What's Wrong With the World by GK Chesterton

What's Wrong with the World made me laugh, think and flinch.


Chesterton has some great one-liners in this collection of essays:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.
As a lover of the art of comedy, I greatly enjoyed Chesterton's capacity to twist a proverb to suit his rhetorical needs.  Those phrase turns make the pages turn quickly.


What's Wrong with the World raises great questions about idealism, politics, economics and family life.  You can actually read the entire collection of essays on-line for free here.

One of his great concerns, and perhaps the great concern of conservative intellectual life, is that, in the name of progress, we'll trap ourselves inside faulty dilemmas, thinking we've got to make the best of bad choices when good but hard choices are still available.

He proposes a third way between Capitalism and Socialism, something he calls Revolution or Distributism.  The idea is an almost "take from the rich before they get robbed, share enough to restore dignity and, whatever you do, don't let property fall into the hands of the State" kind of idea. 

Even covered with a hundred years of dust, the essays still echo current conversations in the church.


I'll be honest, this was my first time hearing anyone make a significant argument against giving women the right to vote.  He does it without belittling women (much), but page after page after page pushes for rejecting women's sufferage.

His approach hinges on his understanding of family life, on the differing roles of husband and wife in marriage.  He believes that the world needs both specialists and generalists, intellectuals and emotionals, artists and dabblers, providers and parents, pub-goers and homebodies. 

My flinch comes, not because of what he says, but because I hear him echoed throughout evangelical Christian culture.  Sure, no one takes his arguments all the way to their logical conclusions anymore.  But I don't know why they don't.

Although you will probably flinch too, even these hard passages are worth reading.  They form and stretch the lanes and rhythms of my capacity to think logically. 

Thesis.  Antithesis.  Synthesis.  Right? 

Not every piece of writing can be Synthesis.


Your turn.

What are you reading?


  1. "Man as a social idealist will say "I am tired of being a Puritan; I want to be a Pagan,"...[But] No one says "I am tired of this headache; I want some toothache," or "The only thing for this Russian influenza is a few German measles,"--Laugh indeed.

    Just reading this dude I have to think think think so hard that my brain stops working in other ways. And I didn't get to the flinch part, but I did bookmark it to revisit on a smarty smarty day (and when the kids are spending time with Grammy. The suck all smarty energy I have)

    Thanks for the post and reading idea. I have read his fiction and snippets from his book "Orthodoxy" but not his essays.

  2. Working through "The Lost World of Genesis One" and enjoying it so far.

  3. SimmonsSpot: I've reah his Father Brown mysteries and loved them. Can you recommend any of his other fiction?

    Kevin: The Lost World looks incredible. I love books on ancient cosmology. I'll definitely check it out.

    Have you read The Discarded Image by CS Lewis? It deals with medieval cosmology in a really accessible and literary way.