is the exhale from newborn lungs, sweet and fragrant with contagious life, relieved to have left choking dogma behind in exchange for evidence that miracles actually do happen.

Orthodoxy is not deceived by the pull of lesser gods, but has discerned by grace that “just as the sun and the moon looked the same size” at first glance, a right understanding of the universe soon reveals that “the sun is immeasurably our master, and the small moon only our satellite.” (229)

The orthodox heart lives in anticipation, “always expecting to see some truth that she has never seen before” and always seeking “the fixed meaning” of everything, which will be revealed either in this life or the next. (231) She looks at the utilitarian rake and imagines fruition and flowers, at original sin and finds empathy. She embraces sorrow and mourning as part of being human, because underneath all of creation lies the truth that “joy . . . is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” (238)


And thus ends our journey through all nine chapters and 200 plus pages of G.K. Chesterton’s thoughts on  Orthodoxy!

I am grateful for your partnership in this adventure. Be sure to share your own thoughts in the comments below, and if you have written a blog post about the book, leave a link so we can continue the conversation at your place.

Because what we think about God matters,

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70 thoughts on “What You Believe About God Matters”

  1. Oh Michele, what a triumphant finale! It makes so much sense that we are called to serve the Lord with gladness! It is a relief to have Someone who is infinitely stronger, wiser, and more gracious than I in charge of my life! Thank you for following through with Orthodoxy despite the hard slogging at times, and always coming up with choice morsels to share!

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    1. I honestly heard trumpet fanfares in my head as I read the final paragraph, Linda. And it’s so wonderful that in spite of all the busy-ness of this season, you hung in there to the end with all your excellent observations!

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    1. I have to agree with this! You are indeed a wonder, Michele! This is the second time I’ve heard reference to this classic this week. I can’t say I’m entirely convinced that it’s time to dive in, but I’m getting there . . . 🙂

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      1. Well, now that the party is over, and I’m looking at the last page of the book, I can admit that I’m relieved to be here, but also thankful to have read all the way through a book that I keep reading quotes from here, there, and everywhere. I’ve wanted to get some context for it all, and that has been one gift of Orthodoxy. Another has been just the pleasure of taking in Chesterton’s excellent writing and thinking. Honestly, it has been worth the effort.

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  2. Our beliefs about God and humanity are foundational so much else – really, everything else. I’m looking forward to delving into my own copy of Orthodoxy sometime soon. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and sharing from it!

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    1. I’m going to really enjoy reading your thoughts, Barbara, because you do such a good job sharing books. One thing I’ve noticed is that each chapter has SO MUCH CONTENT, that two people could read the same chapter and then write two completely different essays in response.
      Happy Friday!

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  3. Thank you for this review, Michele. I must put this book on my wish list. It is, as Dawn said, so good to know that the One who is our Master is infinitely greater than we are, as much as the sun is greater than the moon and infinitely more so.

    I am currently reading a book called “The Death of Evolution” It contains a lot of info I had not heard before about Darwin’s life. It makes me wonder all the more about how the atheists who fight so hard on the side of evolution can refute the idea of a Creator who is much greater than His creation. To me, it would take a lot more faith to believe a single cell just appeared out of nothing than to believe God created everything out of nothing. I wonder where they think that cell came from, or the materials to cause that Big Bang they think started it all. Or for that matter, the soupy matter that one cell came to being in. I’ll believe my great God any day over that theory because I know I am safe in His hands. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the way Chesterton put it: Mind precedes matter. And the fact that God was the mind behind it all (and still is!) gives us peace even for the parts of creation and of everyday living that we do not understand!

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  4. I especially enjoyed Chesterton’s thoughts on JOY in this chapter.
    “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan,
    is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”
    I’ve tucked in some more quotes from this final chapter over at my Quotes and Notes blog…https://dictationbydawn.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/orthodoxy-concluded/
    Whew! Glad to finally have taken this book off the shelf and consumed its contents. Thanks for getting me around to it, Michele!!

