As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ came to earth in the form of a man.
It’s an integral part of our faith to say that Christ was fully God and fully man.
But we don’t often think about what the Incarnation actually means for our own humanity.
That’s the question that G.K. Chesterton reflected on in The Everlasting Man.
Chesterton is well-known in the literary community for his brilliant prose and sparkling wit, but many Christians also know him as a prominent theologian and philosopher of the faith.
Chesterton is responsible for many classic fictional works, such as the Father Brown mystery stories and The Man Who Was Thursday.
But he was also a prolific essayist who produced hundreds, if not thousands, of succinct reflections on faith, virtue, and the Christian life throughout his career.
The Everlasting Man , a collection of several of these essays, focuses on the themes of human nature and Christ’s role as the perfect fulfillment of human nature.
The book is such a powerful testimony of Christ’s deity that C.S. Lewis himself referred to it as the cause of his conversion from atheism!
Chesterton begins his work by noting that many critics of Christianity find it hard to believe that Christ was actually fully God and fully man. This fundamental tenet of the Christian faith has been rejected by skeptics over and over throughout history.
Chesterton asserts that, in many cases, this happens because mankind has lost the notion of wonder at the thought of God becoming man.
“It is almost impossible to make the facts vivid, because the facts are familiar,” Chesterton writes. “For fallen men it is often true that familiarity is fatigue.”
How then, he wonders, can we Christians tell the story of Christ in a fresh and fascinating way? It is, after all, the most captivating narrative ever conceived, and the one most worthy of our attention.
So Chesterton dives headfirst into a retelling of human history — and Christian history — in a way that brings new attention to the eternal desires of mankind and the ways in which Jesus Christ fulfills those desires.
The first essay in this volume, entitled “The Man in the Cave,” examines the dignity and the distinct nature of man as opposed to the animals on earth. According to Chesterton, this essay is “an introduction to the story of man.”
Chesterton notes that, since the dawn of time, humankind has expressed deep spiritual thoughts and desires.
He uses the example of cave drawings to hammer home his point: the most permanent record we find of our biblical ancestors is symbolic and deeply reflective art sketched on cave walls.
“This creature [of man] was truly different from all other creatures; because he was a creator as well as a creature,” Chesterton writes of mankind.
With this in mind, Chesterton moves on to share essays about the history of civilization (“The Antiquity of Civilization”), the development of religion and mythology (“God and Comparative Religion”), and the birth of human philosophy (“The Demons and the Philosophers”).
Through this extensive yet succinct history of human thought, Chesterton aims to bring a fresh perspective to old arguments.
Rather than viewing false religions as equal to Christ’s Gospel, Chesterton asserts that many of these religions, in fact, point to a deep longing for the One True God and a recognition of His existence — even in violent arguments for His absence.
The first half of The Everlasting Man tells this story of human history, while the second half of the essay collection focuses on Christ’s place as the fulfillment of human history.
In an essay called “The Strangest Story in the World,” Chesterton reflects on the strangeness of Christ’s coming and what it truly meant for the timeline of humanity.
With the wonder of a child, he writes, “[The crucifixion] was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages.”
“In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead,” Chesterton concludes. Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection had changed the meaning of history and humanity itself.
But how are we humans to respond to this truth? Chesterton addresses this question as the book draws to a close.
It’s always difficult to sum up one of G.K. Chesterton’s works. He writes with a wandering style that draws from Scripture, philosophy, and theology in equal parts yet always remains accessible for those who haven’t been to seminary.
That said, Chesterton is rarely “light” reading. While this book is packed with quotable one-liners, it’s also a time commitment at more than two hundred and fifty pages.
But the beauty of an essay collection is that you can study one selection and set the book down to mull over what you’ve just read. And Chesterton’s wit, even in topics of such gravity, never fails to amuse!
So make yourself a fresh cup of tea and find a copy of The Everlasting Man today!