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on June 20, 2003
Very few books are worth reading with a pencil in hand. Most fit Stephen Donaldson's description of a novel as "throwing words at a short story."
The Everlasting Man demands to be annotated. Chesterton's prose is masterful, his wit and sarcasm are triumphant, but most fundamentally, his arguments are pointed and illuminating.
Chesterton provides a method and a practical goal. His method is to examine preconceptions by going out of context; to picture our reality as if we were strangers. The goal is to compare the secularist, religious, and dogmatic views of man with this external picture.
His conclusion is in the recognition of Christ as The Distinguishing Event which bears no contrast or comparison with history before or since. Along the way, he dices up comparitive religion, takes a poke or two at Spencer & Darwin, relegates Islam to a heresy (albeit a "respectable heresy") and thoroughly demolishes the concept of secularist rationality.
Among the more profound of Chesterton's recognitions is in the strange continuity of the Church. A little apologetics is involved, but I get the impression that his discussions are intended more for comfort to the faithful than butressing his already-established arguments.
Overall, a thoroughly engaging read. My only negative criticism of the book is the dexterity of Chesterton's references and citations. I probably missed more of his allusions than I caught. In some ways, it reminds me of Swift's Gulliver's Travels - we all get the "Big end/Little end" allusion to Protestant/Catholicism conflict, and the ancillary references to France/England, etc. But only by reading thorough criticism do we find that Swift was referring not only to massive social events, but also to specific individuals and practices. Without a key from contemporary society, there is no way for us to "get" Gulliver's Travels. And I fear that this is true of "The Everlasting Man" as well. Which only goes to prove some of the points of the book itself.
I wonder if Chesterton planned it that way?
Finally, I cannot help but cite the end of Part I as an example of the brilliance of the writing and the theme. Referring to the first Christians in Rome, and the Roman persecution, Chesterton writes: "And there shone on them in that dark hour a light that has never been darkened,; a white fire clinging to that group like an unearthly phosporescence, blazing its track through the twilights of history and confounding every effort to confound it with the mists of mythology and theory; that shaft of light or lightning by which the world itself has struck and isolated and crowned it; by which its own enemies have made it more illustrious and its own critics have made it more inexplicable: the halo of hatred around the Church of God."
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on September 17, 2014
Again this is not easy reading. You have to learn the meanings of his writing. It is sometimes satirical in nature and sometimes forthright. The reader has to learn to distinguish between the two. Needs study.
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on November 13, 2001
Gilbert K. Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man," is more than just a philosophy of history, in fact, it is more than the average run-of-the-mill Christian apologetic as well. It is a work vast in erudition and loaded with sharp witticism. It is a work brimming with insightful logic and religious lore; and it by far surpasses many works of its kind in the twentieth century...possibly since Augustine's "City of God." The book begins upon a paradox: a history of the prehistory of man. Chesterton explains the very genesis of humankind as being strictly human. He expounds upon man's earliest religions from the cave all the way to the Incarnation, which is the central theme to this work. Chesterton also elaborates upon some of the prevalent heresies of the Early Church, shows how the Catholic Church was the church that Christ founded, and ends the book with captavating irony - the five deaths of the Faith...just look for yourself. This book is a timeless classic and a must have.
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on June 17, 2003
G. K. Chesterton was certainly one of the greatest apologists of the 20th century. I can't hope to surpass the excellent reviews already documented here, so I'll simply praise Chesterton and his work. His ability to document the truth of Christianity with his typical wit makes him a must-study for all aspiring apologists. The Everlasting Man should be required reading for all seminary students. Chesterton is proof that one doesn't need to abandon reason to be a Christian. "The Man at war with his time" had more sense than all the atheists of his time combined. All skeptical atheists should stay away from Chesterton, unless they wish to lose their beliefs. Chesterton's orthodoxy, elucidated with Heretics and the aptly- named Orthodoxy, will inspire many for centuries to come. As Gilbert himself said, "People always talk about orthodoxy as if it were something heavy, humdrum, and safe. In fact, there was never anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy." If you read Chesterton, don't come as a critic. The critics have already failed. Come as a seeker, and drink of his oasis of common sense in a desert of professional jargon and sheer craziness.
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on December 20, 2001
Chesterton is one of the great authors of our time and this book is no exception to the rule. Though I prefered the book St. Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox, by him, The Everlasting Man is none-the-less a fantastic book.
As an answer to G.B. Shaw and H.G. Wells, Chesterton skillfully defends the Catholic and Christian against the modernist attacks which claim that Science and Religion are in conflict. Aquinas would be proud himself of Chersterton's use of Aristotle, who even Darwin claimed to be "the greatest biologist in history".
I highly recommend any Chesterton book to any reader interested in the history of philosophy, theology and man's origens. Also, you don't need a doctorate or a thesaurus to read Chesterton's witty writing.
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on January 28, 2012
I loved the book and in fact bought this hard copy for that reason.

