As a part of the cliché tradition among Evangelicals, in college, I was introduced and perpetually fascinated by the life/ writings of C.S Lewis. Even though Lewis was far from being an American Evangelical in some of his theological positions, our distinctive brand of Christ followers seemed engaged in Lewis’ life (and still do) and in particular his conversion.
Around my time of reading Lewis, I discovered that he was hugely influenced by what he called “the best apologetic I know” which he had uncovered in reading GK Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.” I have wanted to read this book for years but the usual excuses come to mind: 1) I have so many seemingly good books to read. 2) I don’t have enough time. Well, finally, I have gone through “The Everlasting Man.”
Not having read much by Chesterton before, the book was challenging to get settled into his style. He writes with a great deal of irony and juxtaposing of various ideas. A sense of humor is also on display that seems to go off on random tangents. Actually, his writing itself sometimes seems scattered around the explanation of in depth ideas and philosophies.
Chesterton announces close to the beginning that the work, to a large extent, is meant as a rebuttal to H.G Wells book “The Outline of History”. I have never read it but from what I hear, Wells attempts to trace the evolutionary development of man through the origins of the earth, examining Neanderthals, the Neolithic period and into his contemporary age. As a counterpoint, “The Everlasting Man” argues against humanity being just another animal and Jesus Christ being a mere human and nothing more. Chesterton portrays Christ as being a person who is the centerpiece of human history.
Chesterton was not a scientist and a lot of his arguments regarding anthropology and fossilized human remains are certainly dated. After all, the book was published in 1925. In that regard, the book stands as a sort of time capsule as to how people thought about topics regarding humanity back in that time.
The argument for Christ and his dual identity as the God-man is the crucial and inspiring narrative of the book. An apologetic, fascinating for its time and for our time today.
Since Christ stands as the focal point of the work and via Chesterton’s argument as the defining figure of history, here is a quote that is worth dwelling upon:
“We often hear of Jesus of Nazareth as a wandering teacher; and there is a vital truth in that view in so far as it emphasizes an attitude towards luxury and convention which most respectable people would still regard as that of a vagabond. It is most expressed in his own great saying about the holes of the foxes and the nests of the birds, and, like many of His great sayings, it is felt as less powerful than it is, through lack of appreciation of that great paradox by which He spoke of His own humanity as in some way collectively and representatively human; calling himself simply the Son of Man; that is, in effect, calling Himself simply Man. It is fitting that the New Man or the Second Adam should repeat in so ringing a voice and with so arresting a gesture the great fact which came first in the original story; that man differs from the brutes by everything, even by deficiency; that he is in a sense less normal and even less native; a stranger upon the earth. It is well to speak of His wanderings in this sense and in the sense that he shared the drifting life of the most homeless and hopeless of the poor. It is assuredly well to remember that he would quite certainly have been moved on by the police and almost certainly arrested by the police, for having no visible means of subsistence. For our law has in it a turn of humour or touch of fancy which Nero and Herod never happened to think of; that of actually punishing homeless people for not sleeping at home.”