Effective or Fallacious?

OrthodoxyOrthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A re-read is sometimes a wonderful thing. It’s especially useful when I have attained a greater depth of understanding for the work that I am re-reading. This book is one such case.

Chesterton’s work is rightly praised by Christian readers everywhere. His honest approach to the agnostic and atheistic arguments of his day is compelling and persuasive. His prose is entertaining, his thoughts illuminating, and his conclusions reasonable.

All of this, of course, is such to a Christian audience.

The only negative things I can think to say are these: Chesterton tends to simplify his opponents’ arguments; and he tends to ridicule his opponents themselves.

From a pro-Chesterton perspective, he is distilling opposing arguments to their root beliefs, pointing out that necessary (if unspecified) premises are false, and ultimately destroying the agnostic and atheistic conclusions by those means. From an anti-Chesterton perspective, he is committing either the reductio ad absurdum or the straw man fallacy.

From a pro-Chesterton perspective, he is treating his opponents’ ideas with the incredulity and disdain they deserve. From an anti-Chesterton perspective, he is committing the ad hominem fallacy.

Ultimately, I think the book works very well and succeeds where many other apologetics works have failed (in no small part because it is a chronicle of personal experience and not a work of apologetics)–but I can see how some of Chesterton’s then-and-now intellectual opponents would severely disagree.

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