But this edition is horrible, the introduction stops abruptly after a few paragraphs. You will also find the 'o' in "do" replaced with a zero and the 'h' in "had" replaced with a 'b'.
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on January 27, 2012
I loved this when I read it years ago in another edition. This version, unfortunately, is marred by tiny print and typos. I counted four errors on one paragraph, and finally put the book aside.
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on July 27, 2015
As a fan of C.S. Lewis, I had big expectations for this book. I wasn't disappointed. The author takes us on a journey throughout history with a lot of refreshing insights. He makes a good case for Christianity with a hint of humour along the way. There is a frankness is his way of getting his points across that resonates more with intellectual rigour than arrogance (as some critics might point out) as he shows boldness and humility in the right places. Overall, it felt more like an open discussion with a friend, smoking cigars and occasionally breaking into laughter!

The book was written in 1925, so even though some of his arguments would require a bit of a fix to fit current scientific theory (like his defence against Darwinism), there is so much of the book that feels surprisingly current.

I do wish I had bought some kind of annotated edition since there are a lot (A LOT) of references to different cultures, religion, historical events, etc.
This is most likely the cheapest edition one could buy. I recommend buying another one since it's a book that you may want to go back to.
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on December 25, 2009
This book is among the best of the 20th century. As many other reviewers agree, it's just as relevent today as it was in 1925.

Unfortunately, many readers today will have a distinct disadvantage that will render them illiterate to some of the major points that Chesterton hammers home: the modern reader generally lacks a classical background. If I had read this book mere months before when I actually did, I would have either been lost in parts, or I would have simply ignored those parts and moved on to the next paragraph. Chesterton assumes that you have are familiar with much of Greek and Roman history, as well as many of the major classical myths. Do not read this book unless you have these. It is well worth the preparation, because this book deserves to be understood.

Now that that's said, I'll start praising the book. It's about a myth -- the only myth that uses human history as its setting. And as all good myths do, it strives to entertain, humanize, and instruct. Chesterton makes the reader well aware that his book will attempt to embellish and make us realise that our world truly is magical. His writing is long and musing, but never boring and always relevant to his points. The style of writing is symbolic of his purpose: to show that we do not live in a world of immediate facts, but in a beautiful portrait that deserves to be appreciated by humans, not robots.
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on October 22, 2001
There seems to be many mistakes about chronology of Chesterton and Lewis. Chesterton died before C.S. Lewis's books really hit the scene. Chesterton 's writings were profoundly influential on Lewis as well- and The Everlasting Man is no exception. This is the definitive work of what might be called "The Old Apologetics" and as such it demands our attention. Chesterton's apologetic runs mostly not in an exegetical trail but in historical and literary ones and forces thinkers outside the field of theology and religion to pay heed to the exacting (and immensely consoling claims) of both Christ and his Church. It is through literary technigue that Chesterton is able to engage us in the topsy-turyvydom of Christ as a Child in the Cave and engages us in history to really confront our unspoken prejudice that the Roman Catholic Church did whatever was in its interest for power and greed. Chesterton asks us- If the Church was so interested in power why did it cast aside the Empire during the reign of Julain the Apostate and other Arians-the very political entity that had thrust the Church into the mainstream was refused a voice in determining its doctrines. So much for the theory that the bishops were just power hungry mongrels.
The later chapters dealing with Christian history are especially adept at understanding the intellectual pendulum swings that accompany heresy. One quote should suffice in bringing to our attention teh gifted prose and insight which we all attribute to this great bombast of faith:Here he is speakign of the apparent historical "deaths of the faith"
"There are people who say they wish Christianity to remain as a spirit. They mean, very literally, that they wish it to remain a ghost. But it is not going to remain a ghost. What follows this process of an apparent death is not the lingering of the shade; it is the ressurection of the body. These people are quite prepared to shed pious tears and reverential tears over the Sepulchre of the Son of Man; what they are not prepared for is the Son of God walking once more upon this hills of morning. These people, and indeed most people, were indeed by this time quite accostumed to the idea that the old Christian candle-light would fade into the the light of common day. To many of them it did quite honestly appear like that pale yellow flame of when it is left burning in daylight. It was all the more unexpected, and therefore all the more unmistakable, that the seven-branched candle-stick suddently towered to heaven like a miraculous tree and flamed until the sun turned pale. But other ages have seen teh day conquer the candle-light and then the candle-light conquer the day."
Surely this is the prose of one of the most gifted and unfortunately ignored writers of the past century. Chesterton has been called by some "A Master without a Materpiece" but after reading this book one wonders whether some Masterpieces could equal this Master's "Significant Work"
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