Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The Everlasting Man (1925) is a Christian apologetic by G. K. Chesterton. It is a two-part “superficial” history of humanity, Jesus Christ, and Christianity, in which Chesterton analyzes what makes humanity unique among species and what makes Christianity unique among faiths. C. S. Lewis has said that this book “baptized his intellect.”

In part one, “On the Creature Called Man,” Chesterton responds to the arguments of H. G. Wells and others that mankind is really no different from any other animal. Chesterton counters that if so, he is certainly a bizarre and unusual one. Here, Chesterton, who does not deny evolution (he is more interested in dealing with the idea of the soul), cites the vast gaps in evidence between man and his supposed ancestors and points out how science is weak on prehistory, as well as how evolution is not experimental or explanatory.

In a similar vein, in part two, “On the Man Called Christ,” Chesterton counters arguments that Jesus was just another moral teacher with the observation that he was a bizarre and unusual leader that inspired a bizarre and unusual Church that is fundamentally different from any other faith.

The first several chapters of the book are absolutely brilliant. Chesterton completely and joyfully demolishes arguments of the evolutionists here, and it’s delightful to read because it’s obvious that Chesterton himself is having a great time. He moves on in part one to an in-depth examination of human history and culture; you’re going to need a pretty extensive background in the humanities to get the full value (in the same way, part two expects the reader to have at least a passing familiarity with comparative religions).

Chesterton is at his best when he is deconstructing silly arguments. His explorations into the depths of the classics are not nearly so interesting. His imagery and metaphor can get pretty thick, too.

Chesterton demands a lot from his readers – sometimes more than the modern reader is used to giving. The Everlasting Man can be difficult to get through, but it is certainly worthwhile.