"GKC had a disarming way of talking, even with those who he knew would beAgain, thank you Dr Thursday and Mrs. Brown for the help!
in disagreement with him.
E.g. Father Brown is trying to solve a mystery, and approaches a
"I don't see why you should come to me about it. I ought to tell you I'm
a strong Protestant."
"I'm very fond of strong Protestants," said Father Brown. "I came to you
because I was sure you would tell the truth."
"The Chief Mourner of Marne" in "The Secret Of Father Brown"
More to the point, consider the powerful distinguo (I
distinguish) from his preface to The Everlasting Man, well worth
reading in its entirety:
This book needs a preliminary note that its scope be not misunderstood.
The view suggested is historical rather than theological, and does not
deal directly with a religious change which has been the chief event of
my own life; and about which I am already writing a more purely
controversial volume. It is impossible, I hope, for any Catholic to
write any book on any subject, above all this subject, without showing
that he is a Catholic; but this study is not specially concerned with
the differences between a Catholic and a Protestant. Much of it is
devoted to many sorts of Pagans rather than any sort of Christians; and
its thesis is that those who say that Christ stands side by side with
similar myths, and his religion side by side with similar religions, are
only repeating a very stale formula contradicted by a very striking
fact. To suggest this I have not needed to go much beyond matters known
to us all; I make no claim to learning; and have to depend for some
things, as has rather become the fashion, on those who are more learned.
As I have more than once differed from Mr. H. G. Wells in his view of
history, it is the more right that I should here congratulate him on the
courage and constructive imagination which carried through his vast and
varied and intensely interesting work; but still more on having asserted
the reasonable right of the amateur to do what he can with the facts
which the specialists provide.
Ahem. About speaking:
First point. GKC was ALWAYS POLITE, even to enemies.
At the Q&A after a speech, he was asked, rather rudely, about Shaw, one
of his greatest intellectual foes:
Q: "Is George Bernard Shaw a coming peril?"
GKC: "Heavens, no. He is a disappearing pleasure."
[Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 590]
His view towards his opponents was so kind that even foes could write to
him like this:
47 Chiltern Court, N.W.I.
Dec. 10, 1933
DEAR OLD G.K.C.
An Illustrated London News Xmas cutting comes like the season's
greetings. If after all my Atheology turns out wrong and your Theology
right I feel I shall always be able to pass into Heaven (if I want to)
as a friend of G.K.C.'s. Bless you.
My warmest good wishes to you and Mrs. G.K.C.
[Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 604-5]
(If you want the even more dramatic reply from GKC, and Wells' reply to
that, you will have to read them yourself. Ward's own comment: "Gilbert
loved to praise his fellows in the field of letters even when
their philosophy differed from his own.")
BUT (second point) He NEVER EVER stopped fighting for the Truth - even
when he was MOST respectful:
"I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shaw as one of the most brilliant
and one of the most honest men alive; I am concerned with him as a
Heretic - that is to say, a man whose philosophy is quite solid, quite
coherent, and quite wrong."
The third point: Truth is so important, you must strive to find it, even
if you debate with yourself. That means you must know your opponent's
arguments, perhaps even better than he does.
GKC does NOT simply oppose another, or debate an opponent. He is in the
business of getting at the truth, which is the real purpose of the
13th-century Scholastics. He debated with his brother for hours, days,
practically the whole time his brother had been alive - always in search
of truth. And the Scholastics (the "Schoolmen") did this also, with each
other, and even with themselves.
Now the Schoolman always had two ideas in his head; if they were only
the Yes and No of his own proposition. The Schoolman was not only the
schoolmaster but also the schoolboy; he examined himself; he
cross-examined himself; he may be said to have heckled himself for
hundreds of pages. Nobody can read St. Thomas's theology
without hearing all the arguments against St. Thomas's theology.
And that means he, following the greatest of Scholastics, St. Thomas
Aquinas, is able to see, understand, and teach important truths like
Of nearly all other philosophies [besides the Thomistic one] it is
strictly true that their followers work in spite of them, or do not work
at all. No sceptics work sceptically; no fatalists work
fatalistically; all without exception work on the principle that it is
possible to assume what it is not possible to believe. No
materialist who thinks his mind was made up for him, by mud and blood
and heredity, has any hesitation in making up his mind. No sceptic who
believes that truth is subjective has any hesitation about treating it
[St. Thomas Aquinas CW 2:542-3, emphasis added]
BTW, Algernon: I had no idea you meant "you'd pray the Holy Spirit procrastinated" so literally! Four discarded speeches are sitting in my wastebasket, and the one I gave was inspired and composed only two hours prior to mounting the podium! Do warn me next time you pray thus:)