.- The author of a new book on G.K. Chesterton says the 20th-century author and Catholic convert is a model for joyful evangelization who can help unify the fractured modern worldview.
“Chesterton is the model evangelist,” American Chesterton Society President Dale Ahlquist told CNA Oct. 18. He had a way to connect with “virtually any kind of audience.”
“He never lets his charity contradict his truth. He always puts them together,” Ahlquist said.
“That’s one of the great weaknesses of our world: you have some people who care only about truth and doctrine, others who care only about charity and pity, and they don’t let the two combine with each other. Chesterton always combines the two.”
Ahlquist’s new book, “The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton,” was released this October (Ignatius Press, $17.95).
Chesterton lived from 1874 to 1936. Under the influence of his wife Frances, he became a devout Anglican Christian. He converted to Catholicism in 1922.
He wrote literary essays, novels, poetry, plays, philosophical works and Christian apologetics. His short stories include the Father Brown mystery series. He enjoys a reputation as a witty writer with a love of finding truth in apparent paradox. He influenced the thinking of many converts and writers.
“He wrote about everything,” Ahlquist said. “He has this amazing, wide reach.”
Ahlquist said his new book is intended to help get the reader “inside of Chesterton’s head.” He aims to help people “think in a consistent way” across disciplines and modes of life.
“The modern world, Chesterton points out, has become one wild divorce court where everything has been separated from everything else,” he explained.
“We have separated the arts from the sciences and the humanities from the sciences. We have separated religion from politics and religion from economics. We expect all these things to operate in their own watertight compartments, and yet we don’t see how anything fits together anymore.”
In Ahlquist’s view, Chesterton’s completeness is the “antidote” to this situation.
“People are hungry for the truth. The way he breaks through is with his great wit, his joy, his goodness. People are attracted to that,” he said. “When you read Chesterton, you know you are encountering someone who is thinking well. You are struck by his wisdom. But you are also struck by his goodness and his joy.”
Ahlquist hosts the EWTN Global Catholic Network television show “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.” He co-founded the Chesterton Academy, a private Catholic high school near Minneapolis, Minn.
He is himself a convert to the Catholic faith.
“I was an Evangelical before I started reading Chesterton,” he said. “Before I knew it, he just sucked me into the Church.”
Ahlquist is in favor of teaching Chesterton in high schools and colleges because the writer is “one of the great treasures of English literature” and “one of the great wordsmiths.”
Chesterton’s works are “great exercises in thinking that our students would have a great benefit from.”
Ahlquist said his own book aims to change how people “think about thinking.” Chesterton’s writings present a “complete and cohesive wisdom” that can be useful in the classroom as examples of “interdisciplinary, integrated thinking.”
Ahlquist’s book also aims to write about Chesterton the way he wrote about other people like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Charles Dickens.
“When he writes about someone, it’s not a standard biography,” Ahlquist said. “He will get certain ideas and certain things that that character is associated with, and then use it as a launching pad to talk about bigger things and greater truths.”
“I try to write a Chestertonian book about Chesterton, where I use his ideas and his words and things about his life to point to larger truths.”
Ahlquist also noted the importance of Chesterton’s sense of humor.
“It’s great to be able to laugh. People want to laugh. Chesterton makes you laugh.”
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