One cannot be too careful with their choice of books. Many, many years ago I started reading C.S. Lewis. His writings have been the source of amazing joys and journeys. To my Protestant friends, be very careful with Lewis. Even if you are convinced, as I was, that Rome is wrong, do not let Lewis lull you to sleep. You must keep your defenses up to remain put.
Many years ago, I discovered another author. G.K. Chesterton. This prolific writer, arguably the greatest of the twentieth century, produced an incredible book that I have read and re-read: The Everlasting Man. I was reading it as a Protestant convinced Rome was wrong and we were right. But I kept re-reading it. The book is a sweeping survey of the uniqueness of Man, of the Jews, of the Church and, as the title suggests, of the God-Man Jesus Christ. It is on that short list of books I will carry to the proverbial desert island.
The Bible was the subject of my last two posts, specifically the Protestant error of Sola Scriptura. Once that got straight, so many pieces fell into place. But not before. Chesterton treats this lynchpin subject with his usual wit and wisdom, and almost whimsy. Pardon the excessive quotation, but it is so perfect. Try, as impossible as it is, to be that Martian who’s first day on earth is to witness a Catholic — Protestant debate on the subject of Sola Scriptura:
I find it very difficult to take some of the Protestant propositions even seriously. What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship undera canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, “This is all hocus-pocus”; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, “Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh.” But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, “Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,” is sensible. To say, “Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,” is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street.
Chesterton, G.K., The Catholic Church and Conversion (p. 11-12). Kindle Edition.
I am grateful to C.S. Lewis. Probably, it was Lewis who introduced me to Chesterton and his work. Chesterton, a forty-six-year-old convert to the Catholic Church, was a big part of my entrance at age forty-nine. The Everlasting Man played no small part. Few, if any, books outside of Scripture have I read more than that one. I did not read T.E.M. because I wanted to convert to Catholicism. I had not such intention, content as I was in my Protestant cocoon. But in his winsome, witty way Chesterton, in T.E.M. and elsewhere, helped me “wrestle with a hundred devils of howling falsehood; with a swarm of lies and libels.” (Id. at pp. 9-10). Be careful picking up The Everlasting Man. This amazing book “led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian.” Who is this Guy and Why Haven’t I Heard of Him? by Dale Ahlquist, Chesterton.org. What would the world be without Lewis?
There was a day, probably not too long ago, that Chesterton’s long quote above would have been meaningless. By God’s grace, a bell rung that cannot be unheard. Borrowing again from Chesterton: “I cannot explain why I am a Catholic; because now that I am a Catholic I cannot imagine myself as anything else.” (Id. at 9).
God bless you as you give your fiat to Him today.