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    1. Me, too! I really picture our friend Gilbert Keith as this big, jolly guy with a big, powerful brain.
      I loved your post and the way you manage to incorporate so much of Chesterton’s thinking along with your own thoughts.
      And I do appreciate your camaraderie in this crazy process. I had no idea when I started back in January that it would be so challenging, and I’m not sure whether it’s stubbornness or tenacity that has seen us through, but it’s been well worth the effort!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele,
    I love the image of dancing with abandon and freedom within that wall of safety. So many think that God has rules to squelch our freedom. Just the opposite, He wants goodness and freedom for us so He sets boundaries to make that freedom possible. It’s kind of like He gives us a beautiful picture to color if only we stay within the lines….loved this.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  6. Whew! What a wonderful final installation of Chesterton. “Orthodoxy reads the red letters of social justice alongside the venom of the angry psalms and the stories of Old Testament genocide and worships at the feet of God, incomprehensible.” My favorite.

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  7. I need to check this book out, I haven’t heard of it… yet, it sounds as though it is inspiring and that a lot of folks are enjoying it!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

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    1. I took it on as my 2018 project because so often I have read quotes from Chesterton sprinkled like delightful seasoning in other people’s writing. It was terrific to see them in context and to get a better glimpse of the man who wrote them.

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  8. This is my first time running across your blog, but I’m adding it to my list so I won’t miss anymore bible studies and book studies! I’ve read Chesterton before but not really indepth. Thank you for doing this walk through!
    ~~Angie
    The Frugal Kansas Homemaker.com
    Sunny Patch Cottage.com

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  9. Inspiring quotes from an incredible book, Michele! Thanks for sharing! I do love “your love” of books that help inform our faith and inspire our lives. Pinning!

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  10. Thank you for all of the beautiful ways that you share such hard topics with us here. Those topics become so very practical as you delve into their meanings and unpack the truths that you have found along the way. This has been such a great study of what we believe! I appreciate your love of truth, Michele! May God continue to bless you in your sharing!

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  11. Chesterton was my grandfather’s favourite author, but I’ve never made the effort to read any of his books. Congratulations on finishing this.
    This reminded me of a priest friend who asked a group of us a question that remains with me and one I keep asking myself when my faith is shaken : How big is your God?

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    1. I love that Chesterton was your grandfather’s favorite! He must have been a smart guy, because I definitely found the book to be a stretch.
      And I think your question is exactly fitting to go with the thoughts in this post. We have a sad tendency to limit God by re-making Him in our own image and likeness.

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  12. I love your reviews. My favorite part was this, “The orthodox heart lives in anticipation, “always expecting to see some truth that she has never seen before” and always seeking “the fixed meaning” of everything, which will be revealed either in this life or the next.” Oh, how I want to live this way. Thank you for sharing with Grace & Truth Christian Link-Up. Have a blessed day. Maree

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  13. Kudos to you, Michele, for finishing Orthodoxy. I started with you, but followed all kinds of rabbit trails since then. I do want to finish someday because my goodness! The quotes I’ve read from it are so captivating. I love the one Maree Dee mentioned because I always feel I’m a creature that lives in anticipation or expectation. (I’m really just a big kid.) I also love this one: “joy . . . is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” There you have it! I believe joy and expectation mean everything and apparently, Chesterton thought that before I was even born.

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  14. Visiting from Coffee for your Heart. Our beliefs about God make a huge difference in all of life. At one point in my life I was struggling God’s response to my prayer. I expected a different answer. A wise counselor asked me if I had ever read the book about 7 blind men and an elephant. I am sure I looked at him confused and said “no.” He went on to explain how each blind man touched the elephant and said that is what an elephant is like. One described an elephant to be like the tail, another like the trunk etc. The counselor went on to remind me of God’s omniscience. I recognized how I had put God in a box. This little story helped me grow in my faith. Orthodoxy looks like a great book, thanks for sharing!

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  15. Congratulations on making it through this book! Even though I couldn’t seem to make time to read through it with you, I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. Thanks for linking up at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

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  16. I was flummoxed as a child when I went to church at a friend’s place and her pastor spent the hour talking about the hellfire punishments from a vengeful God. My parents promptly corrected me that some people think God is here to punish them but it’s okay to believe he’s actually nice. He wants us to succeed. #GlobalBlogging

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