Book Review: The Everlasting Man

The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton

This song is an easy one to enjoy but not necessarily a book that always makes its author come off in a positive light.  The author presents a trilemma between Roman Catholicism, classical heathenism, and materialistic scientism that attempts to bolster the claims of Catholicism to cultural dominance.  Unfortunately, none of these options include biblical truth.  This leads to occasional awkward conclusions, like the author trying to simultaneously praise Catholic syncretism when it comes to pagans while also thinking that the lament of Hector was necessary to supplement the individual grief of Job.  But the Bible already laments the fall of the city in Jerusalem so there is no need for the believer to mourn the loss of Troy.  If the author knew his Bible better he would avoid such obvious failures of insight into the total nature of scripture and the lack of need for believers to synthesize Athens and Jerusalem.  Jerusalem itself is already sufficient, which negates a big part of the author’s thinking and reasoning.  Not all readers will care about these matters, but while the book likely remains appealing to a certain sort of traditionalist Catholic, those who are not Catholic will find less to appreciate here.

This book is 250 to 300 pages long and divided into two parts.  The author begins with an introduction that sets the plan of the book.  The first eight chapters deal with mankind as a creature that is different than others in fundamental ways (I), including materials on mankind in the cave (1), the failure of professors to understand early man on his own terms (2), the antiquity of civilization before writing (3) that denigrates text, as well as a discussion of the author’s approach to comparative religion (4).  There are also chapters on mythology (5), the problem of demons (6) in heathen religion, the war between the Greco-Roman gods and demons (7), and a look at the end of the world (8).  The second part of the book discusses the man called Christ (II) with chapters on Jesus’ birth (9), the riddles of the Gospel (10), the strangeness of the story of the Gospel (11) when one looks at history, the witness of the heretics to the truths of Scripture (12), the escape from paganism that Christianity represents (13), and the five deaths of faith that have happened over history (14).  The conclusion summarizes the book, after which there are appendices on prehistoric man (i) and authority and accuracy (ii) in historical writings.

Even if the perspective of this boo is one I cannot exactly get behind, there is still a lot to enjoy here.  The author points out the failure of “scientific” views of prehistory that posit an evolutionary development of the artistic and moral qualities that make someone human, while the author points out that as soon as we can recognize a society as human it already shows a startling degree of familiarity in terms of recognizing the beauties of creation.  The author also explores the reality of Jesus Christ and gives some of the usual arguments that apologists make for the reality of the resurrection.  This book manages to deal simultaneously with issues of early history and prehistory and the origin of the culture that we enjoy as contemporary Westerners while also pointing to the issue of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and its meaning as well as the interaction between Christianity and the heathen and modern worlds.  The author manages to show how the cave of the manger and the cave of the drawings of reindeer are connected as showing essential elements of humanity, and that is well worth reading and enjoying even if one does not share the author’s strident Catholic identity.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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